Doing Your Thing With Disability: Question Living Blind & Famous

April 27th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

Question, a light skin black man with long locs, wearing a red shirt with white sunglasses and holding a white cane while leaning against a red brick wall.
We reached the final episode of the season where we salute and recognize individuals who are pursuing their interests and goals not in spite of their disability but rather with it. The difference may seem minor to some, but if you’re someone who wants to see disability normalized in society then you probably recognize this vast gap.

On a black background clouded in white smoke is the heading titled “Doing your thing with Disability”. Underneath are multiple images positioned in a circular clock face. the words Blind & Famous in Graffiti lettering in the center.  On top at 11, 12 and 1 o’clock are A traffic light with musical note draping the lights representing Migo Traffic,  followed by a picture of Question and Damasta respectively. At the 9 and 3 o’clock positions are Label and Matt Mac At the bottom positioned at 7, 6 and 5 o’clock are; J Mouse, GoldFingas and PDex in the lab respectively.
Question, a young Producer & Rapper from Atlanta, Blind from birth is one such example. He’s been into music ever since he can remember. Like the early Hip Hop producers he admires, Question started making music with the tools he had available to him.

A student of Hip Hop, he recognized the power of a squad, a team and along with his friends and fellow artists Damasta and Migo Traffic began curating the collective of fellow Blind rappers and producers known as Blind & Famous!

What a perfect way to conclude this inaugural season of 2022; Doing Your Thing With Disability.

Plus, the winner of the Reid My Mind Radio Twitter Giveaway… @SandraManwiller… Congratulations!!!

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Transcript

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TR:
–at low volume
It’s time to get hype
–Clip from Yao from Mulan: I’m gonna hit you so hard, it’ll make your ancestors dizzy.
–Rhythmic electronic music fades in and becomes louder.

We’re back on the scene, crispy and clean and if you’re Hip Hop and from my generation especially, then you know what I mean!

My name is Thomas Reid and I’m the host and producer of this here podcast.

–“Reid My Mind Radio” echoes

I’m feeling good. Feeling accomplished as we wrap up this season: Doing Your Thing With Disability.

If you’ve been rockin’ with Reid My Mind Radio, you’re very familiar with our commitment to those adjusting to blindness.

We often talk about the power of people in that adjustment.
The value of their stories and experiences which include the direct lessons as well as how it expands our own beliefs of what is possible.

Today, I hope you all will recognize the additional value and power in individuals who have a shared identity, experience, goals, working together in support of one another.
Not letting you rest on your strengths alone, but encouraging you to go beyond with all that you have.

Today, I’m in my Hip Hop mode so we’re gonna call it what it is, your crew, your squad!

Family, let’s get ’em!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Question:
Yo, this is Question man! Artist and producer coming out of East Point, primarily a hip hop, r&b EDM.

I am a biracial kid with dreadlocks wearing a long sleeve blue shirt and some sweatpants right now. Chillin in my home studio just vibing out.

Question:
I’ve been blind all my life. I was born with optic nerve hypoplasia. I don’t have any vision in my right eye. And I have like, a little bit of vision in my left eye so I read Braille. And I use a lot of accessible and adaptive technology.

TR in Conversation with Question:
Did you go to mainstream school?

Question:
I did both. I went to mainstream school really up until eighth grade. And then I went to Georgia Academy for the Blind until I graduated.
I feel like if you go to a blind school, your whole life or a school for the blind, you’re gonna be a little bit sheltered to certain cultural aspects.

TR:
The concern that I’m sure many people have in enrolling a Blind child in a mainstream school is what Question found helpful.

Question:
It’s a little bit easier to kind of duck off, find your own crowd. It’d be a whole lot going on, you know, games and homecoming, and like different organizations, different things where you’d be staying after school clubs and all type of that. They had that on a minimal scale at a Blind school because they want everybody to be included.
But it’s just different so you know you do be a little bit sheltered if you don’t make a point to step outside of that school for the blind.

TR:
Inclusion is great, but we also need a chance to find out who we are as an individual. Becoming our true selves. Music was a part of that discovery for Question. In fact, it’s his interest in different genres that inspired his name.

–Sample: So you’re a philosopher?

TR in conversation with Question:
Question. What’s the name about?

Question:
I study a lot of different things. I just really look at myself as a student and as a fan of a lot of different genres.
Hip Hop people like Logic, people like The Roots, De La, Tribe, even Kanye, to a degree have just like a certain aura to the music and to what’s going on. So that’s definitely one of the aesthetics that I have as a part of my material.

TR in Conversation with Question:
I think I read you kind of referred to yourself as a hippie.

Question:
Yeah, for sure

TR:
Less 1960 or early 70’s hippie, and more like a Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul style!

TR in Conversation with Question:
Tell me a little bit about your introduction to music and then specifically rap. I don’t know if rap was first.

Question:
Yeah, I think rap was first. So to break it all the way down, my mom is white, my dad is black. I was with my mom a lot of the time. You know, she a single parent. I know my dad, everything cool.
My mom is a crazy Hip Hop head. She really the one that put me on a lot of the first music I was listening to.
So she raised me up going to concerts. She went to see Goodie Ma, when she was pregnant.
She was listening to like The Roots and Biggie, and just people in that era. Jay Z, Bahamadia, Helter Skelter.
She was just like, around a lot of artists that was in ciphers. She was just like, connected to that culture. She wasn’t in music herself but she just always knew that was a vibe. So it low key like curated that energy in me, like right from jump.

TR in Conversation with Question:
Helter Skelter? Okay. That’s a name I don’t hear being dropped that often.

Question:
She definitely deep into it. She my manager.
Because of that she’s now grown in her understanding of the industry. Five years ago, it was nothing but just like being a fan, being just appreciative of everything. But now, because of just the way things move, it’s become like a professional thing.
TR:
It began however with a natural interest and love for the music.
At three years old he was copying melodies and beats heard on the radio using toy keyboards. Always asking those he was with to turn on the radio, play a CD, he wanted music.
He learned drums and percussions, taught himself keyboard.
After hearing a song by Ludacris and Trina that featured a violin, he wanted to join the orchestra but was dissuaded from pursuing the instrument.

Question:
“Nah you can’t do it because the string part is too hard for people to read. And if you try to read the Braille, like, you can’t read it and play it at the same time.”

And then they was like, “you could do the drums.”

And it was like, I already do the drums. Like, I had been playing drums from young to I have like, Jim Bayes and congas. I got a drum set in my house.
I was kind of like, nah, I wanted to do strings. I wanted to do violin. So they didn’t let me do it. It’s kind of weird.

TR:
Fortunately, that didn’t stop Question from pursuing music. He continued to be inspired from those things within his reach.

Question:
I used to remember, like, listening to CDs in a stereo of Rick Ross, Wayne, Jay Z, whatever. And then I could like, burn my beats to a CD and just go play it in that same stereo. And it’s like, I’m on a CD. It didn’t really matter how good it was because it was me. And I had done this and I had brought something that was in my head into a form that everybody else could interact with, whether they liked it or they don’t. It’s like, now it’s here. And it wasn’t before. And that’s like a crazy thing. To me to this day.

TR:

Whether you’re a kid or not, sometimes, the things we think about or aspire to seem mysterious or out of reach. Remove the veil, and we begin to realize that it is attainable.
That can definitely provide the fuel needed to work on the craft.

–Soft Rock&Roll starts to play

TR in Conversation with Question:
Talk to me about some of that work. You’re spending a lot of time in your room, you got some equipment you’re producing, talk to me about some of your early stuff, and how you’ve seen that change over the years.

Question:
I was in about middle school when I started really producing and getting into recording myself and exploring effects and making beats and all that type of thing.
That’s when I really got my first computer and really just got competent using a screen reader just navigating the internet and doing things independently.

TR:
You see how this young brother just dropped that on y’all?

That’s the work I refer to. I don’t care what work, art or hobby you’re trying to do, if you’re someone who is Blind or Low Vision and you haven’t adapted to your technology, you’re limiting yourself.

Question:
I made my first beats on a sound recorder program. In Windows, I just took my iPod and hooked it up to my computer and then I play songs that had some drums at the beginning and I take like the hi hat from one of them to clap from another one, take the kick, and then like make a pattern.
I take Beethoven sample out in a folder on our own XP computer and just make a beat, paste the sample in a different way. Take little parts of it, chop it over the drums, and then I record over it. But I was just making little freestyles and the quality was crazy bad because it was just sound recorder.

TR:
Hearing that difference didn’t discourage him. Rather, it drove him to improve his sound.

Question:
I started hearing a difference between what I was making and what my inspirations was making. Like, at that time I was a kid. Soulja boy was out going crazy. So I had like his albums. His was one of the ones that I was like taking the drums from. So I would listen to what I made and be like “why it dont sound like the same thing? I just got the drums from right here so what’s going on?”
You know what I’m saying? So like I started figuring out like, Okay, if I get a better program, if I learn what different things mean, I started learning about like compression, and just like being around people.
I would get around my friends. And they might say something, say a term like, oh, did you use a compressor on this? And I might be like “yeah,” knowing damn well I don’t know nothing about no compressor.
Then I go look, and I see what the compressor is, in the program I’m using and I started messing with it, figuring out the difference. What does it do? What does it change? Then I figure out how to incorporate it.

TR in Conversation with Question:
What were you using in the beginning? I know that’s not in sound recorder.

–both laugh

Question:
I went from Sound Recorder up to Sony Sound Forge eight.

TR:
Ok, not everyone geeks out on audio production, like me!
What you need to know is that there were, let’s say better tools for the job. But, those tools weren’t accessible to Question.
It’s as though he was making a smoothie by hand while others had their sophisticated electric blender.

Question:
If you want to do something bad enough, you’re gonna find a way to do it. It’s not the clippers, It’s the barber.
You can always find a way to make it happen.

TR:
When you’re passionate about something, you don’t think about time.

Question:
I got lost in it.
I started making music, whole music out of one sound. Like take a sine wave, which is just like a tone. It’s like the tone that they use to bleep somebody out on TV. I take like a long version of that, and figure out how to make drums out of it and make a base out of it and make melodies out of it and chords and everything just in Sound Forge. Not even like a keyboard.
Learning how to basically match my peers and people who are making beats with just Sound Forge. And eventually, what I figured out is that process that I was using in Sound Forge just took too long to beat build. So I switched to Reaper.

TR:
Upping his game to Reaper, a multi track digital audio workstation, improves the time it takes to produce, increases his access to plugins and effects, but his studio is far from optimal.

Question:
I’m gonna be so real bro. We’re not selling beats like that yet. All of that is coming, you know what I’m saying. I’m gonna get to that. But right now, we just doing what we got to do.

TR in Conversation with Question:
Yo, I love that you said that. Because, you know there’s a lot of people who are like, “when I get”, fill in the blank, “when I get my technology,” “when I get that piece of software,” you know, some people would have been like, “oh, I can’t mess with this whole Sound Recorder” but nah you starting and you work on what you have. What’s that all about?

Question:
I do believe in saying when, but only in certain circumstances, like I believe in when over if, you know what I’m saying. It definitely is when instead of if. You’re going to get there, but you have to work to make yourself get there.

I believe in a lot of manifestation and I believe a lot in practicing what you need to do to get to where you’re trying to go. So you have to kind of learn what you want, you have to figure out where it is that you want to end up what you’re trying to head for. And then just make sure that you take the steps that you can take and reason every day to put your life on that path and move in that direction.

When I was young, I didn’t even really know that. But I just wanted it so bad. Like I just knew, because it was something that I was good at. It was something that I naturally was winning in. And so I just knew I wanted to push further. Because like, why would I give up on that? It made me feel good.

TR:
Question’s art includes beat making, production, and rapping. He began freestyling at 5 years old.
For the uninformed, freestyling is the rapper form of improvisation. Making up rhymes off the top of your dome. (Your head).

–Question’s rhymes play on the background

Question:
I see a whole lot of divisiveness amongst us, but I have to address obvious problems and address inequality.

I identify as a black man. There’s still a lot of work that we have to do on a lot of fronts. But right now, there‘s a lot of people paying attention. So I do appreciate that.

TR in Conversation with Question:
Do you talk about anything like that in your music?

Question:
Yeah, I’m honestly getting into that more.
I’m a young kid still. You could be 25. And you can be like, stressed, and then there tired of the world. And, like, know so much from your life experience, that you feel like you’re 40. Or you can be 25 and you can just be like, having the best time like, party and every day, just like enjoying them having fun feeling like you 18. I feel like I’m both depending on the day. I’m trying to put more of that in my music. And as I evolve, you know, the music evolves too.
I’m a very energy based person. So I like to be in the energy of whatever I’m making. And so for me, like stepping away from something is like tough.
If it’s good enough I feel like that energy will be there waiting for you.

— Question’s music fades back in then fades back to the background

TR in Conversation with Question:
Performances? Do you perform on stage?

Question:
I love performing. I recently just got to perform with a live band up in New York. The homies June and the Pushas. We did like and hour set freestyling and with some original jams in mind, and it was just sick to see a band like reinterpret my jams and like real professional musicians, drummer going dumb, you know the guitar, it’s like shredding.
Crazy on the joint. It’s like an out of body experience. I’m just able to go nuts.

TR:
That opportunity to make music and then share that creation with an appreciative audience, giving you immediate feedback, must be exhilarating. But like anything in life, there’s real pros and cons.

Question:
Honestly, a lot of times, there are many cons to get to many more pros.
There’s a lot of rejection, there’s a lot of people who tell you yes, and they play the waiting game with you.
It’s a lot of like, going through situations, and waiting on certain outcomes and having to just like, adapt and adjust on the fly.
There is a lot of like paperwork.

As a producer, you do a lot of cataloging, you get things in order. If you have your beats organized in a certain folder by like what tempo they at, you know, how fast they are, what key they are, what VOD they are, what artists they’re for, you can literally like, send your catalogue to certain labels and to certain artists while you sleep and make money residually.

TR:
Of course , there’s all sorts of pros and cons no matter the career. Question offers some words that apply to us all.

Question:
You have to be very grounded in a sense that you got to take time for yourself, and remember who you are, you got to remember what you love, who has helped you.
For me, it’s a lot about just spending time in nostalgia. If you know your history, then you remember like, why you’re doing it.

TR:
Question understands the value of having a team. That includes his mom, also known as manager during business hours.

Question:
The artist’s job is to focus a lot on creation and creativity, and figuring out the next moves and how to steer the ship.
But at the same time, I think it is important for artists and all creatives to know the business and to be involved in the business and to be fluent in what’s happening because that is a major part of what you’re doing. And that controls a lot of what you’re able to do or not able to do.
That can get real deep and that can play a big role in anxiety.
If you’re trying to create, if you are trying to focus on sending a message and an album, celebration or you know, whatever it is that you’re focused on, but you have like, the possibility of not being able to release this music looming over your head, and you’re dealing with, like, numbers and figures and different things, it can make you question what you’re doing.
Stress too much. But it’s a necessary part of what you go through.
So you got to find a way to compartmentalize it or balance it. If you go through that, that’s forward motion. Nobody who is nobody has these problems.

TR:
The concept of having a team goes beyond managing his own career. For Question, it’s about…

TR in conversation with Question:
Blind and Famous! What’s that all about?

Question:
Yo gang gang! Man, that’s the movement. That’s the mob, that’s the team. That’s my family.

Honestly, I always knew that that was something I had to do something I wanted to do something that for me, was important to what was going on. The greats that I study, everybody, they reach back, and they help out and they show love.
BIG, he got Junior mafia, if you look at Pac, he got the outlaws. TI, he got Grand Hustle. If you look at Ye, he got Good Music.

All of these people, they start with family, people that they came up with recording with and then obviously it branches out and are able to find talent from around the world and to curate people that they haven’t known, which is the same way that it started with Blind and Famous.

–rhythmic pop music begins

TR:
Are you socially ReidSponsible

–sample: “I don’t even know what that means.” “No one knows what it means!”

It’s true, no one knows what it means. Not even me. I just think it sounds cool.

That’s right, it’s time to announce the winner of the March Twitter Giveaway.

–mouths drumroll

@SandraManwille, you, are socially ReidSponsible and will be receiving your very own Reid My Mind Radio coffee/tea, man or any beverage you want to put in it, mug!

Thanks to all those who participated. And a big shoutout and thanks to Annie who by the way is ok!

Now back to the episode…

–Music ends with a bouncing base…

TR:
There’s a point in any conversation when you realize what is really meaningful to a person. You can hear the excitement in their voice, you can feel their energy shift. Raising the topic of Blind and Famous with Question, it was definitely time for him to turn up!

Question:
Me and my boy, DaMasta and my boy Migo Traffic.

We all went to school down here at GaB in Georgia. And we used to just freestyle.
We will be just like in a dorms, recording on laptops. Literally on laptop mic. You can hear a fan in the background. But all the kids, they’ll be playing the music around school and we’ll perform and people knew us and we knew we was going up from that minute.

It wasn’t even Blind and Famous back then.

TR:
They each continued working on their art. Even after graduation they remained close.

One day, Question and DaMasta were serving as engineers on a song for Migo Traffic, who used the phrase Blind and famous.

Question:
And I said, bro, we need to take that, like that’s the title. That’s it. And we just turned it into a movement, started putting out mixtapes. We had a lot of blind supporters and fans and they started letting people know what it was and it was like, Yo, what’s this movement? What’s going on?

