Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

The Art of Access with Cheryl Green

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

The camera catches Cheryl & Cynthia from a jaunty angle. Cynthia holds a beautiful plaque for Superfest Disability Justice Award for New Day Films’ Who Am I To Stop It. The plaque has text, Braille, and raised lettering. Cynthia smiles at Cheryl as she burst into excited laughter at the passer-by who shouted “Superfest, whoo!” she holds a bouquet of sunflowers by her face.

Meet Cheryl Green, a filmmaker focusing on disability identity and culture and making media accessible.

She began making films after acquiring disabilities from brain injury. Her media combine personal narrative and activism to create
dynamic tools that critically challenge misconceptions and stereotypes of disability, celebrate pride in disability experiences, and amplify marginalized
voices. Cheryl works to create a platform for people to use the arts to increase connectedness and to promote dialogue and change within the larger community.

Hear why Cheryl views Captions and Audio Description as an artistic part of the film/media and a means of achieving disability justice and equity.

Her latest film Who Am I To Stop it is a documentary on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury.

She’s a fellow Association of Independence in Radio New Voice Scholar… hit play below and hear how that worked out for yours truly!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Audio: “Fellow Americans, it’s with the utmost pride and sincerity that I present this recording …” PSA, Jay Z (Just Blaze)
— Beat rides underneath…

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.

Audio: “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is…” PSA, Jay Z

TR:

T.R E I D, Moving podcasts by the GB!

. I’m your host and producer of this podcast.
Bringing you stories and profiles of compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss and disability. Plus, I occasionally explore my own experience around becoming blind as an adult. I try to present that in my own way blending my words with audio and sound design.

Before we get into it, you know movin’

Audio: “Moving’ doin’ it you know” Sex machine, James Brown

I want to send a shout out to those of you who subscribe to the podcast. I truly appreciate you. That simple act of hitting that subscribe button especially if you subscribe via Apple Podcast, increases the chances for others to discover the show.

Audio: Music stops…

I don’t know why, that’s just what they do!..

Music re-starts…

One of my main goals of producing this show is to hopefully reach those who are new to the experience of blindness, low vision, vision loss I think the people across the Atlantic refer to it as sight loss. Maybe you are recently experiencing some form of disability. I think there’s something for you here.

It’s a shift in attitude that is not based on changing just to change but it’s based on experience. Experience from people who have been where you are right now and worked their way through it. People who accepted what they were given, people who didn’t feel the need to overcome but rather embrace and continue.

Hmmm!

If you are new to disability let me send you a very warm welcome. A virtual hug going out to you. I’m referring to anyone impacted by disability. Whether you are Blind or Low Vision or maybe you are the spouse, parent or child or even the friend of… we got something for you right chere. And yes, I said right chere!

So with all of that said, I hope you are ready because I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine who brings a different perspective to how we view accessible media content.

I just hyped myself up and I hope you can feel it too!

Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

# Cheryl Intro

My name is Cheryl Green. I am an independent documentary producer and audio producer.

TR:

She’s also a strong advocate and maker of accessible media content including subtitles, captions and audio description.

As an independent film maker, we see that’s just one of the unique perspectives she brings to her work.

# On Disability

[TR in conversation with CG:]
What is your relationship with disability?

CG:

I like that question. It’s so much nice and more nuanced then what’s your disability and what’s your diagnosis because disability experience is so much more than medical diagnosis.

One of my relationships to disability is political. I’m always looking at cultural and political things from a disability rights and disability justice platform. Another relationship is that almost all of my friends and significant people in my life are disabled people. And then because I like things in three’s; my relationship to disability is that I have multiple invisible disabilities, but I’m not sure that invisible makes sense as a term. Non-apparent or easy to hide. Some of them are acquired and some are stuff that I was born with that has shown up later in life from kind of living as a knucklehead and now it’s coming up. Laughs.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

Oh boy there’s a lot of stories right there. In that one statement, living as a knucklehead. Oh boy!

CG:

Laughing…

But it’s funny because that’s the one that I was born with. It’s a connective tissue disorder and for me it’s very mild , but I have dislocations and I have chronic pain chronic tendonitis, ligaments that are over stretched. I was born with it. The knucklehead part is that I over did it as an athlete through most of my life. So just chronic injuries and stuff but it’s nothing as fun and exciting as you know…what did she do?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

# Captioning

## TR:

Cheryl also experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury that she says is indirectly related to the complications of the connective tissue disorder.

Our conversation however, focused on accessible media content. Beginning first with captioning.

Now I know most of you listening are way smarter than me but I needed a clarification between sub titles and captions.

CG:

Subtitles are just a typed out version of what people are saying. It’s just words on the screen as the words are being spoken. Captions also provide descriptions of the sounds music, whether there’s traffic going by, dogs barking. When possible you can add in a description like whispering or tense voice . There’s all sorts of descriptors you can add in there.
They should identify who’s speaking and when the speaker switches.

The thing about subtitles is that they actually assume that it’s only hearing audiences watching a film that has subtitles because there’s no indication when the speakers change. And if you’re looking at a sunrise and two people are off screen talking and you just see sentence after sentence after sentence there’s actually no way to know who’s talking and when the speaker’s switching. And to me I don’t see how you can follow what’s happening if you don’t know when the different people are talking.

TR:

Maybe you can’t tell yet, but this subject has a special place in her heart. It’s not just about words on the screen.

CG:

I love captioning more than anything else that I do. One thing that I love about captioning is that it is so precise, detailed, tedious and repetitive. That just works for me.

I look at captioning as part of the art. I do not think of it as a piece of accessibility that you have to add or want to add at the end. To me it’s artistic. Translating things. I can’t literally caption every single sound that is in a piece of art. That doesn’t make sense it’s not even possible. So I have to make creative decisions based on what I think it most important from the creator’s perspective and what I think audiences will want to get from something. I don’t want to be like “Speaks slowly, whispers quietly, birds chirp” I want it to be rich and lush especially when the film or the show is rich and lush. I feel like it’s my duty to make the captions as interesting and beautiful and artistic as the film is.

For me captioning is something that I can do in a move towards justice and equity. It is access to information. Whether that’s the news or pure entertainment or something that’s informational or somethings that’s on a social issue. it’s about equity. It’s not just about meeting compliance. I love doing it and I love what it can bring to people and how it can include more people in media and in conversations.

# Audio Description

TR:
Captioning eventually led Cheryl to find an additional way to make media more inclusive and engaging.

CG:

Through one more piece of access that’s very artistic , very subjective and hopefully integrate it into the art itself.

TR:

Maybe that’s not the way you’re used to thinking about or even hearing Audio Description discussed. . but that’s what she’s talking about.

Cheryl recalls first thinking about AD after providing captions for a client and then reading their Facebook post which read;
CG:
“Hey my video has captions now it’s accessible to everyone!”

## TR:

This just wasn’t true!

CG:

You have to be able to read quite well and quite quickly to follow captions. No, captions are not accessible to all people because not everybody can read in whatever given language there in but also I looked at that and thought well these captions are just visible on screen and if you’re not
looking at the captions there not there.

TR:

There’s all sorts of benefits gained from captioning and Audio description. And not just for the consumer.

