Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Reid My Mind Radio – A Captain & Her Guide Dog

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Yes, guide dogs are cute! They are gentle animals that are trained to help those who are blind or visually impaired travel. Some know they shouldn’t pet these dogs while they are performing their jobs. Then again, some know but still act…
Liz and Bryce Krispy paired at Guide Dog School

In this episode we hear from Liz Oleksa who shares a story about an incident between her, her guide dog Bryce Krispy, a mother and daughter… what could go wrong?
Picture of Guide Dog Bryce Krispy wearing sunglasses!

We also hear from Dr. Andre Watson who shares some insight on this experience and the message it tells us about society and its perceptions of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups outside the dominant culture.

Plus, some great advice for anyone in need of checking your own self-identity after experiencing micro-aggressions. And it’s ok, don’t be scared to listen… I know I mentioned blind and disability, but really, there’s something here for everyone!!

Now, all aboard for another episode! Hit Play & then Subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio!

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good everybody! Welcome to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio!

I thought we could try going a little more in depth with one story.

generally, the stories on Reid My Mind Radio tend to have a positive spin. More than often, these stories and interviews revolve around the broad topic of adjusting to blindness.

Sometimes we need to hear about the problems, the reality.

And then discover the valuable lessons within.

That’s today, but first… you know how we do it

[Audio: Reid My Mind Theme…]


LO
I’m Liz Oleksa. and I live in Macungie with my son Logan who just turned 13 and my guide dog Bryce Krispy.

TR:
Macungie, Pennsylvania.

LO:
Yes Sir!

TR:
How long have you had Bryce Krispy?

LO:
May 21, of this year will be three years that Bryce and I have been together.

TR:
Is that his full name Bryce Krispy or did you put the Krispy?

LO:
Well at the school they called him Bryce Krispy, but on all his paper work it just says Bryce. So I use both. He likes when I call him Bryce Krispy his tail wags a lot faster. He really recognizes that as his name cause he knows he’s super sweet.

[Audio: Sound of rain and city sidewalk]

I was at a doctor’s appointment and I had just finished up . I had scheduled my pickup for 11:30 with my local transportation. It was raining so I waited outside but yet under the overhang. And I’m a people person so you know I hear somebody walking up I’ll say hi. This lady came up and I didn’t know it was a lady at first and I said “Hi how are you today?” She said Fine and there was a little girl; I am assuming it was a little girl with her. Around 5 six at most. She sounded kind of short so I am assuming she was younger. The little girl was really bubbly and they’re both talking and you know the cutie puppy talk; “Oh look at the god, look at the dog.” The little girl said, “We can’t touch the doggie, right? He’s a really pretty doggie, we can’t touch her?” I said, no you can’t touch him honey I’m sorry he’s working. The mom even said no you can’t touch the puppy, but he is really pretty. The girl said again, “We can’t touch the puppy.” And she’s starting to get a little I guess anxious? I said no honey I’m sorry you can’t touch him he’s working. As a handler if you distract him I could get hurt. Well now she starts yelling, “We can’t touch the puppy!” And the lady’s like “No honey we can’t touch the puppy.” And the girl yelled , I could hear her she was starting to jump around… “We can’t touch the puppy!” And I felt Bryce moving a little funny so I reached down and here the woman was petting the dog. Now she herself told her daughter don’t touch the dog, the daughter told her don’t touch the dog, I told her don’t touch the dog. So I said to the lady kind of calm at first but a little stern I said, ” Mam, please don’t touch the dog he’s working. Both your daughter and I and you just told you not to touch the dog. She goes, oh well its ok, I mean I just can’t help it look at his eyes. Now Bryce , I have been told has the most beautiful honey colored eyes. He’s a yellow lab and he has very very unique eyes, but I don’t care how cute his eyes are it’s still not ok. You know but she’s like, Oh itis ok I just can’t help myself. And I stopped and said Mam stop touching my dog. Now the little girl’s screaming she’s crying don’t touch the dog, don’t touch the dog. I’m getting frustrated so I reach down, just like I was taught at school, if somebody is touching your dog and you’ve kindly asked them you have permission to remove their hand from your dog because that do is an extension of you.

I reach down and I took her hand and I wasn’t rough but I took her hand and pushed it away.
She gasped when I took her hand off my dog She backed up and slapped me across the face and said you have some nerve to invade my personal space like that. I just stood there with my mouth kind of hanging open like “Are you serious right now?” And she said let’s go and she and her little girl went off either into the building or they left. I was too shocked at the time as to … oh my goodness you just slapped me across the face., but yet she was the one who invaded my personal space and my boundaries.

TR:
You heard correctly, slapped in the face!

With that in mind I wanted to examine this situation from a professional perspective.

AW:
Hi my name is Dr. Andre Watson. I’m a Clinical Psychologist in the Philadelphia area.

TR:
I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Watson last year. We talked about some of his experiences growing up blind and the challenges he faced in attaining his doctorate in Psychology. If you haven’t heard that episode, I suggest you go back and give it a listen.

I asked Dr. Watson to unpack some of what took place in the incident you just heard from Liz as well as what he referred to as…
AW:
… what we have to deal with as blind people trying to make it in America.

[TR in conversation with AW]

Make it in the world cause hopefully people outside of America listen to this too. (Laughs!)

AW:

Absolutely!