–sample of a song: “What goes on? Well…”
TR:
Allow me to present Blind & Famous.
Of course, you already met my man, Question…

Question:
Coming out of Atlanta, the hippie, kid, man, artist and producer, curator of Blind and Famous, but one equal participant of this collective. I’m gonna pass it to my brother, my slime, DaMasta.

–rap song from B&F plays in the background

Da Masta:
I’m originally from Washington County, a little country town in Georgia. I’m the second curator of B&F.

Question:
And he is an artist. He’s hella melodic. He really on his own wave. He’s unique, I always credit him with saying that he has his own sound that’s not like anybody else I really know.

Da Masta:
I’m also an upcoming producer as well.

TR:
Next up!

–rap song begins and fades to the background

MattMac:
Yo, what’s happening? My name is Matt Mac.
I am a music producer and recording artist based out of Garden Hill First Nation up in Canada.
I’m First Nation born. I make music full time for sure.

Question:
You can go stream all his projects right now on Spotify. He’s going nuts.

— “Play the Hero Remix” MattMac Featuring Question & Label “Blind & Famous Volume 5

Label:
Label, born and raised in Jersey, I am a radio show host, podcaster. I also sing, rap. And I’m getting back into the producing side of things.

Question:
J Mouse, out of Arizona but he travels internationally. With a couple bands actually.

J Mouse:
Been a part of this collective for like two years. I do a lot of stuff in the music industry.

Question
He is a producer, primarily R&B, drill, hip hop, trap. He’s a musician.

J Mouse:
I play guitar, piano, bass, I’m a drummer, harmonica. I used to play saxophone too. I’m an engineer so I master, I do a lot of mixing. Pretty much everything, mostly within the music industry.

Question:
J mouse is like a genius, he crazy.

TR:
Let’s jump across the pond to the latest member of the crew.

P Dex:
I’m P Dex in the lab, aka the laziest producer in the world, all the way in the UK from Liverpool. Learning to do engineering and all that stuff. Mainly just doing a lot of producing.

Question:
The drill genre has been taken a lot of places by storm over the past few years. UK drill, New York drill, Australian drill. And the UK, really is who kind of innovated and advanced it.
And Dex brings us a lot of knowledge and know how, and just like, really being in that scene and connect. Shows us what’s really going on.

— Gold Fingers Sample

GoldFingas:
What’s going on? This is GF, GoldFingas.
I’m a producer. I’m also a musician. I play keys, drums. I’m a mix engineer as well. I do mixing and mastering and all that stuff. So between all of us we got everything pretty much we need in house.
I’m down here in Virginia. I’m on that Missy, Timberland type vibe. You know that boom bap stuff.
I’m the oldest member of the group. I’m in my 40s.
I’ve known question, man, since he was like 14?

Question:
No cap.

GoldFingas:
Something like that.
Me and him used to mess around in Sound Board and he showed me a few things. Ever since then I knew that this kid was gonna do something.

TR in Conversation with BNF:
And this is the whole squad, right? Is anybody missing?

Question:
Yeah, Migo traffic is missing.

TR:
I love that name! I assume he has a friendly flow or perhaps his style makes other rappers slow down or stay in their lane.
Unfortunately, the brother who first dropped Blind and Famous in a verse couldn’t join the cipher.
Alright, it wasn’t really a cipher, there was no exchange of bars or raps, but honestly, if this were in person, it would have been on. And I’m telling you right now I keep a hot 16 ready to go, just in case!
Exchanging beats, rhymes, hooks, song concepts, that’s what they do! Together, making music, remotely.

Question:
We use something like this, like a conferencing app, but the one we use is called TeamTalk. It’s real common in the blind community. We basically just go in there, and we’ll send the audio from our computer through so that if we make a beat, if we playing beats, everybody that’s using that program can hear what we’re doing.
So we’ll just bounce ideas back and forth.
We got a group text too! It’s real family oriented.
We talk a lot, through the day, people just put beats in there, put songs in there.
And then it’s like, okay, I want to get a feature on this, I want to collab on this.
TR:
The magic of collaborating is that each person brings their own creativity and idea to the track.
Label explains more about the process.

Label:
If a beat is sent, it’s open to anybody. Kind of a first come first serve type of deal. And then we all kind of come together and say “alright I think these people will sound good on it.”
It’s a thing of pushing each other. And then we use an online platform like Dropbox, and we just drop sessions back and forth to each other.
The use of technology has been absolutely beautiful to be able to get a lot of these things done.

GoldFingas:
Because we know each other so well, we know what type of tracks each other likes. As far as like if he you know, if I wanted Question to feature on something, I know, what type of stuff you know that he’s into.
And then we also kind of branch out like, we’ll try something, he’ll try something different. The creative process is organized, but it’s all over the place at the same time. So many moving parts going at once, but it’s organized chaos. I love it, though.

–laughs

Question:
We all have like hella projects going at one time. We’ll have like a few different ideas. We start making songs. And then like, we might have, Matt got a project that’s ‘bout to come out under his management. So it’s like, alright, everybody, let’s sit down, let’s write for Matt. Let’s produce for Matt, let’s make sure Matt got everything that he need. Let’s make sure that he feels good about where he’s at.
Because the thing that we always want to do is make sure that each person is getting their fair shake and getting, you know, the love from everybody as far as like, collaboration, promotion, appreciation, it’s that real reciprocal type of thing.

TR in Conversation with BNF:
That’s fire, man.

— Continues talking underneath Voice Over…

TR:
I had to ask the squad to take me through an example of the process using an actual production.

Question:
Matt, what about Run It?

–drill/rap song begins

MattMac:
That beat was produced by P Dex and the J Mouse over here.

P Dex:
Originally, me and Johnny were having a session. We were just chillin. And then I had an idea, which is the main melody that runs through the whole track. And then I said, “this is a real nice drill beat.” So I started it off and then I sent it to Johnny.

J Mouse:
When I heard PDex’s idea, I sat down, started coming up with some ideas and just kind of happened. This particular beat I do like so much and it just came out so smoothly.

P Dex:
And then he did his magic on it and as we were doing it, Matt Mac came and he heard it. And we were like “you should do something with it.” But he was, you know, hesitant because he’s never done anything in that genre.

Question:
He passed it to me.

P Dex:
Yup

Matt Mac:
Question.

Question:
Matt and I work closely on a lot of verses and on a lot of songs. So me having done a lot of drill jams in the past, he just got with me in a session and kind of let me know how he wanted to attack and where he was coming from.
I think he had the idea for the hook already. And then we just filled it in, you know, with some words and he kind of let me know what he wanted to say, where he wanted to come from.
Every time I work with any artists on the song, as a songwriter or a producer, I always want to embody their energy and their complete message. So you always getting a lot of MattMac.

Label:
Now the song is playing on Canada radio. I mean it just blows my mind how one simple thing where an artist in this collective was hesitant to do it, ends up being a song on terrestrial radio.

Matt Mac:
It’s also been played on Sirius XM too, which is fire.

P Dex:
It’s funny because it originally started all the way over here in Liverpool. Then went to Johnny in Phoenix, and then went to Question in Atlanta, and then went to Matt Mac in Canada.

Matt Mac
I reached out to my management and I was like, “we have this fire song, bro, and it only has one verse.”
And “Okay, this is pretty fire. I think I might have someone in mind.”
He got me connected to K Jones. He’s not a part of the collective. He’s actually someone who’s doing his thing here in his city, specifically, Winnipeg. It’s where most of my music videos are shot right now. Big shout out to Winnipeg. He got on the second verse and he’s been doing some fire numbers.

Label:
40 thousand views on YouTube.

Question:
You can go listen to it on Spotify too. It’s doing the same type of crazy joint on Spotify too!

Matt Mac:
That particular song was a whole team effort. This is so fire, being able to work with these guys.

TR in Conversation with Question:
When it comes to the collective thing, B&F…

Question:
Gang.

TR in Conversation with Question:
Talk to me about some of the pros and cons of working with a collective.

Question:
Yeah, man. Working with a collective helps in a lot of ways,
I believe that when you have a project, it’s always a good idea to get more than a couple perspectives on it, because the more people that you allow in that have a bit of an accomplished ear, they can let you know things that a listener is going to let you know.
If you can work on a project with a team, it allows you to really focus on your strengths, and people can highlight things that you might not know. You can point out things, and you get a lot of versatility because people bring ideas from all sides of the world.

TR:
There’s the added bonus of learning from one another. That could be new genres, styles, process and more. DaMasta mentioned he decided to begin doing more production.

DaMasta:
Man it is phenomenal. I feel like I’ve been listening to these guys a lot. It helps like with different sound selection and stuff. I get influenced in the producing side and also the audio engineering.

Question:
He picks it up quick. People go through this trash phase, like I talked about a lot, when you first start out making beats or doing anything, you’re trash. But he kind of was able to get the ear for the sound selection a lot faster than a lot of people.

GoldFingas:
It set him up for success.

Question:
Personally knowing Q the longest, I’ve always wanted to see him make beats because he always had dope suggestions. When I was making beats, he’d be like ay put this in there, add this. And it’s like, bro, like.

GoldFingas:
He be doing the most. He over here back seat driving.

TR in Conversation with BNF:
Take the wheel, take the wheel.

DaMasta:
It’s truly a blessing, man. I really enjoy it. It helps with a lot like stress or anything. Like I could just make a beat or make a song, and I just feel better.

TR:
Team, family with any sort of group, you’re going to have disagreements.
While, there’s no hierarchical structure to B & F, I asked GoldFingas as the the person with the most life experience in the squad, if he had a specific approach to problem solving.

GoldFingas:
You really got to exercise a lot of diplomacy. Instead of putting somebody down for what they can’t do, take what they can do and try to strengthen that.

TR:
Bars!

Question:
The cons, really like, it can be hard to organize sometimes. Being virtual, we don’t really have the time to get in the studio and just like chill or have a meal or just chop it up the way that I like to build with a lot of artists.

TR:
Spending time with one another in person helps build the relationships. This increases trust which can help that creativity flow.
Question is hoping there will be opportunities for the squad to build and create under one roof. He’s made music in person with DaMasta and Migo Traffic of course. Prior to Matt Mac traveling out to Atlanta, the two used the NFB national conference as a way of connecting to make music.
The technology for making music now so portable, a hotel room can be a decent substitute for the studio.
GF, AKA GoldFingas, not only uses his knowledge and experience as a producer and musician to create, he’s teaching as well.

GoldFingas:
I actually am an instructor for a company called IC music, based out of Chicago.
Shout out to Byron Harden and the crew over at IC music making things happen.
We educate blind individuals. And I think we’re actually about to start taking everybody sighted, blind, it doesn’t matter. We train them on music technology.
We teach you everything from how to use your Mac computer, all the way up to mixing and mastering, we teach you about the business.

TR:
Today there are so many more options for working with audio. both on the Mac and PC side. In fact, you even have some pretty good options on your iPhone or Ipad.
My personal choice continues to be Reaper on the PC.

Label:
It’s Label. I also want to give credit to a lot of people in the blind community from all over the world, who take time out to create accessible scripts, and add ons for screen readers that do specific things, and read screens that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to read.
To be able to make these little scripts and add ons for us to use stuff like Reaper and get the full functionality. As if we were in a real studio working off of desks with Pro Tools, I mean, it’s just beautiful and amazing.

GoldFingas:
ProTools is also accessible.

TR:

And yes of course, today Pro Tools is accessible on the Mac, so that’s an option for many.

Even just within the past five years or so, more companies specializing in music hardware and software like virtual instruments and plugins are getting on board with accessibility. Here’s GF.

GoldFingas:
So we have people like
Native Instruments, Arturia, Ableton, these companies are approaching us and actually listening to us, listening to our needs.
And working through it and making these things accessible.
You’re absolutely right, five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to even touch Machine and make beats and stuff.
Nowadays I could, that’s primarily what I use to make beats is Machine from Native Instruments.

Question:
Very slowly, the standard is becoming accessibility out of the box. Seamless accessibility. VoiceOver on the iPhone is a great example.
I think in another decade, people are going to be taking disability culture that much more seriously.

TR:
Often the conversation of access is about our consumption. But we’re makers too!
Access to the tools gives more of us the chance to creatively tell our stories, share our experiences and contribute to culture.
Culture can resonate through society. Influencing things like policy which can enable even more inclusion and affect more change.
Question joined up with another Reid My Mind Radio Alumni, Lachi, to even further expand his influence and that of all musicians with disabilities. The organization is called RAMPD, that’s R A M P D or
Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities

–TR voice fades into Question saying the organization’s name.

Question:
Recording artists and music professionals with disabilities.
I’m one of the founding members.
We basically trying to make sure that everybody is paying attention and taking heed to what people with disabilities need.
And we’re also trying to be a resource for people with disabilities so that they have somewhere that they can feel appreciated, accepted and find ways to tap in with the industry and get professional opportunities and places to work.

It’s a lot of professionals down with us. People that are already down with the Grammys and with the Recording Academy.
Accomplished musicians they got music out. It’s nothing to sneeze at. Make sure y’all pay attention to RAMPD and follow us @RAMPDUP_
Show love. We showing love back.

TR:
That love extends out in the form of advice to even younger artists developing their craft right now, in middle and high school.

Question:
The best thing I can say is like, have fun and try to really go to your limits. Push your limits a little bit.
Influence each other, big each other up, support each other.
Make sure everybody eating. Make sure everybody got a way to express what it is they’re doing. Because even if somebody is not an artist, they might know how to promote, they might know how to be a camera man.
Some people have low vision. Like Migo Traffic he’s one of the best that we know at promoting and just on social media because he’s real good with the graphics. He’s real good at knowing what people want to see , knowing how things are gonna come across. So there can be a different spot for all the homies.
If somebody’s gonna be there doing something, make sure they’re doing some don’t let people be around just like not contributing to nothing.
We are all influenced by the people we keep around us.

TR in Conversation with Question:
That’s dope..
You might have some aspiring rappers/musicians who are blind listening, like, damn, yo, I want to be down! How do you curate people into B & F?

Question:
We look for people that’s real hungry.
It’s just a matter of like, having some music that we can hear or having a way for us to hear your talent.
If we feel like you got a dope energy and something that’s really, really raw, you know what I’m saying, really ill, then we definitely gonna rock with you. Even if it’s not a thing where we can rock with you all the time in the collective, we collaborate with a lot of different people.
Everybody doesn’t fit the aesthetic of the collective. Or they might not want to be down with the collective, they may have their own movement. I ain’t trying to force nobody in or nothing.
Right now, people don’t have no paper sign, we might do a deal at some point for an album just to make sure everybody get the right type of income. I never wanted to feel like nobody can’t go off and get their own money. I always respect people’s own hustle.

TR:

The squad has been putting out EP’s every December and is currently up to BNF 5.

Question:
On our YouTube channel, Blind and Famous.

You can check the whole playlist, listen to the jams.

TR:
In addition to working on more music collectively as well as on their own, they’re hopeful for the day they can get out on the road for live performances.

Question:
We are a collective, We aren’t really a music group or a band.
We got a lot of jams together. But like, there’s room for everybody to shine individually. But that collective and that that full body is still very important. I would love to do you know, a whole showcase or a tour or something, you know, where everybody has a set and where we can feature each other and kind of everybody gets to direct what’s going on within their own space.

TR:
For those in my generation, the collective concept probably brings to mind Native Tongue. You know, Tribe Called Quest, De La, the JB’s. For younger listeners perhaps Internet Money.

MattMac:

They have like, a whole bunch of like producers on their team and they have like whole bunch of like artists on their team. And that’s like what we are. And I could definitely, like see a lot of similarities to us because Internet Money, like works with each other a lot. And they go back and forth with like loops, and beat collabs. And like with us, they’re an internet collective meaning. They were doing all that online.

TR:
Look I can’t lie y’all, I really enjoyed the energy of talking to the B&F squad.
This was one of those times where, I’m telling you, I wish the interviews were taking place in person.
I’m thinking it would have been a full blown cipher. Just freestylin over some beats… hmm!
— Beat starts…

TR in rap mode:
Yeah, gotta do it.

If you’ve been here before maybe it’s your first time
A little something special from Reid My Mind
Contact information, mic 1 2 check
Shout out Blind and Famous, ‘nuff Respect!
if the people want to find you, where do they go
Tell ‘em DaMasta

DaMasta:
I got you bro.

Y’all can find me on YouTube @Damasta1901 That’s D A M A S T A 1901
Twitter is @Q_DaMasta1000 And Instagram is @QDaMasta all together.

TR in rap mode:
First Nation born, my man is reppin that
Up next?

MattMac:
My name is MattMac

You can find me on youtube Matt Mac M A T T M A C. You can follow me on Instagram at MattMac online

TR in rap mode:

Producer and a rapper with much more to share
Ayo Label where you at?

Label:
@RomeroOnAir

TR in Conversation with BNF: 58:05
Where are you on the air bro?

Label:

I do two morning shows. I do a morning show for a online classic hit station. It’s actually a big powerhouse for the live 365 platform. It’s called eagle online radio and then I also do a top 40 Morning Show for a station out in Gainesville Florida. 105.7 Play FM.

So follow me @RomeroOnAir on all social media platforms Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram @RomeroOnAIr. r o m e r o on air.

TR in rap mode:

GF from V A, with the gangsta lean
— Sample: “Gold Finger”
Nahmean!

GoldFingas:
I’m working on opening up a commercial studio here in the area.
It’s a studio and a rehearsal space. As well as a multipurpose venue.
When everybody gets big BNF has a place to record so we good.

