Archive for the ‘Audio’ Category

Viewing Audio Description History Through Audio Eyes with Rick Boggs

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Audio Eyes LLC Logo - graphic of film transforming into brain waves with the text "Turning pictures... into words"
Continuing with the exploration of Audio Description, I’m very happy to have one of the founders of Audio Eyes, Rick Boggs on the podcast. We get a bit of a lesson on the history of Audio Description with an emphasis on the role Blind people played in its creation and advances. Why is this important? How can we be proactive in promoting AD? How can we become more than consumers of AD?

Listen in as Rick doesn’t hold back sharing his thoughts on the problems with AD, Blind consumer organizations and more.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

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Audio: Crash Crew Hi-Power Rap.
“We don’t want to be left behind, all we want to do is just blow your mind, just one more time!”

Instrumental.

TR:

What’s up Family!
Back again! Bringing you more of what you bargain for. Reid My Mind bringing you the baddest guests and topics we can find!

We are here to tell the world, just who we are.

I’m Thomas Reid your host and producer of the podcast featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

Every now and then when I’m inspired, I bring you some of my own experiences as a man adjusting to becoming blind as an adult.

Audio Description is and will continue to be an ongoing topic on this podcast. it makes sense. We focus on those adjusting to blindness. Audio Description in my opinion, is a part of that process.

Its access to information, entertainment, bonding with family and friends and maybe even career opportunities?

If you’re new here, check out the link on this episodes blog post that has a page with all of the podcast episodes featuring Audio Description.

Today we’re looking at the contributions of Blind people in Audio Description. Let’s get it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

RB:

I needed a job as a young guy, 17, 18 years old. I have many, many as most Blind people do, many grueling stories of discrimination. Just in telemarketing to sell the local newspaper here in Los Angeles and I don’t mean the LA Times, They hired me on the phone. But then when they told me to come to their office and were giving me directions they were vague. I said would that be the second building from the corner? They said, don’t worry about it just come down the street you’ll see the yellow sign. I said well, I don’t think my guide dog will notice the yellow sign. They said your what? Wait a minute, put me on hold for 20 minutes and came on and made an excuse; “Oh you know what, I didn’t understand my partner was also interviewing someone on the other line. We already filled the position.”

I’m Rick Boggs, professional Audio Engineer and am responsible for making Pro Tools, the state of the art audio recording software accessible for Blind Audio Engineers. I’m also a musician, playing multiple instruments. I’m a composer and song writer. Something of an accomplished actor. many appearances on television and film between 1987 and 2007. And for the last 20 years I’ve been operating the company that I founded which is called Audio Eyes and we produce Audio description for film and television.

TR:

As you can see, Rick came a long way from that 17 year old young man in search of a job.

Today, we’re specifically exploring Rick’s career within Audio Description. As he has been involved with the industry for over 20 years, we get a bit of a history lesson on the role Blind people played in Audio Description.

Rick’s own introduction to Audio Description, from my understanding illustrates how many people felt at the time.

RB:

When I first heard of Audio description was when the American Foundation for the Blind was conducting their research and creating the booklet that eventually became “Look Who’s Watching”. Where they surveyed Blind people and asked them if we could add a voice to TV programs describing what was on the screen when no one’s talking would you like it?

No, I feel very independent. I can watch TV all by myself. I don’t need some voice telling me what’s going on.

TR:

AFB’s next step was to invite a group of those surveyed to watch a film.

RB:

I think it was a Forrest Gump film with Vince Skully doing the description.

TR:

The group was then re-surveyed.

RB:

90 percent of the people who said no, like me, changed our mind and said well actually, this is really cool and I didn’t realize how much I was going to enjoy it. I would like to have this.

TR:

No, like he really liked it!

RB:

In 95 and 96 when WGBH, which is now Media Access Group, they were installing Audio Description systems in movie cinemas. they called me because I was very visible on television at the time. they figured I would be a good representative of Blind people and they asked me to find other Blind people to come to these events. I helped recruit Blind people to come to their installation celebrations and then of course the media would come. I was interviewed on cable news and broadcast news, talking about what the value of Audio Description was. I became a volunteer promoter and the face of WGBH.

TR

This was in addition to his actual career at that time.

RB:

From 1987 to 2002 I had a record label and recording studio. I built a recording studio from money I had earned as an actor. My desire to get into audio recording was driven by my passion as a song writer. I wanted to be able to record and produce my own things mostly because I couldn’t afford to go to a bunch of other studios and hire a bunch of musicians, so I wanted to be able to do it myself.

