Life as a mature student get that assignment finished and submitted

Due to the way that my courses work, I’ve had to submit two assignments in the last two weeks. One a week. One was considerably longer than the other, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier – being allowed to write fewer words when you have a lot to say can be such a pain.

I see plenty of tips about starting early and not procrastinating and they don’t really resonate with me because generally I don’t procrastinate. As a child growing up, I wasn’t allowed to. Homework had to be done when I got it. Chores had to be done before I could do fun things. That was the rule, but even when there was noone there to enforce the rule, it had become part of my mindset. Don’t have the thing hanging over you if you can get it gone and out of your life. Start the day with the thing you’re dreading so that it won’t be taking up brain energy for the rest of the day.

But there are other things that I’ve learned – some of them more general, some of them specific to studying at the Open University, so I decided to share them here while TMAs (tutor marked assignments) are still fresh in my mind.

1. Give yourself time

I don’t just mean time to do the assignment, although that’s important. Think about the way you work and which things you find easier or more difficult.

For example, I know that I can write pretty quickly, but maths-related problems always take me longer. If you have a look at what you’re going to need to do, you might be able to break it down into parts, and then work out which parts will take you longer. That will help you when you’re planning out how much time you’ll need, and you can go easier on yourself by leaving more time for the things that you naturally find more difficult. You might have other strategies too, like doing the easier parts first, or starting with the more difficult ones to get them out of the way. Or you might be like me and find that it offends your sense of order if you don’t do things in the order on the question sheet!

2. Check the forums

Sometimes they can generate a lot of traffic, but particularly your cluster or tutor group forum may give you useful information. It’s true you can’t ask direct questions relating to the assignment, but tutors may post up handouts from their sessions, useful materials, or information relating to the assignment. It’s also good to keep an eye on the news section of your home page because if errors are found in the assignment questions, updates will be posted there.

Also, your tutor is there to help if you have questions, but they’re in a better position to do so if you don’t approach them half an hour before the final cut-off date! All the tutors I’ve had so far have been approachable, helpful, and responsive.

3. Make a plan of what you want to say

My problem is often the word count, especially for essays or essay-based tasks.

It’s not so much that I waffle, but I like detail, and I like to be thorough. This sometimes works against me and I spend more time reducing the word count than it took me to write the essay or answer in the first place. This is tedious.

I’ve still not found a way around this completely, but I find it helps to make a list of the key points and start fleshing them out afterwards. This helps me to see whether I need to cover less ground, or cover more points with less words. It gives me a framework to work with, which in turn cuts down on my editing time, or prevents me from trying to include more detail than the question requires.

4. Try to look at the deadline and work backwards

I don’t like working under pressure if I can avoid it, and sometimes you can’t. But I try to get my assignment in at least one day before it’s due, because you never know what’s going to happen. This week on the deadline day I went to the dentist and came back feeling awful. I had to write the rest of the day off and spent most of it in bed, unable to feel my face or think straight. The following day wasn’t much better. I was so glad I hadn’t left it to the last minute.

Sometimes it’s possible to finish early and get the assignment in. I did this last Christmas when I really wanted to be finished with a block and forget about it during the Christmas holidays. So I submitted early. However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you have to show evidence of group activities that are in the timetable the week before the assignment.

The way that works best for me is to try and have my documents finished one or two days before the deadline, preferably with the chance to come back to them one last time with a fresh mind. I always find last-minute changes that I want to make during the last read-through, and it’s hard to get some mental space from what you’ve been writing if you don’t have the chance to step away and come back before it has to go off.

5. Understand the different types of marking

I’m doing different types of modules, and this is something I’ve had to learn this year. Last year I only did IT modules. Of course you can’t know how the tutor will mark the assignment before you get it back, but if it’s a programming question and your programme does what it’s supposed to, you have a pretty decent idea that you’re on the right track. The language faculty is a bit different. So far I’ve had to write two essays and it’s more about whether you’re answering the question in the right way, referring to key concepts, and arguing in a way that’s in line with the marking criteria. I actually find it harder, because it’s not a clear “right” or “wrong” like with a maths question, where there are definite right or wrong answers.

So, if you’re doing a module that’s marked slightly differently from what you’ve been used to, use your first TMA to get to understand how the TMAs for that faculty work, and try not to worry if it’s very different from what you’ve done before.

6. Be careful what you say online

At the beginning I thought I’d have lots of contact with other students, but to be honest I haven’t found myself being particularly sociable. I read through the forums and the Facebook groups are very quiet. I think it’s because people prefer to use WhatsApp, but the big WhatsApp groups tend to get on my nerves more than they help. I find them frustrating, because it’s a big stream of comments, with no way of threading or sorting them. Each to their own though, and if people like them, that’s cool.

If you go outside of the university forums though, the channels aren’t monitored, and some groups are self-monitored better than others. I’ve become aware of problems where people were found to be discussing answers to questions, sharing work, or crossing the fine line that puts you on shaky ground if you want to prove something was all your own work. This isn’t a smart thing to do, especially on public social networks where anyone can take a screenshot and use it against you!

perhaps I err too far on the side of caution, but at the same time I’ve seen people doing things that could put their qualification at risk because I don’t think people really consider how what they do and say online can be traced back to them! I’m sure it happens all the time with face-to-face meetings at universities that people attend in person, but with distance learning, pretty much everything is online and you don’t really know who the other people are in your WhatsApp chat or Facebook group.

I’m not saying don’t use the groups, but I am saying be careful when it comes to conversations about TMA questions that stray into discussing the answers.

7. Don’t make any important decisions about your future if you’re stressing about a TMA

Last week I was having the “why am I putting myself through this” and “did I make the right module choice” discussion with myself. Some things are naturally going to be harder than others, but in the same way that it’s best not to make any important decisions when you’re upset, angry, or under the influence of alcohol, it’s also better to wait till after the TMA goes in before you make any decisions about your future. It could be that you do need to change direction, but thinking about it when you already feel stressed can make everything feel worse and the problems feel bigger.

I managed to figure out that what was really causing me problems was the way the TMA was structured differently from the last two modules I’d done. Sometimes I don’t respond well to change, or when things happen in a way that I don’t expect, or that doesn’t seem logical to me. I realised this was affecting how I felt about the assignment and the module overall. After realising this, it was easier to work out what I was going to do about it and then it didn’t feel so bad.

Sometimes you don’t feel good just because nobody likes assessments, but it’s worth trying to figure out if there is something else that’s bothering you so that you can fix it and move on.

8. Word count – be careful not to chop too much

I usually get my word counts right on the number – because I’ve reduced a longer text down to exactly the right number of words. This may be by chopping out bits that weren’t essential, taking out filler words, or finding ways to say the same thing with fewer words.

It’s worth running through the text again though, because even if your word count is now right, chopping sentences or paragraphs can affect the flow of the text and make it feel a bit disjointed if you’re not careful.

Reading the text aloud can help you to see whether this has happened.

9. Get it gone!

It’s good to be thorough. I’ve definitely had students who could have got more marks if they’d just reread their work and fixed the typing errors or things that didn’t quite make sense.