TR in rap mode:
Here’s how you spell it, no need to guess.

GoldFingas:
G O L D…

TR in rap mode:

F I N G A S

GoldFingas:

On Instagram it’s the same thing @GoldFIngas1976

TR in Rap Mode:
Now, one had to leave , before we were done
J Mouse, my man’s always on the run
he’s a touring musician travels near and far
On twitter, @JCSteelGuitar
Across the pond, where the connection failed
He’s in Liverpool so he got to prevail
They call elevators, lifts. The vacs a jab
What’s your name, bruv?

P Dex:
Im PDex in the Lab

TR in rap mode:
The vibe is chill, no fret no fuss
Find them on Twitter @BlindFamous
The squad’s real, never artificial
–Young Hippie…
Sample from Scarface: “Who put this thing together?”

Question:
On YouTube @QuestionOfficial.
I got three EPS coming.
The first one on a hip hop vibe. The second one on the Drill vibe. The third one on like that melodic rage vibe. So y’all stay tuned, tap in with the kid.

I’m on Twitter, Instagram @QuestionATL

TR:
Question, Damasta, Migo Traffic, Matt Mac, Label, GoldFingas, J Mouse, and PDex in the Lab AKA
Blind and Famous.
You are all official, members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!
— Airhorn
What a perfect way to close out this season, Doing Your Thing With Disability!
Like adjusting to blindness, disability in general, it’s not something we actually do on our own.
When you have a squad, a team a family that you can call on to lift you up when necessary.
Doesn’t that sound like a better experience?
I’m inspired by these young cats doing their thing. It doesn’t appear to be dictated by anyone but them, together. I can’t wait to hear more from all of them as they continue on their journey.
So look, this is family now y’all, join me in sending positive energy their way.
As mentioned, this is the last episode of the Doing Your Thing with Disability season.
We will be back in June with the next season.
In the meantime, if you’re not subscribed, you should really ask yourself what you’re doing with your life.
All you have to do is hit the button that says subscribe or follow in your favorite podcast app.
Tell a friend and tell them to tell another friend to do the same!
We have transcripts and more on ReidMyMind.com.

Alright, now if you’re family, I need you to stop what you’re doing right now. I’m dead serious.
If you family, I need you to stop what you’re doing right now and say it with me…
That’s R to the E I D…
— Sample: (“D!” And that’s me in the place to be!)
Like my last name.
— Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

Question:
Gang, Gang!

Hide the transcript

Doing Your Thing With Disability: We Play Too

April 13th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

An old fashion television in black and white with an antenna that has purple tips.  The outline of the Television is in the color teal and the knobs of the TV are purple.  On the screen is the game, Pong. The puck is in the middle and on the right is a chalk figure of a blind person with a white cane playing against a chalk figure of a person in a wheelchair on the left.  Above the figures is the score of 8 to 1 and on top of the score is the word pong in between white thick lines.  Above the TV is the Reid MY MIND Logo and next to the logo the wording says “Doing your thing with Disability. Under the TV says We play too!
From all sorts of sports and activities to video games; people with disabilities find ways to not only play, but excel. In this latest episode [Accessibility Consultant Brandon Cole](http://BrandonCole dotnet/) joins me to talk about the various barriers, adaptations and finally, accessibility, being built into video games.

We’ll hear from players like Orlando Johnson. Once an avid sighted gamer who even owned his own arcade version of Mortal Kombat and now benefits from adaptations and access. Eron Zeno talks to us about his experience as a gamer with mobility disabilities. In each case, all of my guests continue to do their thing, specifically, video games, with their disability.

Listen

Resources

Jerry Lawson – Father of the video game cartridge

Transcript

Transcript

Show the transcript


– Sound of Pong

TR:
No! There’s nothing wrong with the audio.
You’re listening to the OG of video games, Pong *Pong noise* from Atari.

Growing up, whenever my mom would announce that she had to go to Sears or another department store with an electronics section, I’d get excited and ask to go with her.

When we’d get there, I’d make a B-line right to the electronics department and hope no one else was already planted in front of the television playing Pong.

— Space Invaders sounds

That later turned into going to a local Five & Dime store called “Lamstons,” which had two or three arcade games in the corner of the store. Space Invaders… that was my ish!

I thought nothing could ever beat getting Space Invaders at home when we finally got our Atari system.

-introduction from Duke Nukem

Years later as an adult, I played games on my computer, Duke Nukem. At least, until that awful day.

Following one of my marathon sessions, I stood up after playing for maybe about two hours and nearly collapsed. The room was spinning and I was nauseous.

I figured I overdid it. I stopped playing for a few days and the same thing happened the next time, only sooner. I tried changing the perspective from a first person view to something else. It just wasn’t fun!

A few years later, I thought I’d try again, this time with a Playstation. Grand Theft Auto, Madden. It was good for a while, but ultimately, I didn’t have a choice, I just wasn’t able to play. Gaming was literally making me sick.

I believe the reason was monocular vision and the lack of depth perception.

Ironically, today, after becoming Blind, I have more opportunity to actually play video games.

— “Let them play!” (The phrase continues as more join in) Sample from The Bad News Bears

For years now, the call for developers to make their games accessible to disabled gamers has grown louder.

There’s been lots of things happening!

Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio y’all! I’m Thomas Reid. As we continue with our theme, Doing Your Thing With Disability, we’re talking about gaming, because we play too!

–“Time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of gum!” Duke Nukem

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Brandon:
Video games are life! I’m a pretty hardcore gamer these days.

The idea to me, that my past self had was, “how can you play video games, you’re blind?” is really kind of based on the same philosophy that some sighted people who don’t understand blind gamers have.

“How can blind people play games?” I didn’t understand it. Because I didn’t realize that audio was such a big part of games, such an important part of games that you could use that, to learn patterns and to learn what things meant and to figure out how to play a game.

TR:

This is Brandon Cole, an award winning Accessibility Consultant

Brandon:

He/him. I have black hair. I am six feet tall, exactly. Just an awesome looking dude.

TR:

Well, we have something in common.

Brandon:
I was born with a type of cancer called Retinoblastoma. Totally blind. From the age of two months.

TR:

His introduction to video games began with his older brother.

Brandon:

He was like, hey, Brandon.

–Mario Bros coin collecting and upgrading sounds

You want to go play some Mario Brothers on our Super Nintendo. And at the time, little six year old me was like, what, how? That’s a video game, which means I can’t play it because I can’t see the video.

That was past me. I used to not think the way I do now.

We begin to play and before you know it, I’m breaking bricks, and collecting coins and extra lives and saving princesses and defeating bosses. And it’s amazing and I’m feeling this great sense of accomplishment!

And the game ends. Yes. Somehow I beat the entire game in one shot!

TR:

Then?

Brandon:

My loving brother handed me the unplugged second player controller while he played the entire game, the entire game.

I mean, what do you even say to that?

TR in Conversation with Brandon:
That’s an older brother.

TR:

Of course, he felt crushed. He thought he was somehow in the gameplay, just like his older brother.

But all wasn’t lost. The experience made him realize something.

Brandon:

I did learn that I could follow sound effect patterns.

I decided that I would one day, beat a game without his help.

From then on, I just started trying games and seeing what I could learn about games and seeing what I could do. Eventually I did it! And the first game I beat without my brother’s help, was the original Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo.

And I never looked back since.

TR in conversation with Brandon:

There you go. Older siblings.

Brandon:

Take that!

Brandon:

Once I started gaming, I never stopped, I just kept trying different games.

I tried a lot of games that I couldn’t play. Sometimes I just flopped completely, depending on how complex the game was. But like, there were plenty of games where I would start to play the game and I would start to figure out some of the things that might help me get through some part of the game.

TR:

Take the game Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation One as an example.

-– Metal Gear Solid music plays

Brandon:

That game is a stealth game, where you’re not supposed to be seen, you’re supposed to hide all the time. So it’s not easy if you’re blind, because you can’t see the guards , but you can hear them and they have very audible footsteps. You can hide from the guards based on where your location is versus where their location is.

TR:

Brandon’s step Dad couldn’t get past a certain level during the game.

Brandon:

It’s a room that is filled with infrared lasers. And if you break any of these laser beams that are going all across the room, up and down, at different intervals, the doors slam shut. The room is flooded with gas and you die and there’s nothing you can do about it.

TR:

So step Dad let Brandon figure it out.

Brandon:

I spent maybe two hours working that room, failing over and over and over again. But little by little, figuring out the amount of steps to take before I had to stop to wait for the beam to move again. Then when I had to crawl when I had to walk to get past the lower beams or higher beams. I trialed and errored my way through that entire room and made it to the other side eventually without breaking any of the laser beams.

Technically, it wasn’t an accessible game. It’s just that I managed to figure out a way through that part.

TR:

Failing over and over again, but continuing to work at it. Crawling, walking to get past laser beams. Trial and error to make it to the other side?

Qualities many disabled people seem to have in abundance.

This isn’t just about gaming, we’re talking about the real skills behind leveling up in life.

But honestly, we shouldn’t have to do all that. We just want to play too, right?

Let’s take a look at the inaccessibility faced by disabled gamers and some of the creative adaptations they find in order to be in the game. Let’s start with blind and low vision gamers.

Orlando:

My name is Orlando Johnson, I am an African American male approximately 46 years of age, bald, I have a beard.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Shout out to the black bald beard gang. Let’s go.

Orlando:

Let’s get it!

TR:

Again, I have something in common with my guest.

Orlando:

And also love spending time with my family and my grandchildren. Every time I get to spend time with them is a joyous moment for me.

TR:

Ok, for the record, having something in common with the host isn’t part of the criteria I employ when selecting guests.

In this case, I was really just looking for the perspective of someone who once enjoyed the games visually.

–Music Begins, an 8 bit game melody that morphs into a Hip Hop beat.

Orlando:

Let me take you back to Christmas back in the 80s. I got my first Atari 800 video game console.
That first year my brother and I that Christmas morning, we played Donkey Kong all morning. Space Invaders. That started the love of the games right there.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:
In terms of the Atari, let me just test your knowledge for a second, brother. How do you repair a cartridge? How do you fix a cartridge?

Orlando:

First thing you do is take it out and blow on it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

There you go! He knows what he’s talking about!

Orlando:

A matter of fact, I have an interesting little anecdote about cartridges. And it’s about a gentleman named Jerry Lawson – an African American engineer who helped design and engineer those video game cartridges.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Talk about it!

Orlando:

I would like to expose more people to that knowledge of this gentleman. I’ll send the link to who this gentleman was and what he accomplished in the video game industry.

TR:

Check out this episode’s blog post for that link over on ReidMyMind.com.

Orlando:

I’ve just continued to evolve with the gaming industry. Back in 2001, I purchased a full size Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine and I kept that thing for over 10 years. And played it all the time. I loved it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

That is so cool!

TR:

I think it’s fair to say he really enjoyed and invested in his gaming.

Orlando:

April of 2015, I experienced a lot of migraines and didn’t know what was causing them. After my wife and I got back from our honeymoon, we just got married the year before. I wound up going to the hospital two weeks after the honeymoon. My brain swelled up and it crushed my optic nerves. And that was it for me for sight.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

What did that mean to you, when you could no longer play that Mortal Kombat?

Orlando:
You want to be a part of the community of your friends, everybody else is doing things. And when you’re not a part of that community, you feel isolated. And that isolation can drive you crazy. That’s one of the things that I needed to change. I’m like, I got to explore different ways for me to play games. It’s not just that I can’t play games, I have to find a way that I can get back into playing games.

TR:

And that’s exactly what this former Las Vegas bouncer has been doing.

Orlando:

Technology was always my jam.

After I was done with bouncing, I went over and started working in the telecommunications industry, and I worked for Sprint for about eight years.

Then the smartphones took over. I went to work for Apple for a little bit. Six months into the job at Apple, I went blind.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Did you know about voiceover at the time?

Orlando:
No, I didn’t. Not when I lost my sight. A week or two in the hospital, I had a second generation iPad. My wife, she did a little research and said “hey, you should check out this thing called VoiceOver.

And that was the first time I heard of it or heard anything about it. And I figured since I knew how to use an iPad as a sighted person, Voiceover thing shouldn’t be that difficult. Well, when you’re first starting out, it is difficult.

TR:

Orlando not only learned the technology, but later shared that knowledge as an Access Technology instructor. His advice for anyone getting back into gaming after any degree of blindness? Learn your technology!

Orlando:

I had to master that first before I can start playing a video game. On a computer, if you don’t know how to insert a drive and copy a file from somewhere or unzip something, you’re not going to play the game that you want to play.

TR:

No matter the platform you choose to play on, computer, console like an XBox or PlayStation, smart phone, inaccessibility is there.

Brandon:

There’s things like navigating the games menus. And it’s a challenge we overcame in the past by just memorizing the menus.

TR:

But even first reading the menu requires some work.

Orlando:

In my journey in playing games, one of the workarounds I found is, anybody thats aware of, apps that help blind people see things like Seeing AI or Super Sense.

One of the things that I used to do was load up that app on my tablet. And I would stand my tablet in front of the monitor. And I would listen to the OCR coming out of the app, so I can make the choices on the screen for the game that I’m trying to play.

Brandon:

I use NVDA. Since I stream games, I have a capture card. Even if the game was a console game, I can still send the game’s video feed to my PC, because I have a capture card anyway.
I will then scan that image with NVDA as OCR and read the text from there.

I even play entire games that way, there’s a visual novel called The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. It has a little bit of voice acting, but not much voice acting. It’s almost all text. But it’s literally OCR that allows us to play it, because we can read the text with it, and it reads out pretty well.

TR:

Gamers with low vision used magnifiers to enlarge on screen text. Today there are more games including zoom mode, text enlargement, contrast modes and multiple color blind modes tested by people with varying color blindness. More games are being shipped with menu narration making that process accessible to those who are Blind or have low vision.

Brandon:

The biggest challenge I’d say these days, though, is navigation of the game itself. The game world itself.

The thing about video games is they’ve been a growing industry for years and years and years. When I say growing, I mean, everything about games has grown, the production value has grown, and the size of the game worlds have grown significantly.

Games these days have huge open worlds filled with buildings and giant areas you can explore and find new quests and new things. Thats a big challenge these days.

Games aren’t simple anymore. Games used to be easy to work around in a lot of cases back in the day, because there wasn’t much to them. Nowadays, it’s a much bigger task to try to find workarounds like that.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about folks who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Brandon:

The actual spoken dialogue is a huge part of games these days. Because story and narrative have become so much more important these days than they used to be in video games. Games are telling very, very deep stories now.

TR:

Complex narratives and the sound design that is useful to Blind players, can help Deaf and Hard of Hearing players by incorporating both subtitles and captions.

Brandon:

Subtitles would be like, character dialogue, speaker names followed by what they said. Whereas captions would be everything else.

More and more games are starting to support this nowadays. You will have a caption that appears. Like, “wooden floorboard creeks.” And it will have an arrow that points to the location of that sound. Where that sound took place in relation to you, the character.

That arrow pointing down? You’re like, oh, god, there’s something behind me.

You have to do it right. You have to fill the appropriate screen space with it, because you don’t want to block anything else on screen while you’re captioning things.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about language? I’m assuming most of these games are in English,?

Brandon:

Sure, a lot of these games are in English, but many of them have alternate language choices as well.

A little bit of a shout out.

So the Last of Us Two, and you’ll hear me do this a lot because I really loved the work that we did on that game. The Last of Us Two is available in 14 different languages.

So when we worked on that game, we decided that any language the game was available in for people to play in general, then the text to speech narration that the game has should also be available in that language. So I’m happy to announce Last of Us Two is available for the Blind in 14 different languages, because narration is supported on every language that the game is supported on.

Boom!

–Jazzy hip hop music begins to play

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about mobility? What about folks with mobility related disabilities?

Brandon:
As games have become more complex, so have their controls.

You have controllers these days that have 12, 13 buttons on them. Those who have mobility issues can’t always press every single one of those buttons when there’s something they need to do with those buttons.

Eron:
My name is Eron Zeno. He/him. I’m a light skinned black man. A bit on the larger side, a bit hefty.

–laughs

I rock a Mohawk 24/7.

I am missing my right arm completely. And the left is more of a nub. I have the upper part of my left arm, I’m missing my forearm, and my wrist and elbow are connected. I only have one finger. A fun fact, through X rays and examinations, it has been deemed by my physicians my middle finger actually.

TR in conversation with Eron:

–Laughing

Nice!

TR:

Eron is also a wheelchair user.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Why don’t you tell me a little bit about when you first sort of got into gaming?

Eron:
I was born in August. When I was brought home, it was very close to Christmas. We were all sitting around and opening presents and everything. And one of my brothers got a Super Nintendo. And I was actually in his lap and he was trying to put the controller under my feet to get me to play. I was too young to realize what was going on. But that was my first introduction. Through some happenstance, I actually wound up inheriting that Super Nintendo and that was my first console.

TR:

Coincidence? Or is there something to be said about gaming and the opportunities it presents to bond with family?

I’m sure there are other benefits.

For Eron, as a child doctors suggested removing the nub on his left side in order to fit him with a prosthetic arm. Yet one doctor specifically had alternative views.

Eron:

He suggested a lot of children actually grow up using both the nub and their feet to a better availability than having no arms at all. So he suggested instead of trying to coax a surgery around that, it would be better to one, get me used to my finger, and then also promote the usage of my feet. And I mean really promote.

