Archive for the ‘Audio’ Category

Lachi: Building Bigger Plans for Going Blind

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Recording Artist Lachi standing with white cane.
Lachi is a Recording Artist, Writer, producer … someone who grew up with Low Vision and now is going Blind. You may have expectations as to how someone would react to such news… You’re wrong!

Hear how the power of music and people helped Lachi expand her confidence and develop her own view of blindness and disability. And of course, there’s the music and much more!

Listen

Resources

LachiMusic.com
The Off Beat

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family.

I hope you all are doing well.
Feeling good. feeling like things are going your way.

Me? I’m good! I’m here with y’all!

Sometimes, we know, things change up.
That’s one reason for this podcast.
Where we feature compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

What we learn from the experiences of others can help us draw up our own plan

Because when things seem to fall apart you don’t just scrap your plan… nah, you just go out and make yourself some bigger plans!

Check this out!
Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

— “Not the One” Lachi, Michael Herrick

TR:

You’re listening to Not the One by Lachi and Michael Herrick. Lachi is an award nominated recording artist, writer, producer…

Lachi:

film producer, published author. I dabble in acting, I dabble in modeling. I am part of the Recording Academy advocacy Committee, which I’m very proud of. And I am also a speaker on the respectability National Women’s speaker’s bureau. I am trying to also be a YouTube star. And also do everything under the sun that anyone will allow me to do.

TR:

Allow?

As far as I can tell, I don’t think she’s waiting for anyone’s permission. Nor should she!

Lachi:

If I can give myself a really quick image description. I am an African American female. I have long hair, most of its mine, not all of it. That is curly and goes down my back with highlights. And I have big crazy, bodacious smile.

TR:

You can hear that smile when you get into a conversation with her. Even when the topic is something that most people wouldn’t smile about. Going Blind.

Lachi:

I was born legally blind. Always had to use adaptive technology. I’ve always had to sort of struggle with meeting other people that would be able to relate to me and things like that.

More recently, I did receive yet another diagnosis that is putting me on a path from low vision to no vision in a matter of years.

TR:

Her response to those who expect a different sort of reaction to the news.

Lachi:
I’ve been blind, so going from slightly blind to fully blind isn’t as traumatic for me as perhaps it might be. Or maybe I just haven’t really swallowed the pill fully. But I just been on that path already. So getting that diagnosis while it was quite a bit of a shocker. I wasn’t sitting here going, Oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to change my whole life around I mean, I already got the cane. I already got the large print, I already have sort of things that I would need to access the things I need. So the transition isn’t going to be as hard. But I will say it is a different beast. So I will acknowledge that going from low to No, is definitely a big step. And I just maybe I’m just not ready yet. Maybe I haven’t accepted it yet. And that’s where I’m at.

— Music begins and rises to a smooth beat. —

TR:

That’s where she is now.

We learn from our past, so let’s go back.

[TR in conversation with Lachi:]

Where did you grow up?

Lachi:

I tell people I grew up in the widest parts of upstate New York, the black is parts of Philly, and I Southern belt it down in North Carolina. So I’ve been all over the place. And I got all types of attitudes inside me depending on which me you get at what time and so people say, Well, you don’t have a New York accent or southern accent. I’m like, I have them all balled into one.

As much as I wish I had like childhood friends from kindergarten and this and that. I do appreciate the fact that I moved around a lot. But I have spent the last nine or so years here in New York, okay.

I’m New York to the heart but I got love for all!

TR:

Growing up with Low Vision, Lachi was the sixth of seven children.

Lachi:
The four older ones were girls. And the three younger ones were me and my two brothers. So I was really one of the boys.

We’d run around and play, we get hurt, we do whatever.

I was put into public school, I was not necessarily treated as a child with a visual impairment. Yes, we did have social workers and things like that. But I didn’t actually have the opportunity to get to know too many other people in my situation, whether it be blindness, whether it be other forms of disability.

TR:

Lachi received accommodations like extended test taking and adaptive technology such as magnifiers, CCTV’s and a monocular to see the board.

Lachi:
Because I held things really close, instead of thinking that I couldn’t see, they thought that I had maybe some other sort of other social issues or psychological issues.

It gave me sort of a complex of always trying to prove that I knew what I was doing. I was trying to prove that I was intellectually sound.

I was always sort of a creative kid. But there was never too many outlets for me to hang out with other kids and create with other kids and collaborate with other kids just because I was super shy and this and that. But I did spend a lot of time on my own just kind of drawing, writing and cultivating my musical skills really.

TR:

Being one of the youngest children in the family, Lachi benefited when her older sister lost interest in music. With access to a keyboard, Lachi found a passion.

Lachi:
I’d have all these little dolls and stuffed animals and I’d line them up, and I would make them sing all the songs I wrote. And I’d be like come on Alto section, now y’all know y’all messing up.

But they were very good listeners.

I’ve been writing and playing the piano ever since I was just, I can’t remember.

TR in Conversation with Lachi: 22:03

black families don’t necessarily always promote creativity in the arts. When I meet people who started off and seem to get that support from their family, I’m always interested in that, because back in the day, it was really like, Nah, you know, you got to go get a job And this is not going to pay…

Lachi:
You know, I mean, I did kind of glaze over a lot of that. You are, I’ll tell you right now, you are not being old school. That is definitely a real thing. Not only a black family, but most certainly in immigrant families, I identify as an immigrant family, because my parents both came over from Nigeria, in sort of the 70s 80s. And all of my older brothers and sisters are all nurses, doctors (says with over exaggeration and laughs) so I did get that as well. Part of the being blind, part of the being visually impaired, and being the only one with this visual impairment in my family did give me a little bit of leeway as the black sheep like, oh, okay, maybe she can be a little piano virtuoso, but at the same time, I was also very good at math. So I know that while my mother was very encouraging, of me just kind of doing whatever. My father was very much like, we need to cultivate this math thing you got going on, you better be you an accountant, you better be you some kind of financial, whatever.

TR:

She tried majoring in business in college for a bit.

Lachi:

I even dabbled in biology until I realized I was not going to dissect nothing. Sorry. Not with these nails.

TR:

Those nails and the artist they’re attached to had other plans – which became clear while at the University of North Carolina.

Lachi:

Every Saturday I would go down and play the piano in the dorm. And it was funny, because that began to blow up into people just always coming through Saturday evenings waiting for the piano girl to come and play the piano. It started turning into frat boys coming back from parties, or people going on dates kind of just hanging in lounging in the common area listening to me play the piano, and it really blew up in a major way.

It really did start out with me just playing. And then a friend or two would be like, hey, do you know that one song? Or do you know this and that, and then just got to a point where people are just yelling out Freebird.

TR in Conversation with Lachi:
Now now you just said which dorm you were in by the way. (

— Lachi and TR share a hearty laugh!

TR:

These Saturday night dorm performances helped increased more than Lachi’s popularity.

I started becoming more confident. Because I was sharing my talent with other people and people were going, Wow, you’re good at something. And I was like, Oh, look, I am and other people are telling me I am. I started getting that outside validation. I went to a counselor, and I was like I really want to pursue music. What do I do? And he was just like, moved to New York. You supposed to tell me to take like music theory classes or something. So I did!

TR:

Move to New York that is!

Arriving on bus in the big city, you know, sky scrapers and everythang! Her first stop.

Lachi:

I went to NYU and that’s where I started to meet some great guys out in things like Scoring for film, and things like that.

So I did get to meet a bunch of really great people. But when I say I really got into collaborating, was when I decided, look, I want to put a band together, I want to put some songwriters together. And so I really did just go out there and just start meeting people. Like it was amazing how much I just opened up as soon as I moved to the city, and would just be able to go up to people and go, hey, let’s you and me work together. And, and things began to kind of blossom.

TR in Conversation with Lachi: 17:05

You started off earlier, though, by saying you were shy. What’s the relationship between being shy? And then that creative spirit? Like, was that just that strong? Or was there a process? Because I think that, people adjusting to blindness, that could make somebody shy.

Lachi:

Yeah!

Whether you are born visually impaired, or whether you lose it later in life. And you don’t know other people in your space, you don’t know other people in your situation, you feel different, you feel misunderstood, you kind of feel alone

, you feel like you can’t really relate to others,

no matter how good people are trying to be to you, no matter how inclusive and everything, if they’re not really similar to your story,

the first place you go is well, you don’t really get it. And so you kind of coop up. And so that’s kind of where I was, like I did have friends, I did have a lot of support at home. And people you know, I was bullied, like everybody’s bullied. And I have some pretty crazy bully stories. But I can’t just sit here and complain too much. I did have some love. And regardless I was still putting myself in a shell. And that shell just could not stick when it came to me creating music. No matter how hard I tried to box it in, it brought me out

I was playing the piano in college for myself.

TR:

It’s so important to have something we enjoy doing. We’ll do it more and therefore, we get better. The result, confidence!

Now add the power that comes from meeting other people with disabilities.

I’m especially talking about those you can relate to. Those who share your interests.

For Lachi, it started with Visions.
Visions Center on Blindness that is…

Lachi:

It’s a camp. So you do all sorts of different activities, not just learning technology. I got to meet a bunch of people. Myself, being a musician, it was great to meet other musicians with blindness. And a lot came out of that.

TR:

Like the chance to create.

Lachi:

He played guitar. We were collaborating so much together. We decided we were just going to go to South by Southwest.

TR:

That’s the annual music , film and cultural festival that serves as a way of really introducing new artists to both fans and executives.

Lachi:

Right before we left, I ended up writing to a bunch of labels to be like, Hey, we’re going to South by Southwest, you should check out our show. Don’t ask how I got your email just come through. (Laughing…) And of course, I got no responses. But we went to South by Southwest, we played a few bars, it was a lot of fun. And funnily enough, at one of the shows we did, some guy came up to me and was like, I really loved what you guys just did, even though it was just vocals and guitar. Here’s my card. Call me when you get back to New York.

It turns out he was an A & R for a label under EMI. And it was just amazing. We had our meetings, we had another meeting, we had a third meeting, and then we eventually got signed.

TR:

In addition to being an artist, Lachi’s a producer with her own studio.

Lachi:

I am a Pro Tools girl. I use sort of a bunch of Antares plugins. I am a girl that has my computer, right at the edge of that desk, and I am two inches away from my screen. And it’s so funny because people will come in of all sorts. I mean, people have high celebrity to just independent artists will come into my studio, and the first thing they think is, uh, okay, let’s see how this goes.

— “Go”, Lachi
Lachi:

Couple years ago, when I first started really opening up my studio to other people, they would come in and then they would be a little alarmed.

I did get to a point where I did preface it with people. As soon as they came to my studio, I’d be like look I’m just going to tell you right now, I’m visually impaired and legally blind. But you came here because you heard my samples.

I will be all up in the screen, but I do use all shortcuts. Everything is shortcuts shortcut shortcut shortcut.

TR:

She makes it work for her. It’s not about the process, rather, it’s all about the art she’s making.

Lachi:

Ever since 2016, you’re going to get EDM, you’re going to get dance, you’re going to get trance, you’re going to get pop dance, you’re going to get things of that nature. But if you start listening to some of my older music, you’re going to get sort of more general pop, or pop rock.

As I got more confident, my music gets more confident, my messages get more confident. I don’t know, I really started to enjoy the whole, like, badass female sort of perspective. And I started to identify that way. And so my music kind of takes that journey.

TR:

I was curious if Lachi had ideas on how she would adapt to non visually making music. Yet, I was hesitant to ask because when she first brought up her diagnosis, she admitted that she wasn’t giving it too much thought. She later added that the gradual nature of the loss may also be a factor.

Lachi:

I don’t even notice it until I, you know, go into my doctor every six months, and he’s like, dang, girl, you really can’t see the big E.

TR:

The actual sight loss is gradual. Some other things become apparent when it’s gone.