CG:

I think it takes a lot to acknowledge you know what, I made a great film here but I recognize that not everybody can access it because of the way I made it.

There’s a big piece of acknowledging this film is not complete until more people can come in.

From a capitalistic sense if you have great content and you want an audience why not make your content available to a bigger audience. It just makes sense.

But I hate capitalism so I do also value more of a disability justice and social justice and equity lens to say people need to be participating in civic engagement, arts, culture, entertainment and all of it. And What can I do to make that more accessible and available to more people.

# Film

TR:

She’s answering that question from multiple points of view. That’s a Caption & Audio Description provider and as a film maker.

Following the brain injury which impacted her ability to cook as well as organize she did what anyone would do;

CG:

I made a comedy film about it and it took off.

Audio: “Cooking with Brain Injury”

TR:
Okay, maybe that’s not what everyone does.

That first film was called “Cooking with Brain Injury”

A short film looking at daily struggles of life after traumatic brain injury with dark, honest humor.

CG:

I sold many copies of it. I’ve taken it to state and national speech therapy conferences. I’ve done Continuing Ed. trainings around it and it was totally impairment based. It was a window into my world.

TR:

After other films around brain injury, she decided it was time to close that window.

Audio: window closing

CG:

I realized I need to get out of the spotlight and get behind the camera and do more. Over the years my films have become much less about impairment and much more about disability experience, marginalization, self-empowerment, autonomy and decision making. I do a lot of cross disability work now. It was all brain injuries in the beginning but that didn’t hold my attention because it can be so impairment focused.

TR:

Cheryl’s first film didn’t start out with Captions or Audio Description.

CG:

I didn’t know about access at all when I started, but as soon as I found out I could copy down the spoken words and put them up on the screen; it didn’t look good , but those words were on the screen. And I loved it!
Then I got educated about Captioning software

TR:
She became quite serious about the craft.

CG:

I read up on the FCC guidelines. I love it when the FCC issues new guidelines new recommendations. I’m there with those white papers reading them to make things the best that I can.

I have seen some people criticize the FCC guidelines for example saying, “I don’t care what the guidelines are I want to know what Deaf people want.”

Number one, Captions are not just for Deaf people. There’s a lot of different kind of people who want and need Captions.

Number two, there were Caption users on the committee that wrote the FCC guidelines.

They’re really good guidelines . They make for beautiful Captions They included actual consumers actual Caption users in their creation and that’s another reason I really value them.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

You really are a Caption nerd! Laughs…

CG:

Laughs… I’m such a nerd!

TR:

Deep passion for a given subject. That’s what separates the nerds from the rest.

In this case, the passion is all about inclusion, social justice and equity.

CG:

I have a lot of clients a lot of filmmakers who come to me for captioning and they have a lot of complaints about the way captions look. Or they make requests that I find unreasonable. They’re unreasonable because they are centering that hearing filmmaker who doesn’t actually know what Captions are or can’t really articulate what Captions are for. And I say, your aesthetics around Captions are not what I’m working with. I am working to serve Caption users and I have very explicit reasons why I make the choices that I make. I’ll negotiate with you. I’ll talk with you on the phone but you have to understand that Caption users come firsthand I’m not interested in your aesthetic choices around the Captions.

If you want access you would make captions the most accessible that I know how to make. I get into fights with people all of the time and it’s so much fun!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs!

TR:

Don’t worry, know one’s out here recklessly out starting fights. This is all about advocating for the user.

CG:

IF content creators always included Caption users and Audio Description users in their minds and their target audience then it wouldn’t be a thing. But it’s specifically because people whether it’s willfully or they just have somehow remained oblivious through their careers, they don’t even consider people who would benefit from the access as part of their target audience. That’s why I harp on it . I would love to get to a place where it’s just we have to do color correction, we have to do sound sweetening, we have to trim off 35 seconds on this, we have to add the Audio Description. Boom, boom,boom boomboom!

When it’s just part of the practice, yeh, I won’t have to be so political and I won’t enjoy fighting with people. But until we’re at that day for whatever reason I enjoy being super fired up and political about it.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

The order in which you laid that out where you said ok, they have to do some color correction, do this and let’s add Audio Description. I want that thought about in the writing because to me the end result would be better. I still think that when it comes to things like Audio Description and Captions, there’s a charity model that starts off the process.. Let’s do this because you know (the following said mockingly) it’s a good thing to do for the people. Let’s give this to them so they can be happy.

If they thought about it has what you said which is it’s going to make our film better Not just because more people are seeing it but it actually may do something better to the film Meaning, if you think about Audio Description at the time of writing it at the time of producing that film chances are you’re going to think of something that’s going to enhance it.

CG:

Oh, hundred percent! Oh my gosh, I just got interviewed yesterday they were like what’s the one take home message that you 3want filmmakers to have.

I say, you put access in your budget in the pre-production phase. You put it in your budget so there’s no “oh we didn’t know”. And then you always consider it. You don’t just get the supplementary footage or the daily footage.

There’s kind of this idea that you find something beautiful you hold the camera on it for at least 10 seconds, get a good shot. You know what? Do it for 40 seconds because then when we’re editing there’s the opportunity to say let’s stretch out this shot a little more because then we can put the Audio Description in.

I am totally with you that if you are considering this stuff from the beginning you’re going to film it differently. You’re going to edit it differently. It is going to be better.

TR:

This is coming from an experienced film maker.

CG:

When I filmed my documentary and I was still new to this, I told my Director of Photography, “Don’t ever do extreme close ups. Ever” I don’t want any extreme close ups. Even with the mouth off to the side because we are going to have captions in every version of this film ever shown. I told the Editor, “I need you to put in spots, stretched out spots where Audio Description can come in.”

Now unfortunately I wasn’t trained in Audio Description back then, and so we didn’t nail that as well. We didn’t have enough stretched out spaces and the Audio Description isn’t as lush as it could be.

We did some re-editing and we added in more space. I re-wrote the script, the original Audio Description script, hired other voices to do it. As you watch my film progress over time the same film different versions Audio Description becomes more lush, more engaging more honest because now I understand Audio Description a little better. So there were things that were a little vague in the description.

TR:

For many such re-writes would feel like a chore.

Like her latest production, “Who AM I to Stop it”, a documentary film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury, was selected for Superfest International Disability Film Festival.

The longest running disability film festival in the world – co-hosted by San Francisco’s Lighthouse and the
Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State.

Superfest is one of the few festivals worldwide that is accessible to disabled filmgoers of all kinds.  
CG:

I got an email from the director, hey we love your film it got in, it got an award, but we had to stop during the screening a few times because our Blind jurors felt left out by a joke in the film. It wasn’t described well enough. She said I’m sorry I don’t mean to be negative but are you at all available to re-record.

TR:

I suppose it’s viewing this process as art that produces Cheryl’s response.

CG:

Negative, this is the biggest gift in the world are you kidding me let’s go.

I rewrote several parts but I specifically rewrote the part that people felt left out by. My Blind Audio description teacher helped point out some spots where she still felt a little bit excluded or maybe even confused about what was happening. It’s just more descriptive. That’s how art should be. As you learn and develop your skills it gets more wonderful.