Personally and professionally I hear about these kind of stories happening all the time with blind people whether it be with a guide dog or with a cane or with freedom. With he right to make a decision for you own self. And I think this was a clear case of disrespect and disregard for Liz as a person. A person with a brain, a person with choice. And so it really upset me to hear this story not because it’s not common, but because it is so common and so many people that are blind who are trying to live an independently life not only have to deal with some natural barriers to independence but also some of the social barriers to independence. SO Liz established like any dog owner, like any parent, you have established a boundary which you need to do, and so somebody else disregarded that . On one hand I would take it personally and on the other hand I wouldn’t. Because a lot of time people that do these kinds of things disregard a lot of people’s boundaries. This could have been a women who has been disrespected herself in her own life and now is doing that to other people. Bullying is a real issue and people that bully look for people that they see as being weaker and vulnerable. Ironically, people that do bully have been bullied. This is all about perception. Blind people being seen as vulnerable, being seen as less capable, less aware.

TR:
Being seen as vulnerable based on someone’s perception,
well no one can really be immune to these types of experiences. even those who can thoroughly recognize them for what they are.

I actually had a similar experience with my guide dog. I sat down on the bus. The dog is under the seat and the woman sitting to my right
tells me oh, the dog’s fine. And I’m thinking she’s saying the dog’s fine because the dog’s not intruding on her space. As I was checking my dog feeling her, make sure she was out of the way, but really what she was saying was she’s fine so that I can pet her. I reach up and I feel this woman’s hand on my dog and I say, oh excuse me please don’t pet my dog.

As much as I would like to think that people are fair and that they want not to take advantage of blindness or each other’s disability, that’s not the case.

People abuse children every day. People take advantage of people that they think they can get over on, all the time. And it might not be a willful planned activity, but it still happens

TR:
In case you’re unfamiliar with the issue when it specifically involves guide dogs and petting them…
That dog has been trained to work and concentrate on the task at hand while in that harness. The only instructions it should follow are from the handler. What may seem like harmless petting can lead to the dog becoming distracted and potentially not relaying important information or responding properly to the handler.

But it goes beyond guide dogs, beyond these specific incidents; as Dr. Watson explained, it’s about how we and others with disabilities are perceived.
Once again!

AW:
…what we have to deal with as blind people trying to make it in America.
How should we deal with these kinds of issues when they happen?
First what you don’t do is that you don’t stop going out. You don’t stop asserting yourself. That’s the hard part right there is to be resilient in the face of some of these obstacles. Secondly is to bring some awareness to these kinds of things to everyone that this is unacceptable. First of all petting the dog from the beginning was unacceptable.

TR:
In no way is this podcast about judging how Liz responded. She has the right to choose what is appropriate for her.

It just so happens, the steps Liz took, were right in line with what would be recommended for anyone in such a situation.

Let’s return to Liz still waiting for her local transportation company immediately after the incident.
And if you have ever waited for a para transit, you know how long that can take.

[And yes, shots fired! Para transit, step your game up!]

LO:
The bus is forty minutes late and I just stood there.

I wasn’t angry with the woman I was more disturbed by her lack of respect for my personal space and for the example she was selling her child. I can’t imagine if this is what I just went through asking her not to do something what the little girl must have to go through. My heart just went out to both of them for mainly the mother’s ignorance.

[TR in conversation with Liz]
Were you in shock?

LO:
I’m not going to lie, I actually had like a smirk on my face. Like Are you… serious, what really just happened here?

I was being friendly and said hello. My dog is doing his job. He’s sitting next to me not bothering anyone. Don’t they teach us in elementary school you hear the word stop or know you stop?

[TR in conversation with Liz]
has that changed you in any way?

LO:
I don’t want people to think that, don’t talk to me. Absolutely you know what, I want people to talk to me. Don’t talk to my dog though. You know talk to me, I’m the person. You have a question about my dog he’s not going to answer you so you don’t need to ask him.

“Oh are you taking good care of your mommy?”

I can answer your questions for you.

[TR in conversation with Liz:]
is that an actual thing that you hear?

LO:
oh my goodness yes!

When I leave places people are like “now you take good care of your mommy.”

“You show mommy how to get home!”

No, no I tell him how to get home. He just follows my commands.

There’s a time and a place for me to fight that battle too. If
I have the extra time I may start up a conversation with a person and be like Hey just so you know talk to me. It’s not about necessarily proving a point. Some people just don’t know!

The whole bus ride home I just was trying to wrap my mind around this. It took about an hour.

I made a post on Facebook about
it to kind of spread awareness. And I laughed at times. And after I posted it I cried. I wasn’t sad for myself I was really just sad for this woman and then I was like if I could see I probably would have slapped her back. But, then again that’s an afterthought and I don’t want to resort to. Ducking to her level?

I got quite a bit of negative feedback.

I had people telling me that my response to the situation was wrong and I should have contacted the police and file a police report

[TR in conversation with Liz]
Were these other guide dog users?

LO:
. Some of them were. Some of them were cane users. Some of them were sighted. I mean just people from all different aspects of my life

AW:
that’s called blaming the victim

TR:
Once again, Dr. Watson.

AW:
We do that a lot because something really terrible happens we can’t accept that it happened. It’s always easy to do Monday morning
quarterbacking and look back and say oh I would have been there so I would have done that. Who would expect to be slapped in the face by anybody? Nobody plans on that. You don’t know when that’s going to happen
[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]
one of the reasons I wanted to call you Andre was because when we last spoke you mentioned something and I think you referred to it as the identity check. And it was these types of well I guess micro aggressions right that sometimes you have
AW:
yes

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]
You get them and then you have to kind of go back and talk to yourself in the mirror Bill yourself back up. What would you say that people who experience these types of things in terms of kind of checking their identity. What advice would you give?