TR:

And he did. He produced bands and song writers in his studio located on his residential property.

Doing it yourself can present very specific challenges .

RB:

That led me down the path of the transition from analog audio to digital
I wanted to make sure that we weren’t left out. That’s a long and interesting story of how that ended up happening.

TR:

For now, we’re focusing on another sort of accessibility.

RB:

Then moving forward to 2002 when my good friend Mike Hansel who at the time was working for Caption Max, he came to visit me and my good friend Jack Patterson. We were in the music studio and he was coming over to play drums and we were going to jam and he said, rick, I don’t get it, how come you’re out there promoting this Audio Description stuff. You’ve got the studio and you got the chops as an engineer and all the equipment to produce and you’re not producing any. I was just stunned.

Well, I guess I never thought of that.

I immediately said let’s look into that. maybe that’s not a bad thing to do.

TR:

Even today, when we discuss Audio Description, it’s more than often from the perspective of a service FOR Blind people.

During my conversation with Rick, it was apparent to me that Audio Eyes should be viewed from a historical perspective.

So let’s go back to the beginning of Audio Description.

RB:

Well this is one of my favorite topics, I have to tell you. I’m so proud to say that United States of American has invented many, many , many things and has held many, many patents. And many of the things we’ve created and invented benefit people with disabilities, but normally those things are created, invented, delivered by people that don’t have that particular disability. Hey we will help those that are less fortunate kind of thing. 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.

TR:

According to The History of Audio Description, written by Joel Snyder, the idea of Audio description in its current form was first conceived in the 1960’s by Chet Avery, who lost his sight at 17 years old.

In 1981 Margaret Rockwell, a blind woman with a PhD in Education decided to pair the assisted listening devices with her future husband, Cody Pfanstiehl. An expert in media and public relations, Pfanstiehl read for the Washington Ear, the radio reading service founded by Rockwell.

RB:

Cody and Margaret, their gone now, rest in peace, but they set the standards for how description should be done so that it’s not condescending, so that you’re not explaining the plot. And they trained some people.

TR:

One of those trained was Allen Woods who continued training others in the Pfanstiehl method.

RB:

Another Blind person, a wonderful guy that I know, Jim Stovall, created the Narrative Television Network, NTN. He set out to try to apply Audio Description to television programs And in 1989 he worked I believe with WGBH, a television station, to demonstrate how it would be done. They used the SAP channel that was originally devised by Congress and the FCC to facilitate foreign language broadcast. They demonstrated it successfully in 1989. Jim received an Emmy actually for technical achievement.

TR:

During the 1990’s the only television network broadcasting Audio Described content was PBS.

RB:

Commercial TV wouldn’t do it no matter how much we pushed and advocated. They resisted.

In 2002, the FCC made a rule that commercial broadcasters would have to do three and a half hours of prime time described programming on their network. That’s how I got my start and some of the other companies got there’s

TR:

In hindsight, it seemed obvious. Rick familiar with recording technology was already promoting Audio Description and learning the business.

With his good friend Jack, Rick formed the first iteration of Audio eyes known then as We See TV.

RB:
I was invited by my good friend Jolene Mason who is a Blind person who should receive a lot more recognition than she has for her contributions to Audio Description. She insured that the Tournament of Roses parade every New Year’s is described live on television for Blind people. And has done so since the mid 90’s at least. Putting that on through her nonprofit, the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service.

Well, she invited me to a meeting with Deborah Shuster.

TR:

Deborah Shuster did the captioning for ABC television. She was approached about creating Audio Description for the network.

RB:

Deborah having the integrity to realize that Audio Description was not her forte and she didn’t know it was going to go look for a company that was good at it because she cares about providing good services in the industry, unlike some people who were caption companies who just said let’s just throw something out there and call it Audio Description. No one will know the difference because no one knows if it’s good or bad anyway, which we’ll get into at some point.

TR:

That meeting led to him describing for ABC television.

In 2007 Rick renamed the business.

RB:

Same company, same service same people and everything, but it became Audio Eyes.

We secured various clients and now we’re on as many as 9 broadcast networks, Amazon, iTunes, Netflix. Large venues and many corporations that produce corporate videos and so on.

The Pfanstiehl’s created it and trained sighted people to do it. Jim Stovall put it on television and GBH took it, but it became sighted people doing it without any input.

Yet another important stage in the development of Audio Description was made by another wonderful professional Blind person, Dr. Josh Miele.

