Archive for the ‘Accessibility’ Category

New Year New Opportunity

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Happy New Year!

I guess I couldn’t stay away as long as I initially thought! While not a full length episode, this is just a quick update with some thoughts on my employment status, moving forward with this podcast and in general my outlook for 2019.

If you like listening to music on Spotify, you can now also listen and subscribe to this podcast on that platform. Otherwise you can find it on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

Remember, each episode includes a transcript below.



Show the transcript

Audio: New Year’s Countdown… “Happy New Year…

1,2, 1, 2… Alright, 2019 Reid My Mind Radio is back!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music


What’s up Reid My Mind Radio family?
Happy 2019!I hope you all had a great holiday season.

If this is your first time checking out the podcast, I’m very happy to have you here.

Since the end of 2014, I’ve been producing episodes featuring interviews with people I believe have an interesting story. I have focused on people with disabilities, most often those who identify as Blind or Low Vision or in some way have been impacted by blindness.
In addition to that I occasionally share stories from my own experience adjusting to blindness.

Audio: from A few of my favorite things episode…]

As I mentioned in the last episode focusing on my favorite things was truly important. I realize there are just some things that require me to be intentional.
I’m not saying I don’t know how to have fun or enjoy myself… actually I can be pretty entertaining at a party. Still, more than often there’s a bunch of serious stuff that’s always in my mind ready to take over and dominate.

I like to think of my mind as a stove top with multiple burners. Sometimes your standard 4 burner stove top (audio: 4 gas stove tops lighting)and at other times one of those fancy 6 to 8 burners.
Of course, those things requiring my immediate attention get place in the front. However, I never turn off the back burners, rather I let them simmer on a low fire cooking as I take care of the other dishes.

As we approached the holidays, I was feeling as though my mind was telling me it was time to turn off the stove all together. I mean who would want to leave the stove on when they’re going away, either physically or figuratively speaking.

Audio: sound of a flame lighting into a large fire…Eddie Murphy “Now that’s a fire!”

So I went away!

Audio: a chill Hip-hop beat grooves underneath…

But turning off the burners isn’t that easy! I guess you can call it an auto pilot that lights up when it wants to. The trick is to just shut it off as quickly as possible. And for me that requires constant work. Yes there were the occasional moments when one of those back burners lit up, but I did remember to turn it off and focus on enjoying time with my family.

In the last episode I eluded to one of the biggest pots cooking away on the back burner; the notice that my job is being eliminated.

Audio: Flintstone, you’re fired! From, The Flintstones

To be clear, my job elimination is exactly that. The company I worked for was purchased. The new company simply is eliminating redundancies. Think of that show called storage wars

Audio: Scenes from the show talking about the price of various items…

pawn shops or antique dealers purchase foreclosed storage rooms. They do so because they know they can sell off individual items the total of which will reap them a good return on their investment.

Well, that’s what happened here. The more they sold off, the less they needed the legacy group.

This leaves me with a serious reality check. Some real considerations;
I’m 50 and companies like young blood
Inaccessibility is a constant threat
most of my technical experience is outdated and
I’ve been comfortably working from home because of some real transportation issues.

Yet with all of that, I believe I’m a real catch for almost any organization. I have a lot to offer, but at this stage in my life I’m feeling like I would have to really find a company that’s worthy. Bold statement? True! But if I don’t believe in my value who will?

I’m doing a lot of thinking about this both as it relates to me and my own career as well as trying to pick out aspects that can be helpful to others.

Like those who are now themselves looking to return to work after an acquired permanent disability.

Maybe others who are coping with job loss and finding that either their specific skills aren’t required or employers prefer a younger staff. the impact here obviously goes beyond blindness or disability.

Maybe this is a full podcast episode, a blog post or just some thoughts I share randomly on Twitter.

If you have a related story to share on returning to work following a disability, are you a midlife career switcher or perhaps you experienced ageism in the work place let me know. email me at Maybe we can make a full episode from such a discussion and hopefully give some real advice to others.

Audio: Doe, Rae, Me, Fa , So La, Tea from Sound of Music

On that note, one of the other pots on the burner is this podcast.

I’m always thinking about ways to keep it fresh both for the listener and me as the producer. I know that if I want to improve I have to find new ways to communicate ideas. Some of that will be in the actual words, the production and the approach.

I am particularly interested in more collaboration.

First, I really want to increase interaction with listeners.
We have the comments section on the blog,
The email;
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

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

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

Then there’s collaboration with other podcasters and audio makers, writers, producers and creatives. I’m not exactly sure what this will turn out to, but I’m feeling like there’s just some real opportunity for some fun, relationship building and mutual growth that comes from working with others. This could be teaming up to work on a project that is published across multiple podcasts, blogs. It could be sharing ideas that are best fitted for different voices. I don’t know the specifics but I know I am open to it. I also strongly believe there are some who themselves may be thinking along these lines so I want to make sure I am clear about my willingness to create with others.

As I continue to expand the scope of this podcast, I’m reminded of why I initially created my blog back in 2006. I just wanted my own little space on the internet where I could share my thoughts and observations as I was beginning my new experience through the world of adjusting to blindness, becoming a person with a disability and all that came along with it. I wanted to meet others with similar experiences.

This podcast continues to be personal. I mean it’s called Reid My Mind Radio after all.

To some extent it’s a reflection of my own adjustment to blindness and even how I think about disability. Both of these being an ongoing process.

One of the things that I found helpful in my early adjustment years was that exchange of information with other Blind and Low Vision people. As I expand and continue to consider the larger disability community as a whole I feel the need to find others in order to exchange ideas and develop my own way of thinking about and living with disability.

I want to challenge myself to do more with this space. I have to admit it, that’s sort of scary to say knowing someone is listening and may call me out on that. But at this stage in my life I’m feeling like it’s scarier not to do it. Plus, I’m from the Bronx baby, we don’t scare that easy!

In 2019 we will continue exploring audio description from different angles. It’s a service and I dare to say art that is for us. The Blind and low vision community. Shouldn’t we have more of a role not only in providing feedback but also as participants in its creation?

There’s some other things that affect the community that deserve more attention. I’m hoping to make them conversations as opposed to me getting on my soapbox.

Speaking of soap boxes; If you enjoyed the 90 plus episodes to date, if you like the sound of where this is headed you need to …

Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

So there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Now, it’s a new year, new opportunities and there’s only one way to look at that!

Audio: Flintstones “Yabba Dabba Doo!”

Audio: Reid My Mind outro


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A Few of My Favorite Things

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

It’s the holiday season. A time when we’re all expected to be festive and happy.

But there’s so much going on to make some feel sad. Here’s what I do… ” I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!”

You probably heard that before , but not exactly like this.

This is the last episode of the year. I’ll be back in late January, but you may want to subscribe because a podcast take over may be happening!

Happy Holidays!



Show the transcript

Audio: This Christmas, Donny Hathaway

## TR:

Season greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!

If you’re new here, allow me to welcome you and I hope you too will become part of the family.

I’m your host and producer of this podcast, T.Reid.

Reid My Mind Radio is my place to share interviews of people I find compelling. Most often that consists of people who are blind or low vision or in some way have been impacted by vision loss.