AW:
Definitely you need to be. Talking to somebody who knows you. Who can validate who you are.

You can talk about how this one event doesn’t define you. Whether it’s interpreting it as being vulnerable or weak or being second class; because these little things like this can happen. Like you know that slow drip of micro aggressions can happen and slowly eat away at someone’s
confidence. It’s helpful to be able to be around people that understand you. It’s great to be in a community of other blind people that you can talk to and they can share maybe share some similar experiences. It’s also good to be and situations where you feel like you’re on equal footing with people.

This is not some kind of militant radical idea but it’s good to be with family. By that I mean it’s good to be around people who have shared experiences as you. you don’t have to worry about being slapped. You know have to worry about people petting your dog when they shouldn’t do that. In many ways you have to put on an armor
when you go out so that you can remember who you are but that’s very emotionally taxing. It wears on your mind, from your thoughts to how you think about yourself. How you think about other people. You become angry, bitter, hostile. You could doubt yourself emotionally. You could be down on yourself. In some cases people actually feel it in their bodies. So you’ve got headaches and backaches and if you’re like me you like to have an extra piece of cake.

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson:]
Laughs!

AW:
It’s good to be aware of these things and how they can affect you. And you make sure that you’re not consumed by it.

I know I’ve heard lots of stories from sighted people. They always say
oh oh I met a blind guy he was just so mean to me or blind woman she was so mean to me. Well these are the things that happen; things that happen to Liz, they happen to me and to you. And then you do get callous. And so when somebody says hi can I pet your dog; No get away from me!

That’s because it’s worn on you.

I think it’s good to find places where you don’t have to worry about that. Where you can be replenished. Where you can get affirmed. You realize that blindness is a part of you. Just like it’s part of somebody being a man or a woman or black or white or Asian. It’s a part of who we are. We don’t have to see it as something negative

Really we’re living in a sighted world so it’s not our issue it’s the sighted world’s issue. And they are the ones that need help with getting it together.

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]

Can you talk a little bit more about that because a lot of people might feel like it’s the opposite because it’s like well no it’s your problem you’re the one who is blind. Why do I need to change, you’re gonna just have to deal with that.

AW:

Well that is a reality of it. I mean unfortunately we have to choose our battles so we do have to
be ready to adjust. But it’s not our fault. And we’re in a world that’s very narcissistic. People only see things and I specifically am saying the word see, people
only see things from their perspective. Sighted people only see things from their perspective and so this is not just an exercise in. Blindness versus sighted, but it’s just an exercise of us versus them or me and the other person. People really need to learn how to see things from other people’s perspective whether they be blind or deaf or wheel chair user or from another culture or from another country. I think we all have to share that responsibility but I think it’s
even more important for the dominant culture. To take some responsibility. It’s a pretty liberal perspective but I think the people in power, the people
within the dominant culture need to be able to consider how they’re going to integrate those who are in a subordinate role. Into our society. There are many many people who are very good at doing that. This is not an us against them, but there are some people that need to be informed.

so things are changing for our benefit but still there is so much more that needs to be done.

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]
Indeed! Cool! Very good Sir! And hopefully you just did a little more of that.

AW:
I’m glad you brought up this example because I really think it underscores a real issue within our society when it comes to independence and the kinds of obstacles that we
face as blind people. To the point where now it becomes and it could become an actual physical altercation and that’s not just talk about a slap in the face
I see some similar experiences as being out there all the time like when someone grabs me by the arm and decides that oh you’re going to come with me or they take my dogs harness and try to pull the dog where they think I should go. Or when I’m in a coffee shop and I finish putting some Splenda in my tea and somebody comes along and takes the packets without telling me and they put them in the trash.

I think it just begs for us to continue to make our voices heard. To let
people know that we want to be the captains of our own ship.

TR:
As for Liz, who by the way only lost her sight about 4 and a half years ago;
well she’s guiding her ship towards a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology with a minor in Neuro Psychology.

She’s also currently serving as the President of her local Lehigh Valley chapter of the advocacy organization, the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind

She continues to spread awareness through her speaking engagements at local schools and nonprofits like the Boy & girl Scouts.

Big thanks to Liz for sharing her story.
And Dr. Watson for providing some expertise.

telling these types of stories can be really impactful especially to those who aren’t aware. But at the same time I know they can be of help to others adjusting. And Not just to blindness or disability.

Those unfamiliar with disability , tend to have a hard time seeing past their own stereotypes and immediately believe the material isn’t for them.

There could be some real gems, or useful information, included in a story that is applicable to anyone going through an adjustment, but that story is framed around the subject of blindness and well it’s no longer considered applicable.

Oh that’s not for me, that’s for those blind people. And feel free to change blind people to something else, black people, Muslims, women…

But like Dr. Watson said, we all need to do a better job at seeing the perspective of others. We have to stop thinking oh that’s a blind thing, that’s a black thing.

On that note, I’d like to invite you the listener… yes, I’m talking to you specifically…
I would love for you to check out another podcast I have the chance to work on. It’s for a site called TheReImage. The idea is that our stories as people with vision loss have the power to recreate the image and the perception that others have of what it means to live with vision loss.

The approach is to tell our stories from that perspective that unites us all… humanity. Despite what many may think, we have shared experiences.. People with vision loss have families, raise children, hold down jobs, have hobbies… you get the point.

The stories are told without focusing on the blindness but rather on the person. We call that person first storytelling.

