Reid My Mind Radio – Rizzle Razzle Year End Special

January 4th, 2017  / Author: T.Reid

Taking over the Reid My Mind Radio Studio once again for a year end special…Rizzle Razzle.
I asked for your help in convincing my daughters to let me be a part of their end of year wrap up. This year, they cover music, iPhone apps and phrases. Find out who made their lists. Find out if I made the show!

Reid My Mind Radio – Join the Coalition

December 14th, 2016  / Author: T.Reid

Leading into 2017, it’s apparent that finding common ground will be even more important than ever.

If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution , consider building coalitions. That building for me starts at home! Find out what I mean and then help me take action!

Now… what are you waiting for…
Subscribe to RMM Radio bit.ly/RMMRadioSubscribe

To listen now, hit the Play button below!

 

 

Resources

 

*No Totally Podcast, Ramp Your Voice Episode
*Ramp Your Voice
*Support the movement… Email ReidMyMindRadio

 

Transcript:

 

TReid:
I’ve been trying to figure out, what would be an appropriate topic for a year end episode of Reid My Mind Radio ?

A Bloopers reel?
A recap of my favorite episode?

Then I was inspired!

[RMMRadio Intro Music]

TReid:
A few years ago my daughters produced their own end of year show.
They chose to countdown their favorite songs of the year and talked about some of the more memorable news events according to what was then a 16 and 11 year old.
It was the first Rizzle Razzle Show!
It got about 3 to 4 times more listens than anything I put out at the time…

{Obviously slightly annoyed…} Whatever!

I loved listening to it myself. It was something they decided to do together – who could be upset with that.

So, I thought I would suggest Rizzle and Razzle once again return to the microphones for a year end wrap up show. However, this time, I thought they would invite a special guest… me, Daddy!

Sounds great right?

Since Riana or Rizzle was away in college I thought I would first approach Razzle., that’s my youngest daughter Raven

I thought Raven would definitely be up for including Daddy. She’s still here with me and we still get to spend a lot of great quality time together. She’ll love the idea.

Here’s how it all went down…

[Sound of Harp signaling going back in time…]

TReid:
Excited by the idea, I couldn’t wait for Razzle to get home from school. Our routine is when she arrives home, she comes into my office takes a seat on the couch and we talk. She shares the highlights of her day and I usually try to entertain her with silly jokes of some sort.

On this particular day, I decided I would go right into the idea…
After letting her in the front door of the house and getting my hello kiss Raven took her place on the couch in my office and I sat in my chair. With excitement I explained that I had this fabulous idea…

[TReid in conversation with Raven]
Alright, I think we need to bring back Rizzle Razzle this year…

Raven:
I agree!

TReid:
…but

Raven:
Oh no…

TReid:
… you should have a guest…

Raven:
Ooooh, who is this guest?

TReid:
… me, Daddy!

{After several seconds…}

Raven
No!

[Silence]
TReid:
Yeh, I know, you’re probably just as shocked as I am!

After about 30 minutes or so I let it go…

Maybe I went about this the wrong way.
Rizzle is the oldest, she’d be able to influence Razzle.
Even though she’s away at school, we speak everyday…
I’m ready for her call usually in the morning as she’s walking to class.
That’s when I decided, I’ll get her on my side and the show will be a go…

Here’s how that went down…
[Sound of Harp indicating going back in time.]
[Sound of iPhone ringing]
TReid:
You know, why drag it out?

Riana: “No!”

[Jay Z, What more can I say…]

[Audio sequence of both Raven and Riana saying No in various ways.]

TReid:
After several weeks, I’m finally able to speak about it without breaking down in tears.

I’m not mad at my wife’s daughters…
No seriously, those are my babies!
If it’s just supposed to be a Rizzle Razzle thing, that’s cool.
They just better not invite their mother on a show.

[Ooooh!]

Treid:
Right now with the climate in this world feeling even more divided, building coalitions, making relationships with others based on similarity seems like a real opportunity and a good idea.