Lachi:

it’s not really something that has hit my, my inner realm. I can’t necessarily tell you why. But I am sitting here trying to, you know, trying to psychologically figure that out myself, I actually think that that’s a very interesting thing about myself that I’m not freaking out about it. But I’m looking at it from a business perspective, instead of from a personal perspective.

TR in Conversation with Lachi:

And you know, you can do both.

All I guess I really want to tell you is that you know, you do your thing. But I want you to know that you have lots of options.

Right? That’s what I want you to know. You have lots of options.

You gone be fine!

TR:

Honestly, I think Lachi already knows that. Meeting a variety of people with all different degrees of blindness and disability ever since attending the camp in upstate New York.

But some things are relatively new.

Lachi:

I decided to incorporate my vision loss and my need for accessibility into my career path.

TR:

That includes her work with the Recording Academy advocacy committee.

Lachi:

I am putting together a number of inclusion and accessibility talks with the Grammys.

Anytime I’m in front of anybody from the board membership or anybody from any of these committees, I am talking about inclusion, I am talking about accessibility, and my voice is getting heard.

We’re talking a lot about Hollywood inclusion, we’re not really talking enough about music inclusion. And so I’m getting in front of these boards and talking. And they are coming to me and going, you know what, let’s go ahead and have you do some panels Lachi, you’re the expert on this.

TR:

Be on the lookout for some panel discussions around accessibility and inclusion in the music industry.

Lachi:
another thing that I wanted to mention, my manager Ben price of harbor side management, got an amazing grant from the UK Arts Council to do a huge sort of study slash article on music and its future when it comes to disabilities.

He’s out there having some great conversations with people when it comes to not just showcasing artists with disabilities, but also, with the accessibility of venues.

When we start opening up the city, when we start opening up the nation in the world. This is something we need if we’re starting from ground zero. If you’re just reopening, why don’t you add that ramp, add that handle, add that bar, do what you got to do to make your space accessible, because guess what? 2021 and 2022 is going to be Lachi out here calling you out!

TR:

She’s currently building a platform that could provide the space to amplify these issues and more. It’s on YouTube and it’s called The Off Beat.

— The Off Beat promo

Lachi:

I am a quirky little offbeat musician and I’m also just an offbeat person.

it’s going to be a series that Chronicles me, a black girl going blind, just trying to keep up with the sort of fabulous lifestyle.

Everything from, makeup, skincare and wardrobe, to Little things like learning how to fold a shirt to just getting my taxes right to even trying to figure out how to make a YouTube series like let’s be real meta and learn that together.

TR:

She’s partnering up with brands who want to support her message.

Lachi:

I’m also really interested in speaking with influencers and top folks in not only the blind space, but in the disability space in general. And even other margins like transgender, LGBTQ non binary. Just kind of calling on names in that space, to ask them how they handle different transitions as well.

I’m excited to share it with you, and anyone who will listen, that we are going on this journey, and that we are doing it from my perspective of I think it’s important for me to mention that is from the perspective of a black woman losing her vision and not just have a woman losing her vision.
— “We’re Not Done… Check this Out” From “You Must Learn” Boogie Down productions
— “Bigger Plans”, Lachi

TR:

And just when you thought it was over, you learn about her “Bigger Plans” …

Lachi:

That is actually the song where we are putting out our AD version of the music video that we put together. And so we’re very excited about that.

TR:

In the meantime…

Lachi:

We put this music video together with that song. We ended up getting backed by a company that does diversity styling, and
we shot the video and the company’s called diversity styling. We ended up shooting it in a space called positive exposure, which is a gallery that only showcases art from underrepresented groups. In the video, they had a bunch of pictures hanging from students with different disabilities. And the song as you can see, was written by a woman with a disability and the video was produced and directed by myself. And the diversity stylings woman, and then the star of the video is Zazell, gosh, she’s good!

She ended up sort of dancing in the video, and she starts out with a cane. And she’s unsure then she throws the cane away, and she starts dancing, and it’s so empowering. But by the end of the video, she actually picks the cane back up and continues to dance with it. Because that’s that’s her whole her.

The whole video from top to bottom is just made by folks with disabilities. And we’ve been entering it into all sorts of contests and all sorts of things.

We just literally won Best Music Video at the International Film forum New York. New York, Neil gallery.

TR:

We all need some wins every now and then, don’t we?

Lachi:

I’m always doing these little radio interviews, whatever, this little thing here, this little thing there. This is probably one of my favorites. Look we’re sitting here talking man. I’m not being rushed. We’re not trying to hurry up and plug something. I don’t have like, you know, my show notes. Like, let me make sure I hit this. I can tell that we are having an A and B conversation. It’s not just you reading a quick question and then just kind of scrolling through something while I’m trying to insert it.

TR in Conversation with Lachi:

Yeah. Definitely.

Lachi:

I really appreciate your perspective. I really love this show. When Ben sent me the link. I was like, Oh, God, I gotta get on this show. As I really love it, and everything that you come through and say up in the club is always just so insightful. So I just did want to throw that out to you as well.

TR:

Nah, it’s still Covid out here. Lachi and I haven’t popped bottles in the club just yet! She’s talking about Club House.

The audio only social gathering space.

I’m an Admin with the 15 percent Club, which is all about disability – as in 15 percent of the world’s population has a disability.

Lachi moderates a room on Thursday’s called The Blind Side. It’s poppin! All sorts of conversations around blindness. My personal favorite so far was the room highlighting Blind women. There were plenty of proud Blind women who know they are all that! That’s something I support!

TR in Conversation with Lachi:
I appreciate that. But this is about you. This is all about you. So you need to understand that once you come on Reid My Mind Radio. I need to tell you Lachi you are now an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

— Official
— Airhorns!

Lachi:

Oh my god
I love it!

TR:

You can find Lachi on all social media at LachiMusic. If you’re on Club House don’t forget to check her out on Thursday’s. I might be working the door, but if I’m not let her know you’re part of the Reid My Mind
radio Family and I’m sure you’ll get the VIP treatment!

(Visually Impaired Player!)

Of course, go on over and follow Lachi’s YouTube series, The Off Beat and show your love!

If you like what you hear, please follow this podcast where ever you like to listen. We outchere!

Don’t forget we have transcripts and links over at ReidMyMind.com. If you’ve been rocking with me, you know how this goes, but some don’t… I’m gonna do it real slow!
that’s R to the E I D…
(“D, and that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

The Power of Friends Talking: Pramit Bhargava, Louie and More

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

There is power in conversation. A real friend can not only make you feel better by listening, but every now and then, they say something that affects you. Some times it lifts you up. other times it may not feel so good, but it’s meant to empower. Occasionally, it can even spark an idea.

Pramit Bhargava, is the founder of an Android app called Louie. Today, we explore his personal adjustment to blindness story. He shares an honest look into his experience with vision loss and how his view of blindness and disability has dramatically changed over the years.

And of course, there’s Louie!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

[show_more more=”Show the transcript” less=”Hide the transcript”]

“Friends” Whodini

“Friends! How many of us have them? Friends! Before we go any further…”

— Instrumental continues

TR:

Allow me to welcome you back to the podcast.

My name is Thomas Reid. I’ll be your host on this journey. even better, I hope I can be your friend.

See on this podcast, this podcast right here, we’re all about featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of Blindness and disability.

And one of my core beliefs as a person adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult is that the people we meet along our journey who have been traveling that path before us can be really important to helping us find our own way.

“Friends.”

Friends come in all shapes sizes and colors. Today, we even have virtual friends… You think you know what I’m talking about but let’s find out!

“Friends!”

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

— Audio of Louie sample from YouTube…

TR:

You’re listening to a sample of an app called Louie. It’s a virtual friend who can assist you in completing tasks within apps like YouTube, What’s APP, Uber and more.

We’ll get more into that later.
Right now, I want to share the story of how it came to be, which like the app, is really all about being of assistance to those adjusting to vision loss.

pramit:

I’m Pramit Bhargava, I’m the Founder of an app called Louie Voice Control for Visually Impaired people like us!

my life has been half with vision half visually impaired. I am by education a computer engineer. And then I went in for MBA. I had normal vision. So I was just like a regular guy.

TR:
A regular guy who attended both the India Institute of Technology and the India Institute of Management where he received his MBA.

Think M.I.T!

After graduating, well, he entered that race.
Pramit:
Running running to go up the corporate ladder. I was working like crazy. And with these global companies, you had to keep all kinds of hours giving the time difference.

I was in marketing, and then I moved on to managing businesses. For example, for quest diagnostics, I set up a couple of businesses in India. And life was all about, you know, moving up the corporate ladder and running and running.

TR:

He was about 30, living a very active lifestyle which included playing Squash. He began experiencing rheumatic joint pain.

Pramit:

it just came out of the blue, no family history, and they couldn’t diagnose it. So they put me on what we know as hydrochloriquine.

— Audio clips of Hydro chloroquine & Covid19

Pramit:

The good thing was that I could still get some correction. So I could still continue to work with these companies.

But then all along my vision was dropping and I kept sort of readjusting. I was also moving into a senior level position. So a lot of my work therefore involved strategy, thinking through problems, leading teams.

Emails, PowerPoints, and excel sheets are all there. The capabilities that I was leveraging, were really the strategy thinking, and execution, team leadership, so not so much, looking at the screen all the time.

TR:

There’s often discussion around when and how to disclose a disability to a prospective employer. Pramit opted for transparency.

Pramit:

I think the reason was very simple, because my vision was so bad they would have seen it
So I had a very clear plan of action. I would be upfront.

TR:

Not only did he disclose his disability, but pramit even suggested that hiring managers take some additional time to be sure of their decision to hire him.

Occasionally there were empathetic people in power, but the response he received let him know decisions were being made based on his skill set.

Pramit:

Look, it doesn’t matter. Because we want a certain skill set. We want your mind to work your brain to work, it doesn’t matter. Yes, they had expectations of some very basic,
I should be able to manage my emails, I should be able to read some stuff. they did have those expectations.

I think the fact that I was very upfront, and I didn’t want to sign on the dotted line, so to say, and I wanted them to think about it, , before we took the next step.

A couple of them in fact, asked me to go for eye test, , and of course, the eye test results. Were not great or anything, but at least , the whole thing was very transparent. It just knocked off the pressure.

TR:

Well at least external pressure.

We want to believe in the idea that we’re judged based on our skills. A meritocracy, but the statistics tell me that’s probably not a common experience for most people.

Remember, Pramit graduated from the top technical and business schools in India.

— Audio transition changing tone …
Pramit:
there came a time. Suddenly, I couldn’t read anything at all. I couldn’t make out any Excel sheets, PowerPoints.

And, , because I had that little vision, I wasn’t really using any of the technologies, I wasn’t using a screen reader,.

So the mind said oh, I don’t need it, I can manage it.

TR:

Over a 12 year period as his vision changed, his adaptations did not.

Pramit:

I hit that point where suddenly my confidence was gone.

In my mind the devil saying, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. If I can’t do this, how will I be able to do a job like this?

TR:

It wasn’t anything external, in fact, Pramit continued to get job offers.

Pramit:

I was sort of just sitting at home two and a half, three years doing nothing.

Every time I would get offers, , for similar positions, and something inside me will tell me no, no, no, , let me not make a mess of it, I won’t be able to do it.

I was getting very, very dependent for simple things. 

I mean, even to answer the phone, , I had to ask somebody, okay, Who’s calling? Or if I had to dial somebody on a touchscreen.

TR:

Pramit was living with decreasing Low Vision for about 12 years. Not passing as sighted, but also not working as Blind

At first glance, it might appear as if he were in a really good situation. He had a high level career, management was supportive, he had resources including assistants. So I had to ask in order to make it clear.

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 13:49
What made you lose your confidence?

Pramit

(Long pause… followed by a slight laugh)

I think See, I think combination of two things if honestly, if you asked me, I think a I was in that phase of life where I was trying to run, run and like I said, go up the corporate ladder. So let’s say if there was a goal, if at that time somebody had asked me, what is that one thing you want to achieve in life? I would have said, Okay, go up the corporate ladder, become a CEO, become a CEO of a bigger company. So that was one. Sometimes the way I almost think of it was that the higher you are flying, the bigger is the fall. (Laughs)

It’s A – about my aspirations and just not knowing what I should be doing next with life.