I’d like to invite you first timers to go back and check out some of the recent episodes featuring people like, Denna Lambert, a young woman who works for NASA.
Conchita Hernandez empowering blind people in Mexico
Penny Melville Brown who just traveled through 6 continents cooking in the local communities
Ojok Simon training fellow blind people in Uganda to become entrepreneurs through bee keeping.

And there are so many more great people and episodes waiting for you…

Occasionally I like to tell stories from my own experiences.

For this episode, I thought I’d focus on my favorite things.
It’s Christmas after all!

Meet me on the other side of my intro music and we’ll get it started.

Audio: Reid My Mind Intro Music.

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” – Charlie Brown from “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”


Feeling festive and in the holiday spirit isn’t always easy to do.
Holidays have been a bit of a challenge for me ever since My father first got sick in the late 80’s. Seven years later just a few days before Thanksgiving he passed away.

In 2003 shortly after Thanksgiving I was diagnosed with Cancer. I had a biopsy on Christmas Eve. That was the last time I was ever really able to see.

“Sure Charlie Brown I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” Linus from “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”

Audio: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Andy Williams

Well, now that I got you in the festive mood! (Laughing)


Truth is, the challenging times are probably the best time to show gratitude for the good things in our lives.

Don’t get it twisted, this is something I’m learning. It is really difficult, but I know the alternative is sinking into misery and becoming cynical about life. Personally, I don’t like that feeling nor do I want to be around that for too long.

What better way to get into the holiday spirit, than a song that is all about the favorite things.

Audio: My Favorite Things, Tony Bennett

Let’s do this!
Don’t judge me!
I like the Christmas classics… with a little swing!

Shout out to Tony Bennett!

Let’s go!

Go to the movies, there’s audio Description
Santa might bring me that AIRA subscription
Increasing Access makes my heart sing
These are a few of my favorite things.

Guide dogs for some, my white cane is fine
A driverless car someday will be mine
Its Independence that technology brings
These are a few of my favorite things

Shout out to all of my podcast subscribers
Pass me my drink, I’m no designated driver
I got lots of episodes geared to those adjusting
These are a few of my favorite things
High Unemployment
No access makes me sad
But I simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad.

(Oh man!)
(It was kind of bad!)
Music interlude…

— talking over instrumental break
What better way to get yourself in the Christmas mood.

These aren’t all my favorite things. Just a few ow. My blind favorite things!

You know you wanna sing it with me. Go ahead, I won’t tell anyone.

Shout out to all of my podcast subscribers
Pass me my drink, I’m no designated driver
I got lots of episodes geared to those adjusting
These are a few of my favorite things
High Unemployment
No access makes me sad
simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad.

(That might have been a little bad, but I don’t care!)

End of Song

I know what you’re thinking, Vegas right?
Just wait until I get that residency at the Bellagio. Caesars Palace? The Motel 6?

“And they were so afraid and the angel said unto them, fear not and behold I bring you tidings of great joy.” Linus, “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”


As 2018 comes to an end, I’m thinking about this idea that in order to receive something new you have to get rid of the old.

For example, literally speaking, many people like to clean out their closet and get rid of clothes they no longer wear, making room for the new.

2018 is bringing a close to multiple ventures including my employment situation.

Filtered voice: “More on that in 2019”

If you’ve been riding with Reid My Mind Radio for a while, you may know that Gatewave Radio –

Audio: “Audio for independent living”

the radio reading service in New York City played a role in this podcast.

In 2014 I began sharing the stories I produced for Gatewave Radio’s Our Voices audio magazine.

These radio reading services traditionally provided access to newspaper and magazines for people with print impairments.

With technology enabling access, many of the reading services throughout the country have been closing for years now.

I’m hopeful that technology like Smart Speakers from Amazon, Google and Apple are providing the access to information to those who will no longer have that access from the radio reading services.

It was announced that Gatewave too is shutting down at the end of the year.

The chance to produce for Gatewave came at the right time in my life. I wanted to start a podcast but had very little idea on what that should sound like. After producing my first story which was well received I figured I could share these productions.

Shout out to Gordon and Toby who I worked with directly over the years. I appreciate all of the encouraging words and production support.

Audio: Door slamming shut

Some doors are closing in 2018, but I’m going to stay optimistic that the new year will open many more for us all.

Audio: Door opening.

As far as this podcast is concerned, I have more. I have some ideas and things already in progress.

“I gotta lotta more. A whole lotta more!” Mr. T. Final scene of Rocky III


To some extent, this podcast is an extension of my own adjustment to blindness. Some of the topics and people are things I become exposed to, ideas I think about. As these continue to expand I hope that can be reflected here.

I’m taking a short break from the podcast in order to both focus on the holiday and prepare for the new year.
I’ll be back in late January.

There may be a special episode of the podcast if my girls take it over. Theirs have proven to be way more popular than mine.

The best way to make sure you don’t miss that or when we get back in 2019;
Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio.
You can visit and subscribe to get any updates posted there.
Just remember, that’s R, to the E I D, like my last name.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza,
For my people who celebrate Three Kings Day, Feliz Dia de Los Tres Reyes
Happy New Year to All.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

— Below said together…

Peace and good will towards all men. That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!” Linus, “It’s Christmas Charlie Brown”

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Hive Uganda – A Sweet Success

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

Picture of Ojok standing outside in front of trees under a blue sky.
For our final update from the 2017 Holman Prize winners, we hear from Ojok Simon. The founder of Hive Uganda. This social entrepreneur established the organization to train fellow blind and low vision people of Uganda to create self-sustaining businesses through bee keeping and harvesting honey.

We hear about the relationships made during the year, the impact Hive Uganda is having on the community and the challenges that come with his success.

Listen, subscribe to the podcast and then holla back! Rate and review the podcast on Apple Podcast. Send your feedback to me directly at I’d love a voice recorded message that I could include on a future show!



Show the transcript

Audio: Honey Bee, Lucinda Williams – Heavy guitar intro

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio.
It’s the final episode of the 2017 Holman Prize Update.

That means there’s only one way to get this started.

Audio: Vocals come in… “Oh my little honey bee!” Lucinda Williams.

We’re kicking this one off with some real energy.

My name is T.Reid. I’m your host and producer of this here podcast.
First time here? I hope my energy doesn’t scare you.
I’m just feeling good because that’s my choice.

Like producing this podcast is my choice to focus on presenting people and topics I find compelling. Every now and then I drop some of my own experiences from my personal adjustment to blindness.

For some my energy right now may not fit what you think about being blind, having a disability.

Well that’s cool. Give me a bit of your time and just maybe something here can expand your mind.

You see, right now we are in the final episode of our look at the Holman Prize winners.

These are the 6 blind women and men to date who have received the $25,000 prize awarded by the San Francisco Lighthouse to implement their ambition.

It’s awarded in the memory of James Holman. A blind explorer in the 1800’s who travelled independently to all 6 inhabited continents.

If you haven’t yet checked those out I strongly suggest you go back and take a listen.

So let’s get this started!