So anything you would give your child normally like a rattle or toy or anything like that. He said, give it to his feet. Make his feet known as his compatibility to the world.

One of the things that was suggested by the doctor was video games, they built hand eye coordination very quickly.

TR:

If game controllers were made specifically for hands, there has to be lots of challenges adapting them for use with feet.

Eron:
When I first started with the SNEZ controller, there’s a D pad and two buttons, that’s easy. It’s straightforward.

My second console was another hand me down, I had an N64 drom my uncle.

Now, that controller has the worst background.

–Laughs

Just the convoluted layout that makes no sense. And for a person with hands complaining, giving it to a person with no hands, only maybe 30% of the controller was usable for me.

I made my way around that. And years went by, I got into the GameCube, and the PlayStation 2. And I actually stopped using consoles around the Xbox.

TR:

Eron realized there were lots of games he just couldn’t play. Some involved using a controller with a trigger.

Eron:

I managed. I liked video games, but I was just kind of disappointed at how far it was moving from my capabilities.

That’s actually when I started getting into PC gaming.

TR:

At first, he found games that didn’t require complicated controllers.

Eron:

My first introduction to PC gaming was actually RuneScape. There’s not a lot of controllers required. It’s right click and left click. That’s it.

Years later, I actually found out that you could download programs to your computer that allow you to rebind keyboard controllers, mice even.

My first introduction to that was actually a program called X pattern. I actually found that at the end of its life cycle. And that allows you to implement key bindings on a controller. And most people they’re like, “Well, why aren’t you just using the controller on a computer?”

Well, most developers don’t allow for rebinding the controls. And the controller is actually really easy interface for me to use on my feet. The keyboard you can imagine, a little painful.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

So what is your setup?

Eron:

I change out a lot due to certain games or setups or things I need, but by default, I have a controller front and center on the floor right in front my office chair. I do sit at a desk.

My keyboard is plugged into my computer but led down below the desk on the floor, next to the controller. I use my right foot to type and only my right foot. It’s a pain to use both feet.
You gotta balance on your butt and hover.

I use both feet for my controller, but what if I need to type.

On my desk, I do have a mouse that I use with my aforementioned nub. I can’t use the mouse buttons, but what I do is I have a setup where it’s a bunch of zip ties and cat collars essentially. And I MacGyvered a harness that I can attach to my hand and move the mouse around.

My mouse actually failed on me a few days ago. There’s something with these new braided cable wires and they give out way too easily. But I’m using an art tablet right now as a mouse. Same setup, a bunch of cat collars and zip ties.

–Both Thomas and Eron laugh

I make it work, though.

TR:

Like MacGyver, finding off the shelf supplies and just rigging things together. It just works for him.

Eron:

You’ve seen tablet holders? It’s like an arm you can adjust in your car or on your bed rest or whatever. You can have it hold your tablet up to your chest. I have one of those kind of coiled up into a stand that I hold a cutting board on. And it’s at an angle just so I can reach it.

Because I don’t have full arm length. I can’t even reach my desk from sitting up straight. So I have this like brought right up to my chest. I have that for mouse movement and stuff.

TR:

Although Eron moved away from consoles when it seemed it surpassed his capabilities. today he finds himself playing again.

Eron:

One thing I found out is that you can buy adapters that can enable you to use other controllers on the console, as well as mice and keyboards.

I bought a switch a while back. I love the thing.

I’ve been using an adapter to play shooters and Legend of Zelda and all that stuff. And it’s really nice to be able to use a mouse to aim instead of fiddling with the joysticks.

There’s still no controller bindings. I’m talking about third party controllers. If you buy a pro controller meant for the Switch, you can actually rebind the bindings on a Nintendo Switch controller.

I have one. But for sizing reasons, I can’t use the whole thing with my feet.

Brandon:

The accessibility conversation has been happening, and things like button remapping now exist.
Some games even go so far as to have a one touch option. It’s more difficult than you might think. But it is fantastic when it happens.

We have accessories now like the Xbox adaptive controller, which allows mobility, disabled folks to basically attach whatever switches they want to use, or their controller, they can attach it to that controller, and configure buttons however they like, based on whatever switches they have.

Eron:

It’s this giant disc jockey looking table. It’s got like two giant soft pads on it that look like records.
But they’re actually just giant buttons. They figured you have a large surface to hit, you don’t have to be necessarily that accurate with your buttons.

If you plug in a controller, it actually only lets you use half the controller. They expect you to be so disabled, you cant use a full controller. Which made no sense, it’s like if this is for adaptability, everybody’s got a different thing they can do. Why not enable it so that you can split up something or you can use the whole something? Instead of assuming everybody is bound to “oh, I can only use this specific apparatus.”

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Are you in touch with any other gaming companies? Do you ever reach out?

Eron:

The few times that I have, I’ve gotten kind of copy pasted responses. So I don’t really bother. I find my own solutions at this point.

TR:

Some other challenges include what’s known as quick time events. These require holding down or rapid tapping of buttons.

Game developers are slowly becoming more inclusive when thinking about game play.

Implementing skip puzzle options, for example, in order to help those with cognitive disabilities who may need a bit of assistance advancing to the next level of game play. Time pressure for some can be really difficult as well.

Brandon:

They’ll be in a situation where they have three seconds to make an important game decision that will affect the game story.

When you’re in the middle of a game story, and you become attached to the characters and you really care about what happens to them and then you have to make this life or death decision. “Okay, this person lives and this person dies.”

If you’ve grown to care about them, that’s intense pressure to put on someone.

Some games these days have the ability to either extend timers like that or remove them entirely. That’s great. That’s a really, really good move.

TR:

Okay, Not a gamer? Perhaps you felt the pressure when using an automated phone system and trying to quickly enter your date of birth before the time expires. How many times have you just wanted to throw your phone? Come on, I know it’s not just me.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Are there any considerations for folks with monocular vision today?

Brandon:

I don’t know anything specifically for monocular vision.

There is the ability these days to remove screen shake from games, so a lot of games have special effects. You do this really big hit and the screen shakes to make you feel like it was a big hit. You can turn that off nowadays.

Games use an effect called motion blur. So if things are moving very quickly, they will kind of blur as if they’re moving fast to kind of give you that illusion of speed. Some people can’t handle the motion blur either. And so these days, you can either dull that or turn it off.

Some people get headaches afterwhile if they see those effects or some people get sick to their stomach, or they see too much screen shake.

TR:

Headaches, nausea, not the result you want when trying to relieve a bit of stress or having a good time while playing video games. But that’s not life threatening.

Brandon:
These days, there is actually a required warning in video games when something in a game could spark a seizure.

This recently came into controversy because of a game called Cyberpunk 2077, which didn’t very clearly outline this, and did have a sequence that actually did cause people to have seizures. Their outline was buried in their license agreement, you know, the thing that no one ever reads?

That’s where they put their warning, instead of putting it in the front and center of the game when you first load it up which is usually what is required.

When you load up a game, if there is something that could cause a seizure, there should be a warning right away. And most games that have these things will do that.

Although I will say in the case of cyberpunk, because of all the backlash, they actually patched the sequence itself. The video in question where that lighting sequence was shown that caused those seizures actually changed it to be a different pattern of light that didn’t cause seizures.

TR:

Would you be surprised if I told you there’s a segment of the population that is just straight hatin’ on adaptations.

Brandon:

Some people complain about accessibility features, saying that they make games too easy and blah, blah, blah, blah, and they’re cheating and whatever.

It’s not that people like to use them as cheat codes, although some do that too, I’m sure. But people tend to complain about them, because they feel that it’s dulling the game itself.
My response to that is, it’s better to allow people to actually play the game and experience it than to worry so much about how hard the game is.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

It’s not really impacting them, though, right? They don’t have to use it.

Brandon:

Right, right. That’s what I don’t understand.

Especially with single player games. If a game isn’t multiplayer, then what does it matter to you what other people do to complete the game? It doesn’t matter.

TR:

That goes beyond gaming, doesn’t it? Some people don’t want to consider that they themselves may have an advantage or a privilege. Working senses, dexterity, financial means to afford the equipment, games, time to play. These overly competitive types of dudes have no desire to be in the same class as a disabled player.

But who has time for them?

Fortunately, companies like Microsoft recognize that we game too! They’re making sure that we’re included from the start or out the box.

Orlando:

With the XBox Series S it’s one of the newer generation consoles that were hard to find for a while, but I managed to get myself one. The setup of that, I watched videos of Brandon Cole and other people on YouTube, they were discussing, the unboxing experience. When they said it has Braille on the thing, so you know where to plug things in at. I was impressed just with that level of accessibility.

I set it up all by myself. And it was so easy to set up because everything talked to me. There’s a QR code on the screen and you just aim your phone at the QR code to set up your account login. And it was just super simple.

TR:

And he tried a lot of platforms.

Orlando:

I’ve done everything from retro gaming on a Raspberry Pi. Gaming on my MacBook, gaming on a PlayStation four, Xbox console, Apple TV, I’ve tried to do all of it.

I’ve got it set up to the point right now where I don’t have it hooked up to a computer or a monitor. I played my Xbox console through the Xbox app. I’ve paired a controller to my phone or tablet. And then I log into the app and I remotely access my console through the app.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Why?

Orlando:

Well one, I can go anywhere around the house. I can go to the backyard and play videogames if I wanted to.

It opens up that freedom of just movement. I don’t need to be bound to a television now. I’ve learned to embrace the audio side of things where you can just go sit down at dinner and you have your controller and some headphones, you’re still playing your game and everybody else is doing their thing.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Now that’s not appropriate during family time. Come on!

TR:

It is cool though!

Notice what actually is happening here. He not only accepted the tools he has to game with, but he continues to seek out ways to really make it work for him.

It sounds like maybe a metaphor about adjusting to disability?

Hmm? I mean, we’re talking about more than fun and games here!

As if video games could provide some other benefits.

Brandon:

There’s an app, called Microsoft landscape. It actually takes your Google Maps idea and projects that in 3D audio around you. You can have a real life beacon that you set that plays in 3D audio, while you wear headphones. And you literally follow that beacon, like the same way you would in a video game that will take you to your actual destination.

TR:

There’s games to help make exercise fun.

Rather than forcing yourself to get on your treadmill, why not gamify that experience by playing a game that transports you to the Zombie Apocalypse.

–Sounds of shooting and dialouge from Zombies Run plays in the background.

Brandon:
There’s a game called Zombies Run. Its a game that has a story.

It’s literally a game about you running. Your character is called a runner. And runners are the ones that are dispatched out to get supplies for the base.

You’re running. The better you do at the running. You won’t get eaten by zombies for one thing, but the other thing is…

TR:

You’re working out. Getting that heart pumping for real and increasing those endorphins!

Brandon:

The same effect getting an achievement on Xbox or a trophy on Playstation has on people just getting a little reward spike.

TR:

The gaming industry has changed a lot since Pong, huh!

As accessibility continues to become part of the game, it’s important to recognize future technologies. Virtual Reality for example.

Eron:

It’s not really off the ground yet. There’s some things that are cool, some things that are like, eh that’s not really working right now.

If anybody’s familiar with the Half Life series. We got the first one, the second one was great. And then the third one comes out. And it’s a VR game.

What’s the problem with that? Well, the first and second ones were first person shooters, you got a mouse, you got a keyboard, or you’re on a controller, you can manage that. You can rebind controls to make it suit your needs.

A VR setup, besides the headset in the immersion and all that. You have two controllers.
There’s no way to interface the controllers. You have to use the two motion controls. And those are purely for hands. There is no foot or nub or stumped interface. It’s just you got hands or you don’t.

TR:

That all too familiar feeling that accompanies any sort of technology. Access gained rarely feels permanent.

Eron:

A lot of my friends actually jumped into VR, and they’re like, “oh, man, you gotta check out like, VR chat, new half life, this MMO or that?” And I’m like, how?

“Bro you could put the headset on and let your wife play?”

wha… What?!

TR in converswation with Brandon:

Why do they always go there?

TR:

Newsflash y’all, family members are not personal assistants.

As if they’re just sitting around waiting to play a game for you, describe the latest picture that the sender could have easily described.

Eron raised some other good points about the financial cost to access for those with mobility disabilities. Adapters have a real cost to them that not everyone can afford. Would you want to pay more for an accessible game?

But there are other reasons to be excited.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about the process of creating? Do you know about the accessibility of that? Do we have some blind folks who are actually developing games?

Brandon:

We do have blind game developers out there. Primarily those developers are working on audio games.

I will say that there are some advances coming to blind game development in the form of at least one engine that is made for the blind to develop games, although this engine is geared towards role playing games specifically. But there is an engine called Sable that’s coming out. Hopefully, in the next couple of years.

And that engine is literally designed so that blind people can create their own custom made RPGs, role playing games.

TR:

That’s what I’m talking about! Not only do we game too, but we make as well.

Ok, Reid My Mind Radio family, I know some of y’all are TVI’s or teachers of the visually impaired. Please, make sure you put this information into the brains of your students. I want to play a game in the not so distant future, that is truly FUBU – for us by us!

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about, in-game audio description? Is that something we can look forward to?

Brandon:

I think it’s fair to say that the future is bright for video games and audio description. I think people will be surprised at the level of quality you’re going to get when that happens.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The developer has to be involved in that.

Brandon:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah heavily.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The audio quality right there has just been raised, you know, exponentially because they’re gonna care.

Brandon:

Oh yeah, they are, for sure are.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Yeah, so that’s fantastic.

Brandon:

The future is very bright. I cant say much more, I wish I could. But oh man, are things coming up that are going to blow peoples’ minds.

TR:

In the meantime, you can check out Brandon doing the narration for several video game trailers.

Brandon:

For a game called Rainbow Six extraction, I did the Audio Description narration for most of those.

TR:

I’m really thinking about getting back into gaming. I’ve played some audio games on my IPhone. I’m wondering if it’s time to try some titles on the PC or maybe even get an XBox.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out if it’s really going to feel as entertaining as it once was?

Orlando:

I would say that it depends on the person and the level of enjoyment that they’re looking for. Yes, there will be those frustrations.

If somebody’s brand new to something, they don’t know, there’s always a learning curve. If you’re somebody that likes to learn new things, accept the challenge of trying to play a video game, because that’s going to be the ultimate learning curve right there.

You have to learn, where does the character need to go, because if I think I’m moving forward, it might be going on a spiral staircase, or something like that. Whereas I’m thinking north, south, east, west, on my controller, I can get around, but visually, the interpretation may be something different.

The frustration part is part of the learning, I feel.

You got to learn where to balance those things out to balance out the frustration levels, where it’s not as frustrating for you.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

It doesn’t sound like we’re just talking about gaming any more, man.

Orlando:

I don’t want to be left out of things, I want to be involved. For me, the way I apply it is, if I want to eat something, and I know what I want to eat, and I’ve got the ingredients, I can put it together.

But do I need to get other assistants to put it together? No.

Or do I need to deal with the frustration of maybe burning myself or hurting myself while I’m trying to do it?

In the end, the result should be better than the experience. You got to go through it to get to it.

It’s something I applied to everything that I do in my life.

TR:

Being included means welcoming people with disabilities into all aspects of the industry. From development, gameplay, marketing and more. And being recognized for our contributions.

Brandon:

The Last of Us Two is officially the world record holding, most awarded video game of all time, in terms of general awards. Some of the awards that it won are accessibility related which I, happen to be, a ginormous part of.

When the PlayStation five came out. In 2020. I was given, by Sony, a special award PlayStation five, with an inscription on a perspex case that they have sent.

Perspex, it’s kind of like a combination of like plastic and glass.

The inscription was essentially thanking me for teaching PlayStation that play is not just about what we see, it’s more about what we hear, about what we feel.

I consider that one of my greatest accomplishments. And I consider that of an award of its own from PlayStation itself to make something that’s just for me.

And by the way that message was in Braille on the perspex case.

TR:

That’s, Brandon Cole AKA

Brandon:

SuperBlindMan on Twitch , YouTube and Twitter and even PlayStation Network.

If you want to add me as a Hearthstone friend, you can do that too. When I was making that account, I didn’t realize there was a character limit.

So on Battlenet I’m SuperBlindMa.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

SuperBlindMa?! M A?

–Laughs….

Brandon:

Yes, yes. M A.

Brandon:

SuperBlindMa#1859 is my Battlenet tech tag.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

And they could battle you to a game or something. Right?

Brandon:

They sure can.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

If they want to lose!

Brandon:
You can find the blog at Brandon Cole.net. If you want the blind perspective on accessible gaming, that’s where you find it.

The podcast is at breakdownwalls.net/podcast If you want an easly link to that.

Break Down Walls is a movement that I started with my fiance. The idea is to break down the barriers between sighted and non sighted and disabled and non disabled gamers and human beings. Basically just make us all one.

TR:

Orlando!

Orlando:

Peachy Zatoichi on Twitter, my email address is PeachyZatoichi@gmail.com.
That is spelled; P E A C H Y Z, as in zebra, A T, as in Tom, O I C H I @gmail.com

Tr in conversation with Orlando:

And that was a Japanese Blind swordsman, right?

Orlando:

That’s exactly right!

TR:

And of course Eron.

Eron:

My twitch is X A N O D I A @ twitch.tv

It’s mostly just me gaming, talking to people. That’s about it. But yeah, it does turn into a rant occasionally.

–Laughs

TR:

Now, in order to be a player, you have to be in the game. These gentlemen are true players and they’re all official…

-Airhorn

…members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Eron:

Dude I’ve got to say, I checked out an episode the other day, loving it.