TR:

pramit wasn’t receiving negative feedback from his peers or management.

Pramit:

You know, that you are hitting that point where performing to that level is going to be difficult, just struggling for everything struggling to present struggling to analyze.

For example, let’s say you look at a trend on an Excel sheet. Now if you can see it, the numbers start speaking a story. When you try and do it with a screen reader cell buy cell buy cell, sometimes that story may get lost. And because I was not even using a screen reader. (Chuckles) So imagine, now, I’m not seeing anything, and suddenly those numbers are coming. I think a combination of, I was trying to fly high. My aspirations, the fact that I was not preparing myself for that, gradually I could have, but I didn’t.

That loss of confidence was not because of anybody telling me, it was all inside me all in my mind.

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 17:32
I definitely understand, and I just wanted to kind of pull that out, because I think it’s an important piece. So it’s like, you have your own standards. And if you’re not meeting your standards, well, that starts to impact you. It’s not always external. And so that’s why I wanted to drag that out a little bit from you.

Pramit:

Yeah, yeah! Absolutely!

In fact, If I can Thomas add to that, sometimes what happens We process somebody as low vision, or no vision as saying, oh, he cannot see. But I think important thing is what is going on in that person’s mind. Right, and how do we process it? How do we deal with that condition? I think that’s the bottom line. And that’s where, you know, I think my biggest whatever bottleneck was,

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 18:32
My teacher that I always go back to he used to say, everything starts with the thought.

Pramit:

Yes!

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

How is blindness perceived from your perspective in India? Because in a sense you were very privileged, would you classify yourself as that?

Pramit:

absolutely no doubt. I mean, the fact that I had vision, the fact that I had that kind of education and the kind of experience Yeah, certainly.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

What are the opportunities for others who may not have been or may not be as privileged?

Pramit:

I’ll give you a personal angle to this and I think it’s really important Right. Rather than saying how others would perceive, I can talk about how I used to look at blind when I had normal vision, I think it’s very important.

Honestly, I never interacted with somebody who’s blind. It’s not that I didn’t see them on the road. Because typically I’ll see them with a stick, and, you know, somehow managing or whatever, you know, people helping them, I just had zero empathy for blind people, you know, I’m just being very, very truthful on this.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

I appreciate it.

TR:

He admits, he had tunnel vision – focusing only on his goal of making his way up that corporate ladder.

Pramit:
Now, if I were to, let’s say, Now, extrapolated to a broader world in India, I would say that there are people of all kinds, I think, fortunately, I think there’ll be fewer people like me, who will have no empathy.

I think in India, also on top of it, I think the facilities, you know, for example, facilities for the visually impaired are fairly limited. Now, now that consciousness is going up. Like for example, now, all metro stations in India are designed for visually impaired, they have a lot of help available, right. There are tracks specially for them, you know, which they can follow. So, now, things are changing, but, there is definitely a perception issue.

TR:

And one of the best ways to change those perceptions?

Pramit:

I started interacting only when I started developing the app, Louis voice until such time, would you believe it, I have not had a real interaction. When I say real interaction, I may have seen somebody, I may have exchanged a word or two. But you know, that heart to heart one on one conversation, I, you know, till about, I would say two years back, I had not met a single visually impaired person in that sense. I was just trying to solve my own problems. I was just doing things on my own.

— Audio “Gladiator”

Pramit:

I started realizing that look, you know, just living for personal gain and living selfishly the way I had been all along. You know, it’s not something that’s great. Because I was very transactional, everything was about what is the benefit for me. You know, there’s nothing called you know, selflessly doing something. Now I’ve been consciously trying to change it.

TR:

Pramit’s self discovery didn’t begin with the app.

Pramit:
I think it’s a broader change which happened 15 years back now.

I was doing well in my career.

All of a sudden, these thoughts started coming into my mind, where am I running? What am I doing? Why, why am I here on earth? What is my purpose in life? I mean, it just came out of nowhere.

TR:

That inner voice may have always existed. Maybe the volume is low at first, but at some point it becomes noticeable.

Pramit:

Of course, I ignored it. You know, I kept ignoring it. I think it was only about maybe six, seven years back that I landed up, you know, at a meditation center.

TR:

I know, he doesn’t seem like a meditation center kind of guy.

Pramit:

There is so much of what happens when you’re an engineer, and an MBA from a top Institute. I was so left brain that I thought I knew everything in the world. That’s also part of that ego.

so I had gone to meet a friend who is like me, you know, similar career. So you know, again, you know, and he himself same materialistic, same same kind of thing. just happened over dinner, I just asked his wife tell me some good books.

I had just got introduced to audiobooks, by the way. So for years, I had not read anything.

Initially, of course, I started with some business books and so on.

so and then she just said, okay, read this book and nothing else.

The title sounded interesting, because I would have read a lot of autobiographies of business leaders, but not a yogi. I had zero interest in anything about Yogi’s or spirituality or religion.

TR:

That’s Autobiography of a Yogi
(available on Audible & BARD from the National Library Service for the Blind and print Disabled in the US.

Pramit:

I read the book, then there was this a certain meditation technique in that, you know, so I have just feared having read the book that my life will go to waste. If I don’t do that, you know, don’t learn that. And then accidentally, I had gone to a place to buy a book.

TR:

A book on that form of meditation.

While in the bookstore, he noticed a large hall . He asked about it.

Pramit:

They said, We teach this meditation.

I just landed up there by accident. So this is like all coincidences.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

No, that’s not coincidence.

Pramit:

Yeah, but I mean, it just looks like that now,

Ever since I came onto the path , I can well appreciate a lot of these things. I’m not doing it. It’s really a lot of you know, higher forces.

TR:

No matter what you believe in, the outcome and resulting actions should speak for themselves.

Pramit:
today, if I’m self-critical, it’s only because I am able to now assess myself because I can pull out and I can assess how big a jerk I was. And let’s say up to this time, and even now, sometimes, so I think which is good, that kind of self-assessment, and which happened only because I got onto this path.

TR:

Before he arrived on his current path, he admits trying other routes with alternative destinations.

Pramit:
I wanted to go back to the same life, the same kind of jobs.

TR:

But his confidence for that life was gone.

Then, he had a beer. But before you get excited, this is not an excuse for you to do the same. See, it’s not about what he was drinking. It’s about the friends he was drinking with.

Pramit:

One of them asked me a very, very pointed question.

He said, look, you are still living in the past, you’re still chasing what you used to do earlier. He said, Look inside and tell me, what is it that you really want to do now?

That suddenly changed my position, you know, and that and then I opened up? I said, No, yeah, you’re right, you know, all that I’m not interested, you know, I really want to do this. And I actually had something, you know, I could actually tell them, but I was trying to keep it down.

TR:

Identifying the problem is one thing, but understanding why can really be helpful.

Pramit:

We are leading our lives based on what others around us think. Therefor you want to just do the acceptable thing.

Slowly I think I started accepting the fact that look, I don’t need to care whether somebody likes it or doesn’t like it. This is what I want to do.

TR:
Others like family, friends or colleagues in many instances.

But remember that beer with friends earlier?

— “Friends” Whodini!

Pramit:

Then we had another round, In fact, with a bigger set of friends, they called up more people. By that time, I had greater granularity, I said, Okay, this is what I really want to do. And then ideas started flowing. Nobody was being judgmental, nobody was trying to say, Oh, this is bad, this is good. They said, Okay, if this is what you want to do, let’s see how we can help.

TR:

Pramit began consulting, but on his terms.

Pramit:
Some of these guys then got me contacts. And then basically what I did was that rather than doing regular jobs, I said, I’ll go into consulting, but a very different way.

I will do it one day, two day, three day, whatever I feel comfortable with, I will go work inside a company, work with their team drive their team, and I will not give them a consultant’s report, but I will actually deliver for them, whatever results or whatever targets that they had in mind.

I was lucky because some of these guys were connected, they put me in touch with people

I started my first consulting work within 10 days. My confidence was back.

I knew that I am 95% as effective as I was earlier. And doesn’t matter because I was using screen reader effectively. And I mean, there were people around so once in a while, I couldn’t see an image so I can ask them. Okay, what is this image? Just tell me, right? I mean, you have to take help whenever you need to. Yeah, but then I was independent.

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 39:18
Wow, wow. How good did that feel?

Pramit:

See, it’s like a bird released out of a cage. And that cage was created by me by my mind around me, nobody else. I mean, I cannot blame anybody else. for it. It’s only you know, how my mind was processing it.

TR:

The impact of all that, went beyond work. He began traveling on the metro subway – which even further enhanced his confidence.

Enjoying his new found freedom and career, , pramit approached a potential client, the managing director of a large Venture Capital firm.

Pramit:

he knew that I am visually impaired. So he was very keen. He asked me, in fact, a lot of questions about what apps you’re using, how are they? Do they do the task for you? Where is the gap? And you know, it was almost like, you know, trying to assess a market? Yeah. And at the end of it, he said, Look, forget consulting, you are just wasting away your life.

Let’s build apps for visually impaired.

He said, I can see because I’ve been tracking this market for a while, and I have some personal interests. He was cited.

TR:

But Pramit was comfortably consulting and even booked some long term projects. Why leave that?

Pramit:
I had gone to meet an uncle who’s like, you know, very wise and old. He said something, he said, Look, if I look at it from a material perspective, I will tell you do not do the startup because it’s very risky right now, you are doing well in consulting stick to that. But he said at the same time, I will say one thing, there are very, very few people in the world who would leverage their disability, to do something that can help others with similar disability. He said, If you can do that, you know, and he said, I wouldn’t advise you, if you can do that. I mean, that’s something.

TR:

That really resonated with him.

Pramit:

Way back in 2009, early 2009, when suddenly, I joined quest diagnostics, and my blood sugar levels turned out to be very high, and had a family history of diabetics, I lost my father because of diabetes complications. And I knew that, you know, going on to insulin doesn’t really help because I’d seen him taking insulin injections, two times a day, from childhood. Something clicked and I just changed my lifestyle. And let me tell you, because I was on this whole corporate ladder trip,

I was leading a really bad lifestyle, lot of stress, very little sleeping a lot of junk food, because junk food gives you that instant energy, it makes you feel, you know, you got energy back and you’re you know, in control. Yeah. And I was overweight, obese, you know, not overweight. So I lost something like 20 kg.

TR:

About 44 pounds.

He shared his progress on YouTube ad free, by the way and he says he’s still contacted by people around the world in regards to his journey with Diabetes and weight loss.

Reframing the idea of developing apps from this perspective made a difference.

Pramit:

When I look at all my senior positions back then it doesn’t give me joy, honestly, you know, so that was when I said, Okay, I’m ready to do this startup.

It’s very easy to criticize the tools that are available around us, you may say, Oh, this is not good. This is not bad. This app doesn’t work. You know, it doesn’t work here. This gentleman who was in the venture capital company he said, Look, I’ve heard enough about this not being good, that not being good. Tell me what is good. define it for me. So next week, I want to see what is good.

TR:

Then one evening after hanging out with a friend, Pramit began to arrange for an Uber when his friend said something.

Pramit:

He said give me your smartphone. And let me book it for you.

There were all these options. I gave him a destination. I would say take this ride, take this, there’s so much fare this fine. I’ll pay by this method, and confirm and calling. So you know, that whole experience was so beautiful. What if I could create a virtual friend right there on the phone screen, which will do exactly similar kind of continuous conversation with me. It will do everything within an app, because my friend could have done anything, you know, including cancellation, including messaging. And that is how the thought for Louie was born

TR:

Concept in mind, it was time to test the effectiveness of both Siri and Google Assistant. What he realized is that what would become known as Louie, came out of a very specific idea.

