Opportunities in the Creation of Audio Description

August 21st, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

As we continue looking at Audio description, we take a look at the opportunities for those within the Blind and Low Vision community to participate in its creation and not just as consumers.

Headshot of Colleen Connor and Guide Dog Joplin
Colleen Connor, co-founder of Audio Training Retreats & an Audio Description Quality Control Consultant is doing exactly that. We explore the challenges and some potential solutions, current ways to get involved and things being done to support future involvement from more Blind people.

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###Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family.

I had to take a little break from the podcast. I’ll explain more about that in a future episode as its directly related both to this podcast and adjustment to blindness.

This episode is actually being posted on an off week. So that means expect to get another next week. In fact the two sort of support one another.

We’ll be moving forward with episodes every two weeks after that taking us through the end of the year, with a break beginning some time in December.
For now, let’s get it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio IntroMusic

TR:

One question that I suppose is asked by just about anyone adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult, especially working age, is what sort of work can a Blind person do?

If this is your first time listening to this podcast, I’d encourage you to take a listen to the archives. We indirectly answer that question in many episodes where we profile different individuals most often impacted by some degree of blindness or low vision.

Today we’re going to continue with our look at Audio Description or what some around the globe call descriptive video. Specifically, the opportunities available for Blind and low vision people in the creation process.

To do this, I reached out to Colleen Connor. Colleen is a podcaster, web accessibility tester, Audio Description Consultant and Co-founder of Audio Description Training Retreats.

Diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy as a child, Colleen lost most of her usable vision by her Junior year in high school.

CC:

I’m grateful to my parents because they didn’t treat me any differently. I’m a black belt in Tai Kwon Do, participated in school fully and never was held back from doing anything. And so you know I decided to super, super logically major in musical theater (Laughs…).

[TR in conversation with CC:]
Laughs…

CC:

because that’s so practical.
[TR in conversation with CC:]
What did your parents say about that, about that choice?

CC:

I think they just wanted me to be able to do what I wanted and what I was good at. They weren’t thrilled but they didn’t actively stop me. They knew how passionate I was about theater and acting and studying dialects and singing.

TR:

Colleen’s introduction to audio description isn’t what you might have suspected.

CC:
I ended up working in the Spy Museum in Washington DC. They had a described tour there but it was very out of date.

TR:

Guess what Colleen offered

CC:

Hey I’m visually impaired, can I update this for you. And I was too Naive to ask for money. Much like a lot of my work I did it for free.

I was in theater and musical theater almost my entire life and I had no idea that Audio Description existed. No one had ever told me about it. I didn’t know it was something I could ask for. Once I discovered the audio tours in museums someone mentioned to me about Audio Description of plays and musicals and live theater and I was blown away. And then of course I discovered that they were also doing Audio Description for film and television.

TR:

That project at the Spy Museum?

CC:

I rewrote this tour. I added some tactile elements. People were really impressed by it. I got hired by Cortina Productions after that to work on the audio tour of the George W. Bush Heritage Library and Museum in Texas.

TR:

Doing the work and having it well received is great, but AD meant more to Colleen.

CC:

This could be kind of my way back into theater. I started looking into it realizing that there isn’t a lot of training.

TR:

Maybe you’re familiar with the saying, get in where you fit in. That’s what Colleen did.

CC:

As those of us who can’t see we are the users of Audio Description. Therefore it’s my belief that we are your best source of quality control. We are your best source of feedback. One of the things that I started doing was critiquing people. So I would contact people whether it was from a live show or a TV show or film and I would say here are some notes about your description. I thought you did this well, I think this could be an improvement, I don’t think you should have used this voice artist. I started from a place of editing and critiquing.

[TR in conversation with CC:]

How was that received?

CC:

Sometimes it just straight up wasn’t. (Laughs…)
So my messages are somewhere in the ether, I’m sure. Other times people were amazed and then especially as far as live they were very hungry for feedback and critique because they do these shows and half the time nobody’s even listening to their description and so to get legitimate feedback. Some people have an ego about it they think they’re infallible but most of the time people are like thank you so much , what else.

So I realized in a sense it would be ideal if you have people teaching audio description or if someone was an audio describer to have a consultant who is visually impaired or blind who is a user of the experience.

TR:

While in the role of Quality Control Consultant during a conference, Colleen came across another opportunity.

CC:

I met my business partner Jan Vulgaropulos and she is a professional Audio Describer.

TR:

Jan, who specialized in live theater description had a question for Colleen.

CC:

Listen, I’m thinking of starting my own training. Would you do it with me and start a company?

I said yes, let’s do it lets create something new! We both decided that rather than a classroom kind of conference where you’re there for two days 8 to 5 with fluorescent lighting in a hotel trying to get the basics of Audio Description that we would create Audio Description Training Retreats, which is our company, and we would have people in sort of a natural environment . We would do courses in Audio Description . That has become part of my passion and my focus.

TR:

Back to the earlier question; what sort of work can Blind people do? In this case as it pertains to Audio Description.

CC:

I’m not only there to give the student’s feedback, I co-teach Audio Description. I help teach them about Disability awareness and the history of Audio Description, where it comes from. The update as to what’s going on now. We go over kind of our guidelines for helping people establish Audio Description.

And then my colleague does the actual description teaching. The main goal is to give people as much feedback and performance opportunity as possible. So we have our students do a lot of description.

TR:

The hands on approach enables these future describers to figure out what aspect of Audio Description they like.

CC:

Hey you know I like writing, but I don’t want to do the voice artist thing or I don’t think I could do live theater and just say what I’m seeing in real time that’s too hard. Or they might enjoy that challenge.

TR:

I don’t want to be one to say that something can’t be done based on the current process. It may appear that way until someone comes along and changes how it’s done.

Yes, right now, live description and writing the description for a film or television show requires sight. But wordsmithing doesn’t.

What are the other challenges for a Blind person to participate in this work?

How about narration?

CC:

When you are recording in a studio, what normally happens is the script is on one screen and then on the screen next to it the film or TV show is playing and it has the time stamps on it and the Sound Engineer will say ok you have three seconds to record this line will do it three times ready? And they will play the clip and you’re watching the clip and trying to say what’s on the script at the same time.

TR:

Ok, maybe it’s me but this doesn’t seem to be a real obstacle. It’s a process that’s currently in place but there’s no reason it couldn’t be done differently.
For example, a Sound Engineer could cue the Narrator.

A Narrator/Editor with time stamp info alone could easily run through and record and be sure that the narration falls as indicated.

CC:

I think if you were doing it independently you could be successful at it. I think some of the larger studios everything has to happen so fast in post-production that they’re like you have one day to do this. You have one day to record the Audio Description and they just don’t think Blind people can do it.

[TR in conversation with CC:]
Huh!

TR:

That sounds like the biggest obstacle to me, attitude.

CC:

As far as quality control, as far as the people who should be editing, I think that should be Blind people. We’re more attuned to consuming Audio Description as our means of delving into a story and we have more of a legitimate leg up to say something like this voice over artist is super annoying and takes you of the story. The script writer repeated this line twice. At one point in the scene you named this person this and now you’re calling him this. Those kind of things are what we would be more efficient at editing.

TR:

For example, tell me if you think there’s something off with this narration.

[Audio: Shooters Season 2]

This is from season 2 of a Netflix series called “Shooters”. No offense to the Narrator but why in the world is he practically singing every line. I had to abandon the series. I just couldn’t do it. This guy!