Recently, I listened to a podcast featuring a conversation between an able bodied Asian American man and an African American woman with a disability. I thought it was a good conversation especially for those not familiar with disability and interested in learning more with the intention of becoming more aware.
These two apparently met online and have learned from one another and seem to be in the process of building an alliance in order to help reduce the levels of misinformation that are all too common when it comes to the so called minority groups.
They discussed some of the ways the misinformation impacts their lives and it was easy to see the similarities. Those were only understood after the information exchange. The differences are easy!

That podcast, by the way is called “No Totally” and you can find a link to it on the post for this episode on Reid My Mind.com.

Focusing on the things that make us different from others could be isolating.
Especially if you have enough differences…

Growing up as a African American man I have been through my share of racial experiences.
I’ve had many instances where white people have tried to intimidate, dominate and even inflict bodily harm.

As an African American with Puerto Rican heritage I have even experienced some very unkind remarks from African Americans and
unfortunately I’ve been witness to Latinos insulting African Americans.

And then, just when I thought I had it all worked out, my identity in check; comfortable and confident
in my caramel colored skin with a Tahino tint
I get a whole new category … PWD or person with a disability.
And boy, this one comes with a whole new set of do’s and don’ts and can’s and cannots. Or at least perceived cans and cannots!

So I begin to read about blindness, read about disability and become involved in blindness advocacy.

The majority of my peers involved in advocacy are white.
Furthermore, the majority of those in leadership are congenitally blind or blind since a very young age.

So my group can shrink even further…

If there’s one thing I adapted to naturally throughout my life, that’s being the only one!

The only or one of very few black kids in the class beginning in grammar school.
The only one who was Puerto Rican.
The only Puerto Rican who didn’t speak Spanish….

I spent years being the only black guy in the meeting, on the project team, in the car
returning from a meeting with colleagues as the car travels through the Bronx, past the neighborhood I grew up in only to have several of my white colleagues question their safety.

[Sound as though an inner thought…
“Let the car break down now and I’m leaving all your asses! I’m good”]

If I were driving I would have went off the main road and made them all nervous, just for the LOL’s!

The differences can go even further… I didn’t even touch on the cancer thing.

[Cheers Music and re-mix!]

TReid:
It’s natural for anyone to want to go to that place where everybody knows your name…

To some extent there’s a real level of comfort being around other people who are blind.

Hanging out with friends who are black gives me an opportunity to be me too.

put me in a room with the smells of Arroz con Gandules, pernil
(even though I don’t eat pork!)
Sounds of Salsa music and people talking Spanglish! for those not in the know that’s the combo of English and Spanish… and I feel at home!

But in any situation there’s always that chance to
feel separated. It could be anything…

Hanging out with friends or a work related setting and inevitably the conversation moves to the current sport season…
As a man, I’m expected to participate…
Get ready for a real disappointment yawl, I don’t follow sports like that!

[Sound of Shocked audience response]

I think our differences make us interesting.

the problem though are those who believe that something that separates us makes one superior to another.

As we end this year and enter 2017 with a thick feeling of division in the air
I’m going to continue to respect differences based on what I said earlier and focus on supporting and building with others in those areas in which we have shared interest.

There’s too many things we can accomplish for the good of all. With that said, those who feel the same, I’m asking you to send an email to reidmymindradio at gmail.com asking Rizzle Razzle to do a show with their Dad!

I’m just saying’ why don’t they want their father in the show…
I can do a good job…
I do this… (Fading out)
They use my equipment… (fading out)
Come on, I edit it and put it on my website… {fades out}

[close music]

Reid My Mind Radio – Who is Girl Gone Blind

November 30th, 2016  / Author: T.Reid

This episode features the latest Gatewave Radio piece answering the question; Who is the Girl Gone Blind?
Immediately following the piece, check out what happens when I run with a bit of inspiration from something I heard in my conversation with Maria Johnson, aka, A Girl gone Blind.