Pramit
I can build something which can be just tailor made for a visually impaired, tailor made for a blind. Louie is keeping a blind person in mind. I think that’s the difference.

TR:

Exactly how to do that required answering a few questions.

Pramit:

Can I give just voice commands to Louie , can I control my favorite apps or key features on the phone?

Just by my voice commands and with the thought that I should be able to do each and everything and being in control all the time?
I think that was very important.

TR:

That constant control is crucial. You want to be assured that whenever you need to access the app whether for information or to provide detail it’s available.

Whether ordering an Uber while out on the town, contacting a friend via What’s APp or just chillin’ on your couch surfing YouTube.
Pramit:

You can manage your contact, edit, delete block so on, everything with just voice commands. You can call, text messaging and there’s a whole series of apps and pain points of visually impaired that we are working on.

Messenger on Facebook, Google search, basically being able to navigate around in a browser, being able to read articles, being able to read documents. Even simple things like these, like, for example, some of the visually impaired even have a problem receiving their calls, picking up their calls, disconnecting their call.

What I realized the aspirations of a visually impaired are no different from that of a sighted.

These two gentlemen said, Oh, food ordering, why don’t you do food ordering? E-commerce for example and with that two way continuous interaction which the voice assistant’s don’t provide.

TR:

Pramit believes Louie can do it.

— “You can do it Louie” —

In fact, others do too. Which is why they formed the company Visio Apps.

Pramit:
Currently, we have investors, both in India, as well as USA. And I think very importantly, I think one of our investors, which I think was really important for us, he was the Google India and Southeast Asia head. And he was in Google, at that time, when he invested in the company. He just felt that look, this is something great, I really want to be a part of. So I think that has really helped.

We have 14 people in the team. Apart from me, there are three more visually impaired, there are five people in technology who are cited. People in marketing. Visually impaired people are contributing significantly, both in testing as well as user experience.

It’s a small team, we have employee stock option plans, we’re all passionate about this cause.

TR:

Since the pandemic the team has been working remotely and it looks like that will continue.

Which means there are opportunities for developers worldwide. In fact, Pramit is interested in hearing from Blind developers especially those working in IOS and Java.

You’re probably already recognizing ways that this sort of an app can go beyond the Blind community which is great. But it’s Pramit’s response to that which really sums up the power of Louie to me.

Pramit:
I’m very clear that the focus will always be the use case of a blind person. And with the assumption that look, if it works for somebody who cannot see the screen, it should work, theoretically for anybody else.

TR:

I’ll have all the links to Louie and how to reach Pramit on this episodes blog post over on ReidMyMind.com.

Again, Louie is for Android users only right now, therefore understand I have not used this myself.

But I’m all about friends helping friends get through a challenging situation. Especially when we’re centering that Blind experience.

Pramit:

I’m everyday interacting with users, I like to speak to them. So my phone number, my WhatsApp number, you know, my email is like, freely available. to anybody, and I do get calls or you know, just out of the blue from a whole lot of visually impaired because that really helps.

Just talking to people one on one, understanding the challenges with the app. I’m just trying to make it better and better.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:
So you’re telling me the CEO is the customer service?

Pramit:

Laughs… yes!

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

I officially welcome you into the Reid My Mind Radio family, Sir.

Your story is one that I think would be helpful for people adjusting to vision loss. I salute you in terms of where you’ve been, and

Pramit 1:13:59
no, no, not really. No, I’ve been a jerk I’ve been, as you can see,

If my experience can help I look at it that way.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:
But I say that because I don’t think anybody can throw stones because we all have done something. But we all don’t admit it. So I’m not saluting your jerkiness, right? I’m saluting your openness and you sharing that that’s what I’m saluting and the fact that you recognize it. When I became blind and I became aware of inaccessible websites and whatnot. And I said to myself, Oh, my goodness, I built an inaccessible website before, because I didn’t know I didn’t know. So now I know. So it’s really like when you know, it really matters what you do, then. You know what I mean?

Pramit:

absolutely.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

That’s what I salute, sir.

TR:

Our latest addition to the Reid My Mind Radio family just provided an incredible amount of insight and value to this conversation of adjusting to blindness and disability.

It’s worth reviewing and truly sitting with and thinking about the experiences he shared.

If you know of someone right now who is in the midst of such an adjustment, reach out and tell them about this episode, tell them about Louie.

Of course let them know they can subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever they get podcasts!

Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com.

Now be a friend and say that with me…

R, to the E I D!

(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!
[/show_more]

Cathy Kudlick: From Denial to Director

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Image of Cathy Kudlick in front of a microphone
Happy New Year!

We’re starting the year off with centering the main goal of this podcast – providing that peer to peer support and information for those adjusting to blindness & disability.
To kick it off, I’m excited to have Cathy Kudlick back on the podcast. Last time we talked all things Superfest Disability Film Festival. This time she’s sharing Valuable experiences from her life that helped her move away from denying her blindness to using her interests and abilities to become Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability.

She’s dropping gems for those who are currently struggling with their loss. Some really valuable lessons learned from her own experience. You’re going to want to hear what she has to say, so let’s go!

### Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Happy New Year Reid My Mind Radio Family!
My name is Thomas Reid, host & producer of this here podcast! Bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness & disability.

Why you may ask?

Opening Mercy Mercy Mercy, Cannonball Adderley
— Applause
“You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity. When it happens, sometimes we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes we don’t know just what to do when adversity takes over. And I have advice for all of us.”

TR:
Who better to get that advice from then those who have traveled that similar journey!

There’s no time to waste so let’s get it pushin’! Hit me with the huh!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Cathy:
I’m Kathy Kudlick, and I’m director of the Paul k Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. And I am also a practicing historian, which means I got a PhD in history.

TR:

I told you she’d be back!

Cathy was on the podcast with her colleague Emily Beitikss in September of 2020 talking all about The Superfest Disability Film Festival.

I knew I had to get her on when she mentioned her own experience with vision loss. Today, we’re focusing more on her story!

Cathy:
I was born totally blind with cataracts, at a time when they couldn’t really fix them very well. And so my parents in the first like, nine months of my life, basically, you know, kind of realized they were going to be bringing up a blind daughter, but they still didn’t give up.

TR:

Cathy describes her early experience with blindness as a Salmon swimming upstream, you know going in the opposite direction or against the current.

Cathy:

Yeah, it’s like I was going sighted instead of going blind.

At one point, I was seated on a chair, and my dad was taking a picture of me, and I reacted to flash. And so they said, Whoa, wait, there’s something that’s happening.

TR:

She was developing vision!

A family friend helped connect them with a prominent doctor who said he could help.

Cathy:

And he did.
When I was nine months old, they removed the cataract, my vision afterwards was still pretty darn crappy, as doctors would subsequently say, but you know, it was better than nothing at all, they said. And so I went through most of my life up until my teenage years with this pretty darn crappy vision

TR:

Additional surgeries gave Cathy more vision, but as we know, vision is complicated.

Cathy:

My brain didn’t learn when I was young enough to make the association. I can stare at something for quite some time. A lot of people will make that connection in five milliseconds, and I’ll be sitting there Okay. Is that a dog or house? Eventually, I’ll get enough input and enough clues and say yeah , it’s a house. Then I’ll fill in all the rest.

In the process of all this, I have Nystagmus, which is a muscle thing where the eyes basically jump all over the place. If I could just hold them still, I’d probably have pretty decent vision, but I can’t.

They say that Nystagmus later in life, it’s a lot, lot harder. And in my case, it’s all I’ve ever known.

— Music begins – calm melodic beat —

TR:

We often think it’s a natural process to adjust as a child, but some things require more attention.

Cathy:
I inherited my condition from my mother.

But society being what it is and prejudice being what it is, and denial being what it is. My mother did not want to admit this to me.

One of my big journeys in life is kind of reconciling well, who I was, who my mom was, and being able to talk to her about it. And even pretty late in life. She was starting to come around, but it wasn’t easy. It was really hard for her. She grew up in a different time, a different place.

— Music begins –
TR:

A time & place where disability identity wasn’t a thing.

Cathy’s specific experience with blindness is unique to her but what we all share is finding our path to acceptance. And that’s not often easy for those adjusting to becoming blind. In order to see how Cathy went from denial to Director of a disability Cultural Center we have to go back to her early experience with vision loss.

Cathy:
Growing up, it was just denial city,

It kind of reminds me of the cat that I have that hides under the bed, but its tail is sticking out.
They think they’re hiding, but everybody else is like, whatever, you know, go ahead and hide all you want.

The world really is set up for that kind of denial. I mean, you get all these enablers to help you do it because it’s so much easier for everybody.

TR:

Meanwhile, the person experiencing the loss, continues to struggle.

Cathy:
I loved my history classes. And I would just bury myself in a corner with regular print books, and a magnifier, but I didn’t want anybody to see me reading with a magnifier, if I can help it. I know I shook my head a lot to Read. I’d bob it back and forth, because of Nystagmus. I was ashamed of reading. it was like I had an accident or wet my pants or something to be caught reading in front of other people. It was so humiliating for me.

TR:

That pain goes beyond the emotional.

Cathy:
I remember getting my first cane and putting it in the closet, and it felt like it was just irradiating out from it, like, Oh my god, there’s a cane in there, you know, like, it was like a beast that I put inside.

— Ambient radiating sound begins …
— Music fades out —

I injured myself pretty significantly a few times by not wanting to use the cane because I could technically get by and if I use the cane and didn’t trip for three weeks, or three months or whatever, and I tripped the fourth week, Well, look, I got three weeks as a sighted person.

TR:
These experiences are not unique to Cathy. In fact, it’s more of a reflection on our society. A society that pairs strength with over coming and fails to see value or strength in difference.

Cathy:

They never bothered to teach me Braille.
And if I had learned Braille as a kid, when I was starting out, even if I turned out to be like a total 20/20 person, wouldn’t it be cool to know how to read Braille?

But, there’s so much stigma, things like, Oh, you don’t want to do that.

It’s so ridiculous. You realize how you’re tied up in little knots by society, by other people.

I could have been a more social person earlier on, I could have been a different person earlier on if I had not tried to pretend so hard that I was seeing like, everybody else.

TR:

We all travel at a different pace. Perhaps longer journeys accumulate valuable lessons.

Cathy:
Everybody makes it in their own way. There’s no right way to do it. Once you break that barrier, everything opens up, it gets a lot easier, but you got to get to that barrier. And however you can do it, if you even have a hint of how to do it. Go there early and go there often to get to this other place because it’s a lot better once you’re not in denial anymore, not trying to pass. Not trying to pretend you’re somebody else. That just frees you up, big time!

TR:

That’s a place that’s important and meaningful to you.

— Music begins –
Things you enjoy – not what some so called expert designates as appropriate for “someone with your condition”.

Cathy:

I started using those tools of being a historian to studying blind people. And that was really, really an important moment too, because you realize, one, you’re not alone. And to there is a history there.

I think knowing that there’s people like you that came before you, no matter who you are, and what identity you’re wrestling with, is so powerful, and so liberating, because it means you’re not the only one. You’re part of a tradition, you’re part of a process for a society. It’s not just us selfishly trying not to be treated badly.

TR:

That experience of discrimination or being treated badly, well that can ignite a fire. .

Cathy:

I’m mentioning the name, not to punish them, but just to show these were different times, and I’m not trying to make it up or cover anything over.

I had my first academic job at Barnard College.

I was starting to open up about my vision impairment and sort of being honest with people because I felt comfortable enough to do that.
but it came back to me that they did not want to keep me on, or they didn’t want to really consider me for another longer term job there because of my vision impairment.

They asked me to teach a large lecture class in front of a bunch of people just to see how I would do.

and something when they asked me to do that made me realize, like are you asking other people to do this.

So I said, No, I wouldn’t do it unless they were making all the candidates do it. Needless to say, that job application didn’t go much further.

TR:

That experience helped form a new way of thinking.