CC:

There is room for more employment for visually impaired and Blind people. It’s just a matter of the same that it every was which is unfortunately we have to break down the barriers. We have to be the ones to say , no like we can edit, we can be involved in this, we can be voice artist, like it can happen.

TR:

Colleen is currently a member of an ACB Committee tasked to create an AD Accreditation. They’re developing guidelines that define audio description and requirements for live theater, plays, movies and television.

CC:

It’s not just for the describers, we’re also going to be creating a certification for quality control or consumers of Audio Description. My goal is to make sure that Blind and visually impaired people have a chance to also be certified as quality control and as description consultants.

TR:

When it comes to standards and guidelines for creating Audio Description, there’s a lot of room for growth. How to handle diversity is just one question.

CC:

How much do you say about a person? How do you very quickly categorize somebody if you need a really short term for this one burly guy?What do you say? What’s appropriate to say? What terms are you going to use that may in five in a year, may be no longer appropriate?

A lot of times you may want to reference something, but the main default as far as guidelines will most likely be only if it’s relevant to the story do you need to reference something and then you need to keep in mind you have to reference for everybody because that’s why it would be significant.

TR:

To learn more about Audio Description Training Retreats you can reach them on Facebook or Twitter @ADRetreats or visit ADTrainingRetreats.com.

They have some trainings taking place this fall so go on over to the site and get all the information.

[TR in conversation with CC:]

And your podcast? The name and where can folks take a listen?

CC:

My personal kind of podcast and any of my videos and information can be found at BlindInspirationCast.com

TR:

I’ll have all of these links at ReidMyMind.com on the episodes post.

Shout out to Colleen Connor for taking the time to speak with me for this episode.

I think we may hear from her again in the future regarding AD and more. She and I have some things in common. For example, like when I asked her to try using headphones during our interview and I noticed she too like me enjoys making up songs about nothing.

CC:

Humming a tune…

“Getting my headset!”

[TR in conversation with CC:]

Laughs!

# Closing

TR:

Hey, I’m not sure if you all know this but right now, there’s an incredible sale taking place just about wherever podcasts are distributed.

It costs nothing, absolutely nada, free 99 to subscribe to a podcast including this one. So do yourself a favor and…

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Let’s Stop Sleeping On Sleep

July 3rd, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

In this episode, I’m considering how we look at sleep and the impact that the lack of it can have on the adjustment process.

TReid sleeping on a large rock during a bright sunny day while in the background the Niagara Falls flows.

Courtesy of Raven Reid

I share some of my own experience with Non 24 Hour Sleep Wake Disorder and how that can impact the adjustment process and subsequently a person’s independence. Find out how The Dave Chappelle Show relates to all of this.

Just in time for an independence celebration!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family?
It’s your brother T.Reid here bringing you another episode of the podcast. You know the one that brings you stories or profiles of compelling people impacted by blindness, low vision, disability.

Today’s episode is one of the occasional times when I share my own experience adjusting to blindness.

It’s one of those things I think many people who are blind deal with but for those of us who become blind as an adult, we really notice the difference. Well at least that’s my experience.

That’s up next!
Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme

TR:

When we talk about the loss of access to things that impact a person’s quality of life following vision loss, transportation, information and career opportunities come to mind.

Here’s one we don’t often consider

Audio: “No Sleep” from “No Sleep til Brooklyn”, Beastie Boys

TR:

Sleep!

Audio: “Last Night, I didn’t Get to Sleep At All”, The Fifth Dimension

TR:

In 2004not too long after becoming Blind, I began having problems sleeping. Real problems. Not falling asleep but rather staying asleep at night. The consequence was I had problems staying awake during the day.

Usually late morning around 11 AM, my body would let me know it was preparing to go to sleep and there would be nothing I could do to stop it. I’d feel my temperature suddenly drop often to the point that I’d shake with chills. I’d struggle to make it to my bed where I’d often fall across rather than in.

It wasn’t just that I was too tired to get into the bed, but I didn’t plan to sleep for long.

Getting into the bed in the middle of the day well I thought that would make me be considered lazy and unproductive.

Prior to 2004 one of my motto’s was I’ll sleep when I’m dead!

Yeh, I was that guy!

Following years of my body being deprived of sleep, I honestly believed the lack of sleep would eventually kill me. I stopped going to sleep as often in the middle of the day. Not because I didn’t feel the need, nah, I had to stay awake when I returned to work.

Working from home, honestly, I could have rigged away to make sleep during the day possible. Occasionally I’d find myself waking up 20 – 30 minutes after putting my head down on my desk for what I thought was a few seconds.

This pattern continued for years.

Even though I was working from home, for me, my body’s need for sleep felt like laziness because I was uninformed.

Fortunately today we have a name for this; Non 24 Hour Sleep Wake Disorder or Non24 for short.

Basically… we all have a master body clock that gets reset every day by environmental light that’s detected by the eye and signals the brain There’s an access issue. For those who are totally Blind, the method to get the reset signal to the brain no longer exists.

Rather than getting into specific details of Non24, my purpose today is to share my experience specifically for those impacted. That’s the person who is now blind as well as their family members or those they live with who will inevitably be effected by the mood swings, the difficulty concentrating and the almost narcoleptic like sleep attacks.

I’m here for those who are constantly falling asleep during family get togethers, trips to the movies or even worse intimate conversations.

Someone who loses their sight for whatever reason, chances are they’re dealing with reduced independence, , possibly loss of a job and often even friends and loved ones who may no longer come around.

Audio: “Sweet Dreams” The Eurhythmics

TR:

I looked forward to sleep in the early days of my vision loss.

My dreams gave me access. I could freely walk without a cane or guide, easily finding people and things without a need for assistance and even regaining the anonymity I no longer seemed to have in public spaces during my time awake.

Sleep wasn’t about escaping my reality, rather it was a way to help process all of the things running through my mind. Waking up after a full night’s sleep is what helped me eventually realize I didn’t lose as much as I thought I did.

I’m no scientist, but I’d bet there’s a relationship between good sleep, hope, possibility and optimism.

I had several opportunities to talk with others about their experience with Non24. Those who were either congenitally Blind or Blind from a young age often just assumed their experience was the norm.

Several people who grew up attending schools for the Blind shared the experience of being chastise by teachers for falling asleep in class.

Others recalled how some of their most productive time growing up was during the night when they should have been asleep. These are probably some of the same people who today as adults feel their productivity is increased because they make good use of their time awake in the middle of the night while others are asleep.

I’ll never forget a young lady’s story of working at a call center where she would sometimes uncontrollably fall asleep only to have her supervisor whack her on the hand with a ruler or some object. She desperately wanted to keep her job, but her sleep cycle was off more than it was on during any given month.

It’s more than sleep!

Audio: “The lion Sleeps tonight”, Ladysmith Black Mombasa & The Mint Julips

I know people in my circle at times felt I had a bad attitude and probably attributed that to just me now being Blind and angry.

Yes, I was moody! I wasn’t getting the rest that my body desperately needed.

Blind people have been dealing with this for lifetimes.

I dealt with it for about 8 years and reached a point where I just knew I couldn’t take it anymore. I was literally losing time. Meaning I’d fall asleep and have no idea I fell asleep.

I wonder about that stereotype of the angry Blind guy. He just may be the sleepy Blind guy!