Audio: Basic Able

TR:

Wonderful, like the time she described an improvised dance segment for a video podcast. It featured Antoine Hunter

CG:

He is a really phenomenal person. He’s a dancer, choreographer and healing artist. He teaches dance. He’s marvelous. He’s Deaf and he’s the Artistic Director I think, of the Real Urban Jazz dance Company.

I’ve never done dance before. It was so fun and it was so exciting to try and get the dance moves and match them. And because he’s Deaf he incorporates some sign into the way he dances.

I’m not fluent at all, but I’m familiar with Sign language and I’m familiar with the role that facial expression plays in the grammar and expression of Sign language. So I was able to make references to his hand gestures as being Sign and references to his facial expressions.

I think I said his facial expressions mirror the expansiveness of his bodies motion.

Audio: from podcast if available…

TR:

Hopefully, by now, you too should at least start to see the art. It’s the familiarity with the culture that enables Cheryl to recognize such detail.

CG:

Everything that I do has something about disability or Deaf culture in it. I engage with it seven days a week. Whether I’m making something or reading or watching something. I try to immerse myself in the cultural aspects of Deafness and Disability. That brings a more lush Audio Description

TR:

That level of detail and equity goes as far as seeking input from those being described.

CG:

I sent Antoine the script because it wasn’t going to be in the captions for him to read. He really liked it and he corrected one part that he didn’t like. It didn’t feel fair to him and he gave me words that not only feel more fair to him, but were more beautiful than the words I had chosen. It was so collaborative and so beautiful.

When I’m describing what somebody’s body looks like or how it moves I send them my script. I ask them what they think about how I wrote it. or I tell them I’m going to audio describe this please tell me how you want time to describe what you look like. Sometimes people will send me a description that’s actually not very visual.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Like what?

CG:

Like when I say how do you want me to describe how you’re moving? And the response is a man with Cerebral Palsy. That doesn’t give me a sense of how you move, but I asked and you answered. And I respect your answer. But it is tricky because the point of audio description is to give people a flavor of the visuals and man with Cerebral Palsy that’s not very visual is it?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
No, not at all.

CG:

If it’s your content and I’m describing you and that’s all you give me ok, that’s what I’ll use.

When it’s my content I’ll use their words as the starting point and expand to make it more descriptive and more visual oriented.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

Give me an idea of the types of things that you would include in a description of someone.

CG:

I try to always describe something that relates to race or ethnicity. If I know how the person identifies then I can use those terms. If I don’t then I might be more descriptive. for instance, I describe myself as a white woman, which is kind of descriptive but not really because my skin tone is darker than any of my white friends. I’m the darkest person I know in my circle of white friends so it’s not super descriptive to say that I’m white. But it wouldn’t be useful to say I’m a brown woman because I’m white. I just have kind of light brown skin. If I don’t know their ethnicity I might say someone with a dark skin tone, someone with a fair skin tone. Sometimes I’ll defer to hair. A woman with bright red hair.. She’s probably white if she has bright red hair. now not necessarily of course.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

(Laughs…) Now-a-days!

CG:
There are different reasons why someone would have red hair regardless of their ethnicity.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

What would make you choose their hair and what would make you include that in the description. I wonder why would they say that? Why did they now tell me that this person is a Black person or whatever. And I’m like hmm, let me see if this is going to be really necessary to the story line.
CG:

Yeh!
[TR in conversation with CG:]

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. And it leaves me wondering why they made that choice and why they didn’t describe the white person.

CG:

Ok, get ready!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Yeh, ok! (Laughs.)

CG:

Oh my! I cannot tell you how with you I am. I’m going to describe something if it feels relevant to the story or for political reasons.

Just end my career now if I ever put something out there where I say the black person and the person meaning white. I don’t know if I would ever recover from my remorse.

I don’t do, a wheel chair user and a person. Huh! No! If there’s a wheelchair user and there’s someone else standing. One person sitting in a wheel chair and one person standing. I make political choices If one person’s race or ethnicity or nationality becomes relevant to the story, I am going to make a point to name everybody’s so that I’m not singling one person out as the other or the weirdo or the outsider.

There is no way that someone is ethnic and some other person is not ethnic. I just cannot even wrap my head around … I don’t even know what ethnic food means, what on earth, what? (Said with a lot of annoyance!)

What food doesn’t come from a culture? What? (Said exasperatingly)

No, I will name them all or I will name nobody. And it really depends on the content creator, what they’re going for, how much time there is and yes is it relevant. Is it going to make a difference to the story for me to know something about the ethnicities of the people involved and is there time to get that in there. And if I can’t describe them all then I can’t describe any. or sometimes I will tell somebody, you need to stretch out that first scene because I have got to get that description in there. I have to!

TR:

Movies, television are often a reflection of society. It’s not surprising that the politics of the world impacts the way we think about and create access to content.

There are many who believe the best approach is to ignore race or ethnicity all together. As Cheryl points out, the results don’t lead to equality.

CG:

I think when Audio Describers are shy, oh I don’t’ want to say those words, as an Audio Describer your comfort and discomfort are not supposed to be part of this. You’re censoring it for the viewers.

You know I was really moved by your episodes around Black panther. There’s the access piece, but also one of the ways we white wash is to pretend like white people are neutral and just people. And so whatever we think is important is what’s important. And yeh, they had some cool costumes in Black panther, but ok, cool costumes whatever. That’s not fair. It’s so beyond not fair, it really is a show of white supremacy.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Mm Hmm! (In agreement)

CG:

To neutralize overt displays of culture that are not white, you erase them, you ignore them. That is white supremacy. And it’s not ok.

If the film maker did not erase culture then the Audio Describer or Captioner really should not erase culture as well.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Absolutely!

CG:

Some people feel like it’s just the detail, no. We’re talking about humanity and we’re talking about dehumanizing people. Willfully dehumanizing people when we leave stuff out

TR:

Cheryl says the same occurs in captions.

Not only is she creating films, accessible content through subtitles, captions and audio description, Cheryl produces the podcast Pigeonhole.

As described on Apple Podcast:

Pigeonhole challenges the stereotypes that disabled people are all white, straight, middle class people in search of a cure for their bodies and minds
the way mainstream media would make it seem. Made by from disability community, and centering disabled people as audience, Pigeonhole interrogates the
assumptions and biases we hold about disability and embraces all parts of people’s identities. We uplift disability culture, celebrate identity, and break
out of the narrow pigeonholes people attempt to stuff us in.

She’s a fellow recipient of the New Voice Scholarship warded by Association of Independence in Radio.

Receiving that scholarship puts us both in a very exclusive group of some of the best audio makers currently making radio and podcasts.

Audio: Microphone and other equipment collapsing during my conversation with Cheryl.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

We are having operating difficulties, please stand by

TR:

Well, maybe not all of us!

You can find Cheryl online at WhoAmIToStopIt.com She tweets under that same name, which again is her latest production.

Her films are available through New Day Film.com.

Checkout Cheryl’s podcast Pigeonhole – that’s P I G E O N H O L E. I especially like the episode titled “A nap and a bird.” It’s a short well told story that says a lot.