Picture of Maria Johnson

If you haven’t yet, make sure you Subscribe to RMM Radio bit.ly/RMMRadioSubscribe
– In the meantime, hit the Play button below!

 

Resources:

 

*Girl Gone Blind
*Girl Gone Blind on Twitter
*Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

 

Transcript

TReid:
What’s good everybody, it’s me T to the R E I D!

I’m feeling good today and that’s by choice not by circumstance… let that marinate.
And in this latest episode of Reid My Mind Radio I’m featuring a piece I did for Gatewave Radio…

Check this out!

[RMMRadio Intro]

TReid:
Going blind is a real challenge.
Different for anyone who goes through the experience. It involves adjustments for almost every aspect of a person’s life.
Education, Employment mobility and independence.

Today you will meet someone sharing some of her experiences online, on the internet via her blog.

 

TReid:
Girl Gone Blind, is Maria’s space on the internet, her blog where she’s been sharing experiences, observations and information about her life as a, well, girl who has gone blind.

Her story begins in April 2013.

MJ:
I was working as a fitness instructor. I was working at three different locations and I was also running my own Boot Camp as well as doing the mom things – running around taking my kids everywhere you know volunteering and all that stuff. And I noticed there was a blurry spot in one of my eyes but I didn’t really think too much about it cause I was busy and After a month or two it really wasn’t going away.

TReid:
TReid
With no changes in her vision, she sought an answer.
Multiple optometrist, ophthalmologists ; all trying different tests…
MJ:
… many scans, MRI’s spinal taps, steroid treatments, they could not figure out what was wrong. I was completely healthy except there was a problem with my optic nerve.
>

TReid: Finally, she found a neuro Ophthalmologist who tested her DNA. In September 2013 Maria was diagnosed with LHON.

MJ:
Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. It is a mitochondria mutation that is passed down from the mother’s side. When the mutation is triggered you start to lose central vision. It can spread into the peripheral a bit, but most of the time your peripheral is saved.

Treid:
Within a month of receiving the diagnosis, Maria was legally blind.
Her response?!

MJ:
Ok, Now what?

TReid in conversation with Maria:
So you started experiencing vision loss and then you decide three months later you know what, I’m going to do this in public! [Laughter from both]

MJ:
Yeah, I know right!

TReid in conversation with Maria:
What made you do that?

MJ:
I thought about righting a blog previously as a health and fitness Guru if you will, but I never did. And so I always had that little bug in me I think.
When my vision loss came to a point where I had to deal with it, I thought you know maybe I should write about this?
Come January I basically wrote about what I’ve been going through and what actually was going on with my vision and what it was called.
I remember clicking publish and thinking uh [exhale] my gosh I hope, I hope somebody reads this. Well I got the hugest response. Positive response on this blog and people loved it!
They loved it and they were appreciative of my vulnerability and my openness to share what had been going on with me over almost the last year. I got the bug right then and there and said you know what I’m going to keep going with this because people like it.

TReid:
There’s no one size fits all plan for adjusting to blindness.
Chances are if a person is losing their vision and seeks assistance, they will learn of the vision rehabilitation system. For those fortunate enough to receive services, it would include personalized training to aid that person to remain as independent as possible.
That can mean getting back to work or school, learning how to perform all of the tasks they once did like cooking, traveling using a computer and more.
Maria figured out what she needed to go through the process.

MJ:
I realized I needed to get my head wrapped around this whole “I’m now blind” thing!
Before I could even attempt to figure out how I was going to you know cook or you know knit or [giggles] all the other things they wanted to teach me.
I thought I need to get my head wrapped around this. I actually need therapy, and I need counseling.

TReid:
Counseling to help work through the barrage of both feelings and thoughts about the loss not only of her sight, but all that comes with that;
her independence, her perception of herself, trying to figure out what it means to be blind.
Loss, is painful!