However, sometimes you get to the point where you’ve done all you can. Rereading the answers, swapping out words or rewriting paragraphs stops adding value if you’ve been at it too long. In fact, you could end up tying your brain in knots and making the text worse than it had been half an hour ago.

It’s good to know when it’s time to say “I’ve done my best. This is as good as it’s going to get. I need to send it off now!” Even if that means sitting there hovering over the “submit” button until you finally just have to click it and be done with it!

10. Stop thinking about it

Some people find this easier than others, but once it’s with the tutor and you’re waiting for it to be marked, there is really nothing more you can do. Yes, I know it’s possible to resubmit work, but just as there is a cut-off date, there needs to be a cut-off date in your mind too, because worrying about it past the point where you can do anything to improve it won’t actually help.

Sure, there are things that you can learn for next time, but it’s like going to a job interview – you do the best that you can do on the day, and then it’s out of your hands. Worrying about what you could have said or should have written will just keep your mind going round in circles, and it may not actually be as bad as you think.

Any more?

There’s more I could have written here, but these are the things that I’m going to remind myself after Christmas when my next assignments are due in because they’re most relevant to me.

Do you have any more assignment tips? Let us know in the comments.

Also, if you enjoyed this post, you might also like how to get study done when you don’t have a fixed timetable.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

Meeting owls from Apollo Falconry

I mentioned in my good things in November post how I’d found some things for us to do on Groupon. One of them was the owl wander with owls from Apollo Falconry. It’s worth checking on Groupon too if you’re thinking of going because the deal that I got may still be there.

The experiences are run from a couple of locations, so don’t get confused as we did. If you book via Groupon, you need the address in Oxfordshire on the Groupon page, not the address on the falconry website, which is about a 30-minute drive away.

When we arrived at the hotel, we checked where the birds would be and walked down to where we met Konny and her birds. She brought the owls out one at a time so that we could meet and find out about them. We were the only ones there that day – there are good things about booking in the middle of the week during school term time – so we had plenty of chances to handle the owls and ask questions.

Billie the barn owl

Actually we heard Billie long before we saw her! It wasn’t the kind of sound you expect from an owl, more of a screech, but she seemed to want to be out and interacting with us.

We were given thick gloves to wear so that our hands were protected from the talons and the owls had somewhere to land. The idea is that you lift your hand up and make a fist, then the owl will come, land on it, and take the food from Konny. Some of the owls were happy to stay around for a while after taking the food, whereas others flew straight back to the perch.

Billie needed no encouragement. She flew straight to the glove and was happy to chill out there for a while. The only thing she wasn’t sure about was a dog, off the lead, whose irresponsible owner didn’t call it back. S ended up herding it in the other direction. But seriously people, take notice of what your dog is doing and if it’s potentially causing a problem for others, or could be in danger itself, call it back and use your lead!

So, Billie was the smallest, but probably the most up for interaction, and of course food. The owls don’t really care about the people who have come to see them – their main motivator is the food – but this natural instinct to fly for food can be used to train them. It’s also important that these owls get exercise by flying, because this prevents them from becoming overweight. They have learned that flying to the glove will be rewarded with food, so that’s what they do.

They don’t hunt for food themselves and see people as the food provider, but they will fly to get their food – mainly chicken, which has been killed and chopped up in advance.

Billie has been socialised from a young age, being introduced to lots of different environments and noises so that she can become accustomed to them and is less likely to be spooked at events with the public.

River the tawny owl

River is a tawny owl, the one that makes the sound most of us think of when we think of an owl calling late at night. I didn’t realise until yesterday that this call is made up of two parts – the female, followed by the male (or males). We didn’t hear the mating call from River, but she made cute little trill sounds when she was being fed!

River the Tawny Owl

River was a bit bigger than Billie, and she the tawny owl shape is more short and squat than the barn owl. They blend in well with the trees and if they feel threatened, they will make themselves thinner to hopefully blend in even more and stay undetected by predators.

River was a bit less sure of herself than Billie, partly due to another dog – this time on lead – but still something to look at and worry about. There was quite a lot going on too – a train going by, some workmen building etc. She was a little hesitant at first, but after a while she got the hang of it and was happy to fly to the glove. A bit like me before the first coffee – it takes a while to get going, but after that it’s ok!

She didn’t land as solidly as the others, but she kept trying, and in some ways that’s more admirable. It’s easy to do something when you know you can do it, but not so easy if you aren’t so sure.

Of course the owls don’t go through these thought processes – they just want the food. But I still think it takes more effort and determination to do something if you’re not quite sure you’ll make it!

Koby the European Eagle owl

He was the biggest and the star of the show! He answered back in a way that made him sound a bit like a cat saying “no”, although really that was just his way of interacting. Konny talks to her birds a lot, and they all communicate in their own way!

Koby the European Eagle Owl

Koby is much bigger than the others and I could feel the air as he flew by, occasionally being bopped on the head by a wing as he flew back to the perch! That’s what you get for having short arms! He seemed happier on the perch – his safe place – but he would come over for food, his favourite being chick’s heads, and then fly back.

He has a five and a half foot wing span, which means in flight, he is wider than I am tall! A big, impressive guy!

Final thoughts

I thought it was great that they all had such distinctive personalities. Barn owls are my favourite anyway, and Billie was full of confidence, despite her tiny size! River was quite sweet and her initial lack of confidence made us keep willing her to do well! Koby was big and loud and a bit like a teenager who didn’t feel like doing as he was told, until he was tempted off the perch!

Spending an hour with Konny and her owls was a really interesting experience and one that I’d recommend to any of you who like owls, experiences that get you out into nature to learn something, or learning who just want to learn more about animals.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

Donkeys, days out, and drafting Christmas content – good things in November

Well, another month is nearly over, so here are some November highlights!

1. Festive content plans

I’m not doing Blogmas this year, but I do have some festive article planned, and while I did enjoy doing Blogmas the last two years, I think I might even enjoy it more this year because I can really focus on the articles without feeling a pressure to write every day. The first article is already up – 15 things you can do to have a Christmas that is better for the planet.

2. Feeding the swans and ducks

At the beginning of the month, we had to go in the general direction of Windsor, so we decided to stop off and have lunch there. This turned into a chocolate-buying trip because the restaurant wasn’t open, and after going to get change for the parking machine, S came back with some bags of duck food. I think it’s a great idea – provide food for people to buy rather than people giving the ducks random things that are bad for them. They were so noisy – it was fun to hear them squawking as soon as I threw food out.

I tried to spread the food out so that the ones at the back got a chance, and got way closer than I planned to a pigeon who was chancing his luck. They have no shame. I wasn’t trying to feed him, but he had obviously learned that tourists are a good source of food!

Kirsty feeding the swans

3. Food discovery – chocolate orange croissants

Who knew that these were a thing? I didn’t, but picked some up when browsing the bakery isle on the Ocado app. That’s one of the things I like about this kind of shopping – as a blind person, if I went to a shop, I’d have to know what I was looking for and ask people to find it. Browsing isn’t easy if you can’t see what’s there, and it’s not fair to ask someone to list every single thing that they can see. Who even has time for that?