# Close

Audio: “As we proceed”

We’re continuing to advance our ongoing conversation around Audio Description and content access in general.

Considering captions & AD as art? Why shouldn’t it be. It’s the written word that has some pretty strict requirements including the time constraints and a need to quickly convey a message. We’re talking about talented writers and voice actors/narrators.

Let’s spread this way of thinking about accessible content.

Let’s push for content creators like Cheryl whether independent or in the major studios to see it as a tool to improve their storytelling. Then maybe we’ll see it become a part of the pre-production and be more of a reflection of the film’s conceived vision.

Looking at content access through a social justice lens feels like it leads closer to inclusion.

A big shout out to Cheryl Green! I enjoy speaking with her and appreciate her perspective. I guess I’ll go ahead and put this right here… I hope you will hear more from her right here on the podcast in the future.

You know, I still hope to hear more from you the listener. I’m not looking for you to write me long messages about how much you love the show or how funny you think I am or how much you like the production, or how much you think this podcast should be the top podcast on the charts or how it makes your day when a new episode publishes… no who would want to hear any of that!

I just want to know if it made you smile, gave you an idea or maybe encouraged you to do something.

I send myself fake messages about all the other stuff so I have that covered!

Seriously, holla back!

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

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

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

So make sure you Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud
Audio: Bring the audio to a screech!

## TR:

if you mainly listen to the podcast via Sound Cloud I’m hoping you will continue to listen but I am moving away from that platform. I’ve been tolerating their interface in order to avoid the move to another service.

I may decide to keep one or two episodes available, but the best method for staying caught up is to subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio and wherever you get podcasts.

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

Up and Moving Again

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

William at the finish line of the Prickly Pear

Meet William Greer, Director of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. Hear his story of finding his passions after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and vision loss.

We discuss TBI, Ultra Marathon running, disability representation in films and that time he ran a certain Boston Marathon with NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Host Peter Sagal.

This episode includes an original piece produced by Tilly Jones.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.
I’m your host and producer, T. Reid.

Today I’m speaking with William Greer. He’s the Director of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. In this episode we’re talking;
* multiple disabilities,
* disability arts
* marathon running.

That’s next up! On Reid My Mind Radio. Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

WG:

I was riding a bicycle, not wearing a helmet.

TR:

This is William Greer.

WG:

And I went in the middle of the street when I shouldn’t have. Nothing between me and the pavement. My brain was exposed to light air and dirt. I’m told those are the three worst things that could come in touch with the brain.

I was in intensive care for probably three or four weeks. I’m told that there were a couple of times that I was legally dead while I was still in ICU. it took a lot of therapy and patience just to get me out of the hospital and back in school.

TR:

William was only 17 and still in high school at the time of the accident which caused a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
In William’s case, the effects include a reduced ability to understand and learn math, facial paralysis…

WG:

I have poor short term memory, my balance is not as good as it used to be. The most dramatic result is the vision loss.

TR:

In order to return to school, Will would have to adjust.

WG:

Figured out new ways to take notes. Learned that I had to listen to a book rather than visually read it. graduated high school got in to Kenyon College and now I’m working full time.

TR:

In 2003, unable to find full time employment, William was volunteering for the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities when he had an idea.

WG:

Oh, we can raise money and awareness by showing films that have good representation of disability.

TR:

In 2004William produced the first festival known as Cinema Touching Disability. It began as a one day event.

WG:

We would pick out films about people who have disabilities. Sometimes they were documentaries, sometimes it was fiction film.

It started off as one art form and it sort of grown into others.

TR:

Among those included were a disability photography competition and a live re-creation of a piece of art originally produced in the documentary Getting UP.: The TEMPT One Story

Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, almost completely paralyzed, a graffiti artist regains his voice through technology that reads
the movement of his eyes and enables him to create art and write once again.

Audio: “Marciac Master” By Tilly Jones

WG:

This year one of the people who entered my competition is someone from Australia with Cerebral Palsy and Asperger’s and a couple of other disabilities.

She plays 5 musical instruments and writes her symphonies. So I asked her to write an introductory piece for our festival. She did that. So we got the funds together and brought her over here. We had her playing music with other musicians and playing music during the intermission.

## TR:

The music you are hearing is the composition William referred to. The young musicians name is Tilly Jones.

As the years progressed the duration of the festival increased from one day to up to five days one year.

The festival like art itself serves multiple purposes that go beyond entertainment. Like representation.

WG:

We need good representation. Non stereotypical representations wherever we can get it. Whether it’s advertisements like commercials on TV. In paper representations; signs or in the ways that people with disabilities are treated in restaurants, libraries or movie theaters. When the community as a whole sees positive representation of disability it can only improve outcome and help people learn more about it.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Do you have any favorite films about people with disabilities ? Anything that you would recommend?

Audio for each of the movies is included.

WG:

The two best disability films I’ve ever seen are;
The Best Years of Our Lives.” That was made in 1946One of the stars of it, Harold Russel, actually lost both of his hands in a training accident for World War II.

“Duet for One” which is about a music teacher who has I think its Multiple Sclerosis so she has to stop playing the violin.

Now those are the absolute best. No question about it. My favorites include “The Crash Reel” which is about a snowboarder who has Traumatic Brain Injury while trying out for the Olympics. It’s about his recovery and his desire to get back into competitive snowboarding and his family saying please don’t.

There’s “Right Footed” which is about the only armless pilot in the world. There’s lots of others that I really like

[TR in conversation with WG:]
What’s a (laughs) what’s on the bottom of your list?

WG:
There are so many of them. I really hated Memento. I think that that was a horrible representation of brain injury.

Don’t like Forrest Gump obviously.

Oh, Al Pacino was in it…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Laughs… Scent of a Woman? Laughs…

WG:
Scent of a Woman, . I really hated that film.

Audio: sounds of a runner’s feet hitting the pavement…

TR:

William says he himself isn’t much of an artist. Growing up with horses, she’s definitely more of the outdoors type. He cycled over 30 miles at a time. I figure we can assume he’s athletic?

WG:
Yes.

I’d run when I was younger. I was on the cross country and track team when I was a Freshman in High School but there were lots of things they didn’t teach you like the importance of stretching, good diet and running wound up being incredibly painful . So after my Freshman year I didn’t start running again until 2005.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

And what made you do that?

WG:
Well, just looking for a good way to stay in shape and keep myself entertained.

In terms of sports that you can do as a Visually Impaired person on your own there aren’t really a lot of them and running seems to be like the best way to go.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

A lot of people wouldn’t necessarily think that because you’re talking about outdoor running.

TR:
As we know there are degrees of vision loss. William has some usable vision that enables him to manage independent running under specific circumstances.

WG:

I can run in a straight line and I see well enough to avoid obstacles so as long as I’m going on a familiar path I don’t have a problem running.

When I’m in marathons I prefer to run with a sighted guide just so I don’t take a wrong turn.

TR:

Training with a sighted guide prior to a race is optimal. It allows the two runners to become used to the preferred guiding method.

WG:

The sighted guide enables me to concentrate on running.

TR:

William has the guide run in front providing directions about obstacles and other information like approaching hills and changes in the terrain.

WG:

Even picking up water or Gatorade from the water stops.