Cathy:

If I got kicked out of a job and didn’t get a job, because of my blindness, maybe there’s a flip side to this where I could say this is an identity and get people to think about identity differently.

This was before I knew much about disability studies, this field was kind of just taking off, there was no real disability history at that point.

TR:

So Cathy used her tools!

Cathy:
I started doing research in the French archives, where I did history of medicine, research, and I hooked up with researchers there Talk, talk to them. And it turns out, there’s a really great person that I have coauthored with Zina Weygand.

She introduced me around about scholarship and people and suddenly I was off to the races. It used a lot of talent that I already had in terms of this history research. I was basically off, off and running.

TR:

Her curiosity led to the discovery of a history of Blind people that I’m sure many are unfamiliar with. It began with a pamphlet.

Cathy:

It was called reflections, the life and writing of a young blind woman in post-revolutionary France, and it was handwritten and stuff. And I, I had a lot of trouble reading it. I sat in this archive, by myself. I had this one librarian that would read to me and helped me a lot. I ended up transcribing it and talking a lot with Zina , she was like, Madame history of the blind in France.

TR:

The booklet, written in the 1820’s, authored by Adele Husson, who wrote about her experience as a Blind woman growing up in France.

Cathy:

Nobody had ever written anything about that. We figured out she probably dictated it to different people because the spelling was different in different parts. And the handwriting was different in different parts.

TR:

Cathy and Zina were able to put together the author’s backstory through arduous research

Husson was concerned with being a burden to her family. In her quest to become a writer, she traveled on her own from provincial France to Paris. Her motives for writing weren’t just creative.

— Music ends
Cathy:
She wanted to ingratiate herself so she could get a residency in this place in Paris where Blind people could live if they did the right song and dance to get in. So she wrote this document, and they ultimately refused her.

Call to Action
— Music Begins
TR:

Are you enjoying this podcast? I can’t hear you.

“Can you dig it!” (Crowd roars in cheer!) – Warriors

TR:

One of the best ways to show your support for what we’re trying to do is to just share the show!
Tell a friend to tell a friend.

That way we’re more likely to get this into the earholes of those who need to hear it. And that’s the important part.

You could also give us a review on Apple podcast. The more reviews and 5 star ratings the more likely people will discover us.

Do you have a topic you want to recommend? reach out!

Email ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com or call 570-798-7343 and leave a voice mail.

And of course Subscribe, wherever you get podcasts!
Thanks family!! And now back to the show!

— Music ends! —

TR:

Adele’s writing, let’s say left much to be desired, but she did achieve her goal.

Cathy:

We figured out at one point that she published more books than George Saund, who was a pretty famous writer at the time.

One of the things that was interesting, we found a book that had a preface, the story was really similar to her story, but it had a different name and the preface.

And it turned out that despite the fact that she said, Blind girl should never marry because if they marry a sighted guy, he’s just going to take advantage of them. And if they marry a blind guy, their prospects are totally bleak. They’ll die in a fire or something terrible will happen to them.

TR:

The research indicated Adele did marry…, a Blind man!

Cathy:

She died in a fire just like she predicted.

TR:

It’s unknown if her two children also died in the fire. Her husband, however, survived and went on to become well known in the Blind community.

Cathy:

He made this invention that you could use to communicate between sighted people and blind people with writing and translating.

He married a sighted woman and lived until he was about 70.

TR:

Cathy’s researched uncovered a community of Blind musicians and literary people in the 1820’s and 30’s.

Cathy:

Eventually, Louis Braille was part of that world, too. He knew Adele’s husband, we think.

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

When you say a community at that time, I’m thinking, is this an actual community physically? Because how were people actually communicating if they weren’t in the same location?

Cathy:

Good question.

So there are two kind of physical possibilities for them.

One of them was a, the residents that she was trying to get into, and there were a lot of blind people that live there. And they had all sorts of rules about who could live there.

There were the schools that they all went to. National School of blind youth, if you were Blind, anybody in France, you went to this, you went to Paris and went to this one school. I think there was also one in Bordeaux, another large city in France.

In general, you knew people from being in the schools together.

TR:

There’s even some evidence of more social activity.

Cathy:
There was actually a place in Paris called Café des Aveugles, the Blind people’s cafe. It was kind of a seedy establishment in the seedy part of the city, but they would go and hold concerts there, met and exchanged ideas. We don’t know the details so much, it could be as much as like four out of the 40 people that were there were blind but you know, four blind people really make a stir. (Chuckles)

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

Laughs!

Cathy:
You see these little glimmers of blind culture that are out there, but we don’t know until people really dive in to research it. With access to these archives now, kind of really hard and not organized and not funded. It’s, it’s a little bit harder, but I think the time will come eventually.

TR:

The value is in how these stories are interpreted and put to use.

Cathy:

Once I kind of made that connection, then I could frame a lot of my research as disability as a cultural identity, or as formed in history and as being part of history as opposed to just some weird, random medical condition that affects a few people that nobody cares about.

TR:

We’re talking about a significant shift in perspective. Moving away from a very mainstream view and offering something more empowering.

Cathy:

Don’t just try to fix me, let’s, let’s look at me and what I’ve learned as an expert, because I have a lot of talent and a lot of craft and perspective. I don’t mean me, Kathy, I mean the global we, people with disabilities who have perfected through studying, not just scholarly ways, but just kind of observing, you have to observe society pretty carefully to know how things work.

TR:

If you’re someone who has been running away from your vision loss, I need you to hear this.

— Music Ends

Cathy:

Passing, people disparage it all the time, but boy talk about being a really careful study or of society and knowing how the rules work. If you view passing as the first part of a two part exercise, then passing is a really set of useful skills to have.

TR:
You have to really know how things work in order to fit in. But it doesn’t have to be about passing.

Cathy:

You use those skills for something else and you stop passing and you say, okay , let’s pull it apart. Why do people cross the street that way? or Why do people think that this is important and not this?

Any question is fair game. Disability is so central in things that people have never thought to ask about in a cultural and social and emotional way before it’s always non-disabled people that are framing those questions, and when you put us center, us ask the question, it’s a different thing.

TR:

Centering people with disabilities, the results can be extraordinary!

— Music begins – something upbeat and in the spirit of conquering or coming to terms…

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]
At the time that you started to pursue disability studies, would you say you were still sort of passing? It sounds like you were on your way to…

Cathy:

I was on my way, I was on my way. And I remember going to my first society for disability studies, meeting and feeling like I sat at the bar at Star Wars. It’s like, there’s all these different creatures around and I was like, Okay, these are sort of my people, but some of them not all of them.

TR:

That’s honest. And I know I appreciate that because, I too was there.

But it ain’t where you’re from… it’s where you’re at!

Cathy:

I used to be terrified of other disabled people, I didn’t want to be associated with them at all, are you kidding?

That’s scary. Those people are way more disabled than me, they need more help than me and what’s wrong with me that I would identify with that when I could be in the mainstream, non-disabled society.

TR:

But then you start meeting the people and your opinion and feelings change. You realize well of course we’re not all the same, but some of these people I really do identify with. And for Cathy, that brought her to a realization.

Cathy:
I think I fit more with the people that are the disabled people than the non-disabled people.

In society, there are very few positive settings, where people with disabilities get to be a majority. And that’s what’s so great about our film festival when it happens in person. Superfest is like 4050 60% people with disabilities in a positive way, where people are having a good time, they’re teasing each other, they’re laughing together at the same jokes.

Suddenly, you’re in an environment where there’s more of you than there are less of you. It’s like Whoa. You kind of get a bounce in your step, or your wheels or whatever. And suddenly, you get to be a person that’s in a majority culture, in a way that’s very exciting and validating and powerful.

TR:

History helped establish this identity, meeting other Blind people helped it grow.

Cathy:

I did a training at the Colorado Center for the Blind about 20 years ago. It’s run by and for blind people. they make you do everything they’re blindfolded, wearing sleep shades. You learn travel, cooking. It’s really extreme, you go downhill skiing, rock climbing, all these things.

You learn not to be so afraid.

TR:

Afraid of what is often described as the never ending darkness! (Yuck!)

But fear, well, that’s just an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real!

Cathy:
You’re taught travel, and everything by blind or low vision instructors. And you know, a lot of sighted people freak out about that. They’re like, Oh, my God, how are you going to be safe or whatever. And I’m thinking, if I’ve got to learn to travel and be safe somewhere, I don’t want that to come from a sighted person, I want to know that a blind person has figured out how to do it, and they’re going to show me.

TR:

Once again we see the role fellow Blind people can play in our adjustment.

Cathy:

Wow, there’s people that really do cool stuff and I can learn from this.

Sight isn’t everything in the entire world. It’s something to value, but it’s not the end all and be all there’s a lot of people that don’t rely on it and can’t rely on it. And they have lots of really interesting and fun and great ways to deal with it.

people focus on that light and the dark and all of that stuff and they don’t give you a place to really meet other people that have figured some stuff out. And I think that’s where your podcasts kind of great to be, you know, you meet all these people that are engaged and, you know, vital and fascinating and fascinated and, you know, wow. Once you crack that nut, I feel like things get a lot easier.

TR:

And if all that wasn’t helpful enough, Cathy offers another piece of advice for those adjusting.

Cathy:

I did a lot of therapy. Anybody that’s afraid of therapy, get over it. Find a good therapist. Get somebody that’s going to push you about this stuff.

I remember I had a therapist who didn’t know a ton about disability stuff, but he was still open, and he listened.

He kind of pushed me. At one point, he said, Would you rather be an incompetent sighted person? Or a competent blind one?

I sat with that question forever, because if I had known, that’s the choice that I was making, I think I would have freed myself up sooner.

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]

Do you think there’s anything about that journey that you actually had to go through in order to be where you are today?

Cathy:
Oh, wow, that’s a great question. (Pause)

Probably

I mean, I am who I am. And it’s all this, like, kind of jumble of what’s me.

TR:

She’s Cathy Kudlick…

[TR in conversation with Cathy:]
So Kathy, you already know you are…

— Audio: “Official”

member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family.

Cathy:
Yay! (Laughing) I was waiting, I was living to hear it. I was living to hear it!
(Cathy & Thomas laughing together fades out)

TR:

Cathy Kudlick, I so appreciate you and you taking the time to share your journey with the family.
And family is supposed to look out for one another. Sharing our journey’s because we know how that can impact another person experiencing blindness – whatever the degree.

You can find Reflections which contains the translation of Adele Husson’s original booklet along with thoughts from Cathy and Zina Weygand on Bookshare.org.
For that link, more of Cathy’s writing, transcripts & more head on over to ReidMyMind.com. And yes, that’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Peace!

Hide the transcript

2020: The Year of Adjusting, Not A Just Thing

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

I’m pretty sure most people will be glad to see 2020 come to an end.

But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, the year for so many was a symbol of a bright future, as in 2020 Vision. That idea can really be misleading!

Whether we’re talking about blindness specifically or the Covid19 pandemic,2020 was all about adjusting.

Police senseless killings, Black Lives Matter, Healthcare, we are lacking a just thing!

A look back at 2020 from this podcast’s perspective in just 20 minutes and 20 seconds!

Listen

Resources

Shout out to V! AKA Victoria Clare on her new single “By Any Means” Featuring, wait for it… me, the T. R to the E I D!

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio: Oprah Winfrey’s 2020 Vision…
Oprah: “OMG! It’s about to happen (Crowd cheers) So of the nine visionaries joining us on the WW presents ah 2020 Vision Tour: Your Life in Focus, there’s only one man,

TR: Yeh, yeh!

Oprah: but when it’s one of the most recognizable,

TR: Mm!

Oprah: big hearted,

TR: that’s real

Oprah: delightful, fun,

TR: Ha, ha!

Oprah: strong

TR: Hey!
people on the planet, he’s all you need. Please welcome Dwayne the Rock Johnson!
Audio: Record Scratch

TR: What the… Fine, who needs them, when I got the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

2020 is Ableist AF!