Shopping online gives me the chance to discover new things on my own, in an accessible way, and in my own time!

4. Skincare discovery

I’ve always avoided face oils. I don’t think the first ones I tried were the best, but I’ve really started getting into them, especially as the weather has got colder. I got two in my Lovelula boxes and then noticed a couple on Latest in Beauty too. Obviously some are better than others – the Balmonds one that I mentioned in my October review is still my favourite, but I have tried a couple of others and have really noticed a positive difference in how my skin is looking and feeling.

I like the ones with pipettes best because they are less messy. I think that’s what put me off originally – the thought that they are a real faff, but I was pleased to see that most come in this type of packaging now.

5. Subscription boxes

My favourite subscription this month was the Pip box – I used all five of the items this month. Of the three boxes that I got from them as a birthday present from my mum, I think I’ve seen about one product before, and that was Dr Botanicals, so I didn’t mind. Otherwise they are really good at finding new products or those from new companies, in a way that some of the other boxes don’t manage. This is a really nice box, especially if you are looking for natural, cruelty-free skincare.

6. More donkey encounters

There was another adult only open day at Miller’s Ark, so we went back with some friends to see our farmyard friends. I met Antoinette the donkey for the first time and spent a lot of time talking to her and grooming her. Donkeys have a calmness and patience that could teach us humans a lot!

There were also some cheeky, greedy goats, playful pigs, hungry sheep (who kept being pushed out by the goats), and of course the gorgeous golden retriever!

7. Groupon

I’ve known about Groupon for ages now, but it was only when I found out that the alpaca encounters were on there, that I thought it could be a good way for me to find other things for us to do. I don’t see most forms of advertising that people use, so anything I can get by way of email alerts about events or activities gives me more options. I’ve booked four things for us to do so far in December and January, – both experiences and things to learn – and I’ll report back soon. But as well as the discounts, which is one of the main reasons why people use Groupon, it’s a good way to find out what’s on your doorstep – especially if you enjoy staycations as much as we do.

8. Making an advent calendar

I’m not going to report on advent calendar contents as I did last year, but I am doing something different this year. I looked at a lot of the beauty advent calendars and was a bit unimpressed – there were a lot of the same products cropping up, and most of them had about 25% of products that I wouldn’t use. Ok, I could put them in a giveaway, but then I could just buy products for a giveaway if that’s what I was going to do, and some of the most expensive products were the ones that I wouldn’t use.

S suggested – I think he was joking – but anyway he asked why I didn’t just build one myself to make sure that it contained things that I liked. Of course I took the idea literally and did just that! You can spend as much or as little as you want. I got my contents on Feelunique, and got between 50 and 70% off most of it – even before the Black Friday sales. There are always special offers there. Now I’m looking forward to treats that I will enjoy, with no palettes, tanners, eyeliners or dry shampoo in sight!

9. Spinner rings

This is something I found through another blog. It was a recommendation for the Stimtastic shop, where you can buy stim toys for anyone with sensory-seeking needs. I was tempted by the weighted lap bunny, but the shipping from the US would have been horrendous. Still, you’ll probably be hit with shipping charges anyway, so it’s better to do a bigger order rather than several smaller ones. I got several spinner rings – my favourite is a bird in flight, which is in different positions as the ring goes round. I also have a spinnersaurus, a dinosaur one, and one with planets. The rings are well made with interesting designs.

10. The cheese advent calendar is back!

The first shop had sold out, but S kept looking till he got me one! Chocolate is great, but I now have a small packet of cheese goodness for every day in December! Did anyone else get one, or something savoury, rather than a traditional chocolate calendar? Let me know in the comments!

Have a wonderful December!

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

15 things you can do to have a Christmas that is better for the planet

I’m not going to do Blogmas this year, but I do have some Christmas content planned, and this is the first in my series of festive posts.

I’m not going to suggest things that are a good idea, but that I have no intention of doing myself. That seems a bit hypocritical, and I want to be real!

I think hand-made gifts are fab, but my craft skills are rubbish! I enjoy shopping, and we will have meat on our table this Christmas. But here are some things I do, or that I’ll be doing this year to make Christmas less of a strain on the planet.

1. Think how much food you really need

It’s easy to get carried away buying food, and nobody wants guests to go hungry. But if you end up throwing half of it in the bin, you’re wasting money and you’re also wasting the food. Buy a bit extra if you want to, but especially when you’ve got things with a short use-by date, think about what you and your guests are really likely to eat.

Following on from this idea, if there are things that nobody likes, don’t buy them just because of tradition. We don’t like Brussel sprouts or Christmas pudding, so I won’t be buying either of them!

2. Defrost your freezer before Christmas

If your freezer is full of ice, it will take more energy heat and you will have less room for food. Defrosting it before you buy your Christmas food means that you’ll fit more in there!

3. Be creative with left-overs

Don’t just throw food away because you have some left over. Think of other things you can make such as turkey curry, or home-made soups with left-over vegetables. If you didn’t eat all the fruit you bought, make some smoothies. If nobody finished the cheese board, cheese and crackers makes a good snack on its own.

4. Don’t leave lights on all the time

If there’s nobody there to enjoy them, you’re wasting electricity. Lights left on overnight when you’ve gone to bed are a fire hazard and outside lights can be confusing for wildlife.

5. Consider giving someone an experience or doing an activity with them

If you think your gift might end up at the back of a drawer, never to be seen again, maybe you can give someone an experience. This could be connected to their hobby, something new to learn, a new experience that you think they would enjoy, or something that they can do together with you. In our busy lives, sometimes gifts that involve spending time together are the most meaningful because you make memories together as well.

6. Use recycled or recyclable wrapping paper

Shiny paper with glitter can’t be recycled and it has to go straight in the bin after it’s been ripped off. Nothing with cellotape on it can go in the recycling. If you don’t use half a roll of cellotape, it’s easy enough to pull it off and then, as long as the paper is recyclable, it can go in the recycling. Just make sure you’ve removed any ribbons or other things that can’t be recycled.

Some people are now avoiding using cellotape altogether.

7. Consider using things other than wrapping paper

There are lots of options. Last year I bought a material sack for some of my gifts. This can be used for storing things or reused the following year. The same applies to gift boxes – I have a stack of them from 2 years ago that are now used for other things.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ll still be wrapping presents, but I am going to make better choices with wrapping paper this year.

8. Try to buy locally from small businesses

I love Christmas markets, and they are ideal for this. Not only do you have the benefit of finding some unique gifts that you won’t see in stores, but you can also support smaller local businesses at the same time.

Again, I have bought and shipped presents, especially when buying specific things like books, but I get some gifts from the Christmas market too.

9. Rent a Christmas tree

I didn’t even know this was a thing, but apparently there are garden centres that let you rent a Christmas tree and return it in January. The tree comes with a root and is growing in a pot, so after Christmas it can be returned outside.