Todd, the person who guided me on my first 30 and 50 Ultra Marathon, we ran two or three times together.

And I’m glad we did that because an Ultra is a heck of a lot different from a marathon.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

I thought a marathon was 26 miles. You said a 30 mile and then a 50 mile?

WG:

A marathon is 26.2 miles. An ultra is anything longer than that. Most of them are on trails. the trick with an ultra is a slower pace, you also got to avoid creeks, roots, rocks, holes in the trail. there are times when you have to walk because the hill is too steep or unsafe going either uphill or downhill. It’s not the same as a marathon.

TR:

In your standard marathon runners consume water and energy gels. In an ultra, you have to consume more carbohydrates including food like nuts, bagels, burritos, pretzels and chips. The body loses a lot of salt so that needs to be replenished.

WG:

In an ultra-marathon the runners carry their own water. You’ve got to be hydrating all of the time. You either carry something like a belt that can hold 5 or 6 bottles of water, a backpack that can hold a couple of big bottles of water or something that they call a camelback which is just a pouch that you fill with water and you can drink from the whole time.

In the ultras you can stop refill on water, have a bit of food maybe stretch a little bit if you need to and then go on your way.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Wow! Fifty and one hundred mile, you’re doing that all in one day? Laughs…

WG:

Laughs… With a hundred mile it is one day!

TR:

William has 20 marathons under his belt. In fact, since he began tracking his runs, he’s logged in over 9,000 miles.

In 2013 Williams ran the Boston Marathon with his guide, NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me host Peter Sagal.

Audio: 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing…

WG:

We finished 5 minutes before the first bomb.

That was luck as much as running skill.

## TR:

Such incidents are rare, but there are risks.

Running in his second Austin marathon without a guide, there was a change in the route and William was unaware of a natural depression in the street’s pavement.
WG:

It went down about a foot or so. I wound up going head over heels as a result of that.

It didn’t happen to the other runner because they could see it and avoid it. And that’s just one of those things where it hurts a little bit but you just got to stand up and start moving again.

TR:

Sound advice. For more than running!

If you’ve been considering starting your own personal running program, William has some advice for that too.

WG:

Buy yourself a good pair of shoes. If you can go to a store that specializes in running. You don’t have to spend 200 to 300 on running shoes especially if you’re just starting. If you got the wrong shoes it’s going to be painful. Don’t worry about having to run fast. Just run at the speed that you’re comfortable with and run on a route that you know.

The best piece of advice that I ever heard about running is if it hurts you’re doing it wrong. Just run so that it feels good.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

I think that might be a foreign concept to a lot of people… laughs…

WG:

Laughs…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

The average person who doesn’t run there like probably saying, why? Laughs… Why do you do this man?

WG:

You know that’s … Pause…

Because I can’t imagine not running.

There’s something about it that really feels good. And makes me feel just incredibly good right and centered. It’s a bit like an addiction. And I find that I’m always wanting to increase the distance I’m running or increase the difficulty of the race or find a different kind of challenge to add into it.

The next marathon I’m going to be in I’ll be running a 10K on Saturday and a 50K on Sunday. So yes a 50 K is challenging let’s make it extra challenging by running a 6 mile race the day before it.

Yes you’re soar but it’s a soreness that feels good.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Have you found anything that can possibly match the feeling that you get from running? Laughing… Yoga? A good movie… laughing…

TR:

William says he gets a lot of fulfillment out of organizing the film festival but nothing compares to running.

In addition to that two day event William is planning on running a marathon in December 2019.; 100 mile Ultra

The next Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival is scheduled for October 25 & 26, 2019 in Austin Texas. For more information you can visit CTDFilmFest.org

It may not sound like it but I used to run years ago and actually enjoyed it. I never did a marathon but I can grasp why someone would find it addicting.

There’s a freedom that comes with running. Especially trails. You’re forced to be present – dodging fallen tree stumps and low hanging branches, jumping creeks and being aware of nature.

Being Blind or visually impaired, so much of the daily grind is about people and aspects of society concentrating on what they think you can’t do.

Running and other such activities can for some remind and reinforce a feeling of independence. Athletics and sports provide the opportunity to excel based on strengths while continuously improving weaknesses. Plus progress is measurable.

Unlike my addiction to chocolate!

Big shout out to Mr. William Greer. A special shout out to Cheryl Green who suggested Will to the podcast.

Cheryl’s a film maker who focuses on disability identity culture and justice. She’s an advocate for accessible media. And you’re going to meet her on an upcoming episode.

You too can be a part of the show; Want to suggest a guest or topic, comment on an episode… hollaback!

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

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

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

if you mainly listen to the podcast via Sound Cloud I’m hoping you will continue to listen but I am moving away from that platform. I’ve been tolerating their interface in order to avoid the move to another service.

I may decide to keep one or two episodes available, but the best method for staying caught up is to
subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify and Google Podcast. All other platforms will be updated as well.

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

Don’t forget, you can always find me at ReidMyMind.com.

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

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Celebrating Loving & Living Blind

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

This past January marked the anniversary of my becoming Blind. For most, this doesn’t sound like something to celebrate. I disagree. And in this episode I invited the three most important people in my life to reflect on the past 15 years.
Side by side photos of the Reid Family in 2004 & 2018

It’s not just a personal reflection. Rather something I think can be of use to anyone in the early stage of vision loss. Take a listen and hear how much there is to celebrate.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio. I’m your host and producer T.Reid. In addition to bringing you profiles of interesting people impacted by blindness, low vision, disability, I also use this space to share my own experience with vision loss.

January 2019 made 15 years of being blind. I thought about this on the day that marked the event, the anniversary of my surgery. After reflecting for some time I decided it should be a celebration. So I invited three of the most special people in my life to join me.

And it wouldn’t be a true celebration without you.

That’s up next on Reid My Mind Radio.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music!

Audio: “It’s Our Anniversary”, Tony Toni Tone (Instrumental)

TR:

Today, I’m celebrating a gift of 15 years.

I know celebrating blindness seems strange to some so let’s make this clear right now, I’m not celebrating loss.

Audio: “Do you know what today is…” ” Anniversary!” from “It’s Our Anniversary”, Tony Toni Tone

TR:

Interesting fact, most marriages where a partner experiences a disability, end in divorce.

I know a little bit about marriage and disability, but I invited a special guest to help me think about this subject.

Audio: “The Baddest Chick”, Trina

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Can you please just state your name for the record?

Marlett:
Marlett Reid

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

And who are you?

Marlett:
I’m the baddest chick!

Audio: As the music gets louder …

Marlett:
I’m your wife!

TR:
First, I asked Marlett to talk about what she felt were the main challenges to relationships impacted by blindness.
Marlett:

One of the challenges would be communicating. Which is considerably hard if that’s not something you normally do. And even between us we needed to be a little bit more gentle with each other’s feelings so that the other person can hear and then once that takes place then I think both parties would be able to work together. I think that was a huge challenge for us. Being able to work together or to hear each other because of not fully understanding how to communicate.

TR:
Poor communication impacts any relationship. Now take away the most relied upon method of communicating among sighted folks. That just enhances any existing problem.

Then there’s external forces.

Marlett:

People can be really rude!