Audio: Heavy guitar and drum backing track moves into lyrics, “Oh my little honey bee”
Audio: Reid My Mind Intro Music


First, thank you to the Lighthouse. Congratulations for the new winners of the 2018 Holman Prize winners.
And I’m ready to give my updates to the listeners.


That’s Ojok Simon. The third of the 2017 Holman Prize winners.

Before we get into his update let’s go back to the beginning of his story.

First, it starts in Uganda.

I am from the Northern district of Gulu.

I was a child growing up in a rural community. I used to play a lot with all my fellow peers. We enjoyed hunting for wild honey . We liked playing hide and seek games. I used to have a lot of friends.

His beginnings as it relates to blindness, well that’s a much more complicated story.

Here’s a summary from the 2017 episode.

TR in narration from 2017 episode

during the late 1980’s
Joseph Kony came into power and his Lord’s Resistance Army
terrorized Northern Uganda.

The LRA is Known for forcing children to serve in their army and
all sorts of brutal atrocities.
At 9 years old, Ojok’s home in Gulu was the site one such incident.


They found me and my mother were still in the house. And they thought that being a child I was going to run away. So they started to beat me at the temple of my head using the butt of the gun. I fell down with a lot of pain. I didn’t know and my parents didn’t know that there was that kind of internal injuries of my sight. After three years they started to realize that my vision started deteriorating and there was no medical attention that I could seek because everybody, every area was in war. The doctors live in fear so you can’t get medical attention.


Sometime later Ojok left his home and went to study at a school for the blind.
Returning home for the holidays, Ojok explained in 2017, is what lead to him being stung with a prize worthy idea.

Ojok in 2017:

While I was pursuing my studies one day during holiday… Remember I told you that we are also in the war torn area, people then were taken to concentration camps. I was now walking around our broken home where we used to stay. Now while I was walking around there, bees were stinging me from all directions. Then with my poor vision I was trying to run. The direction where I was running that was where the bees were coming from . Then I came across an abandoned clay pot. it was just on the ground. There were bees in that clay pot and I said wow now what can I do.

Create opportunities for himself and other blind people in his community through bee keeping and harvesting honey.

As we’ll hear from Ojok, these opportunities are more than life sustaining entrepreneurial ventures.

Since we last spoke in 2017, Ojok traveled to San Francisco to claim his prize.

It was my first time in San Francisco.

I stayed there for one week.


A week full of activities which included meeting the other two prize winners.

The trip gave Ojok a chance to share how blind people live in Uganda.

His presentation of bee keeping was not only to show how this can be performed by a blind person but also to prove its viability as a vocation.

On top of all that, he says he had the chance to learn.


… About how people keep the environment clean.
The connectedness with different human creatures – create friends, you meet with friends.


These informal networking opportunities Ojok explains inspire new ideas and thoughts. Meeting the people was just a part of what he found appealing.


I love the environment. The surrounding waters. I love how considerate and how they take care of different citizens from different part of the world. It’s so so amazing. I love San Francisco so much.


Following the week of activities in San Francisco, Ojok return to Uganda where he began implementing his ambition.
Training blind men and women to own and operate agriculture businesses through bee keeping.


Through the Holman prize, it has been amazing!

We were able to strengthen our foundation base by training 6 master trainers who help a lot to enlighten about self-employment of blind people through bee keeping.


From our initial conversation with Ojok in 2017, the trainings include much more than bee keeping. Orientation and mobility along with leadership training are a major component.

Ojok from 2017:

Now something I could not provide they can advocate for their own needs, because bee keeping might not answer all their problems. But it’s just like a spring board.


Ojok initially anticipated training about 16 people this year.


These master trainers were trained by Hive Uganda where they will be able to run more training whether Hive Uganda exists or not.

We were also able to reach right now 36. Imagine 36. Which is a big impact and this is not the end of the project we ar4 still moving forward.


At the time of this recording, Ojok had an additional 10 people to receive training. Bringing the total trained to 46.

That’s 46 individuals. Multiple families and communities directly impacted.


For instance, one person is called Okot Thomas who started bee keeping after the training. And through his effort of bee keeping he managed to change the life of a young person who is not disabled to come and work in the area of environmental conservation of bee keeping with the blind people.


The implications are social. Impacting the entire community.


The neighbors accept him as a blind person And then the neighbors understand how important to involve blind people in agriculture especially in bee keeping. And how sweet it is to work in the same environment with different abilities.


That positive effect has even reached the government – which Ojok says traditionally hasn’t done much for those who are blind.


They were monitoring our training. They were so amazed how we are promoting bee keeping for people with disabilities especially blind people. How we are promoting inclusion to the families. And how we are trained to promote extra abilities of blind people into agriculture and self-employment.

This development is quite significant.
It’s more than recognition, the government has provided assistance in the form of specific support including;


Inspecting the bee hive, pest control. They’re not giving money to Hive Uganda, but they start including visually impaired persons in their program when they return to the community.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]

It’s making them official business where at some point it was a “charity”, but it’s moving from that and now they are even more officially entrepreneurs in the eyes of the government. They’re seeing them as entrepreneurs.


Exactly, exactly, exactly!


That shift in how the government views the bee keepers is not just symbolic, Hive Uganda has been tasked with registering their graduates as businesses with the local government.


So that they can easily ask the local government directly minus Hive Uganda.


You may have noticed that was the second time Ojok mentioned Hive Uganda in the past tense. As in a time when he is no longer training or supporting other bee keepers.
I’m happy to report, he has no plans of going anywhere anytime soon, rather it’s just a sign of a strong leader with good planning.


I am still 24/7 working with Hive Uganda. Actually, I’m looking at the sustainability at this age of mine. So that when I reach my retirement or when I say ok, let me sit down Hive Uganda should continue.

In case you’re not familiar with the terminology…


24 hours a day

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
Mm hmm! (As in agreeing)!

7 days a week.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
Do you ever get any people with other disabilities who want to participate outside of blindness?


Through the last training that we had, that was in July, we had to force people to go back because our target was to train 16. But people were demanding the services. They are people with disabilities. They look at that as an opportunity. Just waiting for the opportunity so they can also jump in.


While Hive Uganda’s focus continues to be supporting those who are blind and low vision , future increased resources
could enable their expansion.

Hive Uganda has already developed cross disability partnerships.
As Ojok explains, the value goes beyond economics.

To build strong advocacy system we need to also bring other people so that when we are talking to the government , when we are going to speak to other development partners we will say yes, this is the need for people with disabilities.


Expanding Hive Uganda’s reach also means geographic.


Remember we are in Gulu. Uganda is a big country. Where we are is less than ten percent of the population. It’s not even more than five percent of the population, but the need is still too much. We want to reach other parts of the country.


Extending the reach of Hive Uganda is now more possible with the training and deployment of the six master trainers.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
This all started [from] a tragic situation. In terms of how you lost your sight and then how you almost literally stumbled upon the idea. How does that feel when you look at where you come from brother? How does that feel for you?

When I look at where I came from and where we are sometimes I have mixed feelings. Yes I’m helping . I’m trying to show to the whole world that yes, out of sight is not out of mind. Should I be the victim of my own success? When I say the victim of my own success, yes I’m doing great what is that reality that will make you self-sustaining If the project of Holman ends, which is coming to September, what will happen next? You . You have raised a lot of expectation, you have proved that you are able to do it, are you going to continue? So that makes me do so much concentrated fundraising , trying networking with others so that we can all together come and say yes.