There is an ongoing debate about plastic or real trees – plastic is bad for the environment, but killing loads of trees and not replanting them isn’t great either. We have had the same plastic one for the last five years and it will be good for many more, but if you want a real tree, renting one that can go outside again in January seems like a good idea to me – and I love that smell of real trees!

10. Grow your own Christmas tree

My Granddad used to do this. We brought the tree inside in its big ceramic pot, and after Christmas it was replanted in the garden. All was good – until the day the dog got tangled in the wire for the lights and pulled the whole thing over, covering the carpet with soil. The dog and the tree were unharmed, but my Nan was clearing it up for ages! But anyway, the idea of a tree that isn’t just chopped down for Christmas has always appealed to me more, providing you have space for it in the garden.

11. Recycle your tree

IF you are going to get a real tree that has been cut down, many councils offer recycling schemes so for unwanted trees. Just make sure you take off any tinsel or sparkly things before putting it out for recycling.

12. As well as the reindeer, think of feeding the birds

I was always convinced that we should put dog biscuits out for the reindeer. Maybe that was my not so subtle way of saying I knew what really happened to the food for Father Christmas and Rudolph!

The reindeer might not enjoy your tasty treats, but the birds will, so at this time of year when it’s harder for them to find food, why not put something out for the birds as well?

13. Take re-usable bags when you go Christmas shopping

For reasons mainly to do with accessibility, I do most of my shopping online. Yes, there is more packaging this way, though all the cardboard goes in the recycling or is used for disguising the shapes of awkward gifts. If I’m doing an order from a particular shop, I try to get everything that I want from that shop in one go. It cuts down the postage costs, but it also usually generates less packaging.

But, if you are going to the high street or Christmas market for your shopping, remember to take a bag for life with you. It’s not just that those 5p charges mount up, but one shopping trip can generate a lot of unwanted carrier bags.

14. Think about whether you want to send Christmas cards

I haven’t sent Christmas cards for years now. It’s nice to receive them, especially from people far away who you don’t see all the time, but it can get a bit much if you send them to all of your colleagues/customers/local friends.

If you are going to buy cards, can you find some out of recycled paper? Can you do some good at the same time by supporting a charity? Can you get them with no glitter or sparkly things so that they can be recycled if the recipient doesn’t want to keep them?

I have cards from when I was about 5 years old, and generally keep them if someone has gone to the trouble of making one or getting one Brailled. But you can’t keep them all.

Some people suggest e-cards, but if I’m not familiar with the site, I am dubious about clicking the links – there have been cases of emails posing to be e-cards that really unleash a virus or download spyware as soon as you click the link. So I don’t recommend sending e-cards – but how about just sending a personal message to people on one of the hundreds of channels we now have available, or making time to meet around Christmas time?

After all, good things come out of spontaneous Christmas meet-ups! I should know – the fact that a group of our friends couldn’t find a suitable date was how I ended up suggesting S and I meet up on our own nearly five years ago! He invited me to dinner and things went from there!

15. Recycle Christmas cards

If you have cards that you aren’t going to keep, look at which ones are recyclable and pop them in the recycling.

Another way of doing this is something my Nan used to do – if you find some with nice pictures, cut the picture out, use it as a gift tag next year, and recycle the rest.

There are plenty of other things that you can do. I specifically haven’t mentioned some of them because I don’t plan to do them, but I think every little helps, and if we all do even a few of these things, it can make a big difference.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

Life of a mature student – TM112 – introduction to computing and IT

This is the next in my series of posts about the modules I’ve completed at the Open University.

TM112 is the second level one introduction to computing and IT module. It follows TM111, which I wrote about earlier this year.

Anyone who is planning to study TM112 in the future should check the Open University’s website because there may have been some changes since I completed it, but this post is about my thoughts on the module.

The first thing to say is that this module starts in October and April. I did it in April, after TM111, but not all modules have a version that starts in April. Some start in February and some only start in October, so when you’re planning for the year ahead, it’s good to bear this in mind.

The content

Block 1 – essential information technologies. This module took a closer look at the hardware components of computers and mobile phones, how data is stored, and what happens to data when it is deleted.

The most interesting part for me was a case study that showed how some of this knowledge can be used. It brought the theory to life and although the dialogue was a bit over-simplified in places, it showed how someone might apply the theory to a real problem.

My least favourite part was probably using latitude and longitude information to look up locations on online maps, but that’s probably because this part was not very accessible to me as a blind student.

There are a number of maths questions, but you can see why they are relevant, which I feel makes it easier to do them. I really struggle when I’m just asked to work out a calculation and I can’t figure out why anyone would want to know that particular answer!

Block 2 – problem-solving with Python. This was an introduction to writing programmes in Python, to draw images, perform calculations, or analyse data. There’s plenty more you can do on the subject, but it is an introduction, and it gives you a good feel for what you can do, how the language works, and practical ways to test your knowledge and understanding.

I sometimes found myself writing the actual code and then writing the pseudo-code afterwards (breaking down the problem and basically making your thought processes understandable for others). I don’t recommend this – it’s very bad and you’ll probably come unstuck when you get to more complex problems – but when you can already see in your mind how the code should look, it’s really hard not to try and skip the planning steps! This is why I was always getting in trouble in maths lessons for not showing my working out!

Overall I enjoyed this block though and I really wish we’d had it in TM111 because in terms of writing code, it was a lot more logical to me than OU Build!

Block 3 – information technologies in the wild. This was about securing data, threats posed by hackers, surveillance, digital freedom, access to information (including government restrictions and search algorithm bias), and the law.

This was a more theory-based block, but I think it’s important to discuss these issues, take a critical look at the information we are exposed to rather than just taking it on face value, know what’s legal, and come to informed conclusions on questions that affect our online experience or what we do with our data.

The assessment

The module is assessed by means of three tutor-marked assignments.

There are also interactive quizzes to do –they don’t contribute to your marks in the same way that electronically-marked assignments do, but you do need to include screenshots to prove that you have worked through the materials. This is where you show things such as your ability to code by writing or amending programmes. There are also multiple choice questions, some of which were harder than they looked if you’re a literal thinker who can think of reasons why a statement might be false if you understand it exactly as it was written. Sometimes I overthought them. You can try most of them more than once, but you lose marks by attempting things a second time.

The tutor-marked assignments are spread throughout the course and follow the training materials. After each week, you’re guided to which part of the assignment you should look at or attempt. I thought this was standard OU procedure, but it isn’t, and now I see how helpful it was! If you can, it’s a good idea to do the quiz and assignment questions as you’re going along because then you just have to check through everything and make any final improvements before sending it off.

Accessibility – studying as a blind student

Although I enjoyed bothTM111 and TM112, I have to say that TM112 is more accessible to someone working with a screenreader. Some sighted assistance is still required, but the nature of the programming element makes it a more level playing field because you’re writing code in Python, a language that you can type on your keyboard as well as any sighted student can, rather than asking someone to drag things around with a mouse on your behalf as I needed to in TM111.