There are two episodes up now and one actually features Dr. Watson. I think many of you would like the current episode as well….

Give it a listen and give us some feedback…
Go to TheReImage.net and look for the podcast link.

If you have any feedback on this podcast, please hit me at ReidMyMindradio@gmail.com.

I’m working on some future episodes so you should really go ahead and subscribe to the show. Then you don’t have to worry about remembering. I know that really keeps you up at night!

Anyway, time for me to get back to steering my ship!

Just call me El Capitan of Reid My Mind Radio!
All aboard!
[Audio: Ship Horn]
Peace!
———-

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – The Reidwind Episode

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Sometimes it’s worth pausing to take a look at your work. Maybe a time to reflect, re-evaluate or maybe just slow down to pick some others up as you continue along the way.

Today we rewind, or rather Reidwind, and take a look back at some of the prior episodes in the past six months.

There’s lots of ways to consume this content… Sound Cloud, Apple Podcast and others, even transcript.

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
For more than 2 years I have been producing this podcast.

The last 6 months or so include episodes that exemplify some of the reasons I enjoy doing this.

Today, let’s take a quick look back.

If you’re new here it’s a great way to introduce you to some of what Reid My Mind Radio is all about.

I say some because part of the stress and the joy of doing this is it’s mine… I can do whatever the Bleep I wanna do…

Like right now… I wanna drop my intro music!

[Audio Reid My Mind Theme Music…]

TR:
This podcast is a place for me to share opinions. Like…

After attending the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind conference; where people with vision loss are the main attendees, the environment is made very accessible. Unfortunately, outside of these types of experiences, this rarely occurs.

TR: From [” Are Blind Conferences Fantasy” Posted November 2, 2016](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-are-blind-conferences-fantasy/)
I recently heard these types of tours and activities or even the conferences themselves  described  as fantasy.
The idea is that this is not and will never be the real world. The real world I guess in the minds of those who believe this is fantasy will always  exclusively
cater only to those with sight and forever exclude people with vision loss.

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

TR:
Whenever possible, I like to include my daughters in my podcast.
I just enjoy their company,
when we hang out it’s always fun …
we laugh and act silly.
We share our sense of humor so it’s going to be fun.

In early December I tried to convince them
to do their own episode of the podcast as they did a few years ago, but
this time with a special twist.
From [“Join the Coalition” Posted December 31, 2017](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-join-the-coalition/)

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

Raven:
I agree!

TReid:
…but

Raven:
Oh no…

TReid:
… you should have a guest…

Raven:
Ooooh, who is this guest?

TReid:
… me, Daddy!

{After several seconds…}

Raven
No!

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

After about 30 minutes or so I let it go…

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

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

Riana: “No!”

[Jay Z, What more can I say…]

TR:
They came around and we
closed the year with the [Rizzle Razzle episode](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-rizzle-razzle-year-end-special/)
Even though they sabotage my microphone!

*This episode did not include transcripts as it was very much dependent on the music being discussed.

TR:
Reid My Mind is more than personal …
it’s about telling people’s stories…

People adjusting to blindness like
Robert Ott who drew from his martial arts background to move forward after losing his sight to a gun shot womb.

RO:
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. Everything was racing through my mind. I’ve got pictures of me doing dive rolls over large groups of people and doing splits in the air. I used to go running a lot on the beach and hand springs and just all kinds of beautiful great stuff. I was so weak I couldn’t even do a push-up and now I’m blind. I can’t get around, my independence, my confidence, my self-esteem, my balance.

TR:
While these stories are specific to adjusting to blindness,
it’s easy to see how everyone has their own way of responding.

Maria Johnson, AKA Girl Gone Blind , decided to share her experiences and challenges on her own blog. …
She spoke very candidly of her adjustment process.
One memorable moment was some of her personal words of encouragement that led to a little creativity …

In [“Who is Girl gone Blind”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-who-is-girl-gone-blind/) I included a “song” created using Maria’s words specifically “I got this”.

TR:
I don’t like to use the often referred to idea of
overcoming blindness or disability and accomplishing goals.
I like to think of working with what you have …
making the most out of your situation and counting your blessings…
Like young Ant, the first female blind rapper
From [“Meet Young Ant, First Female Blind Rapper”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-meet-young-ant-first-female-rapper-whos-blind/)

TReid:
Young Ant in the building!

YA:
Young Ant in the building!

Treid:
Uh Oh!

So the way I look at this; Antynette is the person, Young Ant is the rapper!

YA:
[Laugh!] Yeah, that’s right!

TReid:
Alright, so first who is Antynette?

YA:
Antynette is a young lady who has been through a lot in a little bit over a year and half and is trying to find her through it with adjusting and coping
and in different techniques that I’m learning and trying to find different avenues of expressing how I’m feeling.

[Intro to “Count your Blessings” by Young Ant]

TReid:
Beautiful!
I lost my sight about 13 years ago. And so…

YA:
Really!

TReid:
Yeh so one of the things that I like to hear from people adjusting to blindness is that they don’t first start with who they are with the fact that they
are blind. You said you are a young lady!
Now, tell me who’s Young Ant?

YA:
Well Young Ant is a motivational rapper!

TR:
And then some like Doctor Dre best known for Yo MTV Raps and more, who’s adjustment process is about Fighting Back…

From[“Doctor Dre’s The Fight Back”](https://t.co/CzpxqDcUXg)

Dre:
I embrace it. And in embracing it he has put me on a path  to help other people and to reach out and express myself not  just about the type 2 Diabetes
not only about the blindness but  about when something goes on and there’s a struggle sometimes embrace your struggle to find your solutions.
It doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee for a cure or a guarantee to a perfect answer  but what it does is says you know what  I’m more than what’s going on with
me.
I can also work with this.