Yes to the future of Hive Uganda.

That future right now could be summarized based on their 5 years strategic plan.

One, continue training of blind people around Uganda as well as if possible East Africa.

Also, continue doing value addition to honey and wax products supplied by blind people because we already have a production unit. And then continue advocating for inclusion and participation for people with visual impairment into agriculture livelihood especially in the rural setting. And continued mobilization of resources because all of this to be done, Hive Uganda is in a developing country where everything is not the same. You have to fundraise, look for possible partners, share your ideas so that you’re able to be self-sustaining.

Strategic plans look forward. Sometimes there’s value in looking back.

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]

At some point along this whole journey of yours, you have to reflect on the lives you touched. Hive Uganda is already a success.

Laughs, yes that is true!

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
You changed people’s lives. You have and so I salute you for that You know, you are the man to do this 24 7and I’m happy to see that’s what you are doing.

yeh man, don’t put too much pressure on yourself Laughs… because that’s what it sounds like.

Laughing, yes thank you, thank you… thank you for encouraging me.

He’s the one doing the encouraging.

Whether it’s the students of Hive Uganda or those who are exposed to his story. Ojok’s passion for creating opportunities for people with disabilities through bee keeping is infectious.

During an interview with New Vision a local newspaper in Uganda, Hive Uganda Master Trainer Francis Okello Oloya describes the programs beneficiaries as
“change agents in their communities.”

It’s as if the new entrepreneurs are out spreading the message that blindness alone is no real barrier for participation in any aspect of life. Sort of pollenating the community with the hopes of reaping a sweeter life for themselves and others.

While back in San Francisco reporting on their progress during what is the conclusion of their Holman term, Ojok plans to visit bee keeping friends in San Diego. This is just one of the relationships established as a result of the prize.


We congratulate Lighthouse for coming up with such amazing idea.

Whether with the Holman Project or not we will remain in collaboration with the Lighthouse.

I have to remain.


To stay up to date or find out how you can support their mission visit

Once again, salute to Mr. Ojok Simon and yes, may you remain!

Audio: “Honey, Honey” Fiest

By the time this podcast is published December 4th, I believe the 2017 Holman Prize trio would have met for their final reports in San Francisco.

I really did consider trying to make my way out there to meet them all in person. Unfortunately, personal obligations and finances in that order didn’t permit that from happening.

First of all, it would have been nice to just give them a hug or shake their hand. Ah, forget that, everybody would get a hug!

Of course I would bring you the listener along. I think it would make for a great episode and I have the feeling you all grew almost as fond as I have of these three.

That’s Penny Melville Brown, Ahmet Ustenel and Ojok Simon.

Shout out to the San Francisco Lighthouse and everyone responsible for the Holman Prize including the judges,
Jason Roberts, author of the biography A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler.    

Shout out to Lucinda Williams on the opening track Honey Bee and Feist for Honey Honey riding underneath us right now.

Shout out to you the listeners. I truly hope you enjoy these episode because I have a good time producing them.

I hope to have another episode to finish out the year. I’m not sure if my daughters are taking over the podcast this year for the last episode. My oldest is 21 and the other 15. If not I think I have a good way to wrap up the year.

You know what’s a good way to wrap up this episode…
Subscribing to the podcast! You can use Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or your favorite podcast app.
You can always slide on over to and sign up for the email notifications

You know, I would love your feedback. Either

Rate the podcast on iTunes if you like it of course. If you don’t like it I’m not sure why you are still listening. I have no plans on doing anything differently at this stage in the game.

You can even leave a review there.

Send me direct feedback at Reid My Mind Radio @
If you feel up to it, you could even record a message on your voice recorder and send that over. That would make my day!

Plus my daughter doesn’t believe anyone listens so it will help me convince her! Yawl think I’m joking’?
She says like all the time. I’m talking’ 24/7
24 hours a day

[TR in conversation with Ojok:]
Mm hmm! (As in agreeing)!

7 days a week.


Hide the transcript

Beyond the Sea with the Blind Captain

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Ahmet Ustenel paddling his kayak with scenic mountains off to the side.
Continuing our check in with the 2017 Holman Prize winners I speak with Ahmet Ustenel. When we last spoke with him he was preparing to kayak the Bosphorus Strait.

Take a listen to hear all about the technology developed to help him independently navigate his kayak from Turkey to Asia. We’ll learn about the pressures, lessons learned and hear from his team.

As you’ll hear in this episode, this trip represents much more than a kayak adventure… it goes beyond the sea!

When you’re done… Subscribe:
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Show the transcript


What’s up everyone?
I hope you all are doing well.

Hmm, I think I see a few new faces out there today?

Ok, this is pre-recorded radio so I can’t see faces.
Oh wait , I’m blind so I can’t see faces!

If you are new to the podcast, welcome.

Reid My Mind Radio is not only my space to demonstrate my corny humor, but it’s also a place to highlight topics and people I find compelling.
Occasionally, I share stories from my experience adjusting to blindness as an adult.

This is a welcoming space where I hope every episode provides a bit of thought, empowerment and a hint of entertainment.

Today, we’re continuing with our updates from the 2017 Holman Prize winners.
For the newbies, this is the point where I usually find some way to bring in my intro music…

Rather than doing that this week I thought I’d share a poem.
Now, I used to write rhymes as a teenage but these were raps for the lunch room.

But after a bit of inspiration, I figured, this is a safe space so I’ll share.

Ahem! (Clears throat)

Some states are red
Others are blue
Let’s all unite
over my theme music Boo!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music


Audio: Siri: “Facetime Audio”
Face time phone ringing…

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Hey, Ahmet!

Hey Thomas!

Ahmet Ustenel, the Blind captain is back!
Here’s how he introduced himself in the original 2017 episode.

I am originally from Turkey. I have been in the US for about 11 years now.
In my free time I like water sports. I like swimming, kayaking, fishing, sailing.

I’m totally blind since the age of two and a half or three due to Retinoblastoma.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]

I’m also a Retinoblastoma survivor Sir.

Man, yeh, wow!


While we share the same childhood eye cancer, our experiences were different. Ahmet lost his eyes around 3 years old. I lost one as a child and the other as an adult due to a second cancer.
When I brought you his story last year, he was in the early stages of preparing to Kayak the Bosphorous Straits.
He explains

##Istanbul is a city on both continents. And we have this Bosporus Strait that separates the city into two different parts. And the area I’m going to cross is about three, three and a half miles which is not a big physical challenge, but it has heavy traffic.

A lot of ships like tankers, containers, fishing boats, tourist boats, sailing boats you know all kinds of stuff.

I’m not worried about the physical challenge – I can paddle you know three miles right now, no big deal. Being an expert using the technology is the key because I don’t want to have hesitation right in the middle of the shipping channel you know. That could be fatal.


One piece of off the shelf technology or downloadable app wouldn’t do the full job for Ahmet’s project.

It requires customized devices.

Ahmet had to be more than head navigator of his kayak and provide the leadership enabling his team to accomplish the goal.