MJ:
I would lay on my bed you know crying and crying and crying and think [uh, gasp] how am I going to be a good blind parent?
How am I going to be the mom that I was.
How am I going to be the mom that I expect myself to be?

[Soft sad piano music]

MJ:
I honestly was planning on how I was going to exit this world.
And when I would do it.

MJ:
I thought, but you know I can’t leave my kids.

MJ: So I actually did therapy and group therapy weekly for about a year and a half. It helped me to know that all of my thoughts and feelings were totally normal. The things I was doing to propel myself forward everyday were the right things.
I will rank therapy as the number one thing that has helped me adjust to this new life.

TReid:
In addition to the emotional, Maria was trained in orientation and mobility.

I assumed Maria was proficient with technology and probably received training in either magnification or screen reading software.
So I had to ask about something I read on one blog post.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
You use dictation. Is that still your choice of input?

MJ:
It is, it is, it is.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Do you do any keyboarding?

MJ:
Ok, here’s the back story on all of that!
alright, so I was always a pretty good typist when I was sighted.
Then I’m telling you Thomas, when I lost my vision and I could not see my keyboard any more….

[Fades out and Narration over MJ…]
>
TReid:
I am a big proponent of technology for all. Especially people with disabilities.
In some sense I’m an Access Technology evangelist…
I’ll tell anyone who will listen about the benefits it affords to people with vision loss or other disability.
I’m also a strong believer in the need to be proficient enough with a keyboard if physically possible
in order to have maximum control over your technology.

I did give Maria a bit of a hard time about her reliance on dictation.
But I’m not judging her!

Judgement, that’s one of the things that’s scary about
sharing personal stories.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Have you regretted anything you published?

MJ:
I’ve made it a real point to keep it to just my own experiences. What I’ve been through. The good the bad and the ugly and the and the crazy , the funny, but then you know there’s nothing to regret.

TReid:
So is keeping an online journal helpful to the adjustment process?

MJ:
I think where it helped me is I was able to put my emotions and my story out there and I knew inside that maybe it would help somebody else either relate or understand what I was going through. And on the other hand, I do feel it hindered me a bit because I was drumming up all these emotions that were really quite difficult for me.

TReid:
Girl Gone Blind has lead Maria to other outlets

MJ:
I knew that if I wanted to start making something of Girl gone Blind I probably needed to get on Twitter and I needed to start reaching out to all of these other avenues. And that’s where RNIB Connect Radio discovered me.
Now I do a weekly segment for them ; chatting with Girl Gone Blind as a Lifestyle Blogger. We talk about different issues and different situations that we encounter.
I also do a podcast, we call it the LHON Report. We do interviews with people in the LHON community and we also talk about our experiences.
This has turned into this wonderful place that I have set myself in and I absolutely love doing it and it’s so weird for me to say that I love what I do and it’s all because I lost my vision.
It’s been a crazy three years but I’m headed to a good place I just know I am and I’m just going to keep that arrow pointed that way and see where it goes.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Sounds like a great plan

MJ:
Oh And I’m going to learn how to type Thomas…

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Yes! Yeah!

MJ:
Giggles… Goals, Blind goals.

TReid:
There it is! Hash tag Blind Goals. (#BlindGoals)

[Laughter from both and MJ claps her hands!… audio fades out]

TReid:
Maria Johnson is journaling her way through her adjustment to blindness. She’s a girl gone blind, but she’s not traveling alone.

She’s inviting those with LHON , those experiencing vision loss and others to ride along. Hopefully relate to the experiences and maybe even be inspired to continue on their own paths.

Remember that thing about Maria not using the keyboard?
The truth is Maria didn’t let that become an excuse for not starting or maintaining her blog.

She held on to three words that she says can help her through most things…

MJ:
IGotThis! That was my mantra. I got this!

For more on Maria?

MJ:

My website is girlgoneblind.com.
I’m on Facebook at Girl gone Blind
and on Twitter a@Girl_Gone_Blind
And on Instagram @GirlGoneBlind.