Some of the activities are visual in nature – the drawing ones were a bit dull for me and I still needed someone to check that my outputs were what I expected them to be. Still, if you read the code with a screenreader or Braille display, it is possible to find your own errors and work out what the programme is likely to do, much more so than with OU Build, which was used in TM111.Not all of the Python programming activities involve drawing – there’s also calculating and number crunching, giving you examples of programmes that do something useful or that you could adapt and implement elsewhere.

Students are encouraged to use the OU’s IDE, but this isn’t accessible with Jaws, the screenreader that I use, and I didn’t test it with others. After speaking to other blind programmers, I decided to use Eclipse. It has more functionality than the OU’s simplified IDE, but it works with Jaws, and that was my main consideration.

Figure descriptions were provided for all diagrams. Most of the time, this was fine. On a couple of occasions, some concepts were explained through diagrams, and I think tactile diagrams would have been more useful. In the end I got someone to trace my finger round the diagram in the book. Eventually I understood it, but not all concepts need to be communicated visually, and if it’s just a concept explanation that’s driving you crazy because you’re not a visual thinker, sometimes the easiest way is to do what needs to be done in the activities and then find another explanation of the concept online.

Final thoughts

I enjoyed this module and was glad that I did it. I think it fits well with TM111, and taken together, they introduce you to a good range of areas that you may want to pursue in greater depth at a higher level.

As a result, you are likely to find some things easier than others. Some will be straightforward and others will have you reading the same thing multiple times! I accepted this was normal.

I liked the fact that different people wrote different parts of the module, because it exposed you to different writing and explaining styles. I think there were less oversimplified and sometimes overstretched analogies than there were in TM111, and this made me happy.

I was happy with my result and I would recommend this module to anyone who is either on the IT route, where it’s a mandatory module anyway, or anyone who is doing an open degree and thinks it looks interesting.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

Skincare in November – new products and high-end samples

Someone asked me the other day why I write about products when I’m not paid to do so y brands. But I think the fact that I’m not working on paid advertising campaigns is part of the reason I do it. Sure, if something came up that I really like, I’m not against it, but there has been a big move in the blogging world towards so much sponsored content. People say they’re only giving their real opinions, and I believe some of them, but with many blogs and YouTube accounts it feels more like a magazine with ads than someone having the independence to say what they really think – good or bad.

One of the things in this month’s list is there because a friend gave me a recommendation. She isn’t a blogger, but she’d tried something and thought I would like it. In terms of blogs and YouTube channels, those are the accounts I like to follow too. People who give me tips about things I might like, who share their discoveries, or the things that didn’t work so well for them.

So that’s really why I do it. I have a day job – this is just something I enjoy and want to share with others – because I find it interesting when like-minded people do the same.

Let me know if you have tried any of these products, and if so, what you thought of them.

Body Shop

This is the product that was recommended to me by my friend Sarah – the Aloe body cream. It’s a soothing, cooling and hydrating moisturising gel cream that absorbs quickly. I imagine it’s a good thing to use as a general body cream if you have sensitive skin and react badly to more scented products, but it’s also really good for sun burn. I forgot to renew my sun cream and didn’t realise that as the sun moved, part of my arm was no longer under the parasol. I burn really easily – and badly – and this cream worked well as an after sun.

The camomile range is also a gentle one, and I didn’t realise that the Body Shop did a Micellar water. This isn’t the only product I use to cleanse my skin, but I do use micellar water sometimes and wanted to give this one a go. It’s not the cheapest on the market, but the skincare products are often on free for two, so if you plan it right, it can bring the cost of all the products down. I would buy it again.

I like to try out different moisturisers, but I got a
vitamin E face cream
in an advent calendar, I think it was last year, and this is a range that I often come back to. It’s promoted as being suitable for all skin types and it’s just a really nice face moisturiser. I believe it’s one of the more popular ones too.

If you find the strawberry range a bit sweet, you might like the Japanese cherry blossom and strawberry body cream. I wanted to give it a go because I needed some new body lotion and I thought the cherry blossom might just take the sweet edge off the strawberry. It’s a fairly thin cream, more like a lotion or a body yoghurt than a body butter, and although it’s still quite a sweet fragrance, I do prefer it to the strawberry line on its own.

I’ve talked about the Oils of Life sleeping cream before, but not for a while. It’s more expensive than ranges like vitamin E, but if you want to treat yourself or someone special, it’s a good investment. The cream contains three different seed oils from around the world and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth in the morning.

The Juicy pear shower gel was a gift from my friend Heidi and it’s part of the Christmas range. It’s actually my favourite of the three scents because it’s so fresh and fruity! It’s good, like all the other shower gels, but I am glad that they created this as one of the festive fragrances. If you think you might like juicy pears from Italy, go and have a sniff and see what you think.

Gatineau

Advent calendars are to blame for this! I discovered Gatineau a couple of years ago because there was a night cream from this brand in an advent calendar. After that I got a discovery set that contained their serum, and I was convinced. This is a very expensive serum, even if you can get it in the sale, but I really do rate it. I finished up the ultimate smoothing Serum and this made me sad! I haven’t replaced it yet, but if I see it in the sale I’ll definitely think about it. It works to reduce the early signs of aging, but is also a really nice serum to hydrate and smooth the skin.

I also got a sample size of the peeling treatment, which definitely got my attention because I like chemical peeling products as opposed to physical ones. The consistency is a little strange at first – it’s like a fairly thick cream, but once you massage it in, it feels more like an oil. You can either wash it off after a few minutes, or leave it on for 20 minutes as a peeling mask and then wash it off. I think some detoxifying treatments are a bit hit and miss, but I definitely noticed results after this one with less clogged pores and skin that felt refreshed. Again, the price tag reflects this, but I do think this is a premium skincare brand that works – and not one where you’re just paying for the name.

Korres

If I feel like pampering myself with a shower gel, I often pick up something from Korres – either from Feelunique or from Ocado. My favourite is the Almond and cherry shower gel – it moisturises as well as cleanses, and it smells amazing!

L’Occitane

I got a mini Verbena perfume in an advent calendar last year. I’m not sure if you can buy these tiny bottles separately. I do like the verbena scent, but tended to use it as more of a body scent than a perfume. I think really I prefer this scent as a shower gel or body lotion.

Origins

I got this mega-mushroom treatment as part of an Origins set. I really liked some of the products, but I wasn’t really sure what to do with this. It said to use after cleansing to reduce redness, so I used it as a kind of toner on areas when my skin was being particularly sensitive. I don’t think I’d get it again, but maybe I’m just not the right target audience.

However, the orange gel cream is definitely something that I would use again – it’s a lightweight moisturiser and it smells of oranges. Actually this was the reason I gto the set of minis in the first place!

Zelens

I got a mini of this transformer instant renewal mask in an advent calendar. This is one of the times when the calendars can be really good, because you try things you otherwise wouldn’t. This mask is very expensive and I wouldn’t usually pick something like this up. I’ve heard great things about Zelens, and I definitely enjoyed giving it a go – although with a smaller size it’s hard to tell whether the product really worked. Normally it’s a bit out of my price range though.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.


This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.

Facebook memories, free coffee, and 7 years of working for myself full-time

So, yesterday Facebook reminded me that 7 years ago, the guy outside the station gave me free coffee.