If you have a good relationship with your family, friends and  other people and reaching out. I learn every day from so many different people  and I pay
attention and I  try to pass on some of the knowledge of what I get  so that people can help themselves

TR:
It’s more than the adjustment experience.

We heard from
Robert Lewis sharing his story of
growing up in a segregated school for blind students.

From [“At The Intersection of Black & Blind”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-at-the-intersection-of-black-and-blind/)

RL:
We went to one restaurant and the lady said you got to eat as fast as you can so we can get you out of here before the owner comes  back because if he
saw we had Black people here he would fire me!

TR:
In North Carolina, it was more than getting a meal.

RL:
Guys jumped out of the car and came over and they were going to beat us
all up.
We had no idea … What is this all about? Is it because we are blind; no, it’s  because you’re black and you’re blind!

TR:
Naru Kwinah and Leroy Moore, the two gentlemen producing the
documentary of the life of Joe Capers. Played a big role in artists like EnVogue, Tony Tony Tony and MC Hammer

From [“Who is Joe Capers”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-who-is-joe-capers/)

Naru:
Listen brother! His studio was called “J-Jams Studio: Joe did everything.  He had his mix board in Braille. He recorded, he engineered he mixed, he produced.
He did everything that you could every possibly do in the studio. And he had the greatest ear I have ever been around and I’ve  been doing music over 40
years of my life. If you had one note or one little thing off he knew and he would call you on it. You know because he was blind you thought you’d  get
away with stuff.

TR:
In that same episode we learn about Krip Hop from founder Leroy moore.

LM:

This year is our 10th Anniversary and we have loose chapters…

TR:
These include countries within Africa, the UK, Germany and Spain.

[Audio: “Tales of the Krip-Hop”, Rob da Noize Temple]

With the network formed by Leroy and co-founder Keith Jones, the two being disabled activists, the focus continues to be on education and advocacy.

LM:
So we saw Krip-Hop as a way to bring awareness around the history of disabled musicians from the Blues to Hip-Hop and really educate and to push the Hip-Hop
arena  around Ableism thinking around disability and to really say that disabled musicians have been here since the Blues.

TR:
That’s just a taste of some of what has appeared here on
Reid My Mind Radio over the past few months.

Subscribe now to make sure you are riding along during
the months to come.

You can subscribe via Apple Podcast or where ever you like to get your podcast content. That includes Stitcher and Tune In Radio.

Go check that out now, there’s lots of good stuff.

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I’m Thomas Reid
[Audio: Young Ant “Don’t get it wrong, I’m in my zone”]

[Audio: Reid My Mind theme music outro]
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Reid My Mind Radio – Who is Joe Capers

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
A picture of Joe Capers, an African American man seated on a couch staring into the camera with sunglasses!

Joe Capers

En Vogue, Tony Tony Tone and more musical artists from Oakland could help answer this question. In this  episode we meet two gentlemen creating a documentary that will help others do the same.

The second part of today’s podcast explores Hip Hop from two angles you may have not known existed.
* Krip Hop Nation, an international network for artists with disabilities.
* Hip Learning,  using the rap element of Hip Hop to help children learn science and more!

So stop what you’re doing
Prepare to hear the words they say
The only way to do it…
Press on the button that says Play!

… Oh snap, #Bars son!


Subscribe & Follow


Resources

  1. Alternative Minds
  2. Krip Hop Nation
  3. The Best of Krip-Hop Nation on CD Baby

4. Hip Learning

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good family!
Happy Black History Month to everyone…
even if you don’t feel that’s something you celebrate or even really acknowledge.
The simple truth, if you are on this planet,
chances are great that you have been impacted by African American people. There’s so much from the world of invention, science and culture. An unfortunately, that’s not discussed during the other 11 months of the year.

Today’s episode includes a recent piece for Gatewave Radio that shows how sometimes people are like pieces in a puzzle. If one piece is missing, that full puzzle can never be complete.

Following the Gatewave piece you will hear more from two brothers who in their own way are expanding Black history. And ,  making sure we know, that includes people with disabilities.

Are You ready?
[Audio: “I know you’re gonna dig this!”]
[RMMRadio Intro]

[Audio Mix: “En Vogue, Tony Tony Tone, Digital Underground and MC Hammer!]
TR:
Today, the question, Who is Joe Capers?

In the 1980’s and 90’s  artist’s like , En Vogue,
Tony Tony Tony,
Digital Underground,
MC Hammer
all had a few things in common.
They all were based in Oakland,
each made their way to the top of the charts
and Joe Capers.

In order to find out who is Joe Capers,
I spoke with two gentlemen from California’s Bay Area.
First up, Leroy Moore, originally from the east coast, raised in Connecticut and New York City.

LM:
I’m an activist, journalist and author. I also started what’s called Krip-Hop Nation with a K. It’s an international network of musicians with disabilities. My disability is Cerebral Palsy. I had it since birth.

I found out about Joe Capers when I was doing radio. KpFA out here  in Berkley. They had a radio show about people with disabilities. Joe Capers was blind African American man here in Oakland in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. He had one of the first accessible home studios at that time.
TR:
That’s a full recording studio in the basement of his home. All sorts of Oakland artists from MC Hammer to En Vogue and others you may have never heard of recorded at Joe’s studio

Leroy learned of another person who could help further answer the question… who is joe capers?