TR:

It’s not just about the opportunity to play that I’m happy to see. It’s about the change in mindset that’s taking place.

Game developers are slowly creating inclusive spaces where everyone is welcomed. The truly successful ones are seeking input from the community to figure how we can play with our disability.

Accepting people where they are, allowing them to work with what they have and enabling anyone to be in the game. Because yeah,We Play Too!

If you want to be sure you can play all new episodes of Reid My Mind Radio, all you have to do is subscribe wherever you get podcasts.

We have transcripts and more over on ReidMyMind.com

You don’t need a cheat code to level up, just remember, it’s R to the E I D
— (“D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!
Audio: Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

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Doing Your Thing With Disability: Adriana Mallozzi – Not Impossible

March 23rd, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

Adriana Mallozzi, seated in a power wheelchair wearing a head band and a black shirt with the words "Not Impossible" in white across the chest. Her head is tilted to the right as she smiles at the camera.

Ever since her first experience with Technology, Adriana Mallozzi knew it was the key to her independence.

Empathy along with advocacy and leadership skills are the right components qualifying her to start Puffin Innovations. An Assistive Technology company – creating hands free access to consumer electronics for individuals with limited mobility in their upper extremities.

Literally, Adriana is creating the technology enabling more people to do their thing with their disability!

Plus hear who won the February Reid My Mind Radio Instagram Giveaway!

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Resources

Puffin Innovations
The 15 Percent Club on Club House

Transcript

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TR:
Greetings Family! Welcome back to the second episode of the first season of 2022, Doing Your Thing with Disability.

— Music begins – A drum solo that loops, stops DJ scratch into a cymbal crash.

My name is Thomas Reid, host and producer of Reid My Mind Radio, the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

I’m excited to bring you today’s episode so I’m not going to say much in this introduction.
However, I know you’re going to dig what we’re about to get into so I’d like to encourage you right now to just go ahead and follow or subscribe to the podcast.
Seriously, what are you waiting for! Whatever app you’re using to listen right now, there’s something that says, follow or perhaps subscribe.
Hit that to make sure you don’t miss an episode.

I’ll take it from there!
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

Adriana:
Hi, I’m Adriana Mallozzi, founder and CEO of Puffin Innovations, we are creating hands free access to consumer electronics for individuals with limited mobility in their upper extremities. My pronouns are she and her. I am a Caucasian woman with a round face, ear length dark hair, and wearing a black T shirt with the words not impossible written across the chest in white and I am in a power wheelchair

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Why did you wear that shirt today?

Adriana:
It really represents I think my attitude with regards to what I want to do in life.

I’ve never been the type of person to take no for an answer. I’m realistic. I’m not a surgeon because I can’t use my hands.

It just really resonates with me and my attitude. And what it means to be a proud, disabled person showing that nothing can really stop you from doing whatever it is you want to do.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Can you just summarize your experience with disability?

Adriana:
Sure. During the birthing process, I stopped breathing. So the lack of oxygen caused brain damage, hence, I have cerebral palsy. I’m a spastic quad and I use a power wheelchair.

CP varies so much. It manifests in so many different ways that you would never know from one person to another, that they have the same diagnosis.

TR:

The diagnosis is what it is, but the person is who they were in their past, who they are in the moment and who they become in the future.
In each of those periods of time, there are things that impact a persons way of thinking.
Two things stand out about Adriana’s past that influence her belief of what is possible.

Adriana:

I am a child of immigrants. So I grew up going to Italy, to visit family, I still have first cousins there. Growing up, we would go spend the summers to see my grandparents. So travel was a big part of my life.

TR:

Adriana’s mom worked as a real estate agent and travel agent.

Adriana:

Just because it gave her the flexibility, she needed having a young family, especially for me as a child with a disability. She’d always be running around, having to take me to PT or OT or whatever.

She would win a trip for to, and then she would add my sister and I and we get to travel.

We went on cruises, and we got to go to Bermuda.

— Sound of an airplane taking off.
— Music begins – melodic horns slowly blow as a woman vocalist sings “higher” leading into a kick dram and a mid-tempo hip hop beat.

So I think it was just very inherent, it was in our blood. Traveling is just something that we love. My sister has made it into a job where she gets to travel around the world and experience a different culture

TR:

That’s her little sister, Mikaela. Professional dancer and four time EMMY Award winning host of her own travel show, Bare feet with Mickela Mallozzi.

I guess traveling without shoes is dangerous. (I don’t think that’s what’s she’s doing.)

Traveling as a power wheel chair user comes with some specific challenges.

Adriana:

When I travel, especially overseas, I don’t bring my power chair, just because it’s not as accessible in other countries. And it’s just easier to have a manual chair, when most of the countries are not wheelchair accessible, especially my own family’s home, my grandparents, its hundreds of years old, it belonged to my great, great grandparents and you know, it’s just not accessible. So I would travel with my manual chair, and when I’m in my chair, I literally can’t do anything myself.

TR:

Contrast this with her first experience taking her power chair overseas.

Adriana:

Also, the first time I flew overseas without a family member, I brought my PCA and I had to figure out all the logistics on my own.

That was the first time that I had ever done that in my life and it was amazing.

They really put a lot of thought into design with accessibility in mind.

You know how here, the elevator buttons are all literally at the door. If you use a wheelchair, you really can’t reach those buttons by the door because your foot rests are in the way and you can’t get close enough. Well, in Germany, all the buttons are on the side, on the wall. So you can easily reach them.
They also have not only a button to call the elevator at the door itself, but they also have free standing posts. So you can angle your chair in any direction and hit it however you can hit it. They did the same thing with automatic door openers, as well. And so I was so independent in there that I literally dreamt about being back there when I got back home.

TR:

Aware of the problems that power chair travelers experience, Adriana had a plan.

Adriana:

We bring a big roll of that wrap. How they wrap pallets? you know that plastic.

As soon as I get out of my chair, we put anything that are external to the seat of my chair, we put it in the seat of my chair, and then literally wrap my chair.

And so that has worked.

TR:

On the way to Germany at least.

On the return trip, as soon as they finished wrapping the chair,
Adriana and her PCA were told to unwrap because the chair needed to be tested.

It was taken but no one would speak with Adriana or her PCA.
Nervous about missing their flight and subsequent connection, they finally learned of the problem.

Adriana:

They’re like, Yeah, your chair tested positive for explosive.

We had to wait for the police to come. And then they were like, You need to take the battery. I was like, you can’t take the battery out, you don’t take the battery out.

They literally tried to tear out the battery. Like Luckily, they couldn’t figure out how to open anything. But they had snapped pieces. So there were broken pieces in the seat of my chair because it was like they were clawing to get to the internal electronics of my chair. I think it would have been worse if it wasn’t wrapped.

TR:

The dream of independence for people with disabilities often includes some nightmares.

Adriana:

They put my chair on the lift from the gait of the plane to load it down below.

and a person who was loading bags, he was literally throwing in like chucking things on top of my chair. And I was having a heart attack. I could see it through the window and I’m like, oh my god. We definitely took pictures and videos and my chair was a little broke like it wasn’t working properly and you know these chairs are 500 pounds so it’s not like it’s easy to push it.

TR:
joy and pain of traveling as a disabled person!

— Music Ends

The second influential component effecting Adriana’s belief of what is possible? Early exposure to technology.

Technology>
Adriana:

I began, PT and OT, or physical therapy and occupational therapy for those that don’t know what PT and OT stands for. at a really young age, I was diagnosed shortly after I turned a year old around 12 months or so. And soon after, we were sent to Easter Seals.

It was my OT who introduced me to a piece of technology that allowed me to use the computer, for the first time to do anything for the first time independently.

This was back in about83 or 84. I was about maybe seven, eight years old.

All I did was type, I type my name, and maybe some numbers. But just being able to do that, and be able to do something by myself for the very first time ever in my life.
It really hit me at that moment. I was like, wow, technology is going to be the key to my independence. Technology will be the way I will be able to do everything I ever wanted to be able to do.

TR:

And then there’s the DIY, Do it yourself attitude.
Adriana:

my father was in construction, he was a carpenter. I would always see him build. I think I got that problem solving. sort of mentality. Most people with disabilities, we have to adapt on the fly all the time. We have to figure out ways of doing things that the average person does not. And we always have to be at least two to three steps ahead. There has to be a Plan B, C, D, in case, X Y and Z goes wrong.

TR:

And when they go wrong, understanding the need to advocate for yourself.

Adriana:

My parents really had to struggle financially to get me what I needed, like the basic things that insurance considered luxuries like a bathing chair.

I can’t sit up by myself. So until I got that chair, I had to lay at the bottom of the tub. And I would be really creative and like, Yeah, I’m cool. toys like, I left pillows or floaties, or whatever, just to make me comfortable. So I wasn’t banging against the sides of the tub or hurting myself on the tub?

Of course, insurance? To be able to bathe safely and comfortably was a luxury.

My power chair I got when I was about eight years old. Me being able to be independent and move on my own was a luxury, according to the insurance company. So luckily, I think part of it was covered.

They just had to find ways to provide to get what I needed. And I’m really grateful that I had parents that did that.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Is that still, the situation with insurance with they treat those things like, luxury?

Adriana:
there are places still in the United States where people have to still fight for it. And yes, they still consider a luxury. But I’m lucky to be in the state of Massachusetts, and have the benefits and have not had to struggle as much as an adult in a different state to get the equipment that I need, but there are people in this country that that still have to fight, but still get subpar equipment, simply because insurance won’t cover the actual equipment that would be more suitable for that person.

I just don’t understand how people can be okay with that. I don’t understand how people that work in the insurance companies can have policies that allow that to happen. These are human beings and to treat human beings in that way, I just don’t understand.

— Music begins, a funky electronic dance track with lots of digital processing sounds and a funky groove.

TR:

The more you know how much it benefit’s a person, the more difficult it is to accept that it happens.

Adriana:

when I was older, let’s say my mid 20s was the first time that I had technology that I was able to turn on the lights to change channel on the TV, to open my door to my apartment. That was huge.

For the average person, it just sounds so basic. And these things excited me and I was so lucky. And I was in my mid-20s. And that was the first time I was able to do any of that by myself.

TR:

It doesn’t sound basic to me.
Adriana and I met as a result of inaccessibility.
It was December 2020 and I was trying to make sense of the social audio app Club House.
I accidentally hit a button that started up a room.
Honestly I freaked out, I had no idea who was going to join.
While searching how to quickly close the room someone popped in.
Shout out to Daniel from Singapore. We got to talking and then Adriana came into the room.

Adriana:
I joined clubhouse December of 2020, when everyone was locked down.

Initially, I was just checking out all the tech rooms and getting a feel for what was on there.
TR:

December 2020 was still considered early in Club House time.
There were a fair number of people using the app even though officially it was in Beta.
There was a lot of everything, good conversations to scammers, and definitely inaccessibility.

While in a room with some discussion taking place about disability Adriana didn’t like what she was hearing.

Adriana:

Special needs, and differently abled and Handi capable and all those god awful euphemisms instead of the actual word disability. And we’re like, Okay, this has to stop. Let’s do a room about disability and about language. And that’s how it started.

TR:

That room led to the creation of a club.

Adriana:
I was trying to come up with something clever, for a club name.

I read, 15% of the world’s population has a disability. And I was like, Oh, my God, we’re going to call it the 15. Then it sounds really exclusive. And cool, it’s Wow. And people will be like, Oh, what is this 15%, right, like, I want to be part of the 15.

TR:

There were some really great conversations throughout the rooms, from those hosted by the club to those from other members.

We as a club along with some cool allies (shout out to Glenn with two n’s) played a big role in advocating for improved access to that app,
making certain to voice concerns from the perspective of all users with disabilities.
Literally, all we wanted was to be included in the conversation.

Music ends.
TR:

Hey y’all, I’m cutting into the flow of the episode.
It’s time to announce the winner of the
February Socially ReidSponsible Instagram Giveaway.

Last time,
I told y’all about Annie.
A friend of the family who wanted to come on board and
help manage the Reid My Mind Radio Facebook and Instagram pages.
Last time Annie was under the weather…
while I knew the sun would come out…
I was hoping to get her on the podcast and ask…
Annie are you ok? Are you ok. Are you ok Annie!

Ok, I’ll stop before Annie decides to get her gun…

The winner of the February Reid My Mind Radio Instagram giveaway is…

Congratulations @Malic_acid,
Enjoy your very own Reid My Mind Radio
coffee or tea mug.

Now back to the episode…

Music ends with a bouncing base…

TR in Conversation with Adriana :

What was your first experience with having to advocate for yourself?

Adriana:
I liked pushing boundaries. But I was also very shy. Growing up, my teachers didn’t even know I could speak because I was so shy.

I started opening up more when I was in middle school and high school.

It was freshman English, and I had to write a paper. I decided to write about how, as someone with a disability, who took all honors classes, I had a one to one aid to help me turn pages or write notes for me who didn’t understand English.

TR:

Adriana literally would have to spell out things she wanted the assistant to write.
Meanwhile, the teacher is moving on with the rest of the class.
Could you imagine how frustrating that would be for a 14 year old?

She decided to write about it.

Adriana:

I knew once the essay was handed in, and I would go down the halls, I knew all the teachers knew, I knew the administrators. did and they were all talking about and I think that was my first like, official. My self-advocating for myself.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
What lessons did you take away from that?

Adriana:
It felt good, actually, to cause a ruckus.

It was really obvious that they underestimated me. Even though I was in honors courses. I think it was really clear that because I was shy, because I never really spoke loudly or did anything like that all of a sudden, I wrote this paper. They had an insight to what was really going on inside my mind and how I was really feeling about the situation.

TR:

After being assigned a new aide, she knew her words could make a difference.

In her senior year in high school, Adriana wanted to work on the year book.
She knew she could, everything was computerized at this point.
But she was told she couldn’t.

Adriana:

Because it’s on the third floor and the elevator doesn’t go there. After four years of being in high school, I had no idea that there was even another floor that I had no access to.

Someone that I knew that was on the school paper, decided to interview me about it. A year or so later, they fix that.

TR:
Years later, Adriana found herself working as the editor of a newsletter at the Massachusetts rehabilitation commission.

Adriana:
it was called the consumers voice. Up until when I took it over, it was mostly just a regurgitation of what was on the DOJ website and not really the voice of the people.

I said, we’re changing that.

Music begins –
They allowed me to assemble a group of individuals who were involved or who were consumers of Voc Rehab. And people were also allowed to submit their own stories if they wanted to share an experience, both negative or positive.

TR:
At least that was what she thought.
It wasn’t until one consumer sent in a not so nice letter about their experience that tested the policy.
It landed her on a call with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services defending the consumer.

Adriana:

I said, Excuse me, but this is called the consumers voice. It is a factual story. No one is being called out by name in this story.

We went back and forth a little bit, and it got published.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Why was the idea of having the voice of the consumer being heard? Why was that so important to you?

Adriana:
It would be an injustice, if it was called the consumers voice and not having no voice of those people in that publication. It was wrong. It was so wrong on so many levels when you didn’t actually broadcast those voices and those stories and so it was really important to me to be true to what the name stood for.

TR:

In her job at a Day Rehab Center in charge of coordinating wheel chair evaluations, She found herself often advocating on behalf of others.
Sometimes that just means informing people of the process and their rights.

Adriana:
So most people don’t know this. But when you’re wheelchair shopping, it is your right, to test drive multiple chairs, it’s just like buying a car.
You spend most of your time in this thing. And it needs to be right for you.

TR:

Advocating on behalf of another person can be tricky.
Especially when you sometimes share medical professionals.
Like the time an OT didn’t provide a consumer with the chance to test multiple chairs.

Adriana:

So I knew this person, both professionally as well as someone who had helped me in the past to get equipment. And so I called her and said, hey, you know, I really think that he should buy this other kind of chair. I think he would benefit from it.

And she says,

— Music ends.

Well, you know, I didn’t think He needed to try anything, because he has a cognitive disability. And I was thinking at that moment, God, you are so lucky that his mother did not just hear you say that. And you’re also so lucky that I could not reach through this phone and rattle you.

TR:

I’m a big fan of this part of Adriana’s personality!
But fortunately for all involved, she has a really good head on her shoulders.

Adriana:

We spoke for a while and convinced her that we should have another wheel chair eval. We did it at the clinic not on site.

TR:

Mind you, this wasn’t in an official capacity. She took off to attend the eval in order to make sure this person received the appropriate service.

Adriana:

Prior to using this chair, he would crash into things all the time.

In this chair, he drove like a pro. It was also a standing chair. So he was able to stand and read, his mom was in tears. And it was just the most amazing and I was so happy that he was able to get what he actually needed and what best suited him. And then the OT came over after and apologized to me afterwards.

— A bit of silence…

“I’ve always been that type of person where I want to try to figure out how to make things better. How to make things easier for other people, not just myself.” – Adriana

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Let’s go to another form of your advocacy. It’s what I think is sort of your natural interest in technology, combined with your empathy for others. I see all of that combined to make the beginning of Puffin innovations.

Adriana:

I’ve always been the type of person to have ideas and want to improve upon existing tech. And right after I graduated college I was sending out two different kinds of resumes. One was the typical resume that you would send to a company. And then I had a resume called assistive tech resume. And I would list all the things that I was experienced in using and New England. And I would apply to all these companies that I had used their equipment and I looked up to and it was a dream of mine, to work for a company.