— Music begins with a bass boom into a bouncing Hip Hop beat —

I’m talking about this idea of perfect vision, used as a metaphor for a flawless; plan or strategy, objective or goal and yes even sight.

Audio Samples…

So much of this is perception, which is subjective. Assigning the label of perfect to something automatically creates a ranking system or hierarchy.

It’s not surprising that so many people in 2019 and earlier, decided that 2020, the number associated with perfect vision, was an indication of a better time to come in their lives. The time to create or invoke that plan. Maybe get into shape, return to school, start that new career. Whatever it was, 2020 began with real optimism.

In my early days of adjusting to becoming Blind, I can recall declaring random days, months and year as my time. The right time to start fresh. To look at the future with real hope seeing only opportunity.

I too kicked off 2020 with this energy for very specific reasons. That includes personal opportunities that were presenting themselves. Nothing grandiose but some that I could eventually see as the early steps in building a solid foundation.

One of the themes of 2020 has to be adjusting. Reid My Mind Radio has been focusing on this for years.
Victoria Clare, an artist in the UK, helped me kick-off the year with her story of adjusting to Blindness or as they like to say, sight loss.

Audio: Bumper
— Audio clip from: “Adjusting to Vision Loss – A Creative Approach with Victoria Clare” begins —
VC:

I went out in my Dad’s shed, I got a big old’ block of wood, stole some of his chisels, used his mallet and started creating. It was amazing. I turned my world around because it made me realize alright, I’ve been diagnosed with this sight loss but nobody’s taken away the skills that I’ve always had. They’re still there.

— Audio clip ends —

Audio: Bumper

TR:

More on her latest artistic endeavor a little later!

February came around and I was feeling pretty good. I was swimming on a regular basis – which truly means a great deal to me. That itself is an access story for another time.

I also got the chance to introduce you to my man, Ajani AJ Murray! In his episode Starting with Imagination, we see that no matter the disability, the idea that begins with our thought or imagination can sometimes be delayed by access. Notice I said delayed, not halted or deferred.

— Audio clip from: “Ajani AJ Murray – Starting with Imagination” begins —

AJ:

I always had this dream of being an actor. It was something that was always looming in the back of my mind. It was always in my spirit, but I didn’t know how to physically make the connection. I couldn’t necessarily afford acting classes at the time and I wasn’t in high school at the time to be a part of an acting club.

That idea of working within your reach continued. In the episode Climbing Accessible Heights with Matthew Shifrin, Matt talked about his work with Lego and the objective of his advocacy to give that access to others.

Audio: Bumper

— Audio clip from: “Climbing Accessible Heights with Matthew Shifrin” begins —

MS:

I just wanted people to have this resource because I’d benefited so much from it. Not all Blind kids have people that could write instructions for them. Everyone deserves to be able to build and to learn from what they’ve build.

— Audio clip ends —

Audio: Bumper

TR:

Sharing our experiences with others is so important. Dr. Mona Minkara from Planes, Trains and Canes used the power of show not tell, to capture the wide range of responses to a Blind person traveling alone. And as we know, those reactions are filled with nuance.

— Audio clip from: “Taking A Ride with Planes Trains and Canes” begins —
[TR in conversation with MM:]

Wait up. You said he was nice?

MM:

I’m saying he was nice yes. (Laughing)

[TR in conversation with MM:]

Did you feel that way in the beginning? From the video, I took this guy like he was being condescending.

MM:

Oh, he was totally being condescending. I think it’s just the norm there to kind of treat people with disabilities like we are a bunch of 5 year olds.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

Traveling is less about the destination than the journey. In the episode John Samuel: Guided By Angels, we see it’s about who you’re traveling with and what you do once you arrive!

Audio bumper
— Audio clip from “John Samuel: Guided By Angels” begins —

[TR in conversation with JS:]

And you just happen to be standing next to her. There’s such a pattern with you.

JS:

I know man; I can’t make this stuff up. I got angels all over the place.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

While many people were progressing with their 2020 Vision plans, looming underneath it all was Covid 19. We were advised to take individual precautions; wash your hands, don’t touch your face, use hand sanitizer and somehow that translated to get as much toilet paper as you can!

I invited my wife Marlett on to compare what we experienced as a family adjusting to blindness and what the world was going through in the midst of the pandemic.

— Audio clip from: “A Peak at Finding A New Normal” begins —

Marlett:

Social distancing, that’s funny to me because no one really came around We understood about social distancing people were doing that to us for quite some time. Distancing themselves from us.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Damn!

Marlett:

Well it’s true.
— Audio clip ends —

— Audio clip ends —

— Music ends —
TR:
If 2020’s perfect visual acuity has shown anything, it’s the inequity in our society.
Covid 19 zoomed in on the drastic differences in healthcare.

— Audio clip begins from “Corona – So Many Parts” —
Audio: Instrumental “Quiet Storm” Mobb Deep

Audio: Covid19 related News montage

– “The Pandemic seems to be disproportionally affecting people of color”
– “African Americans have been hardest hit by the virus. Despite accounting for 14 percent of Michigan’s population they represent 41 percent of its Covid victims.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

In this same episode, Corona: So Many parts, I went on to compare the adaptations made in society in response to the Corona with those people with disabilities have been seeking for years.
— Audio clip from: “Corona – So Many parts” begins ”

All of a sudden!

Audio: Gazoo (from The Flintstones)

Have you noticed all of the corporations now accommodating their employees with work from home access?
The online conferences and entertainment now available.
Everything getting done online.

If inaccessibility is manmade then maybe man can fix it,
Audio: “That’s right!” from Harry Belafonte’s “Man is Smart Woman is Smarter”

TR:

Huh!

Audio: “That’s right!” from Harry Belafonte’s “Man is Smart Woman is Smarter”
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

Swindler, Scam artist, Liar, Snake oil peddler, Divider, yet in this past election, many have and continue to support him and his white house administration.
. Some of those supporters I’m sure have the absolute worst intentions. They are white nationalists. But there are some who have simply been played. And one of the rules that we need to remember is everyone gets got at some point in their lives.

I shared a story where I was duped into being a part of a dog and pony show disguised as a demonstration and discussion about Blindness.

— Audio clip from: “Live Inspiration Porn – I Got Duped” begins —
Well, in this particular case, while the dog and ponies sat up in front and this one off to the side a bit, the sighted donors were led into their temporary world of vision loss.

Reluctantly at first, one after the other each slowly began trying on the glasses.

“Oh my”…. “wow”
“where did you go Jeanie?”

And then the real fun began as they exchanged glasses with one another. Laughing as they realized how little they could actually see. Unable to find things they placed on the conference table. The host joking as she moved their cups of coffee.

Meanwhile, the dogs and ponies sat up front. While the jackasses continued with their disability experiment.

Empathy, I didn’t see that. But a check was written.

I don’t remember how the event finally ended, but I do know that was it for me. I checked out. There may have been some additional conversation but I doubt I had much to say to anyone after bearing witness to that display of ableism. I vowed to never be a part of anything even remotely like that.

I could easily imagine each of the donors around the table going home fulfilled and thinking “I should really count my blessings, because there’s always someone worse off in the world.”
— Audio clip ends —

— Audio clip from: “George W. Bush Fool Me Once” begins —

GWB: there’s an old saying in Tennessee, I know it’s in Texas probably in Tennessee but it says fool me once… (long pause) shame on…, shame on you. (long pause) Fool me can’t get fooled again!
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

You know, learn from your experiences

— Music begins – A bouncy energetic Hip Hop beat —
TR:

Hey! Do you enjoy listening to this podcast?
Do you have a topic you want to recommend?
Reach out.
email ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com or call 570-798-7343 and leave a voice mail. Like this;

Voice Mail:

I’m calling because I listened to the Reid My Mind and I thought that episode on Charles Blackwell was just fantastic!

TR:
That was actually Mr. Blackwell himself playing a little joke on me. He said I could use it and I would either way because he doesn’t have a computer so he won’t find out!

If you do have a computer or a phone that is online and you want to stay updated to what’s happening here;
Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com.
That’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)
Like my last name.

And now back to the episode

Audio Bumper:

“Come on chop chop, the Doctor will see you now!”

TR:

Well not really. But let me break down 20/20 as a fraction signifying normal vision.

The numerator, (the top number in the fraction), , represents – 20 feet. The denominator represents the distance in feet where a “normally” sighted person can see that same thing.

So, someone with 20/20 vision is seeing as expected.

A person with 20/200 can see from 20 feet away what a normally sighted person sees from 200 feet.

When it comes to an awareness of police brutality, Black people been having 20/20 vision. I’d add Indigenous and many people of color as well. I’d even add woke White people somewhere on the spectrum.

But too much of America has been hovering around that 20/200 acuity. They’ve been legally Blind to police brutality forever. There’s no lens to help them see the systematic racism not only in the police departments across this nation, but also throughout our society. At least not long enough to actually do something about it.

The Covid 19 pandemic created the environment enabling the magnification of the brutal killing of George Floyd, the murder of Brionna Taylor and the injustice that followed.

I wanted to be hopeful that the initial attention and outrage would be a catalyst for real change throughout society. I talked about how these events have and continue to impact me and my family. I even talked about it in the realm of Blindness advocacy!

— Audio clip from: “Let Me Hear You Say Black Lives Matter” begins —

TR:

All the organizations that are either of or for the blind want the same thing; independence, security opportunity for all Blind people. Who does this really include? For some, blindness skills training isn’t going to be enough to have an opportunity to reach that goal.

For me personally to believe these organizations and others are really about independence for all, I’m going to have to see them lead the way. That leadership needs to come from those in power right now.

I’m going to need to hear them simply say it; “Black Lives Matter”

Audio Montage of individuals saying “Black Lives Matter!” Concludes with all simultaneously saying it.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

I’ve been thinking about these intersections and specifically about the experiences of Black disabled people no matter the disability.
So I teamed up with RMM Radio alumni AJ to co-produce and host Young Gifted Black & Disabled! Along with our guests, Rasheera Dobson and D’arcee Charington, we talked about all sorts of issues including the lack of Black disabled images in the media.

— Audio clip from “Young Gifted Black and Disabled” begins —

Rasheera:

I get a little sad. I never saw anyone like me. I never saw a girl with disabilities in Essence magazine. Struggling with low self-esteem growing up I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I was reading Essence magazine, Ebony magazine Jet magazine reading the stories of Toni Morrison and hearing the Black struggle but I never read about the disability struggle.

It Matters, it really does.
— Audio clips ends —

TR:

Yet D’arcee shared how there’s so much to be proud about.

— Audio clip from “Young Gifted Black and Disabled” begins —

D’Arcee:

I was just thinking of the Morpheus quote from The Matrix Reloaded, which I recently saw. When he was in Zion, when he was talking to everyone trying to calm them down and what he said is; what I remember most is after a century of struggle I remember that which matters most.

Audio from Matrix Reloaded: “We are still here!” Crowd roars in applause!

That resonates so deeply with who I am as a person.
— Audio clip ends —

— Audio clip from “Young Gifted Black and Disabled” begins —

AJ:

The full story of the black experience hasn’t been written yet.
There are plenty more chapters yet to be explored.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

That exploration includes the experiences of people like Artist, Poet, Writer Mr. Charles Curtis Blackwell and his words of hope and inspiration.

— Audio clip from: “Charles Curtis Blackwell – Words of Meaning Empowerment & Inspiration” begins —

CC Blackwell:

I realized ok, God gave me this talent and with this talent he’s kind of helped raise me up from that bed of poor self-esteem. Lift me up and encouraged me and inspired me. And I have to take care of this talent. I have to nourish it, be kind to it, treat it right and try to use it.

— Audio clip ends —

Audio Bumper:
Uplifting music with a beat could work to close out from here.

TR:

With over 250,000 people lost from Covid in the US alone and millions affected, it’s hard to say anything good came out of the pandemic.