Naru:
I got a call from Leroy one day, he said “Naru you knew Joe Capers?” I was like yeah Joe?

TR:
Meet Naru Kwina , an Oakland California  based artist and teacher. .

Naru:
Joe was just the coolest guy with the biggest smile.
Joe played the base, the drums the keyboards so he was a master musician.

TR in conversation with Naru:
Was Joe doing more of the production? Was he just kind of the studio owner? What was he actually doing?
***

Naru:
Listen brother! His studio was called “J-Jams Studio: Joe did everything.  He had his mix board in Braille. He recorded, he engineered he mixed, he produced. He did everything that you could every possibly do in the studio. And he had the greatest ear I have ever been around and I’ve  been doing music over 40 years of my life. If you had one note or one little thing off he knew and he would call you on it. You know because he was blind you thought you’d  get away with stuff.

TR:
Joe was a professional and  demanded that those  in his studio acted the same. Naru, who is also a rapper, and went by the name Quick back then, recalls the time when Joe instructed him to memorize his lyrics and not use written notes in the recording booth.

Naru:
I’m in the booth one day and I had my little paper… like nah he ain’t gonna know… [laughs] he was like bruh, I could hear the paper rattling in the booth. And he sent me home. He sent me home and told me not to come back until I knew my lyrics.

So he was really dedicated to the music and that dedication is still with me and when I started having my own studio and production I always said nope don’t come in here with no paper, learn your lyrics.
[Laughs] So I got that from Joe!

TR:
Learning more about Joe, Leroy was surprised others didn’t know him.

LM:
Oh my god, this man needs to be recognized in Oakland because he really changed the Oakland sound of Hip-Hop and Soul.

TR:
During that conversation between Naru and Leroy the idea was sparked.

Naru:
When I said you know somebody outta do a film about Joe, he [Leroy] said why don’t you do it. I said man, I’m not a film maker man… he said but  yeah you know people. Reluctantly, I took that upon myself.

TR:
there’s lots involved in the process.

Naru:
I just contacted people who had cameras, mics and I had to contact all the artists. I literally probably have  6 or 7 hours of interviews. Everybody from MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Dwayne Wiggins from Tony tony Tone and other people who just knew Joe on a personal level or recorded with Joe… who were closer with Joe. Some of the more interesting interviews are from people you would never heard about who Joe touched in a particular  way. I could just say that he’s still here with us because all the people he touched and how many people still  think about Joe.

TR:
What began as a 15 minute documentary about the career of Joe Capers has morphed into much more. Running his own studio known as J-Jams wasn’t solely a business venture. This was back in the error when recording music professionally required significant investment.
Large studios charged hundreds of dollars an hour for studio time.

Naru:
Joe was changing like between $20 or $25 an hour r. The quality of sound was on par with anything coming out of these big studios. Joe knew the music that we were doing.  He understood it better than some of the engineers who were  in these big studios who were used to . doing rock music or folk and country. Joe  understood the R&B  and the Hip-Hop… the need for that bottom.

TR:
While the music might be about that base, for Joe it included the chance to offer help and encouragement.

Naru:
He was also a teacher. He would take young kids off the street from time to time. Some people were actually living with him. He would teach young kids  to engineer. Pretty much gave at least  two people I know roofs over their heads until they got their act together. They might have been out doing some street business and he didn’t really want that.  So he was trying to teach people another way to make money and be successful.

LM:
Joe Capers taught newly blind people independent living skills.

TR:
Making a documentary takes a lot of patience and research. It also takes creativity. Not only in the traditional sense as in the filming and writing, but also in the approach to resolving real  challenges that inevitably arise.

In order to make up for a lack of video footage of Joe and artists in the recording studio, original animation is being incorporated into the film.

And I am pleased to report that plans are included for audio description, making the film more accessible to those with vision loss.
When complete the film will be distributed by way of local public television, online, film festivals and live screenings.
Events developed around the release of the film will include a live concert focusing on emerging artists including those with disabilities. The concert will be an annual event taking place in August. in Oakland, this now has significant meaning.

Naru:
I wouldn’t say we, I helped but Leroy was the most instrumental…

LM:
Every August is now Joe Capers month in Oakland. That’s the first  Black Disabled man that’s been recognized  by the city of Oakland.

TR:
Here’s how you can help contribute to the success of this film

Naru:***
I’m working on some more funding  right now that’s why  it’s slow going. Everything’s been like a labor of love  out of my pocket. And Leroy put some money in as well.

I have a nonprofit, it’s called Alternative Minds Foundation and so all our stuff is going through there with this film. It’s a 501-3C so everything is a tax write off for people who want to do that.

LM:
www.alternative-minds.com

Naru:
And just later on just telling people about it when it comes out. That’s probably the best way you could help spread the word.

TR:
It sounds like these two are the right   choice for telling Joe’s story.
Leroy, through his work with Krip Hop nation, an international network of musical artists including
rappers, dj’s, producers, dancers, spoken word artists and others, all with disability; have already presented an award in recognition of Joe’s contributions. This award was presented to his family in Georgia.

Naru who had a personal relationship with Joe, while not as familiar with blindness, did gain what some may see as a simple lesson, but in fact is one that advocates have spent a life time trying to convey.

Naru:
My understanding about a person who was blind  is very limited and probably very skewed. Being around Joe was very refreshing. He was just a regular person, did regular things. Loved to joke and laugh, play tricks on you  and all of that stuff. He was just like we say, a regular Oakland Cat!
[Laughter fades out]

TR:
This is Thomas Reid,

LM:
Oh my God, this man needs to be recognized.

for Gatewave Radio.
Audio for independent living!