TReid:
I’m Thomas Reid

[MJ: It is, it is, it is!]

TReid:
for Gatewave Radio,
[MJ: Ok, now what?]

TReid:
audio for independent living!

Following the Gatewave story, I included a “song” created using Maria’s words specifically “I got this”.

Reid My Mind Radio: A Note on Notes on Blindness

November 15th, 2016  / Author: T.Reid

In this episode of RMM Radio, I take a look at Notes on Blindness, a new film released in the US and premiering in NYC. It’s the story of John Hull who recorded his thoughts, observations and more on audio cassette. This Gatewave story includes a conversation with Co-Director Peter Middleton.

 

Scenes from the movie Notes on Blindness super imposed in the head of John Hull.

It’s pretty hard to watch a movie about someone going blind without thinking of my experience. Checkout some of my own personal recordings included in this episode.

 

If you haven’t yet, make sure you Subscribe to RMM Radio bit.ly/RMMRadioSubscribe
– In the meantime, hit the Play button below!

 

Resources:

 

Transcript

 

TReid:

 

Today I am sharing a recent piece for Gatewave Radio. A first of sorts for me.
A story about a new film being released in the United States on the topic of blindness.

This was a challenge for me, I’ll tell you why after you take a listen.

Let’s Go!

[Sample from Kurtis Blow’s AJ… “1, 2, 3, 4 hit it!]
Music … Reid My Mind Radio Theme

[Notes on Blindness Audio:
John Hull:
This is cassette 1 , track one, um… fades out]

TReid:
This audio is from the movie titled Notes on Blindness, just released in New York City and playing at the Film Forum.

Theologian, John Hull using a cassette recorder, documented his experience and thoughts as his vision faded beginning in 1983.

The film was produced using both actual   tape of John Hull and his family as well as interviews he and his wife Marilyn had with co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney.

Actors portray John and his family, but they are lip syncing to the recorded dialog.

I spoke with co-director peter Middleton (PM) via Skype.

PM:
Using film to try and convey the sightless experience is quite an exciting creative challenge for us. So undoubtedly there was that sense of artistic project which first attracted James and myself to John’s story.

TReid in conversation with PM:
Water seems to play a big role; the idea of the rain, the tsunami…

PM:
We can’t take much credit for that. It’s all in John’s account. After losing sight he had these incredible powerful operatic dreams that were, often water was this kind of analogous feature of them…
He would have dreams of water sort of rushing down and sweeping his children away and dragging him to the depths of the ocean. And all this kind of very powerful imagery that was just absolutely kind of laced throughout his account. And of course the connotation of water as the bringer of life.

TReid:
Remember, The original audio used throughout the film was recorded via cassette in the 1980’s. Audio restoration, editing and sound design  are other artistic elements of the film.

It was the inclusion of audio description that gave me access to some of the visual techniques used to tell the story.

Like Shadows, blurred or out of focus fades and sun spots.
Darkness acting like periods, concluding a statement, some times
an exclamation mark or bold emphasis highlighting a turning point in his life.

Peter says audio description served more than giving people with vision loss access.

PM:
Since we’ve been releasing as well we’ve been trying to open this conversation around accessibility and different ways people could approach the film so it has taken on that kind of social angle as well which we’re very  much relishing and very much hoping to push further.
TReid:
In addition to the audio description, a Virtual Reality experience and enhanced audio version were created.

PM:
Which rather than having an external audio narration as you would do in audio description, actually built in  more narration from John and Marilyn, the key subjects of the film, along with sort of sound design and music. We’ve been releasing these audio tracks with a smart phone app that allows audiences to sync that up in cinemas or on TV o\r on DVD or home  or what have you.

TReid:
Director Peter Middleton said John Hull was very specific about assuring that Peter and his Co-director James Spinney understood this was just one experience.

PM:
He was always careful to point out that he didn’t intend to speak for or on behalf of anybody. So we were aware that our kind of knowledge and our experience of blindness is very much refracted through his subjective story and subjective account.