I didn’t know his name and I don’t think he knew mine.

He sold coffee outside my local station and, as I started and finished work late in an attempt to miss commuter traffic, there wasn’t usually a queue when I got there. This was a good thing because I was often late. I don’t like mornings anyway. Mornings when you have to go to a job that you don’t want to be doing any more – that’s a recipe for lateness!

So, there were no other customers and the coffee guy and I got chatting. He knew I was counting down the days to finishing life as an employee. To be fair, some of my colleagues knew about this countdown too. One of the lawyers used to joke with me and asked me most mornings how many days it was.

Saying goodbye

When it was 50 days away, it seemed like for ever! Then it was 30, 20 – then single figures! It was getting real!

On the last day, the guy selling coffee said he knew how long I’d been looking forward to this day and the coffee was on him! Such a nice thing to do!

I think things are always hard in the last few days of a job. I’ve never left a job to not have one – it was either to move to another job or to go self-employed. But you either find everyone that you ever knew wanting you to do stuff that apparently only you can do, just before you leave, or you end up doing the most boring things ever because everyone thinks it’s pointless for you to start something new. Or someone who hates you decides to give you a really awful project to do as a “parting gift”.

I’ve experienced all of these. But as I sat there on the train, drinking my coffee and doing the commute for the last time, I was excited!

A manager (not my manager, but one who often made time for me and helped me out) took me for lunch. I did very little work. I had a speech planned, but in the end couldn’t be bothered with most of it. Those who mattered knew how I felt, and those who didn’t, didn’t matter!

I went for hot chocolate with my team mate, one of the few people I’d genuinely miss, and then I got back on the train for the last time as a commuter.

I reached down and patted my golden retriever girl. Things would be different for my guide dog too. NO more cramped trains. Visits to the park in the daytime. I thought she might miss some of our friends, but she’d probably like self-employed life too. We’d both had a little taster of it when I tried to work from home once in a while, but that’s really not the same as doing it full time.

And all of that was seven years ago now – it feels like much longer than that! I’ve moved house twice, once to a new town, started a relationship, got engaged…

First months

The business isn’t actually seven years old this month – I began it in the April and worked on it part-time. But it really felt like it was happening when I handed in my laptop for my old job, gave back my security pass, and said goodbye to the people who were now my ex-colleagues!

I’d given myself 9 months to decide whether it was going to work out. After all, I had no idea. I had a concept and a couple of customers already, but no guarantee that the idea was viable. I was the sole breadwinner, so I needed it to work. Perhaps if I had been really happy in my last job, I wouldn’t have felt as empowered to leave, but I knew I was taking a risk. The couple of people who said I was crazy actually inspired me to prove them wrong, and everyone else was pretty supportive.

I decided that if things weren’t working out after 9 months, I had a couple more months to find a new job before things got really desperate! “Working out” didn’t mean earning the same as I used to, but it did mean that things were going in the right direction and I thought there was a realistic chance of English with Kirsty providing me with a reasonable income and way to pay the rent, have some kind of social life, and facilitate me doing the things I wanted to do.

I worked really hard during those first months. Too hard actually – I didn’t make time for friends or take any time off. So that was my first lesson. I’d always thought my time management was pretty good, but I can get hyper focussed on something to the detriment of everything else. I still made sure my dog was taken care of and basic things like that, but life had got a bit out of balance!

Once I’d got into the swing of things, I loved it. I knew I’d love working from home and not sharing my office with anyone. I was disciplined enough to make it work, and I enjoyed having the ultimate responsibility for decisions. If something goes wrong, it’s my fault and I’ll do better next time, but I’ll never again have to pay lip-service to something that I think is a really stupid idea!

Seven years later

I’ve learned a lot since then! I’ve learned that some months are better than others, and you need to take a longer-term view, not letting how you feel about yourself be determined by how busy you are on any given day.

I’ve learned that not everyone who offers training in the areas that you need will do a good job, but there are some fantastic people out there.

I’ve learned that quality of life is more important than climbing the career ladder in the traditional sense, especially if the latter is making you miserable. Yes, it’s still hard when I see what other people are doing now who carried on in the direction that I was going. Sometimes it’s hard not to compare myself to them – usually if I’m having a bad day anyway! But I chose a different path, and there’s a lot to be said for going to work with a smile because you enjoy what you do, and not having the awful Sunday night feeling where you’re dreading Monday morning!

I’ve learned that you don’t only need people in your own industry in your network. There’s a lot of support to be gained from other self-employed people, even if you’re working on completely different things.

I’ve learned that things change, and you have to keep your eye on the ball – things that worked in 2012 are not working now, but there are some new ideas that are working really well.

I’ve learned that people who annoy you before they’ve even signed up will probably continue to annoy you if you decide to work with them. First impressions can tell you a lot, so try to attract the people with whom you’re going to enjoy working!

I’ve learned that some of the best parts of my job are when you see how you’re making a difference to someone’s life.

I’ve learned that it’s good to take stock of where you are and where you want to be – stopping some activities when they’re not adding value, and realising when it’s time to grow. That’s why I added a second website this year called EwK Services, for all my translation, communication, and accessibility consultancy services.

I’ve seen my website grow from something with four or five pages, to one that has a blog, a podcast, and plenty of resources for people who want to learn English.

I’ve developed new skills in marketing, podcasting, bookkeeping – if you don’t outsource, you learn to do things yourself.

I’ve written and published two books.

I’ve met really interesting people from different countries and with fascinating stories.

I’ve found a way to use my German skills –something I always wanted to do, but never managed when I was employed.

I’ve become a teacher – something I’ve been wanting to do since I was about 5!

I’ve been able to move and not remain tied to a physical place – after all, my customers are in at least four different countries and they don’t care where I am as long as I have a good internet connection. This is also great when there’s snow outside, or when I’m managing other health issues – working from home really is the best option for me.

I’ve learned to celebrate the small wins – and the big ones too! To recognise them and acknowledge the work that went into achieving them.

I’ve got something that I have built. I ask others for help when I need it, but this is something that I started, at a time where online training wasn’t as common as it is now.

It definitely hasn’t been easy. Starting something from scratch never is, especially when it means you have no guaranteed set income each month as you do in paid employment. You have to earn it!

There have been setbacks, such as the time when I moved and the stupid phone company didn’t get my internet connection sorted out quickly. There was the time when I could no longer use the site where I’d found a lot of my customers and my main marketing strategy had to be replaced, pretty much overnight. There were times when big customers’ contracts came to an end and they had to be replaced or there’d be a gaping hole in my earnings. There was the time when I had more requests than I could handle – mainly because I was under-pricing my services. But all of these things taught me something as well and gave me tools to use if something similar happened in the future.

It’s good to plan and look forward. But sometimes it’s also good to look back and remember the journey so that you can see how far you’ve come. This little Facebook reminder helped me to do that yesterday.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

Pip box in October – cruelty-free subscription box

At the end of October, I got the 2nd of the three birthday Pip boxes that my mum got for my birthday. So yes, this is gifted, but not by the brand and therefore not sponsored.