[Audio: Taken from Rap Battle on MTV
“There’s no charity in a rap battle!”, Sway]

TR:
The first time I thought about Hip Hop and disability was just prior to me losing my sight.  It was the fall of 2003, I believe it was MTV2 who was airing a rap battle. One of the contestants included young rapper by the name of Blind Fury.  I remember thinking his opponent was corny. He got stuck on the blind and disregarded the fury.

Blind Fury by my account was indeed better and should have won that battle.  He was more lyrical,
had a method for finding out visual details about his opponents and  he had multiple flows.  I realized the perception of Blind Fury’s talent was based on his disability.

Why would blindness limit the ability to rap? It’s vocal, what’s the big deal.
Yes, battle rap might require the ability to quickly gain information about your opponent, but Blind Fury was making that happen too.

Eventually Blind Fury took his place in history with his success on  BET’s 106 and Park’s Friday Freestyle.

[Audio: From Wild Style… “South Bronx Subway Rap”, Grandmaster Caz ]

The truth is people with disabilities have been involved with hip hop since its origins.

Leroy prior to his interest in rap was into rock and heavy metal.

LM:
Ozzie Osbourne, Metallica, ZZ Top…
***

TR:
He was then introduced to Rapper’s Delight, from the Sugar hill Gang.

[Audio: rapper’s Delight, Sugar Hill Gang]

LM:
Back then you bought the record and tried to learn all the lyrics.

This is gonna be cool!

At that time I had a walker . So picture me  with my walker going to the subway to the Bronx. Here I am this skinny guy with a walker and everybody around me has muscles,  break dancing and all that stuff.
I was just a writer back then . I dabbled in poetry.  I always told myself that I want to get in the cypher
TR:
If you’re not familiar  with the ciphers,  rappers would get together to rhyme  with one another. A time to test your newly written verse or maybe freestyle. Picture a circle of rappers passing the imaginary microphone to one another. It’s a meticulous process. You wait your turn. And you better be ready because you are going to get instant feedback on your 16 bars, or your verse. This is the place where you truly hone your skills.
While the ciphers were often about seeing who had the better skills, these
groups of mainly African American and Latino young men attracted the attention of the police.
Becoming more familiar with Leroy’s presence, he was soon declared “The  Watch Man”.

LM:
Because you’re disabled  you can watch out for the cops. The cops won’t do nothing to you . When the cops came  I used to yell you know, “po po”  and they used to scatter.  They’d just leave me there with my walker  and the cops used to get so pissed off.

TR:
Leroy played his position . He listened to more and more music.

LM:
When Run-DMC came out and did “Walk this Way”  and mixed rock with rap I was like alright this is it!

TR:
[Audio: It’s Like That, Run-DMC]

Right before I was scheduled to speak with Leroy, I read an interview he did with Daryl McDaniel’s better known as DMC of Run-DMC fame.

Now, when I heard [It’s Like That] as a young teenager, I lost my  [Censored Beep] mind!

TR in conversation with Leroy:
What was that like meeting DMC?

LM:
Oh my God, you know, I told him I grew up with you… he’s like no no we grew  up together!
For me it’s one of the highlights of my journalism career.

I saw that DMC had a book out about his depression. I also knew that back in I think the late 80’s he had a voice disability. I was like ok, DMC needs to know about Krip-Hop.

TR:
And more people need to know about Krip Hop.

In general, people are uncomfortable with disability. They don’t understand what to say to a person, how to act, maybe there’s some fear of even thinking about disability…
You know what I’m talking about because chances are you experienced it from at least one side or both.

Leroy never did participate in any of those early Bronx ciphers, but Hip Hop did get into him.

One important aspect of art and culture, is seeing yourself represented on the screen, on the canvas or stage and in the music.

As a black disabled man, that doesn’t happen that often.

LM:
My father had a huge Blues record collection and of course as we know Blues artists were blind… like Blind Willie Johnson.
[Audio: “It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, Blind Willie Johnson]

My father liked Robert Winters. Robert Winters had Polio  and walked with crutches…
[Audio: “Magic Man”, Robert Winters]

Wow,  there’s disabled Black  men that do music!

I think it played a really big part of where I am today with Krip-Hop.

This year is our 10th Anniversary and we have loose chapters…

TR:
These include countries within Africa, the UK, Germany and Spain.

[Audio: “Tales of the Krip-Hop”, Rob da Noize Temple]

With the network formed by Leroy and co-founder Keith Jones, the two being disabled activists, the focus continues to be on education and advocacy.

LM:
So we saw Krip-Hop as a way to bring awareness around the history of disabled musicians from the Blues to Hip-Hop and really educate and to push the Hip-Hop arena  around Ableism thinking around disability and to really say that disabled musicians have been here since the Blues.

TR:
Krip Hop Nation produces live events featuring all sorts of artists with disabilities including; dj’s, emcee’s, spoken word artist, dancers and more.
They have put out 4 CD’s including their latest.

LM:
Our 10th Anniversary CD just came out on CDBaby.com. It has Wonder Mike  from the Sugar Hill Gang, DMC from Run-DMC.

TR:
Two names you are probably familiar with, but some might be new…like;

George Tragic
[Audio: “Industry Epidemic”, George Tragic]

Wheelchair Sports Camp

[Audio: “Hard out Here for a Gimp”, Wheelchair Sports Camp]

Toni Hickman
[Audio: “Cripple Pretty”, Toni Hickman]

Rap music and hip hop culture ironically was birthed to some degree from
exclusion and isolation.
Young kids from the South Bronx who  didn’t have access to much
including instruments so turn tables and beat boxing became its  replacements.
Barred from the downtown discos and night clubs; the community centers and parks became their place to party.