TR:

Long time listeners should be familiar with the Smith-Kettlewell Physicist Dr. Josh Miele. He’s an alumni of the podcast and a member of the Reid My Mind Radio family. I’ll link to his episode on this episodes blog post.

RB:

He has developed a lot of really cool adaptive stuff for Blind people, but he was interested in description. He found that there was a grant available through the Department of education which he applied for initially.

He did the impossible, he brought together all of the major providers of Audio Description services and created the Description leadership Network under the Video Research and Development Center. the legacy is its website VDRDC.org

TR:

It served as a resource on Audio Description related information and provides a communication platform where leaders in the field discuss topics like inclusion.

As Josh too is a proponent for the inclusion of Blind people in the Audio Description production process he began an internship program.

RB:

Paid internship so that any description provider, who’s writing description could experiment with having a Blind employee and not have to have a financial risk for whatever the time period was three months, that any, six months and experience the value of having that person. The disappointing part of it was that really only one other vendor besides myself did it. I shouldn’t say one I think it’s technically two. One of them absolutely did take on the intern as a staff member for whatever the period of time was. The other one simply contracted with a Blind person as a third party to review their work after it was already done. It’s a little different to have a Blind person critique your work when it’s already out there on television as opposed to give the Blind person the opportunity to have input before its finished.

TR:

As for the company taking on the Blind intern, the feedback was positive. Full of praises for the intern and admitted to it being a mutual learning experience.

RB:

Josh had the great courage and integrity to ask well then does that mean going forward you would consider maybe employing the Blind person in your process. And there was a long silence and the person answered by saying. Well, we think maybe it will be a great idea since there’s so much work going on the internet right now, these Blind experts could volunteer their time helping companies that providing description on YouTube and other places on the network. The whole room kind of ooo’ed!

Maybe in an unintended way it sounded very much like they were saying that they should work for free.

TR:

Meanwhile back at Audio Eyes…

RB:

Our staff is now 30 people and it started with just two of us back in 2002.

Our desire was to provide the best quality description out there. And we emulated WGBH who was doing the best Audio Description. The only difference was we were going to be inclusive. We were going to make sure performers with disabilities had opportunities to work in it and Blind people in particular would always be included in the company. We would recruit, find train Blind people to work in production and we’ve always done that.

[TR in conversation with RB:]

You have 30 employees, can you talk about how many of those are Blind/disabled?

RB

Seven staff members that are totally Blind. Actually one guy might be qualified as Low Vision but it’s pretty low. (Laughs)

TR:

Rick was active as an advocate within the Screen Actors guild serving as an alternate board member and co vice chair of a committee creating opportunities for actors with disabilities. This and possibly those early experiences in the job market, helped form his early hiring policy.

RB:

I was very connected to a lot of disabled talent. for the first two years I willingly practiced reverse discrimination. I would only cast Voice Over artists with disabilities. I just felt like there was so much discrimination in the industry. We’re never giving people with disabilities and opportunity. I wanted to make my statement. I boasted about it on the internet and I naively thought it would make other companies feel the pressure and they would start hiring people with disabilities too, but it didn’t work.

TR:

Now looking towards the future and how we improve Audio Description.

RB:

Making sure that Blind people have a voice; what’s good, what’s bad, what are the standards, what should it be. I was eventually invited to edit and re-write a lot of sections of the style guide for one of the major streaming services. The big dog in the industry. To their credit, they recognize hey this guy is the expert he’ the professional let’s take his notes on what our style guide should be about, what description should be.

[TR in conversation with RB:]

You mentioned that this was your favorite topic, what’s the importance of this topic? Why do you think it’s important that people are aware of that history?

RB

I think it’s really important that people understand Audio Description was created by Blind people for Blind people because I want the industry to be accountable to the consumer. I want the industry not to be like many services for people with disabilities which are well intending but also have unintended patronizing elements to the services they provide. In other words, making people feel less than, less powerful, helpless, creating a dual class system. Sort of treating the people you’re helping like they’re not really equal to yourself
.

TR:

Audio Description is not a charitable venture, it’s commercial. The need for inclusion is therefore even more relevant in my opinion.

Making sure not to leak any revealing information, Rick shared a recent experience. One of his Audio Description clients received some complaints about description from the general public.

RB:

(In a mocking tone)

What’s with this annoying voice? Why do you have to put that in here? We don’t like this. How can we get rid of it?