These boxes come out at the end of the month, which is why I review them at the beginning of the following month. I thought there was a good range of products again this time, with only one new brand for me, but I’ve been wanting to try some other products from the brands that I new, so this gave me a chance to do that. All the products are cruelty-free and vegan – I’m not vegan, but if you’re specifically looking for a vegan box for yourself or a friend, I’d say this is a good one to try.

I ended up keeping four out of the five products this time, but that’s only because I prefer cream blushes. The person who got the blusher is happy with it, so my not keeping the product is no reflection on its quality.

Skin care for the body

We got a pouch of the sweet orange hand Cream by Sknfed. This is a new brand for me, and I like the packaging – it feels less wasteful because it’s a soft pouch and you can squeeze out every drop. It also takes up less space in your handbag – I just need to make sure I don’t puncture it with anything sharp!

The hand cream has a fairly strong orange scent, which is good because I like anything citrusy. I’m always in need of hand cream, so I thought this was a good thing to put in the November box. The hand cream contains shea butter and cocoa butter, but it’s fairly thin, so you need to watch out that you don’t get too much~!

Skincare for the face

The pomegranate regenerating Sleeping Mask by Dr Botanicals

has been doing the rounds in beauty boxes for a while, but this is the first time that I’ve got one, so I was happy to try it out. As the name suggests, you apply a thin layer to clean skin and leave the mask on overnight, cleansing as usual in the morning.

It doesn’t have a strong scent, and it’s full of antioxidants to smoothen and brighten your skin while you sleep. This was new for me because most of the overnight masks that I use are moisturising ones. I rarely put overnight masks on directly before going to bed because I want to give them a bit of time to sink in – nobody wants mask all over the pillow – but you don’t have to worry with this one as it absorbs fairly quickly and doesn’t leave your face feeling sticky.

Haircare

I’ve used sheet masks from Vitamasques before, but I didn’t know that they do haircare too. We had a reusable sachet of the blossom hair masque, which contains evening primrose and cherry blossom, and is recommended as a deep conditioning hair treatment.

I don’t overdo it with styling or hours in the sunshine, but my hair is very long and that’s why I like to give it a deep conditioning treatment a couple of times a month. I find I can’t use some of the haircare products that you get in boxes, but I can use this and I’m always happy to see hair masks. It’s also a decent size for if you have a lot of hair – some are tiny!

Bathtime

We got a 50ml bottle of the Sensual rose bubble bath and shower gel from Kathleen. It comes in two sizes – 50ml and 150ml.

You can buy me roses, but I’m not usually too fond of rose-scented products. However, this one also contains orange and nutmeg, so the rose isn’t quite as strong, which I think makes it more pleasant. It’s not my favourite from the range, but it was good to try it out and see what other people do to make a rose scent a bit less rosy!

Makeup

I can’t review the paradise Blush from Manna Kadar because I passed it on. It was a little pot of mineral blush, and I didn’t keep it as I don’t use this type of product. Still, it was a nice addition to the box and I know it is being used and enjoyed!

What do you think?

All in all I was pleased with this box. Keeping four of five products isn’t bad, I got to try a new brand, and the other things are products that I will use or have already used. In fact only the handcream is left!

Have you used any of these products before? What did you think of the products? Let me know in the comments and if you want to take a look at the Pip Box, you can check out their website.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.


This post contains some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.

10 things for companies to consider when approaching blind content creators about blindness-related products

I’ve had some interesting conversations recently with people doing research, and others who are developing or have developed products for visually impaired people. I mean interesting in the original sense of the word – I like to understand how people go about creating things, and hope that I could give them some insight into how I do things, or what I’m looking for in products and services.

I’m generally happy to give ideas on things or help people with market research when I can, especially if they’re students or small companies, because I believe the best way to create really good products is to understand your audience. That’s not easy if you don’t fit into your own audience demographic, i.e. blind people.

I’m a bit more protective of my little space when it comes to promoting things – I do promote things that I like and have used, but I don’t take pre-written content or talk about things that I haven’t tried myself.

The thing is, blind people can be compared to any other large group of people. Take dog owners for example. If you have a Chihuahua, your needs might be different from someone with a German shepherd. If you have a senior dog, you’ll have different needs and expectations to someone with a puppy. It’s the same with blind people – we’re not all one big homogenous group, so it really pays to do some research, narrow down your target audience if you can, and where possible, , find the people who are most likely to benefit from what you have to offer.
Sometimes you’ll have no idea if someone will be in your target audience, but the “blind or low vision” tick box often is not enough. You need to develop your ideal customer persona a bit further.

When you’ve done that, you still might not know if the content creators you find online will be like your customer persona, but it will help you understand why or why they may not be interested in a new product or service.

1. Are you meeting a need?

It’s the same with any product or service – are people looking for the thing that you want to create? Is it fixing a real problem that people have?

If so, great! If not, you could be spending a lot of time on something that people won’t buy. If it’s partially true, then you need to find a way of reaching those people who are most likely to need it. Are they for example younger people, people with less advanced technology skills, or people who speak multiple languages.

I have the feeling that some product designers start with the question “what would I find difficult if I were suddenly unable to see?” However, anyone who has been blind for some time will have developed strategies for doing things, and the things that you anticipate being the most difficult, might actually not be the biggest problems.

Sometimes I think people charge through into the creation stage because they’re eager to get on with things, whereas they could save themselves some time and trouble by seeing how viable the idea really is. It can be useful to have a prototype, especially as blind people may not be able to see your sketches, but if you want to sell a product, all the usual market research stages still apply.

I remember a friend coming to visit me at home and being surprised how “normal” it looked. If I need something to be different, I’ll buy a specialist device – such as a tactile watch – but where the thing that everyone else is using will do the job for me too, that would be my preference. I think sometimes this idea can get a bit lost. If you’re marketing to Harry Potter fans, they’ll like things that automatically make them stand out as Harry Potter fans. In terms of other differences, particularly those that we don’t choose, we don’t always want to draw attention to them.

2. Are there things already on the market that do the same thing?

We’re living in the age of mobile phones and multi-purpose technology. Most of my time is spent not far away from my laptop or my phone. There is still a place for specialist equipment, but why take 4 devices out with you when you could take a phone with apps that do all of the things that the other devices could have done?

There are some exceptions – I do have a colour detector device – it was expensive, and it detects colours better than its app counterparts. But, for example, if people offer me reading devices, I’d rather take the OCR apps that are already in my phone.

Other people may see this differently, especially people who are not as reliant on technology generally, or maybe children that don’t necessarily have other devices.

Some people want extra functionality. Others want an interface that is as simple as possible and requires very little time spent learning how it works.

There will be things that I see as unnecessary, whereas other people will love them – but it is worth checking out the market first to make sure that the thing you want to design doesn’t exist already, or the need isn’t being met in some other way.

3. Are you approaching someone in the right country?

Just leaving this here. I have been asked to promote events in other countries – not even longer conferences that it might warrant taking a flight for. That doesn’t mean I won’t talk about stories from other countries – I find them interesting – but a lot of my audience is UK-based, so a local event in the US would be better [promoted by people closer to it.