[Audio: “This Can’t Be Life”, Prinz D]

Hip Hop is a culture that created an outlet for expression.
It’s common themes consist of stories about overcoming adversity,
rebelling against  oppression, yet the disability experience goes mainly unheard.

Obviously this isn’t exclusive to rap ,
but this music with its infectious beats and rhymes is perfectly suited for Communicating all types of information with
the intention of educating.
Whether changing commonly held beliefs or getting young students to recall all types of information.

[Audio: “Hip Science”, Naru Kwina]

That’s where Naru saw a way to use his love for hip hop and combine it with his love of teaching.

While working as an assistant teacher he had the challenge of trying to teach science to kindergartners.

Naru:
The kids were like “uh!”

At recess I heard them all outside, they were singing this song off the radio; the lyrics were horrible. [Laughs…]
But, man, they knew the whole song….
And a lightbulb went off like huh!…
If I could turn these lessons into music like that and get these kids excited I wonder if they would learn these lessons like they learned that song?

So I did a series of songs  about the body and gave them to my students, the CD’s to the parents  to take home and listen to and then we did some in class. I mean they caught it so fast, it was amazing.

And so I was just using it in class and people kept telling me you need to market  this… you need to do this you need to do  that…
I ended up applying for my first grant. It’s a grant called  the Creative Work Fund. It was a partnership with this organization called the African Scientific  Institute out here in Oakland. We got the grant. $35,000 grant. I was able to produce a play, the CD and pay a lot of people in my community as well to perform  and got other artist involved to  record with me. That’s about 10 years ago. I’m still doing it to this day. Outperforming , online sales. It became half of my career. I’m still an after school teacher but I do a lot of Hip Science. I enjoy it!

TR in conversation with Naru:
What was that reaction like from the other teachers? Were they cool with this or did you get any negative feedback from them?

Naru:
They were amazed. First of all I don’t think any of them knew I rapped. I don’t know why but I kind of kept that part of my life separate  from working with the children and never realized that was one of my strengths.
I should have been using it all along.
I never even thought it would be anything like that. I just wanted my kids to learn.

TR:
And it wasn’t just his kids that were learning.
Shortly after releasing the CD series he received a call from a company interested in the product.
Naru:
This company, it’s called Overbrook Entertainment and they wanted to buy [laughter] my whole business. I’m like what? I’m not selling my business. And it turns out that was Will Smith’s company. He was in town  in San Francisco  shooting the Pursuit of Happiness  and I don’t know how  he got my CD’s  but his kids were listening  to it. I never finished the negotiations because  they were talking about they wanted to have all the marketing … I wasn’t looking to sell. It was like  this  is my baby right here!

I was like wow, I know I’m doing something now if their trying to buy  my company man! [Laughs fade away…]

***

TR:
Doing something now, well that sounds like Naru’s default mode…
He creates music with his daughter who herself is a singer and rapper at the Oakland School for the Arts.

Naru:
Matter of fact, the first song she ever wrote with me  she was 3. It was called love is the thing It’s featured on Rosie O’Donnell Family is a Family documentary. We did a video for it and everything. It was real cool!

TR:
Over several summers, the two have written a book that’s now complete and he and his daughter are creating an accompanying soundtrack.

Naru:
It’s called Panela’s Journey. It’s a very fanciful tale of a young girl who’s struggling with her identity  in the world and  her place in the world and wondering why the world is the way it is. She seeks refuge in a fanciful place.
That  one should be coming out soon as well. We’re gonna have some augmented reality, apps that go along  with the book.

TR:
Continuing to put out his own music, his latest project should be out soon.

Naru:
Naru and Strong Soul and we are The Living Room Legends!

TR:
I have some links on the blog… Reid my mind .com if you want to check out more on both Leroy and Naru.

Salute to both of these brothers for the good work their doing, truly expanding the culture.

I don’t know about you but I feel like I have to start producing some    more content!

n that note, make sure you subscribe to this podcast.
Go to your podcast app of choice and search for Reid My Mind Radio… that’s R E I D.
You can also follow me on Sound Cloud soundcloud.com/t-Reid.

[Audio: RMMRadio Theme]
Thanks for listening.

Peace!

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Reid My Mind Radio – Who is Girl Gone Blind

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

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

Picture of Maria Johnson

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

 

Resources:

 

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

 

Transcript

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

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

Check this out!

[RMMRadio Intro]

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

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

 

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

Her story begins in April 2013.

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

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

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

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

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

MJ:
Ok, Now what?

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

MJ:
Yeah, I know right!

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Soft sad piano music]

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

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

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

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

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

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

MJ:
It is, it is, it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TReid:
Girl Gone Blind has lead Maria to other outlets

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

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Sounds like a great plan

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

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Yes! Yeah!

MJ:
Giggles… Goals, Blind goals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on Maria?

MJ:

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

TReid:
I’m Thomas Reid

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

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

TReid:
audio for independent living!

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

Reid My Mind Radio – Are Blind Conferences Fantasy

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

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

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

Unicorn with Sunglasses

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

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Transcript:

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

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

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

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

Even today some things really stand out from the experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of these surveys are as recent as August 2016.

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

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

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

Successfully living lives shouldn’t be considered amazing.

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

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