I did however have to acknowledge the accessible content coming from the team that brings you the Superfest Film Festival. Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability
center Cathy kudlick talked about the types of films featured at Superfest.
— Audio clip begins from : “Superfest Disability Film festival: Going Above & Beyond”

Cathy:

“… we highlight what we think is disability 201 – films that share the creativity and the ingenuity or the unexpectedness or the intersections of disability with other kinds of identities.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

Associate Director of the Longmore Center and Superfest Coordinator, Emily Beitikss talked about the festival’s commitment to access including Audio Description.

— Audio clip begin from: “Superfest Disability Film festival: Going Above & Beyond”
Emily:

So much of our work is working with these film makers to teach them, think about the problem and have tough conversations as we do it so that hopefully people are thinking about it in advance of making their films.

— Audio clip end —

TR:

Including AD as an ongoing topic of discussion fully aligns with the objective of this podcast. It’s never just about entertainment. Media isn’t just about entertainment. Access isn’t just about entertainment!

This year we featured a bit of a history lesson on Audio Description. Rick Boggs of Audio Eyes took us through the involvement of Blind people in AD from its inception.
— Audio clip from: “Viewing Audio Description History Through Audio Eyes with Rick Boggs” begins —

Rick:

What I’m proud to say about Audio Description is Audio description as created by Blind people. And every innovation and advancement in Audio Description that has really contributed to what it is now was made by Blind people.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

We continued with IDC’s Director of Audio Description Eric Wickstrom on what makes quality AD
— Audio clip from: “Audio Description with IDC: Good Enough isn’t Good Enough!” begins —

Eric:

There’s too much good enough is good enough. For us and our standards at IDC, no we’re not striving for good we’re striving for great!
— Audio clip ends —

TR:
A big part of that great is in the writing. Head Writer Liz Guttman shared her passion for AD.
Liz
— Audio clip from: “Audio Description with IDC: Good Enough isn’t Good Enough!” begins —

Liz:

I go to work every day and I get to write, think hard about the best way, the most vivid and concise way to convey something that’s on screen. So that someone who’s listening to it will get the same feeling that I have watching it. And to help bring us all in to the same level. Especially since I have become more familiar with the Disabled and Blind and Low vision community. I have friends in that community now. I care about their experience.

— Audio clip ends —

TR:

In Flipping the Script on Audio Description, we expanded the conversation to be a bit more critical and inclusive of those involved in AD from varying perspectives.

Like Media Accessibility Provider, Alejandra Ospina

— Audio clip from: “Flipping the Script on Audio Description” begins —

Alejandra:

I do Close Captioning and I do transcription and I do translation and Audio Description and so I like to imagine the things I’m doing all sort of promote access to content. I don’t consider myself as often a content creator but I like to facilitate people getting to see or hear or know what they’re watching.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

In the second installment we heard from four Voice Over artists also narrating AD. We talked a bit about the inequities and the importance of authentic voice representation. Inger Tudor well she just broke it down to the very last compound!

— Audio clip from: “Flipping the Script on Audio Description Part Two – Voice matters” begins —

TR:

I know some people hear this and say, why should it matter? Shouldn’t anyone with a suitable clear voice just be able to voice characters or narrate films no matter their race, ethnicity, gender etc.?

Inger:

Hold on a minute. Four hundred years, we haven’t had the opportunity to do a lot of stuff, take a seat for a moment because I guarantee you your seat for a moment will not end up being four hundred years. Then when we get to the place where everybody can do everything that’s fine, but we’re not there yet and we need to catch up so give us a minute, ok?

[TR in conversation with Inger:]

There it is!

— Music ends with a base drop that pulsates and slowly fades out.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

We went outside of the US in the third installment. No real surprise, the guidelines used in Canada and the UK tend not to include race, color or ethnicity in Audio Description.

Fortunately, there’s people such as Rebecca Singh of Superior Description Services in Toronto who are changing that.

— Audio clip from: “Flipping the Script on Audio Description Part Three – Moving Beyond Just US” begins —

Rebecca:

I feel like I owe it to the listener and the listener is not necessarily a middle class cisgender white female or a male and sometimes I feel like from some of the teaching and reading and some of the history from what I’ve seen of Audio Description and words, it’s really taking one particular perspective. That is exclusionary and also not fair to people who are Black and Indigenous or people of color.
— Audio clip ends —

TR:

2020 doesn’t seem very fair.

The success achieved by other countries in their handling of this virus shows this pandemic, could have just been a thing! way too many lives lost that could have been prevented if we all spent a bit more time adjusting.

If only we learned from our past – you know 2020 hindsight? Oh wait!

Audio: 2020 Hindsight, Dilated peoples

Big shout out to all of the Reid My Mind Radio family. Whether you been rocking with me for just a few episodes or 100 plus!

One of our family members and alumni, Victoria Clare reached out during the pandemic to see if I’d be interested in collaborating with her on a song she was writing. She wanted to include a rap break and thought I could make it work. I said yes!
The song is available just about wherever you buy or stream music. It’s called By Any Means – it’s an upbeat dance track written to empower and inspire women who reach that point when they need to go inward and pull out that strength. I’ll link to the track on this episodes blog post.

If you like what’s been happening here on the podcast please pass it on. I know there’s a lot of people who would benefit from meeting others impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

Some have asked if there’s a way to financially contribute to the show.

If you are so inclined, you can donate via PayPal to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.
All funds go to supporting the podcast.

Finally, I want to close this episode a bit differently in memory of someone I lost this year. A teacher of mine who said as a teacher he was there to quench our thirst but would eventually melt away. He was wrong! He ain’t going anywhere!

When we finished our conversations he’d say “May we remain” I think of that now like a little prayer.

Reid My Mind Radio Family, I wish you all a very joyous holiday season and great things in 2021!

May We Remain!!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description Part Three – Moving Beyond Just US

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

I’ve had conversations where people have said, Blind users don’t want to know about race, they want it to be completely neutral.
– >Elaine Lillian Joseph

Today we’re going beyond the US border to hear from two international describers. Rebecca Singh of Superior Description Services in Canada. A square yellow logo reads Superior Description Services in black capitals under a black dot containing a sequence of vertical yellow lines.
And if that’s not international enough for you here in the states we have Elaine Lillian Joseph from the United Kingdom.

We hear a bit about their AD origin story or how they came to description, the importance of centering Blind people in the process and more on guidelines for describing race, color or ethnicity.

And by the way, who in the world is neutral? Just US? Hmm!

Maybe not the final episode in the Flipping the Script series, but it is the last of 2020!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

Music Begins – A smooth, funky mid tempo Hip Hop beat

TR:

What’s good Reid My Mind Radio Family!

It’s me, your brother Thomas Reid. I hope you’re doing well.

Me? Why thank you for asking. I am doing well.

Today, we’re bringing you part three of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description series.

You know, this was never actually supposed to be a series. I originally planned for one episode but it was quickly evident that several people had something to share on the subject.

It got me thinking about Audio Description in two categories.
First, mainstream.

These are the writers and narrators creating AD for major television and film projects.

Then you have the independents – these consist of a varying degree of theater, live performance, museum and other sorts of description work.

Flipping the Script is all about promoting different voices, alternative views and Audio Description topics that are often overlooked.

As we’ve seen, this applies to both mainstream and independent.

I can’t say for sure this is the end of the Flipping the Script series but I can say it’s the last for 2020.

You know, just when I think I’m done with the topic…

Audio: “… they keep pulling me back in” Al Pacino in Godfather Part 3

Audio: “And here we go!” Slick Rick, A Children’s Story

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro
Rebecca:

My name is Rebecca Singh I am an Audio Describer also a performer. I’m the owner of Superior Description Services which is an Audio Description service which consults with the Blind and partially sighted community one hundred percent of the time. I am a cisgender woman of color and I live in Toronto Canada with my young family.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

How’d you get involved with Audio Description?

Rebecca:

I got involved with Audio Description through the theater actually. I have been a performer for a very long time and just over ten years ago I saw an audition posting for this thing I’d never really heard about, Audio Description and it was a class that I had to audition to get into. I got the part. Started training, that led to something of a building up of the industry here in Toronto.

— Music Begins – A dance track with a driving beat!

TR:

That’s right Y’all, in this third part of Flipping the Script on Audio Description we’re going international!

What’s that? Canada’s right there to the north? Ok, let’s cross the Atlantic.

Audio: Airplane in flight.

Elaine:

My name is Elaine Lillian Joseph. I’m from a city called Birmingham which is the second biggest city in the U.K. I’m a proud Birmie! I’m a Black woman. I’ve just got my hair done. I’ve got long light brown extensions with cane row on top. I’m wearing a floral long just below the knee length dress. I’m sitting in my friend’s bedroom because I’m currently quarantining with my friend’s family. I’ve been doing AD for just under two years. I work for ITV which is our second biggest channel after the BBC. I’m also a freelance Subtitler so I do subtitles for Hard of Hearing as well. A lot of accessibility going on.

TR:

Subtitling or what we know here in the states as Captioning was Elaine’s gateway to Audio Description.

A fan of film and television, she studied English and German in college — oh my bad, University

Elaine:

It always seemed like a natural thing to want to go into media. Finding out that there was this whole kind of world of accessibility and it’s not just, it’s not just transcription I guess. Not that there’s anything wrong with transcription but that you can be a bit creative with it. Doing subtitles for Hard of Hearing for example, doing a Horror film and working out how to describe the sound of of an alien creature and what words am I going to use to do that. It seemed like a natural transition from that to also thinking about how to describe things in general.

TR:

Prior to working at ITV, Elaine was Subtitling at another firm, BTI. it just so happened to be the employer of an influential colleague.,

Elaine:

Veronica Hicks, who kind of really kick started AD in the U.K., certainly. She used to sit directly behind me and she has this velvety plummy (chuckles) voice. I was sitting subtitling and thinking what is it that she does because it sounds fascinating.

TR:

Elaine asked around and learned more about Audio Description. Eventually she left BTI.

Elaine:

Everybody at my company knew that I really really wanted to do it. A position came up; they kind of said go for it! I tested and I got the job and I’ve been very very happy ever since.

TR:

Such an important thing to keep in mind — let people know you’re interested.

Today, Elaine has written AD for projects including a remake of Roswell. She’s been trained on narration so we can expect to hear her post pandemic. She also narrates live performances.

Elaine:

I usually do kind of Queer Cabaret events. There’s like dance, spoken word, lip syncing and things like that.

— Music ends with a drum solo

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

I’m wondering what was the experience from your other work that you brought to Audio Description?

Rebecca:

I liked my drama class in junior high and I decided this is the best thing ever. I made my way to a performing arts high school and got bitten by the performing bug and was doing at first some film and television. As it goes as a performer, the work opportunities change.

Instead of just sitting by the phone as they say, I shifted over to doing more theater work, clowning.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

The whole get up, the makeup and everything? Or is that something different? (Chuckles)
Rebecca:

I think that’s a certain kind of clown. I was living in Montreal, like the city of Circ De’ Sole. It was a little bit more movement, physical theater based kind of stuff. The acrobatic storytelling with the body. I went to dance school for a while. So it was really more about expressing myself through the body.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

Okay, so you’re not jumping out of cars with like fifty other clowns. (Laughs)

Rebecca:

No!

TR:

She’s a creative person who found herself doing more arts administration. After moving to Toronto she moved back into the performance space gaining even more of the experience she needed for Audio Description. That physical performance for example prepared her for her first AD assignment describing physical comedy. And the administration work was quite valuable as it gave her a community of people to talk to or a network.

Rebecca:

There were people that had already worked with me in a different context and so I understood their concerns, what their fears were as producers. Everything from being afraid of touch tours because you’re potentially bringing a service animal onto a stage before the show. Rehearsal schedules, the time and space actors need. The types of conversations that are appropriate to have with directors if you’re having discussions. When is a good time to approach a designer if you have some questions? All of those things really help to mitigate any hesitancy that producers had in terms of adding something new to their palette.

TR:

Elaine’s love of reading & creative writing adds value to her description. But that merging of creativity with Audio Description has it’s challenges.