I’m not making any excuses for moodiness or bad behavior. We all have to be responsible, but for those going through it, Non 24 or any significant consistent sleep deprivation for any reason can feel like you no longer have any control.

Audio: Comedy Central Promo for Dave Chappelle Show

TR:
One night, I wanted to watch the Dave Chappelle show on Comedy Central. It was about 10:25 and the show aired at 10:30.

I sat on the edge of the bed in front of the television in a very awkward position. I knew if I laid in the bed and tried to wait for it I’d fall asleep with less than 5 minutes before the start of the show.

Audio: The Dave Chappelle Intro Music

TR:

Finally it was 10:29 and the Comedy Central voice over announced the show was up next.

Yes!

With only about 20 seconds left before the start of the show I thought, I made it.

There was no way I’d fall asleep during the show because I knew I’d be thoroughly entertained. As I sat in this awkward position I decided to stretch my back and quickly laid back on the bed during what I figured was the final commercial before the start of the show.

Audio: The Dave Chappelle Show begins in normal speed and is sped up.

TR:

I fell asleep in probably less than 20 seconds and remained knocked out for a half hour.
– Applause
– Dave Chappelle Show Closing…

TR:

The next thing I knew, I heard the closing of the show.

– No, No, No! TReid….

Audio: The Dave Chappelle Show closing harmonica!

TR:

Eventually, I’d come to find this story funny.

At the time though it really hurt because I realized I truly had no control over my sleep.

If it was just about missing a television show that wouldn’t bother me much but I was noticing small gaps in my memory. I was struggling to create and focus. The mood swings were impacting my family.

Finally, in 2012 I joined the Sleep Study that lead to the release of a drug to help those with Non24.

This episode isn’t about promoting the drug to help those with Non24.

However, my business manager says we are open to endorsement deals and a name and number can be inserted for future episodes if interested.

The business manager can be reached at reidmymindradio@gmail.com.

You may wonder what exactly prompted me to talk about this now. I you caught the timeline, I began experiencing Non24 in 2004 and said it was 8 years later when I reached that rock bottom.

Some changes in insurance this year and some good old fashioned bureaucracy left me without a way to manage my body’s Arcadian Rhythm.

I found myself once again experiencing some of the same problems. Yes, a bit of moodiness, drifting to sleep and some real brain fog that makes concentrating a real chore. I’m still finding my way out of that fog. Once again, I’m dreaming.

Audio: “Dream”, Pharaoh Monch

TR:

Finally,, let me wish all of you a very Happy Independence Day.

I’m not really talking about celebrating the Fourth of July and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I’m talking about those who have experienced severe vision loss at any time. Those who experienced an acquired disability.

Those who find that they now have to do things differently, no matter whether that means using a form of technology, a technique or personal assistance.

I’m speaking to those who may have been born Blind or disabled and continue to assert their independence or work towards gaining more.

or came to a realization that their individual independence was reduced and decided to do something to gain or regain as much as possible.

Independence is defined by the individual. I can’t tell someone what should make them an independent person.

Whatever it is, sleep deprivation can negatively impact any activity and therefore can reduce a person’s independence.

If you find yourself dealing with this, I guess I just want you to know you are not alone. I know I felt that way at 1, 2 or 3 AM sitting up while it felt as though the rest of the world was asleep.

I’m not telling you what to do. Some people find over the counter remedies like Melatonin help them. Others alter their lifestyle and say it works for them. I have what works for me and I just hope you too can find something to work for you.

Again, I’m not recommending anything, but I am open to having a conversation that would include my specific recommendation or at least me sharing the name of what works for me. At least this is what my business manager recommends.

If you deal with Non24 or some other sleep disorder and have a specific method that works for you I’d love to hear about it. Let me tell you how to contact me… but before that a brief reminder there’s only one way to make sure you don’t miss an episode…

**

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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Floating Above the Lane with Prince Bri M of Power Not Pity

June 19th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

Prince Bri M. A Black, disabled, nonbinary alien prince looks somberly at the camera. Ze is wearing a purple jacket and a cheetah print shirt along with a multicolored choker. Ze is also wearing bright purple lipstick and round earrings.
Prince Bri M is the producer and host of Power Not Pity. A podcast that
aims to amplify the lived experiences and perspectives of disabled people of color everywhere.

We talk about Bri’s experience;

  • Being Black, non-binary and disabled.,
  • Accessibility & Disability Justice
  • Getting started in podcasting

PlusBri hails from the Bronx, so you know this episode is set between some BX Love on the intro and outro!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Audio: South Bronx, Boogie Down productions

Yo, what’s up Reid My Mind Radio? I’m your host and producer, T. Reid bringing you another episode of what I hope is your favorite podcast. I don’t know if that’s really the case but I’m going to say if you’re a person adjusting to Blindness, adjusting to Low Vision or disability in general this is definitely a podcast with you in mind.

If you’re new hear welcome! Just about every two weeks or so we bring you a profile of a compelling person impacted by disability most often blindness or low vision. Sometimes I bring you a story from my own experience as someone becoming blind as an adult.

Chances are if you’re new here, you’re like wow, this doesn’t sound like we’re about to talk about disability. Well, that’s how we do it here.
Disability doesn’t look one way. It doesn’t act one way. It definitely doesn’t sound one way.
In every episode, we hope to challenge your beliefs around blindness and disability. even if you think you are already quite familiar. Today’s episode is no different.

By the way, you’re listening to a track by Boogie Down Productions called South Bronx! A personal favorite of mine and in my opinion the official unofficial anthem of the borough.

Since we’re all about challenging beliefs…
I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life when I proudly declare my birthplace only to have people either look at me just a little differently or outright say something offensive or judgmental. Showing their familiarity with the borough is probably based on the images of the 1970’s. The burning buildings and the poverty and crime. They don’t see the beauty in the diversity, the culture and the people.

Today, my guest also hails from the BX so it just seemed appropriate. Truth is I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to include Boogie Down Productions in the podcast and let you know where we come from…

Audio: “South Bronx…” from Boogie Down Productions

TR:

BX, let’s go

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme

Bri M.

“I want to float above the lane. That’s my state of existence.”

TR:

Meet my guest, Bri M.

Bri M.

I’m a podcaster and I like to be an agitator because I like to interject disability justice in the conversations I have . I’m politically minded about what it means to be a disabled person of color in America today. My podcast is called Power not Pity and it’s about the lives of disabled people of color. I try to preserve and amplify the voices and lived experiences of disabled people of color through the show. We talk about our experiences. We talk about what we’re going through and how we can dismantle ableism with every episode.

## TR

Managing all production aspects of the podcast including interviewing and editing, Bri is also host. That’s the Bronx spirit yawl… it’s how we do!

I’ll try to go easy on the Bronx love but the truth is I try to find that common thread between me and all of my guests. It just so happens Bri and I share several experiences. But it’s the differences which makes the conversation even better.

Beginning our interview, I wanted to be fully sure about all aspects of Bri’s identity as noted in the following bio:

Bio:
Bri M is a Black, Jamaican-American,
queer, non-binary, disabled alien-prince from The Bronx.
Ze’s pronouns are ze/zir.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

…So what does all that mean?

Bri M.
What does all that mean?

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
I know the Jamaican American part (laughs…)

Bri M.

I think all of the other things I say they all intersect into creating the person that I am.