You plan everything.

The physical part – I have to go train and find people to train with and then I need to figure out my logistics. Like even simple things like how to carry my kayak. I have the technology part and I have to find people to work on those technologies.


In addition to all of that, this is an international project so there are additional logistics to coordinate.

But lots of things can force a change to any plan. Especially technology.

Something works great in a nice dry environment, but when you put it on a kayak (laughs) it gets Corroded and you need to eliminate maybe external batteries or external cables.

We needed to redesign. there was a lot of trial and errors until pretty much a couple of weeks before the crossing.


While managing all of the moving parts and people associated with this project, Ahmet continued working full time as a Special Education Teacher.

One of those people heavily invested in the project is Marty Stone.

An AT&T project manager who was creating a device to help Ahmet navigate his course.
I’m just one of those people who likes tinkering with things.


I caught up with Marty to hear his thoughts on the project.
Well you know things of course always go slowly. We nearly ran out of time but we got some really nice help from AT&T. What’s known as the Internet of Things Foundry. There’s several of them. This one was in Houston Texas.

Marty was actually in Turkey.

Now that’s a true indication of what this project means to Marty. After working throughout the year, traveling to Turkey to further show his support for Ahmet and the project.

I got to meet Ahmet for the first time. Quite an emotional experience!

Audio: Turkish Drum instrumental music


Let’s go back to this past July 2018 to
Ahmet along with his family and team in Turkey, preparing to set off on his journey across the Bosphorous.

Ahmet steers us through the big day.

First of all, my idea was crossing on the 22nd without telling the Coast Guard, without telling the Traffic Control.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Laughing… Editor’s note — in full support of this idea!

Like a pirate crossing.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Laughing… Yeah!

Quietly with just one support kayak in case something goes wrong my coach will be following me. But then the word got out and a lot of people heard about it . The Coast Guard heard, the traffic Control heard about it and then they said oh, no no no no you cannot do that.


The Coast Guard now aware of our blind pirate Ahmet’s intentions decided to slow traffic and give him a window of time to make the crossing – 90 minutes to be exact plus they changed the launch date to the 21st.


I said ok, you know we’re going to do it officially. That’s cool!

Then in the morning of crossing I was at the Marina just you know getting ready to prepare. We were having tea. We were not even close to our kayaks yet and I get a radio message.

“You have an hour to get ready and cross”
Audio: As if over walkie talkie radio

I was like woh! I was expecting an 11 o’clock start and I got the message at 9.


Not only rushing through the process of assembling the kayak, Ahmet had to speed up his mental preparation. And then there’s all of the technology.

Nothing ever happens as you expect or as you planned.

Marty should know, he’s a project manager after all.

Unfortunately, at the last minute we had a hardware failure. on the system.

It was the keypad . So he was no longer able to enter any commands.

We had recorded a trip the day before and we were getting ready for him to play that trip back and basically follow the course but we couldn’t get the system to take a command because the keyboard had shorted out.

Thankfully there was a backup system. Not what we worked so hard to have him use but it was a backup system that worked nonetheless. So very grateful for that.

We return to Ahmet in his kayak ready to set sail and cross over to Asia.


When I was on the water
I got another message

Note: Sounds like coming from Walkie talkie
“you only have an half hour to cross”

My original route was going to the other side, go under the bridge and make a U-turn and come back to the other side. So it would be like 90 minutes crossing both sides with some you know nice view and stuff, but when I heard I have only a half an hour I said ok you know can I even make it to the other side in half an hour. (Laughs)

Audio: Under Pressure, Queen


“Can I make it to the other side?”

Sounds like a simple question, but for Ahmet it symbolized the pressure that accumulated throughout the process.


I felt so much pressure.

People were focusing so much on the crossing, but actually it was a lot more than that. The background of the project was a yearlong even longer than that. All people see is can you do it or not.

So many people actually worked on this. It was a team effort a team project. So many layers and so many people and so many organizations were involved. And I felt like I really don’t want to disappoint people. People traveled from US. they came to Turkey to support. I had a lot of people in Turkey as well. If I fail was going to try it again anyway but I felt like if I failed all these people will be so disappointed or they will feel like they failed.


After a year of planning, now sitting in the kayak with all of the people there to support.

Even reporters and others from the media are there to find out whether he can make it to the other side.

Now, the extra pressure of only having a half hour to complete what he estimates is a 90 minute trip.

I start paddling…

Audio: sounds of oar and kayak increasing in speed…

I think that was the fastest I paddled in my life.

When I heard cheering on the other side …
Audio: Sound of crowd cheering

I was like woh that’s it. It was only like 20 minutes.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]



[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
You were moving then,huh!

Yeh, I was moving man. Adrenaline rush.


He just about doubled his average kayaking speed from 4 or 5 miles an hour to about 7 or 8.

On top of that, he was dealing with boats getting too close taking pictures along with spying drones hovering above.


It was not a quiet and relaxing paddle. Laughs…

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]



the Holman Prize is after all, all about adventure.
How much adventure is in everything going according to plan.

Yes, he completed the trip across the Bosphorous, but there are other measures of success. Like, the level of enthusiasm and commitment from his team. Like Marty Stone.


What an amazing person. (Sniffles ) Sorry, it’s hard not to be emotional

[TR in conversation with Marty:]
Nah, I get it.
When he (Ahmet )was going through the story of what happened throughout the year one of the things that stuck out to me was once it started he realized ok, wow, there’s other people involved. He was worried about you all his team. He didn’t want to let you all down. And I’m like Dude?… (Laughs)


[TR in conversation with Marty:]
He had a lot of pressure, just talking to him.

Oh! Oh no kidding!

He’s a super hero man he really is. And I’ve talked to him I said yes, crossing the Bosphorous going from Asia to Europe, wow, that was the main deal. But everything you’ve done to get to that point . You know you’re an amazing project manager I told him, you’re an amazing inspiration.

I know that word inspiration, for those in the disability community can be a sort of trigger.

Often misused towards a person with a disability.
As in exclaiming a blind person is amazing for completing the most trivial task.

These sort of praises are often more indicative of the other persons low expectations.

However , Marty and Ahmet have been working together for over a year. Marty’s compliments appear to be based on Ahmet’s actual work.

No shots fired!

Think of all the things you had to do in order to pull this off and then you pulled it off. I said you got some real important knowledge here that no one else has.


Along with improving his physical and technical kayaking skills, the most important success metrics are probably those things that Ahmet himself gained from the experience.

I learned about technology. I learned about myself.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
What did you learn about yourself.?

When I have a goal, a big goal, I work better, I work hard. But if I just have some idea in my mind with no clear goals and objectives then I go off track.

I’m 38 years old I had a lot of ideas a lot of projects but sometimes I didn’t have enough motivation to start. But now I realize if I started then like 10 15 years ago most of them would be done by now and I felt like man you know I lost time but it’s not too late. I can still do stuff.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Yeah man, you’re young. I’m turning 50 so…
Editor’s note – birthday wishes welcomed as I already turned 50. 😉


Laughs. Yeah, we have time man!

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Yeah, absolutely.