TR:

Adriana had no entrepreneurial ambitions.
She just wanted to work for an Assistive Technology company that was serving people with disabilities.
That was until she receive word about an event.
]

Adriana:

MIT was looking for people living with disabilities, who had an idea, a solution to a problem that they themselves are experiencing. I was like, oh my god, this is like a dream come true. I get to go to a hackathon. At that point, I had never been.

I was just on cloud nine because I was like, oh my god, I have this opportunity to go to MIT, hang out with all these geeky people and geek out together and just be around all day. So I submitted my solution, it didn’t have a name, but it was the Puffin.

TR:

She along with about 15 other applicants were selected to participate in the hackathon.

Prior to the event, a dinner was held to give the co designers, that is the MIT coders and those with the ideas a chance to meet and connect with one another.

Adriana:

It’s kind of like speed dating.

The students will go around and meet each of the designers, and find more out about what it is that you want to do. This group of students came to me and they never left.

Literally, they had laptops, we were looking at parts, like we were already figuring out what we needed to make this happen.

TR:

Each team had an opportunity to request parts and technology prior to the hackathon.

Adriana:

Luckily, there was this person who he is now a puffin advisor, he had this big chest of parts. And if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have been able to build it at all. because we didn’t get any of the parts that we had ordered.

The students were amazing, because they really listened to what I had to say. I think that’s what made our team so successful. We were willing, and able to take each other things, and put that together, and put it in a way that works. We never dismissed anyone’s idea or anything.

We ended up making a working version, I think that’s why we won first place.

We got so much press. We were even in the New York Times, which was amazing.

TR:

Already motivated to get this product out to others who wanted more independence,
Adriana began receiving emails from people around the world asking that very question.
She was thinking about patents and funding while the student’s went on to complete their course work.

Adriana:

A good friend of mine who happened to be writing her thesis. She was getting an MBA back in 2016. And she was writing a thesis on hackathons.

She said, you had a successful hackathon, so I want to interview you.
When we were done, she was like, Well, what’s stopping you from doing that from making it into a real thing.

That was really her and I taking the time to just look up applications, learn what was out there and then apply to all these funding opportunities.

TR:

The idea that began after receiving an email in 2015 started to look more like it was turning into a real business.

Adriana:

It just all fell into place in 2017. And we got a $200,000 grant from the VA. It was April Fool’s Day. I kept looking at the email. I’m just like, This is real, right?
It was just surreal, like the most surreal experience, because we’ve never done anything like this before.

It really worked out because then we got into mass challenge. And that really propelled us forward because we didn’t have space, we didn’t have anywhere to go to work on this.

TR:
The Mass Challenge is a business accelerator program in Massachusetts.
In addition to funding and networking opportunities, they provide access to production space and other resources including equipment and people.

Adriana:

The people that would walk in and out of there were just people in the high tech industry that you would never otherwise ever meet in your life. And it was just an amazing experience. We also, as a result, something that happens here in Boston called inbound, that HubSpot runs. And we happen to have been part of that challenge. We got free tickets to HubSpot, HubSpot, or to endow and that year Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker. We got to go and it was just the most amazing thing ever.

TR:

Just when things are going really well, (Pandemic! )Covid 19.
Unlike other tech companies that were able to thrive during the pandemic, Puffin is a little different.

Adriana:
It’s a physical product.

* testing this here *
Our device is actually a mouth operated wireless input device. It’s just a fancy way of saying it acts as a mouse. So for people like myself, who can’t use their hands, they could pair our device with any Bluetooth enabled devices, so like your computer, or your cell phone, or your tablet, and then have full access to that device.

I know several people who don’t even have mobile devices, especially back when I started. That’s because they physically can’t interact with the touchscreen. That is why this was so important.

We also have an app that goes with the product, but it interacts with the device.

It’s really a hard thing to get parts that are not from overseas. And that’s where a lot of our components are coming from. We were down for a good supply chain. But now we’re ramping back up again.

TR:

Helping to build up some of that momentum is winning the ServiceNow digital workforce challenge along with acceptance into the Verizon for good Accelerator program.
Adriana:

Which is super exciting, because you get to work with these tech experts, from Verizon.

A big part of our device is the portability, the connectivity of it, wireless. And so having this opportunity to work with a communication giant, like Verizon, and leader in wireless technology, which then we will be able to incorporate in our device is going to be pretty amazing and really bring it to the next level.

TR:

Adriana says Similar products on the market haven’t seem much in the way of innovation because there’s little competition.

Adriana:

they have no reason to actually change it. So we’re changing it!

TR:

By incorporating artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Adriana:

I wanted this device to recognize, hey, this person is having a little more difficulty in doing this or that, or is struggling with moving in certain ways. So let me adjust the sensitivity, or let me adjust the pressure that is needed to go in this direction, but not in this direction.

TR:

By the end of the program with Verizon,
Adriana would like Puffin to have a product ready for sale in a beta phase in order to generate user feedback.

By the way, the name Puffin is like a shout out to the bird of the same name.
The devices mouth piece resembled the bird’s beak.
That beak you can say, is a form of assistive technology.
It enables them to carry food to their baby back at the nest.

Doing her thing with disability, is what separates Puffin from other solutions.
Adriana not only understands the value for herself, but seems just as excited for what that access brings to others.

Adriana:

I don’t know what I do Without accessing my cell phone. I can control everything with my phone, now. I can control the TV, I can control the lights with my phone, I can do my banking, I can do my shopping, I can read a book, right? I can, whatever, make phone calls, etc. You can literally do everything with a mobile device. So for people with disabilities, if you have access to your mobile device, you literally have access to the world. And that’s what’s really important to us. It’s giving people that opportunity to have access to things that they otherwise would not have access to.

TR in Conversation with Adriana:
Ok, How do I say this? Because of all the things that you do, your willingness to share, and help others the way you do your thing with disability. You Adriana Mallozzi are an official member of the Reid my Mind Radio family welcome to the family, Adriana.

Adriana:
Thank you! I’m honored to be a member.
TR in Conversation with Adriana:

So how can people learn more about the Puffin, about you? All of that.

Adriana:
So you can find more about Puffin at Puffininno.com So that’s Puffin like the bird and inno.com. Or @Puffininno on all social media platform. That is our handle. If you are on Club House come and join the 15% Club.

For me it’s just AdrianaMallozzi is my handle on on all social media platforms.

TR:
I started to give credit to the lack of access within the early version of the Club House app for my chance to meet and get to know Adriana.

It’s like giving credit to inaccessibility, poor treatment and service for the strong advocacy,
problem solving or management skills you’ll find among people with disabilities.

No! I’m not crediting the negative.

The energy we each give off works to bring people in and out of our lives.

Adriana and I were both on the Club House app, simultaneously trying to figure some of the same things out.
In fact, some of the same access issues that impact her were impacting me as a Voice Over user.
It wasn’t disability specific.
Perhaps that’s something I needed to hear.
I may have been seeking that without even knowing.

Maybe you listening here today needed to hear the words on Adriana’s shirt; “Not Impossible”. That’s really an energy that I personally want for anyone listening, the energy I want for myself.

Yes, we can dream big.
I just want to hear more from those achieving without having to compromise any part of themselves.

I’m tired of conversations about overcoming CP, blindness or disability in general.
I’m here when you want to talk about society overcoming it’s need to put up barriers,
it’s inaccessible websites and technology or
unwillingness to hire, give opportunities to or in any way include the disabled community.

I’m here for conversation with people like Adriana who want to talk about pursuing goals, making dope enabling technology.

I’m here when you want to talk about Doing Your Thing With Disability!

And you know where to find me right?
That’s wherever you get podcasts. If you’re on Facebook and Instagram, that’s @ReidMyMindRadio on Twitter @tsreid.
Or slide on over to ReidMyMind.com and you can find transcripts for our episodes.
Just make sure you remember, that’s R to the E I D!

— Sample (“D!”) And that’s me in the place too be! Slick Rick

Adriana:

Like his last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Doing Your Thing With Disability: Marguerite Woods – Here I Am

March 9th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

A full body shot of marguerite Woods smiling brightly while waiting for a fresh protein drink order.  She is seated sideways on a black & Silver upholstered chaise lounge with her right elbow slightly leaning towards the rolled back of the lounge. Marguerite is dressed in white slacks and a black blouse with white panels along the yolk and sleeves, black sunshades, beaded mecklace, large  silver hoop earrings & bangle accessorizing her outfit and bald head.  Behind & off to her right side is, a small blonde wood bookcase with a painting of Bob Marley on the wall above.
Can I kick it? (Yes you can!)

Welcome to the kick off episode for the first season of 2022; Doing Your Thing with Disability!

In this series, we’re not talking about overcoming blindness, getting passed our disability, no, we’re going to hear from some awesome people who do the things they love to do and they’re doing it with their disability. That’s a whole different energy.

We begin with a Reid My Mind Radio alumni, Marguerite Woods, who’s all about energy. She was last on the podcast during the 2021 Flipping the Script on Audio Description season.

I just knew during that first conversation, I had to have her back on to discuss more of her experiences as an advocate, philosophy as it pertains to blindness and disability. Plus I wanted to hear more about her trip to India and all that meant to her.

In this episode we get into self-reflection, a kinder gentler advocacy, love of self and skin bleaching? You’re going to have to listen in…

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

— Theme from Welcome back Kotter
— A hip hop drum loop…

Greetings, Reid My Mind Radio Family.

— from song, “Welcome Back!”

I feel like I’m home. Well, I am.

You know what I mean right?

That familiar place where you’re comfortable, your needs are being met and you feel loved and appreciated. That’s what I want you to feel when you rock with Reid My Mind Radio!

Let’s start this off right!
Can I kick it?

— “Yes you can”

Can I kick it?

— “Yes you can”

I’m excited to kick off this first season. If you caught the Black History Month bonus episode, you already know, this season is called Doing Your Thing with Disability. Now I know some of y’all may say that a bit differently as in Doing’ Your Thang with Disability! You should know, that indeed is the feeling behind the season. I chose not to formally name it that way because not everyone gets that energy right when saying it. If you do appreciate and respect that vibe, by all means feel free. If you do not or if you question whether you’re qualified to do so, well, don’t it’s cool, say it phonetically. Doing your thing with disability.

What I hope to deliver during this season are 4 episodes with varying examples of people pursuing different goals in their lives for a variety of reasons. We’re touching on Accessibility, entrepreneurship, music expression, self-discovery and more.

I encourage you to listen between the words.
(Filtered Voice:) Is that a thing?
Sort of like reading between the lines?

Throughout each episode, the energy is not about getting passed or overcoming, nah, that’s what they talk about over there…

The way we get down, right here, we’re doing it with disability – and to me that’s something to celebrate.

— Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
This first season of Reid My Mind Radio in 2022 is all about doing your thing with disability. And I want to know, what does that mean to you?

Marguerite:
Wow. It to me, it means being my authentic self. And disability is just a part of my shell. And it’s a part of the filter that I’m experiencing this physical life through. And so I can’t escape that. So it’s a part of who I am. It’s just not all of who I am.

— Music begins, a mid tempo smooth jazzy Hip Hop beat.

TR:

Who she is? Well, this is Marguerite Woods.

Marguerite:

I am a woman, a black woman with many interests, and mainly, I am having an experience as a spiritual being in my humanity, and so the roles that come up for me are absolutely a mom, family member friend, a community person.

She, her are my pronouns. And I have on a suit jacket, I think it’s black and white, I have one little flower under it with little fringe around the top yoke.

I normally wear earrings, because I like them, I’m a little artsy, and they usually feel really creative to me. And I have on, dark shades.

I am black. I am bald. I am beautiful. And I am bold.

TR:

It’s been a while now that I’ve been incorporating image descriptions as part of the podcast.
I know there are some who may wonder why, it is a podcast after all.
A big part of that is identity for me. I want you to know as much about the people I’m presenting here on the podcast.
Truth is, sighted folks still get the opportunity to access this information via a nonvisual medium, because podcasts require an image to accompany the audio file.

But there’s more than identity in what we hear in an image description.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Your outfit today, is there any particular reason that you wore what you wore?

Marguerite:
I decided deliberately to wear what I’m wearing. It feels comfortable. I think it looks good. And we talked about possibly video at the end. I wanted to project a certain image. I wanted to feel a certain way while doing the video. I feel very feminine. My outfit helps me to feel like that.

And the earrings are just an added touch that I really like, because I’m bald, I think that it highlights my frame.

TR:

Being intentional, goes beyond her wardrobe choices. Marguerite is thoughtful with her words. It’s one of the things that really stands out when first meeting her. It’s evident in the way she approaches each of the questions posed to her. Like…

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

How do you identify with disability?

Marguerite 04:

Wow Thomas, that’s a loaded question, how do I identify with disabilities?
It’s been a progression of things and when where I am today is because of that progression.

So I don’t want this to sound flat or linear. I arrived here.
I’ve been toying with how do I talk about what we’ve been calling disabilities. And as I think about them my blindness and and others with a variety of different things. What I keep coming up with is this whole idea of diversity. We have diverse abilities.

my relationship is that whatever I’m dealing with, and in my case, it’s blindness, it’s given me an opportunity to explore the life that I’m living from a very different perspective, than I started out exploring life. living life, because I think of each of us as an explorer, or pioneer in our particular part of life.

TR:

That exploration can take her to foreign places, but much of it is within herself. In fact, she sees it as selfish.

Marguerite:

Everything that I experience, think about relate to is totally through my filters. And that in itself is selfish. But not in the way that I grew up thinking about the word selfish.

There’s no way to relate to life and be neutral, because I’m relating to it through my filters. And every other person is as well. And the best I can do with that is expand my filters, and expand the understanding, from having experiences with other folks.
TR:

If you prefer your ideas presented in a more concrete form, Marguerite offers a bit of a disability toolkit.

Marguerite:

in a practical way, the way I relate to disabilities is understanding that each one of us has to have an ideal of what we’d like to be able to do, where we find ourselves how we’d like to be able to manage whatever it is we’re trying to move through. And so, philosophy, some skills, some technology and some techniques, and absolutely some guidance in any way that you can find it to help you better do what it is you’re trying to do.

TR:

One of those skills that Marguerite has built over the years is advocacy. It goes back to her childhood growing up in Baltimore City, the area Marguerite describes as being designated for African Americans.

Marguerite:
There was a lot of feelings of just being done wrong, not being treated well. There was an energy of distrust, anger. But in the middle of all of that, I enjoyed the connection with family members and community members. And this sense of looking out for each other, a desire to move forward in a positive way, enjoying whatever life had to offer. And I felt that the elders in my community, were very interested in assuring that their children, and the younger people in the community were able to enjoy the things they felt they had not been able to.

— Music ends

And so the whole advocacy around that felt noble and it felt right to me.

TR:

That relationship with the community equipped Marguerite with a strong solid foundation.

Marguerite:

I grew up through the elementary and high school years, with all black teachers in the black community. And I could feel the desire for them to give us their best. And they wanted us to be sent into a world with our best doing our best.

I ended up in senior high school going to a predominantly white school on the other side of town. I deliberately chose that because I wanted to know what it felt like to have that experience. I was curious and interested,

When I did get to that senior high school, I felt like I was very well equipped, even though I began to hear stories that said we were marginalized, and that we were lacking.

TR:

Stories meant to weaken that foundation or penetrate her spirit.

Advocacy became more than a way to impact her community, it helped her realize things about herself.

Marguerite:

For me advocacy was about fighting for the underdog. And so it felt aggressive. And I thought it was very necessary and that there was a certain way that you had to go about it in order to gain the results that you were asking for.

It didn’t feel good in my spirit.

That anger and their venom and using it to ask for what you wanted. While it seemed to be effective, it was not a good space for me.

TR:

Over time, Marguerite came to realize that in the way she and
so many of us view advocacy, trained her to only consider what
was not working.

Marguerite:

it started to make sense to me that if that’s what you’re pointing out all the time, that’s all you’re setting yourself up to see. And so when things are coming, that are, what you do want, how will you recognize if all you’re focused on are the things that don’t work?

Sometimes the things that I’m wanting to experience, they reveal themselves in small ways.

The more that I’m open to understanding and realizing those smaller things, the momentum can pick up, but if I don’t recognize it, then how will I be able to enjoy it becoming larger in my space, in my experience for myself and for my community.

TR:

Yet only focusing on the things you want or those things that feel good can prove to be quite unfulfilling.

Marguerite:

I’ve got to own how I feel, and accept that as where I am. And recognize that I want to be in a space, that feels a lot better. But that causes me to have to identify, what is it that I’m asking for? And I’m telling you that that’s not been the easiest thing to do. Because even when I’m talking to people that I asked, What do you want, we even talk about what we want in the negative. I know most people can easily tell you what we don’t want, but ask them what they do want. It’s a very different conversation. And so that was not just a conversation for others. That was a conversation for myself, as well.

— Music begins, piano keys leading into a mid tempo smooth bouncy Hip Hop beat.

TR:

This really seems about knowing yourself. And there’s some real value in that.

Marguerite:

I’m getting to the space in the place where I have an opinion, I have a thought and it’s authentic.

You have a thought and an opinion and it is yours, no matter what I think about it, it is yours.

I do have the right to my opinions and my thoughts. And I want to be respected. So if I’m going to respect myself, I’ve got to respect you. Even if I don’t agree with you. I’ve got to respect that you have it. But that does not stop me from asking for what I want. That’s how you see it. And you can be very right. And I’m not telling you that you’re wrong. But I’m asking for what I want and what I need, which is a very different space.