I think what I wanted to express by saying all of the different parts of me is to really display that disabled people are a myriad of things. Especially when we’re racialized in society as Black people as Black disabled people. We face such hardship that white disabled people don’t even understand.

I want to name who I am because I think representation matters.

So I say that I’m a non binary person to because if we don’t go out there and speak about who we are we won’t be known as human beings. I put myself out there as non binary because I want to combat the idea that non binary people are usually seen as white you know the typical image. When you go into a Google image search for something and you search for non-binary what you’ll get in images is usually white people. I want people to make sure that people know that black non-binary people exist. Black disabled non binary people exist.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

No doubt.

Audio: Free Your Mind & Good Thoughts Bad Thoughts by Parliament Funkadelic

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
What’s the Alien Prince because when I hear that I’m like ok is this Alien Prince on some George Clinton …

Bri M.

Yes, yes definitely. I’m very influenced by that. I really do think that as a Black person in society today like this apocalyptic society that we’re living in I really do feel like I’m not from here. I’m not from where we are on this plane of existence. I really do think that Black people are not from here. I’m really on that Sun Ra tip like space is a place you know.

Because I identify as an Alien Prince I want people to know that I’m a part from mainstream society because I can see… I live on the margins of society right, as all of the things I named who I am so I can see how society works because I’m on the outside of it. I want to name that. By saying that I am Alien, I’m strange, I’m Black and apart from mainstream society because that’s just how we have been oppressed and forced into being so I want to highlight that and I also say that I’m a Prince because I think I deserve to be seen as royal and I deserve to be… to accept the part of who I am that wants to be valued.

Because I’m an only child , growing up I was always called a Princess and I used to hate it, I hated it I wanted to be known as a Prince instead because that felt way more true to my identity as a non-binary person. A young binary person and I really didn’t understand what it meant to question my gender identity but as I’m coming into my understanding of who I am especially as a disabled non-binary person I realize that you know I got to celebrate the parts of who I am and celebrating the parts of who I am that means naming myself as a Prince.
[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Ok, I like it! It’s all about being your authentic self. When you have that that’s like a sense of freedom. And when you can show it and just hold your head up nobody can take that down so shout out to you for that!

Bri M.

Thank you, thank you Thomas.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
I’m going to blame it on my screen reader so you correct me… the pronouns… Ze Zer Z …

Bri M.
Ok, so let’s break it down

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Yeh!

Bri M.

So you know she, her, hers, herself right? What I want to do with my pronouns is to say Ze as in she. zer (pronounced zear) as in her, zers (pronounced zears) as in hers and zerself (pronounced zearself) as in herself.

So when people see me they automatically assume that I am a woman because I present in some ways as a woman just for safety reasons.
[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Mm!

Bri M.

In my chosen family people refer to me as Ze Zer because they know those are my pronouns. Those are really important to me because again they highlight the fact that I want to be set apart from society because you know I want to reclaim the fact that I live on the margins. Being known as Ze Zer is also part of feeling like the Alien Prince that I am

TR:

Bri’s identities intersect with so many marginalized groups. And then 5 years ago ze added disability to the mix.

Bri M.

I have Multiple Sclerosis. I wake up in the morning and never know what might happen to my body or how much pain I might be in . I walk with a cane so I’m visibly physically disabled. So my relationship to disability is that it’s very much in the forefront of my mind all of the time . I’m constantly having to engage with unsafe spaces because I don’t feel like I can move in the same way other people can but at the same time coming into my own understanding of disability justice has been really freeing because I’ve come into a whole new community of really accepting wonderful brilliant people. Brilliant disabled people of color, brilliant white disabled people and it just feels really good to know that I’m not alone and that at the same time people consider me to be unique and vital to the different conversations that we’re having around access and around what it means to be an ally.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

What were you doing before you were diagnosed with MS?

Bri M.

Oh wow!

Well I was actually working in the music industry and I don’t know if you know anything about like working in that industry but it’s very much like very able bodies. you have to be on like 110 percent all the time. You have to be there you have to show up you have to make connections with people and often times these were connections I was making with white straight Cisgendered people who didn’t understand who I was as like a Black non-binary person and it was hard but I loved doing the work that I was doing. I remember I was doing grunt work for this one venue called the Music Hall of Williamsburg – it’s pretty famous . It’s been a while for a long time. I was one of those people who would shop for a band and set up the green room and you know if you know anything about that it’s very active work. I was also facilitating a lot of workshops around social justice and racial justice.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Ok, so you were already there doing the justice work That was already a part of who you were.

Bri M.

Yeh! I did quite a bit of that in college. I did a lot of radio. At one point I had three radio shows in college. It was really good for me. Getting through college was really difficult.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

What college and tell me about the radio show?

Bri M.

I actually went to three colleges …

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Same here

Bri M.

I started at Colgate University…and then I transferred because it was so hard to be a Black Queer person up there.. so difficult. People were like actually throwing slurs at me when I would walk around on campus. Honestly the stress of it all of being there… I remember feeling these weird symptoms on the left side of my face like a permanent tick on the left side of my face I remember feeling that and looking back on it now I think that’s when my symptoms of MS started.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Wow!

Bri M.

Then I transferred to the University of San Francisco. I did a lot of thesis work there because there’s a big body modification movement out there. And then it got to be way too expensive Thomas, so I came back to New York and finished my degree in Sociology at the City College of New York. City! What, what!

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

I’m Baruch… throw it up!

You did a radio show where…at all three?

Bri M.

All three but mostly at Colgate.

it was pretty much straight music. I was a bigger metal head when I was in like in my 20’s but I’m still very much a metal head now.

There was one show that I did that was “World Music” I don’t know what that means but a lot of Reggae and another one I did with Metal pretty much all Metal music, Hard rock. My third one was a mash up of Hip Hop, Pop and R&B.

It’s just funny, I’m thinking back on all of the things I’ve done so far before I became disabled and decided to do this podcast , it’s funny how they all link together.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Exactly.

Bri M.

I was already doing radio, I was already interviewing people like yo it just makes sense!

TR:

Looking back allows us to view our experiences as preparation. Individual events that are in no way related come together to make something new.

In Bri’s case, the result is Power Not Pity.

Bri M.

I’d say for like a year in a half I was pretty much bed bound and didn’t leave my apartment very much . Listening to a lot of podcasts. Listening to these voices of white Cis hetero people who just weren’t on my wave length.

I decided I don’t see anything for disabled people of color out here . We exist and we’re fully human beings and we deserve to be heard and seen as human, full unique genuine authentic human beings and I didn’t see that so I was like yo I’m going to make it.

TR:

Bri started by taking a course at BRIC or what was originally an acronym for Brooklyn Information & Culture. In addition to presenting free cultural programming they present and incubate work by artists
and media-makers who reflect the diversity that is Brooklyn New York.

Audio: Where Brooklyn At, Notorious B.I.G

Bri M.

They advocate for doing media studies for the people.

I took an intro to podcasting course there and then from there I just started to edit episodes , started to interview people. I just tried to immerse myself in podcasting and the podcasting world and disability justice that world too. Trying to put the world together along with all of my other identities. I started there and something that really validated me was actually being a part of this cohort that I just finished, this certificate program from Made in New York Media Center. They’re out of the Mayor’s Office of Media and entertainment. So whenever you see a film that’s been made in New York it’s got a little Made in NEw York patch attached to it and whenever you see media that’s been created in New York the Mayor[‘s Office on Media and Entertainment usually is behind that as well.