They look at us as being different and their just curious. I remember it was our anniversary and we went to Atlantic City and we were online and waiting to get into the restaurant or it was a comedy club. I leaned in to tell you something and you bent down and the two women behind us leaned in as well. Laughs!… to hear what it was I was telling you or to see if they could read lips. And then I started telling that they’re leaning in… laughs… they’re leaning in to hear what I’m trying to say to you. This is what I was whispering to you.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

TR:
Laughing.. And what did I say…cause I know I probably said something stupid!

Marlett:
I know you were fascinated by it. You were like “seriously!”

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Yeh, I didn’t know!

Marlett:

Right. But that wasn’t like the first time which is why I told you. it was way more than once…

Or, we’re walking down the street and especially if it was men. They weren’t rude or anything, they would get out of our way . They were respectful in that regard. Not trying to mess with us or anything but they would just stare at you. I would look at them and then they would acknowledge me.

They would just stare at you!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

… long pause

So wait are you saying women don’t stare at me?

Marlett:

Laughs… Yeh, they stare at you too sweetheart.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Ah, thank you Hun!

Marlett:

There was the time the woman tried to give you her number. You thought I didn’t know.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

You making this up… Long pause…
Did that really happen?

Marlett:
Such an idiot!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

(Regarding the men staring)

What do you think that’s about?

Marlett:

You look like them. Yet you don’t.
And the fact that you look like them kind of bother’s them. They’re fascinated like how are you able to do this and that. There’s many things that are probably going through their mind, but they’re still freaking rude.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Yeh! Now the ladies they stare for different reasons!

Marlett:

Because they think you’re hot. mm hmm!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Thank you sweetheart.

Marlett:
You’re welcome!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
I appreciate that. Do you want to share what we came up with because I always thought that was a great response to those types of situations. On how to handle it when people are leaning in to our conversations. You want to share what we came up with ?

Marlett:

It’s G, G rated! (Referring to the podcast.)

TR:

Putting my begging for compliments and attention aside, did you notice that. Listen again!

Marlett:
They look at us as being different.

TR:

She could have said they look at you as being different, but she didn’t. She said us. Just an observation.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

We know that relationships are tested during times of all types of hardships. We had a lot of things going on at the time that people say are the most difficult things to deal with;
We bought a house, you were pregnant, my brother passed away and then we found out I was going to be Blind.

Marlett:

Yeh!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
If you could kind of go back to any point in these 15 years, is there anything that you would tell yourself then that you think might be helpful based on what you know now?

Marlett:

I think I would tell myself to know the imp0ortance of total acceptance.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Acceptance of what, what does that mean?

Marlett:

Finding out that you were going to be blind just to accept that. Understand that is the way it’s going to be. He’s going to be blind. So go from there, what are you going to do now? Not try to find a cure. What are you going to do? How are you going to live your life? That’s the important thing.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
You’re saying you sent time trying to find a cure?

Marlett:

I would say probably about three months or maybe a little bit more. I would go downstairs in the basement that’s where we had our computer at the time

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Heh! And it was cold down there too!

Marlett:

agrees)
It was really cold and I had contacted a lot of Doctors. I got responses back. If they didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear I’d continue.

[TR in conversation with Marlett: ]

Wow!

Marlett:

You see some of these people and they saw their wives for the first time. They have the glasses they put on and they

[TR in conversation with Marlett: ]

They had that back then?

They were working on it back then and I knew about that. I would see if you were a candidate.

I would tell my story . I got a lot of responses.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What did they say?

Marlett:

One Doctor I think he realized that I was contacting almost everybody. He said to me.. let me explain something.

They would need the Optic nerve and you didn’t have the Optic nerve on the left or on the right. There was absolutely nothing they were going to be able to do. He was trying to let me know I could stop writing everybody and (laughing ) I guess stop annoying them. Although he didn’t say that. He really went into detail and I think that was my last one I got and then I stopped.
[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

So if you’re doing this and somebody’s telling you to accept it, I don’t think that would have done anything for you. Just the words, like what would have made you…

Marlett:

No, that would have done it and I’ll tell you why. No one was telling me anything. They would tell me… “Oh I’m so sorry!” “Oh you poor thing” I didn’t want to hear all that. If someone sat me down and said you’re trying to find this cure that’s not there when your husband’s there you just need to accept him. If it’s meant to be, if there’s going to be something you know you’ll come along and you’ll find it. But not to sit down here and spend hours and hours because I had no one to talk to. No one understood. I was just annoyed when they did say something which was usually something stupid.

TR:

15 years later, I can see the value in celebrating all aspects of My adjustment.

Remembering the good and bad.

All of the thoughts following the realization that I would never see again. The things I naturally thought I’d miss. The inability to see a future.

After a while though, there were breaks between consecutive days of feeling that way. Bridged by small successes along the way. Days that included accomplishments, random laughs and even short glimpses of hope.

A bit more confidence returning every day. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time. Like the realization that the things I thought I’d miss weren’t as important as the things I still had.

Like my baby girls!

A 6 year old.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

Please state your name.

Riana:
My name is Riana. (Sounding tired or sad…)

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ah, what’s the matter Riana… (baby talking voice…)

Riana:
Laughs… shut up!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

laughs… For the record, how old are you?

Riana:
21.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
What happened to 21 Honey!

Riana
No, it was 20 Honey! And 21 is 21, 21, 21 cause that’s what 21 Savage says. Duh!

TR:
And that little baby who was born just prior to me losing my sight.

Audio: “Hi my name is Raven!”

TR:
Well, that was her at about 3… here she is now.

Raven:
Hi, I’m … (laughs)!my voice cracked! Hi, I’m Raven!

TR:
Two baby girls and two separate experiences of my blindness. Well, maybe some overlaps.

The differences seem expected. One knew a father with sight the other never really did.

Let’s start with Riana.

I asked both of my daughters to give some advice to a little girl who is experiencing what they did as a child of a parent who becomes blind.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

She’s dealing with issues that you did deal with . People who stare.

Riana:
Mmmm!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

What would you say to her in terms of dealing with those types of things.

Riana:
I’d say first off, I completely understand what you are going through, because I deal with it all the time! (Expressed forcefully)

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
What is it that you deal with?

Riana:

People staring at my father. People staring for too long. That’s what the problem is…
I feel like… (exhales in frustration) I’m trying to get my words together because my temper’s coming up! I don’t want people to view me as such!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ah, so you get angry.

Riana:

I don’t get angry. I get annoyed.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
About?

Riana:

About people. I’ll be blunt. People just don’t know stuff. Their trying to learn because they’ve never seen it before. I don’t even mean a Blind person. It can be anything. I stare at things some times. You might stare at things.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Laughing… No I don’t …

Riana:

I get it. I’m talking to that little girl.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Oh, ok!

Riana:

Saying that like she might stare at things too. Everybody stares

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
What do you think the difference is between a normal stare and a stare that becomes intrusive?

Riana:

When you stare too long! When you’re staring at people just doing regular Things. Let’s say your father has a guide dog. You’re looking at the guide do and you’re like ok this is interesting this is new, well maybe I’ll Google this and then you stop staring. But when you’re just staring a person if you literally turn the table clearly that would make you uncomfortable. Stop doing that!