4. Is the person the right age group?

I know this may be harder to tell if the person doesn’t post any or many photos, but you can get a bit of an idea when you look at the things that they right about. A teenager will give you different feedback from someone like me in their late 30s. Maybe you need both, and that’s cool, but if your product is specifically aimed at a certain demographic, it’s best to find people who fit that description.

Sometimes it won’t matter. I’ve been a child, so I can give my opinion on toys for blind children, but I don’t know what it’s like to be over 40 or to be living in student accommodation in 2019.

5. Is the person interested in your topic?

Again, you might not know, but don’t be offended if they aren’t. It doesn’t matter how good your football app is, I’ll never use it because I don’t like football. Sometimes it feels like people take things personally because they wanted to do something good, but just because something was designed with blind people in mind, it doesn’t mean that all blind people will use it. That’s not negative, that’s just product marketing! I don’t buy every product aimed at women in their 30s, brides-to-be, or dog-lovers either!

If it’s a really specific thing though, it pays to do a bit of research. I sometimes wonder in the past why I’ve been contacted about mummy blogger campaigns! Use your resources wisely!

6. Is your customer journey accessible?

Are your website and the thing that you’re promoting accessible? You may well not know that, in which case it’s good to get some input from screenreader users etc, but if you want people to promote a product that has a completely inaccessible website or interface, you may find considerable reluctance on the part of blind content creators until the site is sorted and we can promote it with a good accessibility conscience.

7. Does the person accept guest/sponsored content?

Some people don’t display this information. I do, but people often don’t read it.

I don’t take any prewritten content. I do work with companies, but only to promote things that I would genuinely use.

8. Do they have the right degree of vision?

I can’t comment on anything that magnifies things because I don’t have the vision for that. Again you might not know unless you ask, but don’t take it personally if someone says “no” to talking about something they will never be able to use.

9. Are you making any assumptions that could turn people off?

I wrote a whole post about myths and stereotypes here. Sometimes the life as someone with a visual impairment is very different from the image portrayed in the media. Also, when you’ve met one blind person, you’ve met one blind person. They don’t speak for all the others. Their strengths and struggles are not necessarily representative. This is why it’s good to get a broad sample of views so that you can look for trends.

10 Don’t expect free advertising!

I do give free advertising sometimes – usually when I’ve discovered things that I think are really cool! I don’t charge when I promote charities or organisations that I think are doing great work. But if you do stand to make money from something, it is a business transaction. Even if it was especially designed for blind people, you shouldn’t start the discussion with the expectation that you will get free advertising from blind content creators. There are costs associated with running a blog – material costs, as well as the time and effort to build an engaged audience. It’s not fair to expect to benefit from those things without contributing anything.

Oh, and if someone says “no thanks”, please don’t spam their other completely unrelated posts with links to your products. The comments will probably get binned, and it doesn’t look good for the company. Unfortunately this has happened to me.

Summing up

I like conversations, so keep them coming if you want to ask me about a product or idea that you think would help blind people, or that may be of interest. Remember too though that I’m more than that – I’m a woman who has many of the same interests as other women my age and I am much more than my blindness.

My main point for writing the article was to try and highlight the vast experience, needs, preferences and available budget when it comes to advertising to blind people.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.

New skincare in October – the Lovelula subscription box

It’s November already, but I like to give things a try before I write about them. That’s why I’m talking about the October Lovelula box today. This is not a sponsored post – I paid for the box myself and wanted to talk about its contents with you in case some of you are interested in trying out a new natural and cruelty-free subscription (I don’t receive a commission if you do!)

So, what was in the box this month?

Balmonds Intensive Facial Oil

This facial oil is my favourite product from the box this month. I hadn’t heard of the brand before, and I’m only really just getting back into facial oils. Apart from the ingredients, the packaging really makes or breaks them for me, because I don’t like the ones that have a big old neck and can make a mess because they come out too fast. No chance of that happening here though because it comes with a pipette, so you can get as much as you need in an easy, controlled way.

The product costs £22 at the time of writing, which is more than I paid for the entire box. It says you can use it as an overnight treatment, which is what I’ve been doing.

It contains rosehip oil, lavender, palmarosa, chamomile essential oils, along with cold-pressed sunflower and calendula oils. It doesn’t have an overpowering lavender scent and leaves my face feeling really soft after use.

Dr Botanicals Cocoa & Coconut Superfood Reviving Hydrating Mask

This was my second favourite this month. I’ve tried a couple of products from Dr Botanicals before, but I hadn’t heard of this wash-off mask before.

You apply it to a clean face, leave for five to ten minutes, then wash off. It contains cocoa butter to moisturise, and coconut oil to rehydrate and protect the skin. I really think my skin is enjoying some of these more gentle products and although I usually tend to go for rehydration masks that you leave on overnight, I enjoyed trying something new and will keep this in my skincare routine.

Seascape Island Apothecary Uplift Body Lotion

Laidbare Pac

I was a bit surprised to see another body lotion because we had one in the September box. I don’t mind, because I get through quite a lot of the stuff, but I can imagine some people not being so happy about another one so soon.

To be honest, I ddid prefer last month’s one because it had a citrus scent, whereas for me, this one is predominantly lavender. I do like lavender, but more in my bath than on my skin afterwards.

It’s a nice body lotion though, and something that I’ll definitely use. It also contains lime and eucalyptus, along with beeswax and shea butter to moisturise the skin. Maybe if the lime could be a little more promenant?

Laidbare Pack Your Bags Eye Cream

Laidbare is a budget-friendly brand, and anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while will have seen me raving about their sunflower hand cream! I hadn’t tried their eye cream before, so I was interested to give it a go. It’s a generous size and aims to target dark circles, as well as provide moisture around the delicate eye area.

To be honest, I have more eye creams than a girl could need, but that isn’t Lovelula’s fault, because they didn’t come from these subscription boxes.

Mossa Glow Cocktail Serum

We also got a sample of the glow cocktail serum, but I think you’d really need to try it out for longer to see whether it really works. It is something that I would consider using though, and contains vitamin C for a brighter complexion. I keep seeing cloudberries coming up in ingredients and really should find out more about them.

Overall thoughts

I think it’s another good box. I’ve discovered two new brands, and tried out some products from three that I was already familiar with.

Most of the products came in cardboard boxes, but I took them out so that you can see the products themselves mor clearly.

I wasn’t feeling the love for the plastic wrapping outside the box for the body lotion, but overall there isn’t a lot of excess plastic in this box.

If we add these products to the ones from the September box, that’s 10 products, and 10 that I will use. I don’t expect this run of good fortune to keep going – it’s natural that one or two things will come up that I’ll need to pass along to someone else, but so far I’ve been really pleased that I can, and want to, use everything. These two months have given us a decent number of full-sized products two – which is great when you consider some of the comparibly priced boxes are mainly sample sizes.

Did you get the Lovelula box in October? What did you think of the products? If not, is it a subscription box that you would consider getting? Let me know in the comments.

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.