So this podcast certificate program was like a really big deal for me. When I got accepted I was just so happy about it because I felt like I’m on a different level now and I feel so much more confident in my skills as an editor and as a producer and I just want to keep going.

TR:

That movement is essential.

Like any creative project, it’s going to continue to change over time. In addition to the college radio and interviewing experience, Bri is in some ways ahead of the game.

Not only does Bri have a natural cool relaxed voice that kind of draws you in and makes you comfortable, but there’s also a good understanding of the target audience.

Bri M.

I’m talking to all those people who feel like they have never been seen in mass media in major society. I’m talking to all of those disabled people of color specifically for us by us. I want you to know that I’m here and I’m saying that I see you and that I want your voice to be heard and uplifted because it matters

In highlighting our voice and me saying that I want to uplift disabled people of color it’s like something that doesn’t happen often enough. That’s my audience.

# Compare

TR:

Disability impacts every aspects of society. Some experiences are common across different demographics.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

I know a lot of my audience are basically people experiencing Blindness and vision loss to whatever degree , but I think there are so many similarities …

What are some of the access issues that you experience on a daily?

Bri M.
Mm, mm… Well living in New York City, it’s the most inaccessible city, I think.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

See that’s so funny… that’s from your perspective, but from other people’s perspective it’s like New York is accessible. It always bugs me out…

Bri M.

What? … Are those Able bodies people saying that?

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
If a person is Blind or visually impaired, having that access in a city compared to where I live… I live in the Poconos so I don’t have access to jack! There’s nothing ok! But in the city you know if you don’t have an issue where you need to climb steps , then it’s not going to be a thing for you but most of the train stations aren’t wheel chair accessible or they only have steps It’s such an incredible difference how within the same community people view that differently.

tell me about it from your perspective.

Bri M.

Everybody has different access needs… for me personally the things that are difficult for me have to do with my physical needs right. I don’t want to say I’m the access notes police because I am not trying to align myself with the police but I’m constantly finding myself as a person to say ok where are the access notes where is the information about the accessibility of the building at so and so event.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
What about in terms of interacting with society, because your disability is visual right, meaning people can see that you have a disability you are disabled. That is similar to blindness because they recognize that off the jump. How do people respond to you.

Bri M.

I live in Brooklyn and everybody’s like super rushing around really fast and so they look at me , they perceive me as a young person but they don’t look down and see that I’m using a cane. They just gloss over me and so a lot of people don’t even realize that I use a cane until I’m in their immediate space and so I think I throw a lot of people off just by being . There’s a saying out there in the disability justice world to exist is to resist. I really do feel like when I’m in able bodied spaces like yo I’m the only black physically disabled Queer person non binary person there. I know I already stick out like a sore thumb but the cane makes me stick out even more and people … because I walk slowly to people just pass me by and treat me like an obstacle.

I’m a person too and I’m valid.

I really truly believe that if we had disability justice in our high schools and our middle schools things would be so different. This world would be so much less ablest. This world would be a more just place because people would know like you don’t pass someone with a cane .. don’t pass them on the right side, their cane hand side because that destabilizes them. That’s just a little thing that people don’t even realize you know. The way I move is different from you but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong or it’s bad.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
What about the actual face to face conversation interaction? Are there any differences there?

Bri M.

Well yeh I’ve definitely noticed differences over time. People will say oh well you look good now maybe you don’t need to use that cane anymore. How long are you going to use that cane for… I have people who I live with in my building , my neighbors , you know I say hello because we’re all out here living and struggling to survive so I say hello because I want to say yo I see you and I want you to know I’m your neighbor too but my neighbors will be hella rude and say like yo when are you going to stop using that cane? I get a lot of that and I think it’s because I’m young, I’m about to turn 30 and disabled and people expect me to be on all the time when that’s just not my lif eThomas.For half the time I’m out here living I’m in bed. I’m working from bed so a lot of the conversations I have are just not nuanced. Their very ignorant and I constantly feel like I have to educate people which is so tiring, but I do it anyway because I think it matters so much to me. I want people to know that there are other ways of viewing disabled people of color. There are other ways to regard us besides thinking that we’re something to be pitied. That’s why I name the show Power not Pity.

TR:

While people from different walks of life and different disabilities have common experiences; others can be quite unique.

Bri M.

I decided to create this thing because I wanted d to find more community around me because that’s so desperately what I wanted so

I made the show Power not Pity and decided to focus on disabled people of color because we are the ones who are most marginalized. We deserve to be seen first and heard first because we are the ones who are brutalized by the police. Half of all cases of police brutality are enacted on black disabled people.
Audio: Multiple news clips about police brutality cases against Black people with disabilities. ends with the actual recording of police realizing a driver was Deaf after they pulled him out of the car…

Bri M.

It’s not a game. It’s not something to just be swept under the table. We need to talk about this, get conversations going around why black disabled people are dying out here and nobody’s talking about it.

TR:

Well Power Not Pity is now a space for such conversations and more.

Bri M.

I love storytelling. I love listening to stories. From a very early age I was a book worm. I always enjoy the art of getting to know someone through an interview and I think one thing that I really do love about podcasting is it still feels very much like DIY. A lot of people say that right now is the wild , wild west of media and content creation because there’s a lot of possibility in podcasting.

I think people are starting to realize that there are voices out there that are underrepresented that need to be heard, that need to be expressed fully because podcasting is so homogenous, so white so Cisgendered , so hetero and so male oriented. I counter act that just by being there. I counteract the idea that podcasting is only this one way. Podcasting is a myriad of things. If you have a mic and you have the desire then you got it you can go. It’s one of the more accessible ways of reaching people and connecting on a deeper level.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
I look at the podcast hing and anything, life is about finding your lane. Finding that lane where you fit in and kind of riding there and if you want to venture out go into another lane ok, you can do that but you always got somewhere to come back to where you got your people and all that . So what do you think is your podcast lane?

Bri M.

Mm my podcast lane! You know what being a non binary person I just feel like I don’t want to be in any lane . I want to float above the lane because that’s how I feel is my state of existence is just floating behind everything because I want to be able to see how things are constructed.
Everything we do in life, it’s all made up it’s all built upon all of these different made up notions of being. That’s the way society works . Ok so maybe I’m trying to drop some truth on you right now…

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Drop it, drop it!

Bri M.

None of it is real.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Explain that

Bri M.

For example, the idea that you as a person, body hair is something that’s really interesting about society and how things are made up because like say you have short hair. I’ve been mistaken for men in the past because my hair is short. You know it’s like why do we assign short hair to maleness and why do we assign longer hair to femaleness because it’s just hair. At the end of the day … laughs…
Other societies don’t function in that way. That’s what I mean when I say it’s all made up right. We create these systems that are now enacting violence and oppression us. One thing I want to do with the podcast is highlight that. Highlight the fact that we are in a serious time right now. We are in some serious dire straits and things need to change and part of that change is putting yourself out there and saying hey no you’re not going to silence me I know that these systems are here to silence me and to put me into institutions of oppression and I just want to make it more known for people understand and come away with the idea that yo things can change and I can do something to change this just by rearranging my actions and rearranging my thoughts around what disability looks like and what it means or feels like.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
No doubt, droppin’ it! I already know what the title of this episode is because it’s hot… “Floating Above the Lanes with Bry! That’s so hot! Laughs…

Bri M.