I need to articulate and be really clear about what I’m asking for. So I have to keep asking, and keep defining and keep gaining the clarity.

I’m not recommending this as a way for anybody to go, I’m just merely trying to tell you what’s happening with me.

TR:

She really is on an exploration.

Her advocacy continues to have practical applications.
As the president of the At Large Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in Maryland, she’s ready when necessary to respond to issues of particular concern to her community.

Marguerite:
We discovered that the state of Maryland was planning to discontinue bus transportation from Baltimore City. To the surrounding counties, for the most part, and they quietly were holding community meetings.

I was thinking about my community that I actually live in not just the blind community, but the community of Baltimore City, which is being affected. And I knew about a group that I been in connection with for many years, I would go there and talk to them.

TR:

The organization is called BDS healthy aging networks. Marguerite built a relationship with them over the years where she along with a group of members from her chapter would speak to the organization as a way to allow people to see into the community.

Marguerite:

I knew that they had gone virtual, I got in touch with the woman who runs it, Betsy Simon, and told her what I’d like to do. So she invited me to the call to share with the partners that met with her and the partners were different community agencies, city and state agencies, as well as community organizations and community leaders. And ask them to participate in the testimonies as well.

Well, I’m not exactly sure what happened. But that idea of dropping the bus service was discontinued.

TR:

There’s real power in organizing with those who share a mutual interest.

Marguerite continued attending the meetings of the network – which extends out to many different agencies and organizations. Their main mandate is advocating for older adults in the city.
They recently showed their ability to organize and get things done after the city made a failed attempt to help vaccinate older adults for Covid 19.

Marguerite:

One of the ladies in our group had been writing directly to the CVS is in the Walgreens saying, Look, we in Baltimore City want vaccinations and our officials are not helping us. Can you help us get vaccinated? So they were ignoring her letters and Walgreens somehow had these extra vaccinations, like 850 of them. They went to the Baltimore City Health Department and said, Listen, we’ve got these vaccinations. We can show up on Saturday with the pharmacists. You get the people.

This was on a Tuesday, the Health Department told them no, there’s no way we can do that. It’s not enough time.

They remembered the woman in our group who had been writing to them. They did shout it out to her. And she got in touch with Betsy Simon. And she sent a call out to everybody on her list. Can we do this? And so we said, yes.

TR:

With Some quick planning and putting people into action, they got it done.

Marguerite:

Advocacy, asking for what you want. And that’s what that woman did. She kept asking for what she wanted, in the midst of them saying, No, we can’t. And the health department did not help us, they said that they couldn’t do it. And after we did it, it showed that we could.

TR:

She continues showing up to Zoom calls. Reminding organizations to make sure their materials and information is getting to the low vision and blind community. She’s actually seeing progress in this area.

Again, the advocacy work teaches her things about herself and how that can benefit others.

Marguerite:

I think that the key for me is to take what I’ve been able to get in terms of training, philosophy and skills and so forth. And just come right back into my community and be a person in the community teaching from my example.

— Music Ends

If it helps the blind community, it’s helping the rest of the community as well. Those things are created and envisioned by the blind. And so we are contributors to what the society is and what it can become.

Music begins, a bouncy upbeat Hip Hop track.

TR:

Are you socially Reidsponsible?

— Sample from Blades of Glory:
“I don’t even know what that means.
No one knows what it means. But it’s provocative.”

TR:

It’s true, no one knows what it means, not even me, I just think it sounds cool!

Cool, like the Reid My Mind Radio Giveaway happening right now on Twitter.

We started in January on Facebook. Then moved to Instagram and during the month of March we’re focusing on the final platform, Twitter.
All you have to do to be entered into the drawing is like and retweet any of the posts I tweet out related to the Reid My Mind Radio Giveaway during the month of March.
So go on over and follow @tsreid and again, like and retweet any of the posts related to the giveaway.

Our social media manager, Annie, will gather all the names at the end of the month and we will draw a winner, which we’ll announce in April.

During the next episode in March, we’ll announce the winner of the Instagram contest.

Make sure you follow ReidMyMindRadio on Facebook and Instagram

Oh, wait, that’s being socially Reidsponsible!

Now, let’s get back to the episode!

— Music ends with a bouncing base drum echoing into silence.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
So during your first time on the podcast, you suddenly and quite nonchalantly dropped this thing about spending some time in India?

Can you share the story of how that came about? And what you actually did in India?

Marguerite:
I went to something in Baltimore called Blind industries and services in Maryland, which is a training facility for adults and older adults who want to gain skills and be able to manage blindness.

When I finished there, the director at the time sent me an email and in the subject, it said, only two days left.

TR:
She actually discovered and read the email the next day.

That’s when she found out she had one day left to apply to the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs. It’s in Trivandrum, which is in the southernmost part of India.

Marguerite:

I got these thrill bumps all over me when I was reading it. It just filled me up.

You had to have it in, I think that day. I’m amazed at myself that I was able to do all that and I was able to submit it. And you know, they sent back and asked for some more information, I sent it to them.

And later on, they sent me a letter and told me that I was accepted and I was going to get a full scholarship to come there.

— Music begins, a dramatic introduction that feels like an eastern vibe that opens to a rhythmic electronic dance track.

TR:

Marguerite didn’t tell anyone about applying to the program.
That is until she received her acceptance letter.
p
Coincidentally, that good news arrived near her birthday. So when her family asked what she wanted to do, she was prepared.

Marguerite:

I want to go to an Indian restaurant.

When we sat down, we were talking and eating. And When they got to wishing me a happy birthday, I told them that I wanted to share something with them and told them that I would be going to India, and they were all shocked. They were like, Who are you going with? Who are these people? Bla bla bla.

Mind you, I’m totally blind at that point. I’m going alone , I don’t know the people, whether they met them online. And so they were like, oh, no, this, this, you’re not doing that. And they had all these what ifs, and no, they were really afraid for me. But something that I learned a while back and was able to practice is when you get an idea about something that you want to do, and, and you’re trusting that it feels good inside of you. That is not the time to share it. Because you’ve heard of dream killers. And they don’t even mean to be they were very good intentioned, but they will kill your dream before it gets off the ground.

TR:

Many of us have fallen victim to or have been a Dream Killer.

Perhaps one or two bodies.

Maybe you know some real serial killers. You know, those who just throw daggers at anyone with an idea or a plan to step out and try something new.

Chances are, they don’t mean to discourage. It’s more about a fear or lack of information on they’re part.

The point is, we need to protect our dreams, like they’re our babies.

Marguerite:

You can’t share it when it’s in it’s infancy, you got to let it mature. And so that’s what I did. And when it felt solid in me, and I’d worked out my own kinks about it and realize I had no fear and no reservations. So when they came with all that they had, it didn’t sway me because I had already worked it through, and I was solid and how I felt and so I let them go through what they needed to, as I continue to get myself prepared to go.

TR:

She received the news in July and left for India in January.

Marguerite:

I stayed there for a year came back in December. It was quite an experience.

I got to work with NGO’s, Non-Government Organizations. They’re sort of like our charitable organizations.

We worked with gay and lesbian organization.

In India, as you might imagine being a, quote unquote, third world country.
homosexuality is not something that is readily accepted.

With all of the challenges that we have here in the United States, the magnitude of it there is beyond the scope of what we can expect. It’s so dangerous. But these people are so adamant about being able to live their lives out loud, that they’re risking their lives for even just saying that they belong to an organization like that.

TR:

Wherever you go in the world, marginalized groups exist. The language and faces may appear to be different but underneath it all things look familiar.

Marguerite:
In India, lots of people wanted to bleach their skin.
— Music ends with a crescendo cymbal crash

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
For the folks who haven’t seen, they may not necessarily know that the complexion of Indians are black.
I mean, some of them might not. Right?

Marguerite:
Yes. Yes, yes. Yes. And some of them are very dark in their complexion, and they want to be they want to be white. They want to be fair skin, it’s important to them, and so they do bleaching creams. I’ve heard of people who families would make these potions, so when the woman was pregnant, she would drink these potions that would help to ensure that her child would be fair when it was born.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Oh, my goodness. Drinking it? Man, woof!

TR:

To get a sense of how much of an issue this is, Marguerite shares some description of a commercial on Indian television.

Marguerite:

It was a woman in a park, she’s walking with her boyfriend. She was darker complexion. And he was fair. And he sees a, another girl in the park. And she’s fair skinned. And so he drops the arm of his darker skin girlfriend. And he dances off with this fair skinned girlfriend. The darker girl is hurt and upset.
So she gets this cream, and she uses it for a prescribed period of time. And he sees her again, and she’s fair skinned now.
So he drops the other person, and now they’re happily ever after.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
This was a commercial?

Marguerite:
Yeah.
TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

On regular TV?

Marguerite 46:21

Yeah, yeah.

The idea was to go and fight against the companies that were making creams. And my thing was, well, before you can fight against the company that’s making the creams. I think we need to educate the people, let’s start with the children, because they were doing it with kids as well. And they were doing it with the boys as well as the girls. And so we went into the schools, and we were talking to them about melanin and for the schools that we went to none of them knew about melanin.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Do you want to break that down a little bit? It’s well, just power of melanin.

Marguerite 47:21
Melanin is such a protective coating and that a lot of things can’t even happen without a melanin protection.

I remember, way back when I was much younger, hearing and reading about first the spaceships using the idea of melanin as a protective coating on some of their vessels.

Even here in this United States, even though we have it, there’s not a whole lot of talk about melanin and how powerful it is, and how wonderful it is.

TR:

You can tell people about Melanin, about a rich history where people who look like them weren’t colonized, robbed of their resources, but ultimately, it’s about self-love.

Marguerite:

My idea. And the group that I worked with, we felt like, it was just as important for individuals to decide that they wanted to embrace who they are, right where they are, and fall in love with that before, you can start telling a company not to sell bleaching creams.
Until people are educated and can find a way to feel good about themselves. It to me is a moot point. I don’t think you can do one without the other.

TR:

This problem isn’t at all unique to India. It was a bigger thing here in the states, several islands in the Caribbean including Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

( FILTERED VOICE:) White supremacy is a hell of a drug!

— Music begins, an inspiring ambient track that grows as it progresses.

Marguerite:
We’re not supposed to be the same. And because one group is one way and another group is a different way, does not at all indicate that you are better than or less than the next group, although we use that as our vehicle to control and manipulate and because it has worked so well. It continues to happen that way. But we can’t just throw our hands up, we have to I think, continue to help people understand that it’s okay to embrace yourself where you are.

TR:

Embracing yourself as in the color of your skin whether you’re in India, Africa, the Caribbean or here in the states. The texture of your hair, your sexuality and yes your disability.

It’s what makes adjusting to disability so challenging for many. You may not even realize how you felt about disability and that can then impact how you feel about yourself.

Marguerite:

When I became blind, I realized that I had some very negative thoughts and feelings about blind individuals that I did not realize I had. I realized that when I saw a blind person, I felt something that I didn’t bother to identify. But what I did recognize was that I was glad it was not me. And that was with any disability, or anything that wasn’t held up as a beautiful thing, by the society norms, and that even meant, the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, all of that was a part of it. And those were feelings that were held inside in secret, depending on what company I was in. And so blindness exposed me not just to the blindness, but to the other beliefs that I was holding. And what I also discovered was that I could not really know what I was holding on to, unless I had an experience that brought it out. Because I tended to think that I was who I wanted to be not able to see who I actually was being.

As an adult, I had to find my way to that. I remember having to make a decision, a literal decision, that I wanted to live as a person with blindness. It was very different from living as a person with low vision. Total blindness was a totally different experience for me! And so I had to make a decision for me!

TR:

You know this isn’t about which level of visual acuity is more challenging, right?
it’s not a competition between disabilities, in fact, it has less to do with any external factor at all.

Not confronting the question was the source of anxiety.

Marguerite:

I just remember saying to myself, I have got to make a decision about how I want to be because
the anxiety was because I did not want to be blind. But I’m blind.

I really did know that the question for me to answer was, do you want to live as a blind person, and I realized I had not made up my mind, which also contributed to the panic attacks that I was having. I was scared to know what I really thought.

that was a very traumatic time for me. And I went through that solo, because I couldn’t talk to anybody about it. And I had tried to find a counselor at one point, but I couldn’t find counselors that knew blindness from the experience. And so I didn’t trust them enough to share that.

I had done enough spiritual practices during my life, that I use the tools that I gained. And I made a decision that I did want to live. So here I am.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

Here you are! (Chuckles)

Marguerite:

Here I am… Yes…. (chuckles)

— Music ends into momentary silence

— Music begins, a lively up beat R & B drum opening to a happy groove.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

That’s right, that’s right!

Marguerite:

Yeh! (Reflectively says) Here I am!

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Marguerite, because of all the things you do, to advocate, coming on a podcast to share and help others, doing your thing with disability. You Ms. Marguerite are an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

You was already official but I don’t know, should I make more levels of officiality?
The two share in a silly laugh.

TR:

I truly respect and appreciate Marguerite for her honesty and sharing her wisdom and insight that I just know, will be of real value to many.

In fact, check out how generous she wanted to be when I asked her to share contact information.

Marguerite:

So you can call me you can call my mobile number which is 443-271-1668

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Marguerite! This is on the internet. Are you sure you want to put your number out there? Laughing…

Marguerite:
Oh no, no, I guess I don’t, I guess I don’t…

They can go to the NFB page NFBMD.org.

TR:
Orr go ahead and email her and tell her how much you appreciate her valuable perspective!
Marguerite:

MWoods719 at Gmail.

TR:

I don’t think there’s anyone I’d rather have kicked off this season with more than Ms. Marguerite Woods.

Did you listen between the words?

(Filtered Voice:) Dude, I really don’t think that’s a term.

She shared valuable ideas. Some were very practical like;
suggesting we create our toolkit to manage aspects of our lives.

And others were more philosophical like;
– exploring life through blindness and other identities…
– Choosing to think about and speak in terms of what we want.

That to me is so Powerful and honestly feels important for me where I am in my life right now.
You know, let me put that into practice right now.
I want you to share this episode with at least one other person. And let them know they can follow or subscribe to the podcast, just as you did, to make sure they don’t miss any episodes.
I want you to tell them, they can do that wherever they get podcasts.
Let them know they can find transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com.
And of course, make sure they know , that’s R to the E I D…
— (D! And that’s me in the place to be!, Slick Rick)

Marguerite:

Like his last name!

TR in conversation with Marguerite:
Ouu! I like that!
(The two laugh)

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

If Williams Met Woodard – A Black History Mash Up

February 9th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

Picture Discription: Total of 6 sections.  The top picture is of Mr. Isaac Woodard standing next to the bus with the sheriff and one of his men confronting him with the words If Williams met Woodard a black History Mash up in white letters at the bottom of the picture.  In the second-row left side is a picture of Robert & Mable Williams with a pistol in their hands. Next to that picture is Mr. Woodard in his uniform with dark glasses.  On the third row is Robert & Mable Williams dress up. In the Middle is the Reid My Mind Logo and the last picture in that row is of Mr. Woodard with his closed and puffy eyelids. Courtesy M.Reid

Dropping a bonus episode, right on time for Black History Month.

While I love programming that features the Black experience, it doesn’t always leave me feeling uplifted. Sometimes it stirs me to imagine alternative outcomes. Endings where we can honestly say, we won that! A win, in my mind is sadly, way too simple. Can we just live our lives without the interference and violence? Is that too much to ask for.

Check out this Black History Mash Up where I take two real world individuals from history; Isaac Woodard & Robert Williams and imagine if they met on one specific day.

Plus help me congratulate our first Social Media Give Away winner…

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family. A very happy 2022 to you and yours. My name is Thomas Reid, I’m the host and producer of this podcast which brings you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.
As I mentioned in the final episode of 2021, the plan for 2022, is to return some time in the first quarter.
Well, I still have another month. The official start of the first season will be the second Tuesday of March. March 8th!

However, as I also said, I thought there was a chance that I’d add an episode or two to the feed that doesn’t necessarily fall into the seasonal theme. I’ll share more on the themes for this year later, but for now I want to focus on this month – February, Black History Month.

— Music begins, …African drums

Over the years, I recall discussions questioning whether we need Black History Month. The argument was that Black History should just be a part of the curriculum. I agree, it should be, but it’s pretty obvious today that some want to fight against that.

— Music ends.

— Montage of CRT news
A series of different voices:
“Critical Race Theory, critical race theory, critical race theory”

A woman:

“There are thousands of parents all over the US of all races, who have been speaking out against CRT and rightfully so. These are my babies, not yours. If you are embarrassed or ashamed of your skin color. That’s your issue, not mine nor my children.”

Man:

“We do not want our children to be taught that America is systemically racist.”

Reporter:

“Republican politicians have been hyping critical race theory as a threat to the impressionable minds of America’s children.”

Ted Cruz:

“Critical Race Theory says every white person is a racist, critical race theory says America’s fundamentally racist irredeemably racist,”

Reporter:

“critical race theory is an academic framework that says racial inequality is perpetuated by the racism embedded in America’s laws, not by individual bigotry.”

Teacher:

“critical race theory is not being taught in schools. It is a theory. It is a lens by which to view history and the way that law and race kind of overlaps and connects in society. Can it influence the way that some teachers teach? Yeah, but that’s a good thing, right? Because race, and racism is literally the building blocks of this country. So how can you not talk about it?”

— Music begins, African drums.
TR:

Now more than ever, Black History Month seems even more important, especially if we’re key on seeing Black in the future.