TReid:
Yet a close examination can provide some insight into the shared vision loss experience. Like the strong need to continue.
For some that means continuing an education or a hobby.
In Hull’s case it meant his career.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull recalling a conversation :
No, look, how do blind people read big books?
They said, they don’t!]

TReid:
Finding new ways for accomplishing a task, well that’s a big part of a person’s adjustment to blindness.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
The first thing I did was build a team of people to record books for me

With ingenuity and a little bit of help there were problems that could be solved.]

TReid:
Resolving some of these basic difficulties offers hope!

Until… the next even more difficult problem arises.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
It wasn’t until The final tiny bit of light sensation slowly disappeared that my mood changed.]

TReid:
Another obstacle in the process of adjusting to blindness, , maintaining or establishing relationships.

Hearing his daughter scream as she plays in the garden,
John tries to quickly get to her aid.

[Notes on Blindness Audio plays in the background.]

When he arrives , Marilyn is comforting her and already has the problem under control.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
That was a frightening moment.]

He struggles with feelings  of inadequacy as a father.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
The discovery that you are useless is not a nice discovery for any father to make.]

Relationships with his wife, parents and even with God are all parts of his own journey.

Notes on Blindness, while a personal portrait of one man’s experience losing vision, is a poetic but practical look at the journey through loss.

Take for example, the role and importance of adaptations.

[notes on Blindness Audio playing in the background.
John his son Thomas saying bye to one another. ]

After Walking his son Thomas to school in the morning,
we watch as the father and son practice their special way of saying goodbye.
It’s the equivalent of both child and parent watching one another move further apart while assuring both the other is just still close
enough if needed.

[Notes on Blindness Audio: Their exchange of goodbyes growing further apart and his son Thomas’ voice fades with each goodbye.
John Hull describing the practice:
Echoing in chorus!]

We witness not only the bonding between father and son, but Hull’s appreciation for these small yet meaningful adaptations in his life.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
“I Love this!”]

Treid:
It’s not a movie for just the audience.

TReid in original conversation with PM:
What have you personally learned about blindness after all of this work?

PM:
Spending so much time with John and being able to listen to his account and researching has lead us to further research on different kind of people’s experiences. It’s been an incredibly fascinating process for us.

TReid:
Vision, often considered as the most feared sense to lose, yet the dialog offered by Hull and the sound design and music have a very calming effect. As if saying, it will all be  alright. Or maybe that’s just my final note on blindness.

The film has been nominated for 6 British Independent Film Awards including:
Best British Independent Film
Best Debut Director
Outstanding Achievement in Craft

You can catch Notes on Blindness beginning November 16  in New York City
at the Film Forum. Other cities are soon to follow. As well as on demand distribution in the future.
Visit BlindnessMovie.com for more on dates and information.
you can find them on Twitter @OnBlindness

I’m Thomas Reid;

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull and son Thomas exchange goodbyes…
John Hull:
Until his voice becomes faint.]

TReid:
For Gatewave Radio

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull and son Thomas exchange goodbyes…]

TReid:
audio for independent living.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull: “I love this!”]

T.Reid:
When I received an email asking if I were interested in doing a story on a new movie called Notes on Blindness, my first thought was …
“I don’t think you’re going to want me to do that!”

I like to profile people who are doing things that ultimately dispel the misperceptions about blindness.

I’m cynical  when it comes to movies  about blindness and disability.
My experience says they are probably going to be the sappy  oh look at this poor guy or wow, isn’t this person so amazing!

This, was not that!

Naturally I thought of my own experience while watching.
I guess you could say it was a comparison of notes!

The scene when he rushed to his daughter after hearing her scream;
I had my own similar experience and questioned my usefulness in emergencies.
Fortunately, I realized there’s no way I’m useless… as Hull felt at that time.

Again, the experience of blindness is specific to the individual.