Laughs… Yes! I love it!

TR:

Floating, but not aimlessly.

Power Not Pity is about representation.

Bri M.
The ways we move in society , the ways we adapt to things like the different ways we connect to each other that we try to cultivate access with each other is revolutionary because society tells us that no it’s about you. You have to be the one to pull yourself up by your boot straps . It’s all about the individual and the ways that the individual can overcome their hardship…and rise up as assimilated person in society. When it’s really not that way. Realistically no one can live that way . I think disabled people of color know that we don’t do it alone we move together. We are all valid.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]

What do you like to do when you’re not fighting ableism?

Bri M.

Oh my gosh! When am I not fighting ableism?

Honestly, part of the editing process is sometimes how I unwind actually. That helps me feel less stressed to. When I get into that mode , that editing mode . I don’t know if that makes me like a really big podcasting nerd?

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Oh absolutely!

TR:

And podcast nerds is where it’s at baby!

Big shout out to Bri M!

And I know what you’re asking yourself right now…

Where can we find Power Not Pity…

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
And where can we find Bri M?

Bri M.
Laughing…

Ok, well you can find Power Not Pity everywhere you find social media. I’m on Facebook at Power Not Pity, I’m on Twitter and Instagram @PowerNotPity.

You can go to my website PowerNotPity.com. All the episodes are there, the transcripts are there. I’m on Linked In if you want to look me up professionally.

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Thank you so much Bri, that was really really dope!

Bri M.

You’re welcome. Thank you Thomas this was great!

[TR in conversation with Bri M.:]
Cool I appreciate it!

Audio: Uptown

# Close

TR:

I hope you too appreciate this conversation.

how you lived your life prior to disability will impact how you live your life after disability. If you were motivated and driven, open to new experiences then chances are you’ll continue that way. If you were closed minded and stuck in your ways well you’ll probably be the same way with a disability.

Becoming disabled as an adult can impact a person’s career path. It doesn’t have to. But it’s also an opportunity to take reassess and make use of other skills and interests.

If you’re fortunate, the result could be at the least a new career and at most a mission.

Now, if you choose to accept, I have a mission for you.

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

TR:

And in case I forgot to mention where I’m from…

Uptown baby, for the crown baby, we get down baby!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

E

The No Show Show

June 5th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

While I’m publishing an audio file I don’t consider this an official episode of Reid My Mind Radio.

I’ve been pretty busy with life but I’ll be back in two… In the meantime, a congratulations to my daughter and I’d love for you to go on over to the Disability Visibility Podcast as it’s all about podcasting and yours truly is a guest.

Feel free to check out what’s close to 100 episodes available in the archive.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro
TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family.

Starting the show with my intro music off the jump, wow, I haven’t done that for a while.

Well, this isn’t a regular episode. I’ll explain that in a second.

First, I want to say hello to anyone new here.
Hello there! My name is T. Reid

I’m the host of this podcast where I bring you compelling people impacted by blindness, low vision and in general disability.
]

Every now and then I include stories from my own experience as someone adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

In most cases I pair words with music and sound design to hopefully help with the goal of making the listener challenge their own view of what being blind looks and sounds like.

Have you ever experienced times in life where you felt super aware? Like you know you’re currently in the midst of experiencing a life change.

I’ve been feeling like that for a while now and not sure exactly why. The only thing that I can identify is my baby girl Riana graduated from college yawl! Now of course that’s a big deal. She’s getting ready to go out in the world and do her thing. It’s really hard to believe that. It was just the other day when she was traveling on my shoulders. She loved it there. She would even fall asleep sitting there with her head resting on top of mine. I’d realize she was asleep when her drool would slide down my bald head into my ear. Sounds gross but I thought it was so cute. That’s love yawl.

Now she’s getting ready to do her thing and that could literally take her anywhere in the world. I’m so proud of my baby. And yes, she’s always Daddy’s baby and there’s still a place for her on my shoulders. Metaphorically of course. I don’t want another backiotomy!

Audio: Riana Reid being called during her graduation ceremony.

TR:

I guess the other feelings of change in the air are not as easy to pinpoint. I’m sure some have to do with career change and figuring out where I’m going. I’m working on several things right now but nothing really ready for publication.

I’ll be back with a real episode as scheduled but in the meantime please go on over to the Disability Visibility Podcast which features an episode about podcasting and yes, yours truly is one of the guests. In fact, if you listen to that you’ll get a sneak peek into the next Reid My Mind Radio episode.

If this is your first time here please go back and check out a past episode that is more representative of the podcasts mission. You can start with some recent favorites including my profile of Disability Visibility Podcast host Alice Wong, my conversation with Cheryl Green about the art of accessible and my interview with Day Al Mohamed where you’ll hear all about the Invalid Corps …

There’s close to 100 episodes and one thing that has been quite consistent I think at least is they continue to change and that’s a reflection of my own change and I hope growth.

I’m confident telling you right now, you’re going to like what you hear so you might as well hit that button right now… the one that says…Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

eTitle:A Love of Language With Elizabeth Sammons

May 22nd, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

A headshot of Elizabeth Sammons & Cover of The Lyra & the Cross
Meet Elizabeth Sammons! Hear how her love of languages has taken her to Switzerland, Russia, the Peace Corps and helped her become a published author.

Her journey illustrates how we can find ways to include our passions in our career and throughout our lives.

Listen

###Resources
The Lyra and the Cross

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio. I’m your host and producer T.Reid. Just about every two weeks or so, I bring you someone who has been impacted by Blindness, low Vision or Disability in general. These are people I find compelling.
People I believe have a story to share. The goal is to reach those of you adjusting to vision loss.

There’s a real power in learning what it really does mean to live with disability as opposed to what we either indirectly or directly learned or
absorbed throughout our lives. I know this because I too have experienced vision loss and early on decided to challenge my own biases. Occasionally I bring you stories from my own experience as a man who became Blind as an adult.

Up next on today’s episode; we see an example of someone setting their own course through life.
while being sure to find ways to fulfill their passion.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

TR:

Allow me to introduce you to Elizabeth Sammons. She’s retired from the Vocational Rehabilitation and
international relations fields.

Currently, she and her husband are traveling the country in an RV while she continues in her new career as a writer. She’s been an exchange student, volunteered in the Peace Corps and lived and worked in Russia. We’ll get to that but as you’ll see, her early years really set the pace for how she lives her life.

ES:

I was raised in Central Ohio, small town which is a blessing.
Went to a school for the Blind for two years, learned Braille. Went on and long story short I was mainstreamed in the public school in fifth grade.

TR:

Let’s say Elizabeth’s high school experience left much to be desired socially.

ES:

I told my parents and I told the school I was willing to do anything if I could get out in three years rather than four. And I did that and I was only 16 when I graduated

[TR in conversation with ES:]
What was it that said, go ahead I’m going to go and finish early. Now I get it that you said you weren’t having a good time, I guess some bullying or whatever the case may be, but to say I’m just going to rush through it as opposed to the way I think most stories that involved bullying, sort of like the hiding from it, you weren’t hiding you said I have to get out of this situation.

ES:

I didn’t hide I ran

Laughs…

[TR in conversation with ES:]
And that doesn’t seem like a typical response. What was that about?

ES:

Well I think it was realistic. I said What am I going to do to get away from this and hiding didn’t work for seven years. And I figured the best thing I can do, and I know I’m capable of it, is to work really hard and get out of at least a year.