I’m trying to do like the four principle things and one of them is don’t take things personally but when people are in your personal space I’m going to take it personally!

TR:

Riana’s passionate about this subject.

She’s referring to the book by don Miguel Ruiz, called The Four Agreements.

Riana:

You have every right to take it personally, but don’t let it hurt you because you have to understand that it’s all on the person and not your father or mother who lost their sight. And I know for a fact that I knew that when I was younger but I did not know how to communicate that to you Daddy because sometimes I thought that, you did say that, that I was embarrassed by you but I wasn’t . I was just annoyed by people. That’s literally been me since day one. I don’t like when people are r nosy. When we go to all white places like the diner and I would get mad that people stare. People were not staring because you were Blind people were staring because we were Black and that makes me mad.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]

Laughs.

Riana:

But I’m not embarrassed. I’m serious, I’m not embarrassed to be Black.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
No doubt!

Riana:

You know what I mean. That gets on my nerves when people are so intrusive. I can be quiet and shy, but I do have a very strong opinion about almost everything in life so I sometimes want to communicate that opinion to these people. Stop looking. You want to learn more, YouTube. There’s literally the whole entire internet for you to learn. Or if you want to learn more come talk to him. Like ask him some questions that are not offensive you know what I mean, think before you say. So that’s what I would tell to the girl. If you really truly have a problem and they’re really staring you can go up there and talk to them and say like hey if you have some questions you can come up and talk to my father or my mother. But if you’re not going to ask the question stop staring, cause you got a phone!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Got a phone as in you can Google it!

Riana:

There’s computers. If you don’t have a phone or a computer there’s a local library. Like come on! There’s so much knowledge you can get! (Said very intensely!)

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ok, alright, alright! Easy easy, woosa!

Riana:

Woosa!

The two laugh…

Riana:

Daddy I’m rocking back and forth…

The two laughing!

It just gets on my nerves some times.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ok, so now what would you say to the parent. Because you said something interesting that I assumed you were embarrassed.

Riana:

You did. All the time!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Laughs…

Riana:
I’m serious you did.

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
I don’t know about all the time but, but ok, ok! Part of that is because you were too young like you said to communicate back.

Riana:

Communicate how I felt!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
So what would you say to a parent?

Riana:

That sometimes kids don’t know how to communicate how they feel. Sometimes the other person doesn’t know the words to say about the situation.

TR:

Good advice and the whole idea that the problem is with the person staring and not taking it personally… I love that.

For Raven, who was born right before I became Blind there’s no change, nothing to really adapt to. Having a Blind Dad, well that’s just…

Raven:
Just like having a Dad but he can’t drive me places. Laughs… Like that’s it. That’s the only difference.

TR:

Normal

Raven:

I thought everyone had a parent that was blind.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

Laughs…I don’t know why that makes me laugh.

Raven:
I don’t know either.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
It’s cute and it’s also… I think my child needs help.

Raven:
I really did.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
No, I’m just joking!

Raven:

I have cousins. I did not process this thought.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

No, but that’s cool though!

TR:

Laughs…Normal is in the eyes of the beholder!

Now look! Don’t let her calm approach fool you.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
What were the questions that you got from school?

Raven:

I remember getting annoyed at certain questions because people would ask really stupid things.

Like “How does he eat?”

Like with a fork!

If someone asks like how you lost your sight, I’d be like oh cancer. I would be fine answering those types of questions. But yeah, they either ask stupid questions or it would just be like how did he loose it.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Nobody was like you know, teasing or nothing like that?

Raven:

I would have punched them!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

Ok, I raised you right!

Raven:
Laughs!

TR:

Raven’s advice for that young girl who’s parent is newly Blind is a little different.

Raven:
Well, I’d tell the child that their hearing is advanced so you can’t get away with anything. So don’t try it!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Laughing… Oh my goodness.

Raven:

No that’s an actual thing. You lose your sight other sights (senses) get hire.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
I pay attention. No, no it’s not!

Raven:

It’s a thing. I learn that every single year in Science.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]

They are incorrect!

Raven:

It’s like if you’re trying to listen to a conversation and there’s a bunch of conversations going on around you and you’re listening to that one conversation and you’re focused on that one.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
You’re focused. Nothing increases.

So for example. If you have a radio in here, right. That radio only goes up to a certain volume.
Raven:

But if you plug a speaker in…laughs…

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Laughing… No but , just because that speaker loses a button doesn’t give you an extra speaker.

The two laugh together.

Wow, my own daughter has that false belief.

Raven:

I was told that every single year of my life.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
By who?

Raven:

My science teachers. I’d tell you the stories back in the day how like every time we’d talk about …

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Senses?

Raven:

Senses! I’d be like hey guys my Dad only has four… laughing…

But we’d always talk about the senses and they’d be like if you lose one of your sense the other ones are increased.

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
No, it’s false!

Raven:

Did you feel that punch!

[TR in conversation with Raven:]
Yes.

Raven:

Exactly, you would not have felt it if you could see!

The two laugh…

TR:

Not only is there false information and stereotypes, but if you think about the way the word blind is used and it’s understandable why people can have a hard time accepting blindness.

More often used to describe everything other than the loss of sight.

Audio: Mix of songs featuring metaphors for blind…

“I’d rather go Blind” Etta James
“When a Blind Man Cries” Deep purple
“Channel Zero” Public Enemy begins with “You’re blind baby, you’re blind from the fax cause you’re watching that garbage!

TR:

Pair blind with other disabilities and oh boy!
As in you’re deaf, dumb and blind.

It’s no wonder that For many adjusting, blind becomes a word to run away from. I don’t think I ever had that choice.

Avoiding the word Blind was the equivalent of trying to pretend I was sighted. I just wasn’t going to be able to get away with that so why even bother.

the word that I did have some feelings about was disabled. I felt as though it ruled out all of my possibilities. Where blind was specific to my eyes, disabled seem to imply that there was nothing about me that worked. A disabled car sits on the side of the road until taken away and or repaired. Athletes on the disabled list don’t even get to suit up for a game. Once again restricted to the sidelines.

But, adjustment is ongoing. You learn new ways of thinking about it, new philosophies.

Like choosing how you view disability.

Do you see it from a medical perspective? As in we need to heal or cure it in order to fix all of the related issues.

If we cure that blindness you won’t need a screen reader. Just fix those legs and who needs curb cuts for wheelchairs. You don’t need wheelchairs.

What about an alternative perspective?

Like the problems with disability stem from the lack of access and societies negative perceptions and expectations.

I also became familiar with person first language as in a person with a disability versus identity first as in Disabled person, Blind person.

This is recognizing Blind as an additional characteristic.

Riana:

If somebody asked me what my father is, you know I might say he is Blind. He’s Black. He’s bald. My father’s probably why I’m this. Or he taught me this or he’s my best friend, I might say that!

[TR in conversation with Riana:]
Ah, thank you sweetheart.

Riana:

I might leave the baldness out but I’d say he’s Black and Blind.

[TR in conversation with Riana]

You changed my Netflix profile to say that!

Riana:

Laughs.. Yeh, baldy!