When you have something in your mind, don’t lose time. That’s my new approach. Just start somewhere and it’s going to happen.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Your skill set from this has probably greatly improved. Project management, you’re leading teams . Do you see any relationship to your career and then also I have a feeling you’re going to be a little rougher on your students. Laughs!


I always seen myself as a team member. Whenever I worked on a project I was a good team member, but I haven’t seen myself usually as a leader in the team. But after this project actually I was coordinating a lot of stuff. I was managing a lot of stuff and now I realize actually I might have some leadership skills as well. That’s a very important thing to know about yourself. I feel like I can take more responsibilities in the school district now or do some other projects with different organizations.

In terms of career, I think I will be teaching for a long time. I like teaching But in addition to teaching I might take some different roles in the district or in some different organizations in the Bay area.

Maybe I might do some recreational stuff with some blindness organizations.

In terms of being rough on the students I was always rough on students

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]

Expectations are high. There’s no slacking for students.


After managing all of the moving parts of the project, the pressure and last minute changes I wondered if Ahmet had plans for more adventures.


It was a life changing event for me this year. I got the bug now.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]

I cannot stop now. I cannot stop. I have to think about my next project.


That bug apparently, is contagious. Ahmet says Marty too was bit!


He was excited as I was about everything. When we finished crossing he was like wait a minute, this is not the end . You know we will start new projects, we will keep working on this. So right after he came back to US he started working on a new device. laughs…

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Laughs… Alright!


In fact, when I reached out to Marty he was working on hardware changes improving on the original design.

In my first conversation with Ahmet, prior to him taking on this adventure, I asked him why.


Everything could be adapted. Everything could be more accessible, that’s what I want to show. I don’t want it to be a success story of one person … he’s blind but he did that, he did this. It doesn’t mean anything you know one person did this.

He had a network of people, all in different locations, exchanging information with a shared goal.

Like teammate Marty Stone.

Audio: Inner City Blues, Marvin Gaye


Complete strangers can get together and do something amazing together. Volunteers, nobody got paid fr this. We put our heart and soul into this to help out another human being.

If human beings can do stuff like that, why is it that we still have people being separated at the border and we’re not able to treat our neighbors with respect?

Audio: Wind blowing…
The following audio clips taken from news items fade in from left and right.

a. The Caravan of South Americans seeking Asylum in the US
b. The over 13 pipe bombs sent to critics of 45
c. The 2 African Americans killed by a White Nationalist Terrorist in Kentucky
d. The 11 Jewish worshipers killed by a Nazi White Nationalist Terrorist in Pittsburgh.
– Wind blows


From a species standpoint, we’re capable of so much wonderful greatness and yet we’re also just able to be just really horrible nasty creatures.
I still marvel in the fact that a whole group of people who didn’t know each other pulled together and made something really beautiful happen for another person. And if we can do that, hell we should be able to straighten out our problems.

Audio: Makes me wanna holla, throw up both my hands”, Marvin Gaye

Ahmet’s journey offers a chance to represent more than its face value for anyone interested enough to see it.

It’s more than kayaking.

He created a proof of concept. providing the power for a self-navigating water vessel. Expanding on methods for blind and low vision people to independently participate in activities like kayaking, rowing, canoeing.

Now Ahmet wants to share all of his accumulated kayaking knowledge here in the states and Turkey.

Just introduce kayaking to blind people. Independent kayaking using the devices we made.
Just empowering people.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]

That sounds awesome!
Man, I salute you the Blind Captain…

Warmly laughing…

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
The Blind Captain, baby! Yeah, alright!
My man! Laughing…
I’m so happy for you!


How could you not be happy for someone who becomes empowered and wants to share that with others.

I’m reminded of our first conversation in 2017 when Ahmet described his relationship with the water.


I always loved the water, it’s my happy place. It’s the place I feel good about myself I feel free.

Audio: A very calm kayak moving through the water.
Fades into sounds of 45 at a rally, news commentators recapping the deaths and current events.

Fades back to the peaceful sounds of the kayak on the water.

Free! That does sound good!

Ahmet’s planning to take a month and camp and kayak the coast of Turkey’s Black Sea.

He’s not sailing off into the sunset just yet.
He and his journey are part of a documentary currently in production. And he knows he has to come back to the family – the Reid My Mind Radio family and let us know more when the time is right.

You know the time is always right to subscribe to this podcast. You can do that on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or your favorite podcast app. All you have to do is search for Reid My Mind Radio. That’s R to the E I D!

Don’t miss the next episode where we catch up with our favorite Social Entrepreneur, Bee Keeper and honey farmer Mr. Ojok Simon.

Until next time where I once again strive to answer the question that started this podcast in 2014.

Can you do it or not!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro


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Higher with Red Szell – 2018 Holman Prize Winner

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

This episode concludes our look at the 2018 Holman Prize recipients. In order to do so we travel across the Atlantic to London. Well virtually via Skype.

Red Szell sitting on steps
We meet Red Szell, the host of RNIB’s Read ON. Red is an Extreme Sport athlete and Holman Prize winner. We hear about his ambition, his journey through vision loss and more.

Subscribe to the podcast and make sure you don’t miss our upcoming three part series featuring the 2017 Holman Prize winners. The podcast!




Show the transcript

Audio: Vocal crescendo from opening of “White Lines” Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five


Greetings and welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio! Let’s go!

Audio: Stevie Wonder Higher Ground
If you’re here for the first time, allow me to get you up to speed.

My name is T.Reid and thanks for stopping by. This podcast is my space to share stories and profiles around blindness & disability. Occasionally I produce stories around my own vision loss experience as an adult.

You joined the podcast in time to catch the third and final episode featuring all three 2018 Holman Prize winners.

I strongly encourage you to not only go back and listen to the other two episodes from 2018, but you should really go back and listen to the 2017 winners as well.

If you’re not familiar with the Holman Prize, no problem! Get comfortable and allow me to introduce you. But first we have one rule here. I don’t start without my intro music!

Audio: Reid My Mind Intro Music


The San Francisco Lighthouse for the second year in a row, awarded a $25,000 Holman Prize to each of three individuals who in their own way demonstrate the adventurous spirit of James Holman.

All applicants had to create a 90 second video describing their ambition and how they would use the money.
A team of judges all of whom are blind reviewed each video and eventually selected three winners.

Born in 1786 James Holman a veteran of the British Royal Navy became blind at 25 years old after an illness.

After studying medicine and literature he became an adventurer, author and social observer who circumnavigated the globe.

Undertaking a series of solo journeys that were unprecedented visiting all inhabited continents.

our final 2018 Holman prize winner is Red Szell.

I work for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, in the UK. I present a radio show called “Read On” which is all about books and reading.

Careful now. If you’re imagining the stereotypical book worm, try again.


I’d become a really keen rock climber in my teens. And I was good at it. Rode a bicycle around everywhere, did a lot of sports, cross country running, a bit of Cricket. I was a keen outdoorsy kind of person.


Red, a published author, is an accomplished extreme sports athlete.

If you’re not sure as to what makes one an extreme sport athlete well, you’re not the only one. There’s some question about what makes a sport considered extreme.