I haven’t thought about that. you’re right . I actually think it was as healthy a response as I could have given at that point.

[TR in conversation with ES:]
Especially because you knew you could. You had a good sense of yourself at that age.

TR:
Elizabeth credits her parents for their early advocacy and support. for example, check out their decision following her early high school graduation.

ES:

My parents rightly said, you’re too young to go to college, you’re socially too young and so I had the opportunity to do an exchange year and I went to Switzerland for a year .

Studied for a year there in a French school and lived with a host family and that was not always easy but a really neat experience. The more I look back on it the more I realize how much it influenced me really.

[TR in conversation with ES:]

So your parents said you’re too young to go to college but they sent you to Switzerland. (Laughs…)

ES:

I never thought about that. (Laughs) That is a little… (Laughs)
I think what they meant was I was already a year ahead of my peers . I would have been almost two years ahead at that point. There’s a big difference as most of our listeners are going to know between someone who is 16 and someone 18. Plus my high school years had not been happy years and I think that they wanted me to just have another year to kind of de press from that. As it ended up my Switzerland experience, I was pretty well accepted by my peers there and I had some great experiences that it proved to me that Elizabeth was ok and that I could kind of set out a new like and not have the bad experiences with negative social experiences like I had before that. So it really worked out well. And I was happy to do it. I was an adventurer of different cultures and different people and so it was a great thing.

TR:

Elizabeth’s love of culture and languages began early.

ES:
I actually remember when I was about 10 years old turning our local television stations and there was a movie in French and I literally remember sitting and crying saying this is such a beautiful language I wish I knew it. So the first chance I did have which was high school to take a language and they offered Spanish, French and Latin. I decided on French because I was interested in Europe and I decided that would be the most widely spoken language next to English. I just took to it like a duck to water.

TR:

Returning home from Switzerland, Elizabeth enrolled in college. Majoring in both French and Communications she decided to complete college in three years. She then went on to complete her Masters in Journalism.

ES:

When I was at Ohio University studying Journalism I had a few extra credits, we had to take some electives and I decided my electives would be starting to learn Russian because I’d always been interested in Russia and Russian culture but had not had the opportunity to study it. So
I began to study it . Made friends with one of the Russians who worked in our language lab and she really helped me privately just because she wanted to. She saw I was interested. I started volunteering . At that time there were a lot of refugees coming in from Russian primarily Jewish refugees but also some active Christian refugees, also Baptist and other Christian groups . Most of them came adults with kids but some of the adults with kids would also bring their parents and so you would have people 60, 70, 80 even older who would be coming in for many reasons would not be able to learn English or very little English. I volunteered to say hey if you’ll speak to me in Russian I can do things like make telephone calls for you , help you read your mail, help you correspond, maybe talk with your landlord for you with you, interpret for you as I learn better Russian and people needed that and wanted that . So I was able to give to that community and they were able to give to me as my Russian developed and it was a really great kind of exchange.

TR:
Although Elizabeth’s Master’s Degree ultimately was in Journalism, her real interest was creative writing.

ES:

I was writing stories ever since I was 4 years old. I love to read I love to write. Storytelling and also fact gathering, I love both of those things. I wanted to get my masters in creative writing and my mother who was alive then said, anyone who knows you knows you can write well but if you have on your graduate certificate Journalism, then you’re a lot more likely to get a job then you are in creative writing. And I’m so glad number one she said that and number two I listened. She was truly right about that and the creative writing sort I don’t want to say came of itself but it was something I knew I could do. Journalism so strengthened my writing .

[TR in conversation with ES:]
The fact gathering methods must have been a challenge in getting a Journalism degree. What was that like? Now we have the internet …

ES:

You’re so right on the questions you’re asking me . You’re right because I was studying in the 80’s . There was no internet. I did rely on readers . I did rely on asking the right questions. I did rely on cooperation with fellow students and I realize after having been midway in my degree year, coming closer to finishing it that I was not going to be a kind of Journalist that could get a 3 AM call on a three bell fire alarm and get there and do an adequate story most likely. so what interested me more was storytelling journalism of that type that travel magazines and other less time sensitive periodicals but none the less periodicals that need good journalism and need good fact finders and reporters would do.

ES:
I should also mention that especially my Master’s program where I needed to read so much I had a number of volunteer readers who were from other countries that I said hey if you’ll read for me I’ll help you with your pronunciation. If there are words you don’t know I’ll take time to explain those to you and when it comes down time for you to write your thesis or write papers I’ll help you edit. So again I would really encourage anybody who has abilities to find that means of exchange. Not what can you do for me but what can we do for each other.

TR:

Doing for each other or finding a way that everyone can benefit is one of the motivators prompting Elizabeth to join the Peace Corps.

Hoping to put her knowledge of Russian to work, she wanted to land an assignment in Russia or Poland.

ES:

Well they decided to send me to the one Eastern European country that spoke a totally different language, Hungary. I think they said well if she could learn French and Russian she can learn Hungarian too, which I did study it as soon as I found out that they were inviting me to go there as an English teacher.

TR:

Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s time in Hungary was cut short due to some health problems.

She did however get the opportunity to immerse herself in the Russian language and culture during her almost decade stay in the 90’s.

ES:

I had worked a bit in Russia before that with a government exhibit that traveled through Russia and I think I’d been the first person with a disability that they knew of that did that and it had been going on for about 40 years as kind of a citizens exchange. I was interested in going back to Russia , I had met a young gentlemen there so I went back and I heard from someone about a disability related kind of a program going on in that city so I contacted the American organizers and said hey guess what I’m living here I would love to serve if you have a position and they happened to have something . So it was kind of one of those right place right time situations where I jumped in as soon as I heard about it . They interviewed me . They gave me a job and also the fact of living in Russia and being bilingual and English is my native language there were so few of us that there were lots of teachers and interpreters and advertisers who really needed that skill of a native speaker so I was really able to get an American , small but albeit, American salary and American bank account at home and able to moon light and do my other things and make enough money on the economy there to live alright. And I got married too I forgot to say and I got married to this gentlemen.

[TR in conversation with ES:]
That sounds like what got you out there, the guy. Laughs…

ES:

It is, yes it is. The guy got me out there.

TR:

In 1996 Elizabeth returned to the states to give birth to her daughter. She went back to Russia about a year later and following a break up she and her daughter came back to the states in 2000.

ES:

Back to Ohio. I looked for a job. I used Vocational Rehab to help me and although it wasn’t the job I wanted. I knew a bird in the hand was better than two in the bush so I took a job with Social Security. I worked there for about 5 years as a Claims Rep and doing some PR for them.

And then I moved on in 2005 to our Ohio Vocational Rehabilitation system and Defacto I became kind of like the Public Relations person and community relations down at the state house with our legislators. Always kind of reaching out using that Journalism , using that research using the ability to gather facts and make recommendations and explain to people why we could or couldn’t do something or needed to do something. That was a lot of what I did.

[TR in conversation with ES:]
How about the languages? How were you incorporating those types of things?