The two laugh…

TR:

But, isn’t blindness and disability something I’m supposed to overcome?

Audio examples from news segments bridged by static signal…

“He overcame the odds and conquered his disability in the most incredible way”
“Made his disability anything but a disability”
“Doesn’t use her crutches as a crutch”

TR:

We hear things like ” You do that so well I forget you’re blind Based on the common belief around disability, around blindness well, I know I’m guilty of thinking it was a compliment. But it’s not!

More than likely, it’s not said with bad intent. No, they believe this based on their image of blindness. To them not seeing it says something good about you and them. Similar to the false idea that being color blind is helpful to race relations.

I want you to see my blindness. I really want you to know what it actually means and get rid of the nonsense we’ve been fed.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Do you think you look at blindness differently after 15 years?

Marlett:

Yes.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Tell me.

Marlett:

Blindness affects your eyes and that’s it. Not your mind. Not anything else. You just got to do things differently.

TR:
My blindness is now a real part of me. Like other aspects of who I am it’s reflected in the things I do.

My blindness is in the way I walk down the street. And yes, my blindness still has a bop to it!

My blindness is in how I raise my kids. The way my family and I travel. It’s right here in the way I produce audio.

I once thought my podcast shouldn’t be limited to my blindness.

I thought certain topics were blindness related and then there was everything else…

One in 5 people have a disability. Blind people participate in every aspect of life.
Politics, Art, culture, sex.

Me producing and hosting means I can bring a blindness perspective. It doesn’t mean I have to, but there’s no real reason I can’t or shouldn’t.

It’s a part of me and therefore a part of the things I do.

It’s not all of me but a part. I mean, I’ve been blind now for 30 percent of my life.

The name may not reflect it out right, but this is a disability podcast. It’s a blind podcast. It’s everything that I am. It’s Black, it’s Hip-Hop! Those who know can hear it.

It just is because it’s me and it’s my thing!

Audio: It’s My Thing, EPMD mixed into 7 Minutes of Funk…

I don’t consciously recognize my anniversary every year. If it makes itself present, cool! I acknowledge it and personally reflect. Would I like a cake and full celebration? Who wouldn’t like cake?

But I want this celebration to not be mine alone.
I’m thinking of those going through something similar.

For many, the idea of becoming blind is worse than death. That’s not hyperbole.
Different polls have shown this to be true for many.
I’m alive and kicking so I guess I can’t truly make the comparison.

I know not everyone consider celebrating 15 years of being Blind…

Marlett:

If I had to be honest, that’s not how I looked at it. Although I tell you, I remember the prayer that I had. I don’t care what happens, just don’t take him from me. I’m going to start crying. Just don’t take him from me.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Mmm! That’s cool… that’s cool!

Marlett:

I just remembered that in that moment. It came back to me.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Thank you baby, I appreciate that! Nice job!

Marlett:

Thank you!

TR:

This is a celebration of adjustments, acceptance , love and life!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Instead of being in the cold basement researching. If 2003, 2004 there were a podcast called Reid My Mind Radio and you had a fly dude kicking’ the ballistics… laughs… No seriously, if there were a podcast for you to listen to would you have liked to hear from other people on a podcast?

Marlett:

Absolutely! I was, I was hungry…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
I think that was too, that’s too sexy Marlett. You can’t …

Marlett:

I didn’t try to be sexy…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I know but you can’t say hungry. there’s no way I can put that on the air like that. You got to explain it again.

Marlett:

I was looking for something, anything…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Mmm! There you go again. You see, you’re making it sexy. Stop . Just say it without being sexy.

Marlett:

I was looking for answers and there were none. There was no one there to… I felt like to guide me through this journey.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Long pause…

I’ma guide you through this journey! Laughs… fade out.

TR:
Hollaback…

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

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

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

Another way to show your love if you like what you hear…

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.
Visit www.ReidMyMind.com

So there’s no confusion,
… TR in unison with Marlett:
that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Peace!

Hide the transcript

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 ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com. I’d love a voice recorded message that I could include on a future show!

Listen

Transcript

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.

TR:
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

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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.
Ojok:

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.

TR:
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.

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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.

TR:
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.

Ojok:
It was my first time in San Francisco.

I stayed there for one week.

TR:

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.

Ojok:

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

TR:

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

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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.

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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.

TR:

Ojok initially anticipated training about 16 people this year.

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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.

Ojok:

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.

TR:

The implications are social. Impacting the entire community.

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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

Ojok:

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.

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

Ojok:

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.

Ojok:

Exactly, exactly, exactly!

TR:

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.

Ojok:

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

TR:

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.

Ojok:

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.

TR:
In case you’re not familiar with the terminology…

Ojok:

24 hours a day

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

Ojok:
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?

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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.

Ojok:
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.

TR:

Expanding Hive Uganda’s reach also means geographic.

Ojok

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.

TR:

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?

Ojok:
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.

TR:
Yes to the future of Hive Uganda.

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

Ojok:
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.

TR:
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.

Ojok:
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.

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

TR:
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.

Ojok:

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.

TR:

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

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 ReidMyMind.com 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 @ gmail.com.
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
Ojok:
24 hours a day

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

Ojok:
7 days a week.

TR:
Peace!

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:
Apple Podcast, Google Podcast Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.
Follow @tsreid on Twitter

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

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

TR:

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

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

Ahmet:
Hey Thomas!

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

Ahmet:
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.

Ahmet:
Man, yeh, wow!

TR:

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

Ahmet:
##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.

TR:

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.

Ahmet:
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.

TR:

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.

Ahmet:
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.

TR:

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.
Marty:
I’m just one of those people who likes tinkering with things.

TR:

I caught up with Marty to hear his thoughts on the project.
Marty:
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.

Ahmet:
Marty was actually in Turkey.

TR:
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.
Marty:

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

Audio: Turkish Drum instrumental music

TR:

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.

Ahmet:
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!

Ahmet:
Like a pirate crossing.

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

Ahmet:
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.

TR:

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.

Ahmet:

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.

TR:

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.

Marty:
Nothing ever happens as you expect or as you planned.

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

Marty:
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.

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

Ahmet:

When I was on the water
I got another message
saying

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

TR:

“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.

Ahmet:

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.

TR:

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.

Ahmet:
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:]

Laughs!

Ahmet:
Laughs…

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

Ahmet:
Yeh, I was moving man. Adrenaline rush.

TR:

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.

Ahmet:

It was not a quiet and relaxing paddle. Laughs…

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]

Laughs…

TR:

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.

Marty:

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)

Marty:
Laughs…

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

Marty:
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.

TR:
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!

Marty:
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.

TR:

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.

Ahmet:
I learned about technology. I learned about myself.

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

Ahmet:
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…

Ahmet:
Laughs. Yeah, we have time man!

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

Ahmet:

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!

Ahmet:
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:]
Laughs…

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

TR:

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.

Ahmet:

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

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]
Laughs…

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

TR:

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

Ahmet:

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!

TR:

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.

Ahmet:

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

Marty:

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

Marty:

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
TR:

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.

Ahmet:
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…

Ahmet:
Warmly laughing…

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

TR:

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.

Ahmet:

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.
TR:

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.

Ahmet:
Can you do it or not!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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