Wikipedia defines extreme sports as;
“a competitive (comparison or self-evaluative) activity within which the participant is subjected to natural or unusual physical and mental challenges such as speed, height, depth or natural forces and where fast and accurate cognitive perceptual processing may be required for a successful outcome”

Since 19 years old, “fast and accurate cognitive perceptual processing presents a challenge for Red.


I was told, “You’ll be blind by the age of 30.” Just like that.

I’ve got Retinitis Pigmentosa which is a degenerative disease of the retinas.

I basically went into a sulk to be honest I was at University so the beer was cheap (laughs) I just went into a bit of a sulk. It was shock. And it took quite a long time to get over it.

About 20 years according to Red.

But it wasn’t as though he was sitting around.

I was working as a journalist for a bit. I gave up work to look after my two daughters as soon as the elder one was born, so I was a house husband for 16 years.

I wrote a couple of books. A detective book and I always kept fit but it was kind of like solitary activities like swimming up and down the disabled lane in British swimming pools or going to the gym or doing Pilates or Yoga

I really missed the kind of camaraderie that you get from either being part of a team or doing an activity where you’re working closely with a partner like climbing.



That sense of isolation can be quite common among people who are blind.


but then my elder daughter had her 9th birthday party at a local indoor climbing wall and whilst all the other parents were ogling the buff bodied instructors I was just checking out the bumps and curves on these beautiful molded climbing walls going I want to get my hands on that and I want to start climbing again. And that itch that I’d been wanting to scratch for two decades just suddenly seemed possible again. I thought well I can get back out and climb again safely.


When Red was first diagnosed with RP climbing walls weren’t an option. You had to do it the old fashion way, find a big rock and start climbing.

Early indoor rock climbing facilities weren’t of interest to Red as they weren’t very challenging.


The climbing wall that I went to for my daughter’s 9th birthday party had these 18 meter high walls and they were over hanging and challenging. It was just like being back outdoors again and I just… it just immediately hit my adrenaline button.


When that adrenaline gets going, you don’t want to keep it bottled up.

For a long time I was very good in being the happy blind person … well doesn’t Red take this well. Concealing inside that I was really pissed off. I don’t know if I can say that on your show…

[TR in conversation with RS]
You can say anything man!

Laughs… ok!

And actually like anything that you bottle up, it tends to go off. It tends to go sour. Actually what I learned though getting active in group activities again is a lot of it because you have to externalize it, you actually let off a lot of steam as well. It’s part of the process.


With the combination of adrenaline and access all Red required was action.


After my daughter’s 9th birthday at the local rock climbing center I turned up a little bit sheepishly with my white cane in my hand and said look I used to be a pretty decent rock climber. I know I’m blind but would you give me lessons and my instructor Trevor said yeh, why wouldn’t I. And I went what really and … I’m not going to discriminate against you just because your blind you said that you used to love climbing so do I.


Right there! that’s where Red and his climbing instructor Trevor found common ground. As we’ll see that’s an important message Red hopes to share with others. Proving inclusion and access is of benefit to all.


It was great. He gave me a great accolade after the third lesson that we had. Actually instructing me made him a better teacher because he had to think outside the sighted box. And that was great.

As soon as I got my strength back , my climbing strength back, I was actually making pretty good progress and it felt really good to improve doing something physical rather than having a degenerative physical disability and feeling that things were getting worse day by day. I was getting stronger and better at something day by day and it felt like taking one back for the good guys to be honest.

Feeling robbed by vision loss can lead to self-doubt.

I’d given up originally because if I couldn’t trust my eye sight how could I expect other people to trust my judgement, but actually through indoor climbing I re-discovered that passion but also that ability to control risk, be in charge of my own destiny and communicate. And I think that’s the thing that I get from rock climbing. And also from tandem bike riding and swimming. If you’re doing one of those activities with a buddy then it’s about communication. If your buddy is willing to help you then it’s actually down to you to give them the correct type of communication so that the two of you can achieve as well as you can. And I think that was something. It took me a lot of time. it took me two decades to realize that.

Armed with this new perspective, Red unknowingly or maybe subconsciously, began the process of ascending towards his goals.
Following a climbing workout with his trainer, Red mentioned one of his pre vision loss climbing goals.

And then one fateful day, whilst Trevor, my instructor was waxing lyrical about his favorite mountain side, I laid gasping on the ground having just overcome a tricky hanging problem, I let slip this dream that I had since I was about 12 years old of climbing something called the Old Man of Hoy.


The Old Man of Hoy is a sea stack off the coast of Scotland.

Sea Stacks also referred to as just a stack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed over time from erosion due to wind and water.

The Old Man of Hoy is considered one of the 10 most amazing stacks. it’s about 449 feet tall and only several hundred years old. Experts believe it may collapse soon.

Red became interested in climbing the stack after watching a documentary about Chris Bonington a mountaineer who climbed Everest.

He climbed everything . He is a Rock God.
that was the rock pinnacle that I kind of had emblazoned on my heart that I always wanted to climb. I said that to Trevor and Trevor went ok, I’ve climbed that. Well you know, with a bit of work you could probably do it. You know, you’re a good climber, you could probably do it. And that was it, it started itching … I started to go I got to do this. By then I got a climbing partner and I mentioned it to him and this dream kind of became a target because my climbing partner is quite pushy and so is Trevor.


Audio: From 2012 Olympics Opening
“Welcome to London”

Encouraged by the athletes competing in the 2012 London Paralympics taking, Red began taking steps to accomplish his long time goal.


That summer of London 2012 was the time that I started thinking this is possible. Then at a slightly drunken Christmas party at the end of 2012 my climbing partner was just ribbing me going ” When are you going to do this , when are you going to do this?” I just said Let’s do it next summer.

[TR in conversation with RS]
Who says alcohol isn’t good for something, huh?

Laughs with RS

Alcohol makes the plans.

Maybe, but executing them can be sobering.

Red dropped a bit of extra weight and in 2013 became the first blind man to climb the old man of hoy.

They made a film of it which was broadcast on the BBC over here.

and talk about taking one back for the good guys. That was one in the eye for Retinitis Pigmentosa, screw you, I can still do this.

After successfully climbing the Old Man of Hoy, in 2014 Red reached the pinnacle of another, the Old man of Storr.

His latest quest or in this case his Holman Ambition once again includes a sea stack.

Am Buachaille  , the rock that I’m going to go and climb is the third of the big Scottish sea stacks.

This is the most extreme. It’s miles away from anywhere. You have to cross Bog land. You have to abseil down cliffs you have to swim out to the base of it and then you got 90 minutes to climb it before the sea cuts you off and strands you over night. Not many sighted people take it on.

Yet Red along with his climbing partner Mathew will take it on. In a nutshell, here’s what they have to do.

Audio: Let There Be Rock, ACDC


Everything is against the clock.

Audio: Clock ticking…>

We have to setoff at the right time. Building in the fact that the land we are crossing is boggy. We will probably fall off a few times.

Audio: Bike fall and wheel spin

We’ll probably have to pull this heavyweight Cannondale tandem out of the bog, clean it up and move on. We’ll get punches, it’s a tough climb.

Then we’ve got to abseil down.