One scene, John talks about how he can no longer
conjure up an image of his oldest daughter or his wife…

I never experienced that…
In fact I vividly remember both and
way more.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler so I’ll share that Hull comes to see blindness as a gift.
He’s clear to say it’s not a gift he would want for his children, but he recognizes there’s something there.

I don’t think I ever referred to it as a gift, but I know it’s not a curse.

I found myself very much curious about how John’s vision loss impacted his children. Specifically, his oldest daughter Imogen  who was around the same age as my oldest when I went blind.
She reflects on her relationship  with her father both as a child an as an adult in a short film titled Radio H.

[Audio from Radio H]

Notes on Blindness was focused on Hull’s experience with blindness and
not much time interacting with his kids.
At least not much that showed a playful side.
Like the tapes he made of his children performing and
him telling adventure and spooky stories.

It reminds me of some of the early recordings I did with my kids…

[Audio of Thomas and his children when they were younger.]
I’m a  sucker for Daddy Daughter stories!
For more on Notes on Blindness or Radio H;
see the links in the resource section included with the notes for this episode on Reid My Mind.com.

While you’re there, hit that subscribe button or subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio via iTunes.

Peace!

Reid My Mind Radio – Are Blind Conferences Fantasy

November 2nd, 2016  / Author: T.Reid

Back from another Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Conference. This is not a recap.

After all of these years, this was the first time I recall hearing that such conferences  have been described as fantasy. Fantastic! Yes, but I never heard them described as being a fantasy.

Unicorn with Sunglasses

You could say this is my opinion on  the idea or you could just say it’s what was on my mind!

If you haven’t yet, make sure you Subscribe to RMM Radio
– In the meantime, hit the Play button below!

 

 

Transcript:

Just about two weeks ago now, I attended my 11th conference of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind.

My first conference was in 2006. I attended with a group representing the newly formed Monroe County  Council of the Blind or as we called it MCCB. We were considered a young, energetic  and extremely enthusiastic bunch of new comers to the organization.

Most of the group were newly adjusting to blindness. The MCCB itself was formed after we met at a local support group and decided we wanted to do more with our energy than talk about the issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for talking and sharing our stories to help one another better manage the experience, but for many of us we were used to doing more and had a need to put our energy to good use.

I’m sure each of us who attended that first conference had our own expectations. I don’t fully remember what I expected, but I know I was open to learning. I can definitely recall trying to process so many different emotions throughout the weekend and during the first few weeks to follow.

Even today some things really stand out from the experience.

Like when one of our members Mary Ann,  was given a Braille menu at an Olive Garden during dinner on our first night at the conference.

Her excitement was infectious! It was just a menu! In fact, it was just Olive Garden – no shots, I enjoy the breadsticks and salad!

As the only proficient Braille reader in the group, Mary Ann immediately designated herself as the official menu reader for the rest of the group who did not read Braille, but even for those who could read print.
And the group honored that request, not as though they had a choice!

As a new advocate at the time, I was both excited for her but yet upset that she was still so surprised by the availability of the menu. Obviously something she did not experience often.

The next morning, I got my first glimpse of an accessible tour of what I recall was a train museum.

The tour guides used descriptive language as opposed to assuming everyone could see and recognize various features about the characteristics of these historic trains.

Some of the materials were available in alternative formats to standard print including Braille and large print for those with low vision

This may not seem like a big deal for those in the know, but when you’re new to blindness and beginning to believe you have to get used to just missing out on certain things;
observing that it doesn’t really take that much effort to be included, well it’s a real awakening.

I recently heard these types of tours and activities or even the conferences themselves  described  as fantasy.
The idea is that this is not and will never be the real world. The real world I guess in the minds of those who believe this is fantasy will always  exclusively cater only to those with sight and forever exclude people with vision loss.