ES:

It’s so funny that you ask that because in my interview for Social Security job I told them that I spoke Russian. And you know they kind of gave a token nod that’s cool. The first they I got there they said do you really speak Russian ? I said well yeh I told you I speak Russian. They said well, we’re having this Administrative law judge hearing with someone who’s Russian and doesn’t speak English today. Would you be willing to go be the interpreter. My first husband had been a doctor and I heard all kinds of medical terms and different things and I didn’t blink an eye well sure I’d be happy to save you the money for hiring an interpreter, why shouldn’t I do that. And I think they were kind of shocked and picked themselves off the floor. I had to be very careful explaining to the lawyer and the Russian speaking client that I do receive my salary from Social Security but in this hearing I am your interpreter. I am not taking any sides with Social Security. You know I’m not taking your side either . My job is to make sure you’re heard.

There were some cultural ways that this gentleman answered that didn’t make sense. I knew what he meant and I said the true sense of what he meant to the judge and after the gentleman left with his lawyer the judge said Ms. Sammons would you stay here for a moment. I thought oh boy an I in trouble. And he said I’ve been a law judge for 20 years this is one of the very few times if ever that I felt I truly spoke with the claimant. I just kind of smiled and said well you can tell Social Security that too. I don’t say that to brag I simply say it because knowing the culture as well as knowing the language is really important when you’re an interpreter. Anyone who is out there and you have a visual impairment and you know two languages your interpreting shouldn’t be effected in any way by your vision. Something you can readily do as long as you know the languages and understand what’s behind the culture so I’d encourage you to think about that.

TR:

Elizabeth had additional opportunities to interpret in the Social Security Administration, as part of Vocational Rehab and as a volunteer in the community.

Notice how Elizabeth is putting her interests into action in and out of her career.

[TR in conversation with ES:]
What about the writing?

ES:

(Sighs!)

I kind of put the writing on a back burner for a while. Not that I didn’t write at all but I certainly did lots of writing for my job, but in terms of creative writing . I started up with a group a writing group which meets twice a month and we’d go over one another’s manuscripts and give comments.

TR:

Elizabeth suggests avoiding the writers groups where author’s read their work and group members critique on the spot. Understandably, such a process isn’t going to produce quality feedback.

She began by sharing one of her already completed short stories.

ES:

They liked it, but they didn’t like it as much as I did. I really felt for 4 years that it wasn’t the best I’ve ever wrote, but it was the thing that I wrote that I loved the most and it was just sort of crying out to me, you’ve done this little bitty sketch, you need to turn this sketch into a big portrait.

TR:

At the same time, tragedy in Elizabeth’s life served as even more inspiration. This included the loss of two friends, one of which was to Cancer.

ES:
This death experience and the broken relationship experience really made me think a lot about what makes a friendship work or not work and what happens when people are so different that they can’t live together, they can’t get along.

TR:

Taking two characters from the Bible, Steven or the first Christian martyr…

ES:

and some people may know who Paul or Saul was – a Jew who then began to believe in Jesus but before he did he wrote lots of letters in the New Testament like the first and second Corrinthians and Romans and Ephesians and other writings.

He first comes into the Bible when Stephen is being stoned. It says a young man named Saul stood by and held the garments for those who stoned Stephen. Being that Paul/Saul was such a huge figure in the Bible later I thought that’s not a real positive light to come in. (Laughs) If you want to come in you might think of a different door to come in, but not that he wrote that.

The Greek tradition, and Stephen was Greek holds believe it or not that Saul and Steven were relatives. And this puts an entirely different light on Stevens martyrdom and what Western folks reading the Bible see… oh yeh, Saul was thee when Steven was martyred. So I held this together historically, respecting the tradition may or may not be true, but let’s say they were at least people who knew each other well. I portrayed Steven and Saul as best friends at the beginning of this book. Really close, grew up in childhood , helped each other and gradually through the book as Jesus Christ comes on to the scene living and later crucified and Steven makes the choice to believe in him as the Messiah and Saul very strongly holds to the traditions in the honor of those traditions and how the friendship breaks.

I describe the events of that through different points of views so there’s some chapters that witness of Steven and some are witness of Saul some are witness of other characters that I invented or other historical characters that see this change in the friendship and of course ultimately the martyrdom.

Many scholars do believe that Saul had a disability. And I did in my book give him a disability which also influenced a little bit his take on this whole situation and his feelings and his reactions because he was never quite the one . He was always a little bit of the odd man out too. And deal as well with the loss of his friendship with Steven.

TR:

Elizabeth’s first novel, The Lyra and the Cross is currently available in both print and E-Book on Amazon.com.

ES:

I am working on getting an audio copy ready and when that does come out I will definitely let you know that’s out.

TR:

Even before The Lyra and the Cross, Elizabeth wrote a manuscript for a book set in the 1990’s. It’s about a family who’s patriarch dies

ES:

They find out some secrets that expose them to realizing they have some very serious genetic threats in the family and they have some very serious other issues in the family that they never knew about.

And the name of that book which I hope to get published hopefully by next year is With Best Intent because all the characters except for one all are doing things believing they’re doing the right thing but unfortunately some of the consequences live on for decades and decades and mark people not in a good way.

TR:

Inspired by a story she created for a presentation, Elizabeth is finishing up a Children’s book on advocacy.

ES:
Told from the view of a family who brings in a homeless cat and this cat has to find its place in the home , make itself loved by the family when things go wrong let the family know. It’s the Advo Cat.

I’m working with a professional illustrator right now and she’s working on getting it visually pleasing to 10, 11, 12 year olds. I meaning it for pre-teens.

It’s not advocacy related to any particular disability or politics or religion it’s just good advocacy principles.

It’s called Omar Advo because in the beginning you don’t know he’s a cat.

I describe him but I don’t use the word cat at all and people are thinking he’s a human and then you see the picture and you realize he isn’t . The first lesson is sometimes someone isn’t who you think he is. That’s the first lesson of advocacy.

[TR in conversation with ES:]
Isn’t that the first lesson of life! Laughs…

ES:

Amen to that. laughs…

[TR in conversation with ES:]
Say the title one more time.

ES:

Omar Advo

TR:

It’s pretty apparent, Elizabeth knows how to adapt to new environments. Always finding ways to incorporate her interests and passions throughout her career and no matter where she calls home.

ES:

My husband Jeff retired two years ago and struggled and cajoled and finally convinced me that it was ok to retire young . So I did early resign from my Vocational Rehab job last August.

We are currently for the most part living in an RV and traveling around. Right now I’m talking to you from Texas. We plan to continue a lot of our travel .

TR:

Elizabeth’s not interested in writing about her travels. She prefers to pursue her creative writing.

ES:

I feel extremely blessed even though it’s not always easy but to be able to live as an artist right now and be able to really travel and see so many great things and meet some amazing wonderful people . My life right now is sort of on the road and as much on the pen as I can be. Exploring our country and hopefully exploring our world a little bit just enjoying and trying to be there for people.

TR:

While she’s not active on social media Elizabeth says if you’re interested in reaching out with any questions she’ll be happy to answer. Therefore feel free to send questions to ReidMyMindRadio at gmail.com and I’ll forward them to her.

Once again, The Lyra and the Cross is currently available in both E-Book and hard copy from Amazon with an audio book version on the way.

You can find some additional writings from Elizabeth including posts on her international experience over on her blog WindowsOfThought.WordPress.com. She hasn’t written much in this space for a couple of years but like me I think you can find something you may enjoy.

A big shout out to Empish Thomas for recommending and introducing me to Elizabeth.

Empish is a freelance writer and one of the bloggers along with Elizabeth on Vision Aware .com.

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