Elaine:

It’s a service and I think it’s important to remember it’s a service. There can be ego (Chuckles) in any industry and sometimes I think people forget the user and what’s most important to the user.

TR:

Rebecca has her own way of assuring Blind consumers are always centered throughout her process.

Rebecca:

Paid Blind and partially sighted consultants. I get two different kinds of feedback. I learned a long time ago it’s definitely not a one size fits all in terms of description. I have a roster of consultants with different interests as well. I also try to match the interests of the consultant. Some people like Opera, some people like dance. All of their different expertise filters into my descriptions. And they ask those really deep and probing questions that I have to find answers to.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

What kind of differences do you find between the Blind and partially sighted feedback that you get?

Rebecca:

One of the most striking differences is things like when I’m describing a set. With people who are partially sighted some people need to sit really really far up close and they want a different type of perspective in terms of what the set looks like. they may not be sitting in the same place. If they have a service animal they may be sitting further back in the theater. Maybe they’re closer to a speaker where that might cause some sound level things that need to be worked out. Sometimes light matters in a production, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I’ll get feedback from Blind consultants saying things like I really appreciated the fact that you called this thing almond shape because I know what an almond feels like. I really developed a sense of what words work better and what words are more inclusive over time working with both Blind and partially sighted consultants especially if they’re working together with me on the same show.

That’s the other benefit of having multiple consultants is that they can learn from one another and I always have a chance to bring in somebody new and widen my pool.

TR:

Inclusive language reflects all sorts of identities.

Elaine:

I’ve had conversations with people before about things like race. It’s wonderful that we’re kind of having a moment where we’re really grappling with that. And I’ve had conversations where people have said, Blind users don’t want to know about race, they want it to be completely neutral. I find that a really interesting argument because I’m like what does neutral actually mean and who are we assuming is neutral?

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

How do those conversations come up when writing description?

Elaine:

When I first started I remember asking questions like should I describe color? Should I describe that this rose is red or that this car is blue or whatever? And then moving from that I guess to should I describe race and the color of somebody’s skin?

So I’ll talk specifically about race rather than diversity I guess because there are other things that we can describe.

The industry standard was to not describe race unless it’s important to the plot.

TR:

By now, if you’ve been following this ongoing conversation on the podcast, you should be pretty familiar with this AD guideline.

As an example of the guideline, Elaine refers to a production of Hamlet

Elaine:

And Hamlet is Black. Then I should mention it. But that doesn’t mean I should mention the race of anybody else. We can assume that everybody else is white. I took that on board and then I kind of ignored it a little bit. (Laughs)

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

(Laughs…)

Elaine:

Because I just found it really difficult. I was like, but why? (Laughs)

I found that I was working on shows where I just wanted to describe like the color of somebody’s skin.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Why?

Elaine:

Why!

Because I thought, what’s it mean for it to be relevant to the plot. If there’s a conversation happening between sighted users and they’re saying oh did you notice how the policeman in whatever show it is is Black? I just kind of feel that means that as a Blind user you can’t be part of that conversation because someone’s decided that that Black policeman isn’t relevant to the plot so we’re not going to mention them. Also personally I know Blind users who I’m friend’s with who definitely wanted that information to be included because they’ve definitely felt like there are conversations that they can’t be part of because people are making these decisions.

TR:

Decisions being made on behalf of Blind people without our input. How does that make you feel?

Elaine:

Initially I wasn’t bold enough to say the Black man. I would describe the texture of his hair. So I would say the man with black afro textured hair. (Laughs) I think it should be fairly clear, but I still felt like I was kind of skirting around it.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Would you get any pushback?

Elaine:

We definitely didn’t receive any pushback. When my manager kind of reached out to a community of Blind users then it was an overwhelming yes! (Chuckles) Please do include that.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Okay. So you never got pushback from management.

Elaine:

No. My immediate manager was like a resounding yes! When I went into the kind of wider Audio Describer community that’s where I definitely felt pushback.

TR:

Like the time Elaine attended a conference where for the first time she heard a discussion of race and Audio Description included in the conversation.

Elaine:

There was a lot of why do we need to do this? What terms do we use? People not feeling comfortable saying the Black man – will the terms change. We might offend somebody, so it’s better if we don’t use any terms at all and just kind of ignore race. It felt uncomfortable for me being the only Black person in the room.

TR:

That’s uncomfort when people are either looking to you for the answer. Or one that I know I’ve experienced, giving the impression that you’re doing something wrong by raising the issue. (Oh well!)

Elaine:

Maybe it’s my British politeness kicking in but I found it very difficult to sit and listen to kind of put in my two pence. Imagine if a user is Black, maybe they do want to know about race (laughs… You never know!

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Yeh, absolutely

It’s just as important for a Blind consumer who is not Black to know that there are Black people on the screen y’all, like this is real.

Elaine:

Definitely.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

I’m wondering if there’s an age gap here too. Is this the old guard that we’re talking about here?

Elaine:

I guess so, yes.

I have much respect for them. I feel like I need to put that disclaimer out . (Chuckling)

I really do and I felt like almost a young usurper at that conference and in some of these conversations I’ve had. I get that they’ve been trained in a specific way. If we look at the breakdown of describers in the U.K. it’s white middle age women.

Audio: “To be or not to be. That is the question” From Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company

Music ends with beat in reverse!

Rebecca:

I feel like I owe it to the listener and the listener is not necessarily a middle class cisgender white female or a male and sometimes I feel like from some of the teaching and reading and some of the history from what I’ve seen of Audio Description and words, it’s really taking one particular perspective. That is exclusionary and also not fair to people who are Black and Indigenous or people of color.

TR:

In general, no matter what country, fairness, access, equity that should be the goal.

Rebecca, who thinks quite critically on this subject of inclusion presented at a conference in Europe.

Rebecca:

The Advanced Research Seminar on Audio Description.

I, over the last, I would say five years or so, have been really been honing in on the idea of creating the Canadian accent for Audio Description. We here have had a lot of influences from England and also from the states. We haven’t had our own Audio Description culture in Canada. So I went and was the first person to present from Canada and I talked about creating the Canadian accent and describing race gender, class and recognizing our bias.

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

And how was that received?

Rebecca:

people were very interested. I think that there’s not a practice of using consultants quite as much as we do here in North America and specifically what I do. The other thing that was really well received was the fact that I presented it in a way that did not require any description. I described all of the images. I tried to make the entire experience inclusive to a point where the person who was operating the CART, the real time captioning, didn’t have anything to write. That was all just part of the example of how we can be more inclusive.

TR:

The responsibility of making media inclusive and accessible includes the role of Audio Description.

Rebecca:

Everybody deserves the opportunity to see themselves in a story. We as people who are helping to tell a story have a responsibility to do everything that we can to not exclude people from seeing themselves.

TR:

So what exactly does that responsibility include?

Rebecca:

even as Describers we need to understand what our own bias is. I live in a very progressive city. And I live in a arts bubble inside that city. I try and check myself against that as well. I don’t want to use language that is so open that only a very small amount of people with very specific references will understand.

We need to have more conversations with consultants and also understanding what the history is and what the perspective is of people who are heavy users of Audio Description. We need to talk about it.

TR:

She’s talking about multiple conversations from all perspectives. Some times that just means raising the issue.

Rebecca:

It’s all of those little tiny actions that every person can do just to point out when things could be better perhaps or when things could be more inclusive.

Just being self-reflective about how we’re receiving information. I think many voices is much better as opposed to a government mandate or something like that.

Sometimes words aren’t enough.

TR:

But the words can inspire actions that lead to real change. Like getting film makers and broadcasters to include a bit more space to allow for Audio Description.

Ultimately, the change happens when our thought process becomes more inclusive.

Rebecca:

If the creator of the material no matter what it is, has the Blind and partially sighted community in mind as part of their audience from the beginning.

TR:

Having Blind people in mind translates to our access not being an afterthought. When it comes to Audio Description?, we need to be centered.
[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

So the idea that there are sighted people enjoying Audio Description?, that’s cool, that’s really cool and I get it because hopefully that means there will be more of it, right?

Rebecca:
Yeh!

[TR in conversation with Rebecca:]

Do you see the potential for that to be a problem?

Rebecca:

I’m really in favor of Audio Description guidelines and standards being created for the needs and wants of the Blind and partially sighted community. Anyone who is putting something forward that they call Audio Description is aware of these guidelines and is providing something that is standardized. That said I think it’s also okay to create things that are not necessarily Audio Description?, but use techniques of Audio Description and as long as they’re not called Audio Description. I think more is better and so as long as it’s not called Audio Description when it doesn’t meet the standard, go for it!

TR:

From my understanding, there are conversations happening today exploring these guidelines.
I’m not sure what will end up being decided, but I do know that if these conversations do not include people of color in a real way, including decision makers, then we have to ask the question, why? Is it just fashionable right now to appear as though we’re addressing issues of diversity?

It’s a similar question I asked of all those in the Flipping the Script series;

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

It’s a simple question, so feel free to answer (laughs) because I’m asking it!

Elaine:

(Laughs) I see I have no choice. (Laughs) Okay!

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

(Laughing )No, but answer it anyway you want.

My question is why, why AD?

Elaine:

Oh! That’s a lovely question.

AD has brought me into contact with people that I probably would have never have met. In terms of the Queer drag community that I’m now part of and speaking to Blind users and Blind performers as well. I think that’s enriched my life and I hope that the descriptions I give in turn enrich their experience.

Last year I remember telling someone another sighted person, that I did AD. They just laughed and were like Blind people don’t watch TV. That was just like a whole education let’s just say for that person. (Chuckles)

I think it’s a really, really beautiful service and I think that it’s having a bit of a moment over here where people are certainly from the describer point of view, people are starting to think about how we can change it and engage even further with the community who uses it and that’s really, really exciting to be part of honestly. It’s so so fun! I honestly want to keep on doing this and developing my skills and my confidence and listening to people.

— Music begins – a chill piano leads into a smooth jazz chill Hip Hop beat

Rebecca:

I am a storyteller, I was born that way (chuckles). I think it’s really important to be able to tell your story in a way that everyone can hear it, receive it. I don’t think we have any excuses to ignore that anymore. We have technology to help us out. I want to see the amazing wonderful gifts that actually like Blind and partially sighted creators present having had access to some of this more popular culture. Some kind of performance art. So I think it’s important for everybody to have those opportunities. and I really feel like access to art is as important as access to sport. I think it’s part of what makes us human. And so everybody should have this access.

I just think it’s fair!

TR:

That’s Rebecca Singh, you can call her CEO of SDS or Superior Description Services where she centers Audio Description.
Rebecca:

Also known as described Video here. I do live description, image description, I produce podcasts with the Blind and partially sighted community in mind. Consultation to help with Universal Design. My Twitter handle is @SDSDescriptions.. I’m also on Face Book Superior Description and you can always check me out at SuperiorDescription.com.

TR:

Elaine Lillian Joseph is on Twitter @@elaineLJoseph.

I’d like to thank Elaine for putting up with my attempt to include the London slang in our conversation.

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Init! (Hysterical laugh)

Elaine:

(Laughs) Oh my days, you really love Top Boy don’t you?

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

I do!

I get in to the whole street shows and all that type of thing so, I’m sorry! it’s Hip Hop I’m going to be in there!

Elaine:

Ah, that makes you (possibly says me) really happy! I love it, I love it!

[TR in conversation with Elaine:]

Yeh! (Laughs)

TR:

Big shout out to Rebecca and Elaine for all they do and for openly sharing their experience and opinions for the improvement of AD for all.

So let me welcome you to the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Audio: Air horn!

I’m hoping you’ll hear them back on the podcast in the future.

While this is the last official episode of 2020, you know I usually do something for the holiday season. Right now at the time of this recording, I have no idea what that is, but I’m pretty sure I’ll put something together to wrap up this incredibly challenging year.

To be sure you get that episode;
Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com. And let me do a bit of Audio Description for you. That’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

— Music Ends

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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