At various times  throughout my journey with vision loss I came close to believing things can’t change. My struggle with cynicism was only made worse  with the random encounters with those who remind me that they see me first as a blind man and their definition of that goes beyond my inability to see.
For them it’s the subconscious stereotypes and misperceptions that create their image of who I am. the things I do or don’t do are viewed through a lens painted with layers of misinformation that so much of society has been lead to believe about blindness and disability.

Being conscious of that  comes with a price.
I can sometimes put more pressure on myself to   do something “right” believing that if I veer off course or make a simple mistake I may confirmed a false truth about blindness.

The fantasy world of blind conferences or conventions actually provided me a place to practice all of my blindness skills in a friendly atmosphere.
These conferences also  offered me a chance to relieve myself of the burden of believing I had to represent every blind person in the world.

There are times when I can get up from my chair during a conference  and almost perfectly walk out of the room using my white cane and easily navigate my way to my destination.

Then there are the other times when I get a little side tracked for various reasons.

These conferences have over the years taught me that both results are okay.
There’s no perfection.
People with all levels of  Orientation and mobility skills have and do both.  People with 20/20 vision do both.

it’s not my responsibility to explain how my cane tapping against  a planter or some obstacle in the middle of the room is not a sign that I am lost, but rather me gaining access to that information to determine which is the best course to avoid that obstacle.

I can’t change what someone else sees. This is determined by their experience and knowledge , not me. I know there are those who will lump all people who are blind together.
We share the experience of blindness, but for many that’s it! We’re different in so many ways.

Maybe these conferences are considered fantasy based on the cooperation and the way people tend to work together.

Since that first conference, I watched how people with all different levels of vision loss could help one another.

The person in the elevator who has low vision searching for the right button extends their gratitude to the person with no sight whatsoever who quickly identifies the button using Braille.

the teamwork of one gentleman using his white cane while  supporting a man with both vision loss and mobility challenges , slowly losing his strength, make his way to his hotel room.

Throughout the weekend, I witnessed people  all in support of one another. I saw more to blindness than I did prior to the conference. It confirmed that  not only was I right in thinking my vision loss didn’t have to mean more than I can’t see. It didn’t reduce who I am as a person. it didn’t put me in another class of people. It didn’t in any way impact my competence, my manhood my spirit. It simply means my eyes no longer work and I need to figure out other ways to get the information that I need to do certain things.

Since 2007 I’ve been a part of the conference planning team and I have been the coordinator  since about 2010 . My hope each year is that those newly adjusting to blindness will walk away from the conference  believing  that what some see as a fantasy is really inevitable.

There are changing demographics that make accessibility  a much more mainstream term today than even in 2004 when I was first introduced to that word.

Companies like Apple have committed to accessibility  making so many things usable for people with disabilities.
Smart phones and their apps
Television and movies along with audio description
indoor navigation which basically brings  GPS inside.

All of this progress is real!
We can touch it,  put it to use today and measure its effectiveness.

However, we’re not able to count the degree in which the attitudes are changing.

For many people the last few years have been an awakening to things that have existed since this country’s beginning.

The police brutality against people of color
Law enforcement’s corruption and cover ups of these incidents
Racist ideologies and behavior throughout society.

Camera’s and demagogues like Trump bring all of this to the forefront for all to see and confront.

Meanwhile those in the communities effected have been raising their voices in protest forever. The larger society not wanting to believe it or refusing to believe this could be true simply lowered the volume control and went on with their lives.

Blindness according to multiple surveys is ranked as America’s greatest fear… even more than death.

Some of these surveys are as recent as August 2016.

We know that people fear what they don’t know or understand.

This level of ignorance in 2016 is not surprising  but also not excusable.

The other side of this ignorance are those who are overly amazed by blind people living their lives every day.

Successfully living lives shouldn’t be considered amazing.

Maybe then we raise the bar for what we expect from people with vision loss and others with disabilities. And there’s no doubt that these expectations would be met.

In no way will I frame my perspective as a fantasy. It’s in progress. The more access gained the more people will have a chance to hear our voices, learn of our stories and rid themselves of their fears. It’s happening, just watch!