That’s a descent down the face of the cliff to reach their entry point into the water.


wait for the tide to get slack to go out to minimize the amount of swimming that we have to do and to be able to get on the platform at the bottom. Not a manmade platform but the bit that you can actually stand on to start the climb at the bottom of the sea stack.

We’ve got to get dressed again, get our equipment out. We’ve got to climb it and do that and get back down within 90 minutes otherwise the tide will cut us off.


You would think that when their finished climbing the sea stack that’s it, right? Wrong! They have to turn around and do the whole thing in reverse.

You got to swim it , bring your equipment there and back and then you got to be up the cliff and then cycling back before it gets dark. Not too much of a problem for me but it might be for my sighted climbing partner.


If you’re a sighted listener, feel free to join the blind and low vision listeners who are giggling at that last comment.

He may sound calm and make light of the situation but he takes it all quite seriously.

I don’t like to have a challenge that I can’t work out how to do but I came up with this plan about two years ago having sort of scoped it out beforehand. I just thought that’s impossible. A, that needs a lot of resources. B, it needs a lot of planning and C I’m not getting any younger. It’s a tough challenge.


Indeed. Just think about all of the variables at play. Communication, equipment

***Start Here***
We are talking about the United Kingdom that has a habit of pissing down rain just when you don’t need it to. Or high winds, We can’t climb in that. There’s a lot of planning.

There is a lot of stuff to go wrong and one of the things that you learn as a climber is that you minimize all the potential for things going wrong. So you draw up lists of what can go wrong and how you can stop it from going wrong. What you might break, equipment wise. What you can afford to bring with you as a spare.

We’ll do it. It’s a scary challenge even here 9months out it’s probably the toughest climbing challenge I’ll have ever done.


At first, I thought Red’s motivation was vengeance. as in revenging vision loss itself. Specifically, Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Includes audio reverb effect as in flashback…

it felt like taking one back for the good guys to be honest.
talk about taking one back for the good guys. That was one in the eye for Retinitis Pigmentosa


And so we’re clear, I’m not judging.

Maybe that is a motivator for some. Whatever gets you moving, right?
And you need momentum to reach your peak.

And along the way, motivations can change from personal to those that have a broader impact.


I think my diagnosis of blindness made me a little scared to go out of the door at times. It made me need to have a reason to go outdoors.
Other people’s
perception of blindness is that we are mobility impaired and maybe there’s a lot of activities that we shouldn’t do . My view of the world is that you go and kick the ass out of it and if you can find a way of doing that that gives you pleasure and has you playing with other people playing along with other people and doing stuff that you can they enjoy, blindness should be no barrier to that. Go out and find the thing that makes you tick and kick the ass out of it. Life is too short to sit there looking at what you lost rather than what you can still achieve.

I kind of wish that I’ve done a bit more in those years before I rediscovered climbing.

I don’t like what if’s and I don’t want other people to have what if’s. I want to spread the word that whether it’s Yoga, Pilates, climbing kayaking or just walking to your corner store and back every day, getting out and doing some physical activity makes you feel much better.

That’s what it’s all about for me.


Writing his own account of his 2013 climb of the Old man of Hoy in his book, The Blind Man of Hoy has given Red the chance to spread his message.

The Holman Prize will give him a chance to increase his visibility and reach a wider audience. Yes, he hopes to inspire other blind people, but it’s what he hopes the sighted family and friends can learn that I find intriguing.


I got a blind friend , maybe I should ask him if he wants to go swimming. Maybe I should see if we could rent a tandem and we could get outdoors
if just one person’s life is changed by showing what we still have as blind people in potential then my job is done. I’ know that I’ve made some difference already. I want to build on that success .


Changing perceptions isn’t easy. Red knows. Based on his own estimate it took him about 20 years to re-focus how he views his vision loss.


when I got to the full summit of the Old Man of Hoy and there’s this huge crack in the top of the sea stack as if a giant has taken a cleaver to it and split it down about 50 meters. I could feel the wind coming off the Atlantic and could sense the sun all over my face and I thought I’ve got there this is brilliant and then my climbing partner just went not yet mate , I went but this is still pretty cool, I’m just going to bask in this .

I thought my blindness has got me here. Without my blindness I would never have been climbing that rock. I would have been sitting in front of some computer somewhere doing some boring ass job earning money for the man and thinking I wish I carried on climbing. My blindness got me there. Without it I wouldn’t have achieved those pages in my story.

when I got this job working for the radio station my Dad actually turned around to me and he went you always wanted to be a radio journalist didn’t you . And I went yeh that’s what I wanted to do when I was in my teens. And he went and you’re doing it. You’re doing it about books. People are paying you to listen to audio books and interview authors. What’s not to like about that.

And I thought it’s a really funny round about world where it took 30 years and going blind for me to actually achieve two of my most dearly held dreams.

Whilst I’ll never feel truly grateful to Retinitis Pigmentosa I guess I’ve got to thank it for some of the opportunities it’s given me.

In fact, Red says it was his boss Yvonne at RNIB, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, who suggested he pursue the Holman Prize.

Royal National Institute for Blind people is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It supports people with sight loss. It gives help, advice and equipment to people with sight loss to help us lead as constructive a life as possible.

We have the most amazing talking books library which also has Braille and giant print copies of hundreds of thousands of books.

If you want to stay in touch with his progress, send congratulations or listen to his show…


You can find me at my website where you’ll find all of my latest news. You can drop me an email if you want to and you can find Read On by looking up RNIBConnectRadio/ReadOn.

So there’s no confusion, he spells that R E A D. I know weird, right?


Red and I have a lot in common.

We’re both around the same age, actually I’m one year older than the young man.

Both losing our sight later in life.
Dad’s to two daughters.
We’re both interested in audio journalism.

But I guess there could only be one …

Audio: King of Rock, RunDMC.

Salute to Red Szell, Stacy Cervenka & Conchita Hernandez the 2018 Holman Prize winners. I’m sure the Reid My Mind Radio family joins me in congratulating you all and agree that we’re looking forward to hearing more about your journey and success.

Shot out to the San Francisco Lighthouse for their leadership and sponsorship of the Holman Prize.

I think it’s worth recognizing the amount of time and thought put into this project.

It’s something that could easily be done wrong.

The diversity of the winners and their ambitions indicates to me at least that it’s really about encouragement, visibility and the promotion of positive examples of what is possible for people who are blind and low vision and in general people with disabilities.

Three things that I hope are also associated with this podcast.

Next time, we’re going back to catch up with 2017 Holman Prize winners and Reid My Mind Radio Alumni…

Penny Melville Brown of Baking Blind

Ahmet Ustenel AKA The Blind Captain

Ojok Simon, The Bee Keeper & Honey Farmer!

We’ll hear about what worked with their plans and what sort of adjustments were required. And of course lessons learned.

If there’s one lesson I want Reid My Mind Radio listeners to learn; that would be , how to subscribe to this podcast.

Apple Podcast, Google Play, Sound Cloud, Stitcher or Tune In Radio. Of course, whatever podcast app you use, you can find it there by searching for Reid My Mind Radio. Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!

Each episode lives on the blog, where I include links to any resources and a transcript.

You know, I may not have been crowned King of Rock, but you know what they say…

He’s a Rock God!


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