February has always been the time of year, unlike any other, where I’d have access to programming, most often on PBS, that focuses on the Black experience.

It’s the independent producers who bring stories about the lesser known activists, stories of insurrection that offer a different perspective. Stories that challenge what we get from the mainstream productions. Often, that’s the white washing of history, corporate coopting or propaganda to convince the country that we’re making racial progress.

We’re shown scenes from the Civil Rights movement where police are releasing dogs and using water hoses, so called riots and destruction of Black communities. That was back then we’re told. Black people are encouraged to keep our eyes on the prize, focus on our strength, determination, resilience, courage. There’s very little conversation about the generational trauma. Little discussion about the responsibility of white people to reconcile and own up to the crimes against humanity.

I’ve come to realize that I have to be aware of the content I consume. There’s way too many things that leave me wondering; when will there be a story where we win? A story where we can just live our lives without worrying about discrimination, racism, murder.

A true optimist will say, our existence today, our survival, the fact that our creativity and art and more leads the world is an example of a win. sometimes I just need more.

Today, I’ll bring you that. It’s a Black history mash up where I borrow from two real world figures from the past. Merging a bit of fact with fiction in order to give you an example of that kind of win I’m talking about. It’s probably way more simple than some think.
Y’all with me? Let’s go fam!
— Music ends.
— Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

— Sounds of nature outdoors…, tilling the land
-Music begins, – old blues singer and guitar …
“”Yes I rolled and I rolled and I cried all night long
“Yes I rolled and I rolled and I cried all night long”

TR:
Meet Uncle Zeke
He was born in South Carolina, but grew up in Goldsboro, North Carolina. His father was a sharecropper. I hate that name. It implies there was some form of cooperation happening when there really wasn’t. The way it worked, the landowner or the former enslavers, offered a part of their land to be farmed by the share cropper. The land owner would provide other things as well including housing, tools, seed, or working animals. Things like food and other supplies were exchanged on credit.

— Music fades out

\The share cropper would pay the owner a share of the crop at the end of the season, typically one-half to two-thirds. If there was any cash left over, the cropper kept it—but if his share came to less than what he owed, he remained in debt. Knowing the share cropper could do little to refute any disagreements, the practice kept share croppers bound to the land owners. Slavery without the chains.

Diabolical!

There wasn’t much in the way of educational opportunities for Uncle Zeke. School for him stopped at 11 and he began working the fields full time.

In 1942, at 23 years old, Uncle Zeke saw a chance to improve his future. He \enlisted in the Army.

— Sounds ofmultiple bomber planes . while a newscaster speaks:
Men like these are not to be stopped. No individual no evasive words or deeds. No group action or selfish interests will be allowed to impede their growing strength, effectiveness and safety. While it is they are sacrificing every advantage of civilian life, they who hold the torch of freedom causes.

TR:

Serving as a longshoreman, Uncle Zeke earned a battle star for unloading ships under enemy fire in New Guinea. He was promoted to sergeant.

After being honorably discharged from the service in 1946
Uncle Zeke headed back home to North Carolina.
While traveling via Greyhound, at a rest stop just outside Augusta, Zeke asked the bus driver if there was time for him to use a restroom.
The driver cursed at him and the two got into an argument.
“Boy, get back in your seat”

Not that it should make a difference, but Uncle Zeke was traveling in his United States Army uniform. He spent 4 years fighting to protect democracy around the world. At least, that’s the propaganda often repeated.

“Talk to me like I am talking to you,” Uncle Zeke insisted. “I am a man just like you.”

The encounter ended without any incident.

However, unknown to Uncle Zeke, at the next stop, in the small South Carolina town of Batesburg, the driver called on the local police. The driver claimed Uncle Zeke was being disorderly.

Uncle Zeke was ordered off the bus by the town’s sheriff.

— Bus door opens and sounds of a outdoors in a small unactive town.

TR:

The sheriff and his men began surrounding Zeke who glimpsed a familiar face in his peripheral. He then heard a voice that immediately gave him a sense of comfort.

“You boys are going to want to leave that man, that soldier alone.”

Uncle Zeke didn’t take his eyes off the sheriff. He watched as the cops and the sheriff turned their attention to that booming voice. It was his friend and fellow veteran, Big Rob.

— Music begins with a base drop. An onimous base heavy Hip Hop beat.

Discharged just a few months earlier, Robert Williams, a childhood friend of Zeke, wanted to assure his old friend made it home safely.

His own encounter lead him to understand that what he and many other Black soldiers thought their lives would be like upon returning home as decorated veterans , was wishful thinking.

Arriving back home in North Carolina after a long bus ride, Big Rob, stopped into a convenient store to get something to drink. As he enters the store, his greeting felt familiar.

What you want boy?

Boy, he thought I don’t think he’s talking to me. Quickly looking around the store noticing the two were alone, Rob just went about his business of gathering the few things he wanted to purchase. He walked up to the counter, nodded at the white clerk and paid. He even told the clerk to keep the change. I’m just happy to be back home he said.

As he exited the store, the clerk timidly told Rob to remember he’s back home now.

Rob was fully aware that the only reason there wasn’t an incident, is the clerk was by himself. If there’d been another white person in that store with him, things would have been different.

Soon after, Rob quickly learned of thousands of Black veterans who were beaten and or lynched. Something so many thought wouldn’t happen to them after serving in the country’s military.

When he heard his old friend Zeke was coming home, he wanted to surprise him. At least that’s what he told Zeke. Truth is he always worried about his friend. Zeke was never the type to not say what was on his mind. He knew Zeke could handle himself in a fair fight, but Black men don’t get fair fights with white men in Jim Crow’s south.

“You heard me Sheriff, let that man be and we’ll be out of your town”

“We?” The Sherriff chuckled. This boy is staying here and if you do leave here, I don’t see anyone else with you.

— Someone whistling!

It came from behind him. A car with 4 black soldiers each holding shot guns pointed in the sheriffs direction. This was followed by more whistles all in different locations. The sheriff immediately realized Rob wasn’t alone. The police were surrounded by 20 plus armed Black men, all veterans in uniform.

Ever since his experience and learning about what was happening to his returning brothers, Big Rob decided to put together his own welcoming committee. Zeke never got word that Rob was going to meet him in Georgia and they missed each other by only a few minutes. Rob decided to follow the bus and realized there was a problem when he saw the driver exit and saw the police arrive on the scene.

The team, known as the Black Armed Guard, always alert and trained for this sort of thing, went into formation.

We don’t want no problems Sherriff. We just want to take our brother there and make sure he makes it home to his family. I’m sure you know what that feels like. Wanting to make it home safely?”

The Sherriff slowly looks around. That’s when he notices the driver of the car about 20 feet to the side of Big Rob. Mable, Big Rob’s wife was expertly pointing her rifle at the Sheriff.

He knows he’s out numbered. And these soldiers won’t hesitate to use their weapons. Defeat plastered all over his face, the Sheriff looks at Uncle Zeke and motions for him to go.

Zeke calmly walks over to Rob who nods toward another long gun at his side. Zeke picks it up and the two slowly back up and get into the car. All the while, Mable keeps her gun pointed at the Sheriff. It’s only when the two are safely in the car with their guns pointed at the sheriff that Mable starts the engine after checking her hair in the rear view mirror.

— Music ends and car starts.

Now please don’t attempt to follow us, we’re headed out of your town. I travel with more than you see in front of you so don’t try anything. We just want everyone to make it home safely tonight. And I do mean everyone.

With that said, Mable, Big Rob, Uncle Zeke and the rest of the brothers caravan out of town without incident.

— 1940’s car driving out of town.

That’s a win.

While some of the details in this story are true, unfortunately it never actually went this way.

More on what really happened, after this!

— Old jazzy sounding commercial with woman singing… “Who listens to radio?”
Music begins, a bouncy upbeat Hip Hop track.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Are you socially Reidsponsible?
y– Sample from Blades of Glory:
“I don’t even know what that means.
No one knows what it means. But it’s provocative.”

TR:
A great way to stay informed and help spread the word about Reid My Mind Radio; social media! Reid My Mind Radio is on Facebook and Instagram at Reid My Mind Radio. We’re in the midst of a social media giveaway. It began in January on Facebook. All you had to do was to like the post announcing the giveaway, and you’d be automatically entered. Some of you didn’t fully follow the directions and like the page, instead of just liking the post, but that’s cool. I appreciate you liking the page. We decided to include everyone who liked the page plus those who liked the post in this giveaway. And now we’re gonna announce the winner for January’s Facebook giveaway. To help me out I’m going to ask Marlett to come in and help.

(Thomas yells out) Marlett, Marlett! can you come and help? Let’s do the giveaway.
Marlett off in the distance: “Huh!”

TR:
I told her we were going to do the giveaway.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Hello. Can you help me with the giveaway?

Marlett:
Yes.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Alright, so ladies and gentlemen, we’re here with Marlett. Marlett say hi to the people.

Marlett:
Hello.

(Audio coming from Marlatt’s phone)

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
What is that?

Marlett:

Sorry!… Giggles…

TR in Conversation with Marlett:

The person responsible for our social media is Annie. She’s a friend of the family who decided she wanted to help Reid My Mind Radio get a little bit more exposure. I appreciate that Annie.
But any can be here today. She’s little under the weather. It’s raining right now but Annie, the sun will come out tomorrow. (Cracks up at his own joke) Sorry, she probably heard that all her life. I hope it wasn’t a hard knock life. (Laughs again)

Okay, the winner of this year’s Facebook giveaway, will get…

Marlett:

You’re gonna get a Reid My Mind Radio mug.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
So here we go. You ready to shake it up? And the winner is?

Marlett:

Justin Romac.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:

Hey! Okay, cool. Justin Romac.
We will be getting in contact with you to get your address and send you your very own Reid My Mind Radio, mug, coffee mug.
But you could put whatever you want in that; coffee, tea. adult beverages water pens, you know people put pens in mugs, put it someplace where people could see it. If you have an office, put it in your office. If you, if you’re either… Do you have something?

Marlett:
No!

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Thank you for supporting Reid My Mind Radio.

Marlett:
Thank you.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:

So the next giveaway will be on what social media platform?

Marlett:
Instagram. And so all people would have to do is to follow, like, share and comment on it.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Alright, yeah, you got some work to do.

Marlett:
All they have to do is say hello. Hi!

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Yeah, that’s true. That could be a comment. So what we want you to do is do what she just said. And you have until February 28. And then again, we’ll reveal the winner in March and then in March The giveaway will be on Twitter. Thank you Marlett. Bye!
I’ll probably edit all of that out.
Marlett leaves giggling… fades out.

You can find Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get your podcast. That’s the perfect place to follow or subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.
Tell your friends to do the same. Let them also know that we have transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com.
Just make sure you tell them that’s R, to the E I D…

— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick)

TR:
Like my last name.

Now back to the episode

TR:

Uncle Zeke, not my uncle, is Isaac Woodard. He and Big Rob, Robert Williams, while they both grew up in North Carolina, to my knowledge didn’t know one another.

Robert F. Williams was drafted into the Marines in 1944 and served a year and a half. When he returned home he joined the local chapter of the NAACP and soon became president.
His chapter worked to integrate the public library. After that success, in 1957 Williams also led efforts to integrate the public swimming pools.

The NAACP members organized peaceful demonstrations, but those in opposition fired guns at them.

In a town of about 12, 000 people it was estimated that 7500 belonged to the Klan.

That’s the Ku Klux Klan, not the Wu-Tang!

Williams started a local rifle club which was a chapter of the NRA he called the Black Armed Guard. It consisted of at least 60 former soldiers along with several women including his wife Mable.

Williams and the Black Armed Guard defended the home of a local Black doctor who was targeted by the Klan. Effectively chasing the Klan away and forcing a city ordinance banning the Klan from the town.

As he writes in his book, Negroes with Guns about the racists who inflict violence on Black people.
>They are most vicious and violent when they can practice violence with impunity.”
“It has always been an accepted right of Americans, as the history of our Western states proves, that where the law is unable, or unwilling, to enforce order, the citizens can, and must act in self-defense against lawless violence.”

— Music begins, a melancholy piano and ambience track.

Isaac Woodard was greeted at that stop in Batesburg (now Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Big Rob or any other person who would see Isaac as a brother or even as another human being.

It was Sherriff Lynwood Shull. He was there to arrest Woodard,
beat him with a blackjack and gouge his eyes with it. Mr. Woodard, making his way home from serving this country laid in the Batesburg jail overnight, without medical treatment. Totally Blind, he was taken again, still in uniform, to the city court, where he was fined for drunk and disorderly conduct.

When he did eventually get to a VA hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, doctors determined there was nothing to be done to restore his vision.

It’s said his story which actor and filmmaker Orson Welles shared on his ABC radio show Orson Welles Commentaries, helped move the Justice Department to call for action.

When it comes to violence perpetrated against Black people, let the record show that the systematic response reveals that’s just not for everyone.

It only took the jury 30 minutes of deliberation to find the Sherriff not guilty on all charges. Meanwhile, he admitted that he had blinded Uncle Zeke or rather Mr. Woodard.
It’s said, upon hearing the verdict, the courtroom broke into applause.

That’s a room full of people who could never see Isaac Woodard as a man, a veteran who served his country to protect their freedom. I guess they’d never see him as their uncle. Not even a human being?

I could have met Mr. Woodard. We lived in the same town.

After the trial, he traveled with his two sisters to re-unite with his family who moved north as part of that great migration of Black southerners seeking opportunity in the north.
They moved to New York City, specifically the Bronx.

Isaac Woodard died at 73 years old in the VA Administration hospital in the Bronx on September 23, 1992.
My Dad was in and out of the VA hospital in the Bronx for years beginning in 1989 and during his time with Parkinson’s.

Isaac Woodard was buried with military honors at the Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, New York.

Buried with honor?

In this country, Black leaders, those who confront injustice and fight for freedom are hated while they’re alive and among us. After they’re death, they’re celebrated, honored and often quoted by those who hated them.

This past MLK Day, we watched as the same politicians who actively work to eliminate voter rights and support the home grown terrorist who tried to take the capital, simultaneously honor Dr. King.

— Martin Luther King Jr.
“Unknown Speaker 00:00
It didn’t costs a nation, one penny to guarantee the right to vote. And a lot of people really supported us in Alabama and Mississippi and all across the south. Because they were really against something not because they were for genuine equality for the black man. They looked at Bo Khan and saw how he was beating us and how brutal he was. And they were really outraged. They looked at Jim Clark and Selma, and they were outraged about it. And so they took a stand for decency. But it was never really a stand for genuine equality for the black man. TS Elliot has said on one occasion that there is no greater Harrison than to do the right thing for the wrong reason. A lot of people were doing the right thing, but they were doing it for the wrong reasons. And now when we demand that people do the right thing, for the right reason, they began making excuses and giving all kinds of rationalizations. Now the time has come for genuine equality to come to all beings born of God.”

TR:

Y’all should really keep his name out your mouth and be true to who you are.

Diabolical!

I’m sure half way through this episode, some who may listen to this will wonder; what in the world does this have to do with blindness or disability? Then they’ll find out Uncle Zeke too was Blind. He too was disabled.

Isaac Woodard could have been a member of the ACB or NFB. Another member of the local chapter of the XYZ organization. perhaps someone who joined a monthly support group meeting?

Would they have known who he was or what was done to him? Would they have spoken to him? Is his experience a blindness related issue that warrants their organization’s attention?

Black history month is an opportunity to reconcile with the past. A time to begin the process of figuring out how to do better. A time to celebrate the rich history of Black people that didn’t start with slavery. It started way before that. Before any other people’s history. That’s not in any way a flex or some statement of superiority. It’s a fact.

My Black history mash up isn’t as much of a re-write of history, but rather a draft of the future. It doesn’t have to end with physical violence. Everyone makes it home safely to just live their lives. That shouldn’t be much to ask for, should it?

— Music begins, a bright uplifting Hip Hop track.creschendo

Here’s another win for the Reid My Mind Radio family…

Three seasons of Reid My Mind Radio planned for 2022. I’ve lined up some awesome guests and I’m talking to some more for later in the year.
We’re starting with what I always believe is the core of this podcast; the stories of compelling people impacted by blindness and disability.

Season 1 this year is called Doing Your Thing with Disability.

Yeh, that’s heavy emphasis on the with!
When I wake up, I’m Blind.
When I’m working on this podcast, I’m Blind…
When folks enjoy and appreciate the result of that work I’m still Blind.
Everything I do, I do it Blind! Or, with my disability.
I’m not overcoming it, I’m not getting around or over it… It’s here with me all day and night.

This first season, you’ll get some dope examples of people just doing their thing… with disability!

Season 2, We’re going to re-up on the flip! We’re lining up some the episodes to expand on these conversations about AD. You know what it is;
Flipping the Script on Audio Description, because it’s about more than entertainment.

Season 3 we got YGBD
That’s Young Gifted Black & Disabled.
And yes, there’s some fire here headed your way to close out the year.

Between seasons, I want to either try some ideas out or share some opinions. That’s why I hope you follow and subscribe to the podcast, it’s the best way to make sure you don’t miss out.

I’m excited for 2022 and that’s one thing that I hope is infectious. If so, can you help me spread it! There’s a lot of people who I think can benefit from what we have. I believe it! I’ve been told this from many of y’all. It’s the power of people. It’s more about their stories than anything else.

— Music ends.

I just make blindness and disability sound funky!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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