They decided to address it in the TV program itself. Which I thought was a unique decision. The comment wasn’t very flattering of description itself. It offended some of my staff who are Blind. To the customer’s credit, when we notified them and said you know this is offensive. They decided to change it. And kudos to that organization that was willing to do that and showed some sensitivity to their patrons and actually care about the feelings of Blind consumers.
[
[TR in conversation with RB:]

What are some of the other hurdles that seem to be in the way , “in the way” (laughs) of Blind people being involved in the production side of Audio Description

RB

Blind people are not loud and vocal about wanting good service.

[TR in conversation with RB:]

Talk about it!

RB

Blind people are all too often grateful to have anything. In recent online forums…

TR:

I’ll include links to these forums on Reid My Mind.com.
They include the Audio Description Discussion Facebook group and the ACB Audio description project listserv.

RB:

A lot of Blind people and describers are on there. Unbeknownst to the members of that group there are actually a whole lot of network executives and TV people that watch that group sort of lurk there. Someone was complaining because the description on a particular series or program was poor. They told us stuff we already know. They didn’t tell us stuff we wanted to know. Bla, bla, bla!

Now I love it when Blind people get up and go hey man if you’re going to describe it for me do a good job otherwise I’ll turn off the description and listen like I used to.

So the discussion was fruitful, it was very constructive. But then some Blind person, inevitably, comes on and says guys I don’t understand why we have to be complaining about the description that we’re getting. Can’t you remember the days when we didn’t have anything at all. I mean can’t we just be grateful that these people are providing something.

That is the most destructive thing that Blind people can possibly do.

TR:

I have a feeling this attitude exists in any marginalized group. Perpetuating the idea that Blind people should just be happy with what they get implies they don’t deserve quality.

RB:

I have been told by one of my customers. And a major customer at that. Rick we’d be happy to even pay increase rates for this stuff if we could verify that what you’re saying about the quality of your service is actually true. Basically, they said if you can point us online to anywhere Blind people are saying this is what makes good description and it lines up with the kind of service you provide Rick well then yeh, we’re not going to grind you on the prices as much as we do because we want to pay for the best service there is.

TR:

At the end of the day, are these really just excuses based on what they already believe to be true?

RB:

the public perception of blindness and Blind people is really inaccurate. And really flawed and really is the greatest barrier to inclusion of Blind people in anything. Anything at all! Social services, employment of any kind. From my perspective in particular in inclusion in Audio Description production.

TR:

Misperceptions that ultimately question the abilities of blind people. Assumptions that lead people to think it’s amazing that a Blind person can do even the most basic things that have little to do with the ability to see like brush their teeth, get dressed…

RB:

People trying to drag them across the street, talking loudly because they can’t see or all these stereotypical things that do happen to all of us. Those same misperceptions are the same barriers within the entertainment industry, that prevent production companies, caption companies, localization companies these post production companies from thinking about Blind people and considering employing Blind people in their operations. And I have story after story I have so much inside perspective and direct contact with people.

TR:

The type of stories, based on real experience, that can provide insight into the industry that we as consumers may otherwise never
know.
RB:

It really is far and away public attitudes toward blindness and Blind people. That’s why I became affiliated with the National Federation of the Blind. I always sort of walked the fence between that and the American Council of the Blind and been a member of both and participated in both. I appreciate the American Council of the Blind’s advocacy. It was there advocacy really that led to the FCC ruling in the first place in 2002 to make description mandated for commercial television. They really deserve the credit for that.

What I’m about to say may sound like sour grapes, but it really isn’t.

TR:

The difference between organization’s as Rick sees it conflicts with his own philosophy of employing Blind people.

It stems from the initial development of ACB’s Audio Description project.

RB:

Committing themselves to ongoing advocacy and promotion of Audio Description. They did not include a plank that would strongly advocate for inclusion from an employment perspective. I felt that they should have consulted me because I had already been employing Blind people in this field for eight years. they knew very well of what I was doing. And yet when they created this initiative they didn’t even call me to say hey do you have any thoughts on this or that or the other thing. As a result in my opinion, they failed to include the professional opportunities and the importance of inclusion in the process in their initial manifesto on Audio Description.

TR:

While he appreciates both organization, for Rick, the difference between the two is clear. The National Federation of the Blind…

RB:

In my view, walks the walk. When they needed a lawyer they hire a Blind lawyer. When they need a travel agent they look for Blind travel agent.

TR:

The two teamed up and Rick and his colleagues offered a training.

RB:

It was a 50 week intensive training program. To train 10 Blind people to become Certified Description Quality Specialist.

TR:

The NFB’s support not only enabled Rick to provide this training but it also helped lead to opportunities for those trained.

RB:

We found that we definitely had a like mind.

I would like to have the legacy that providers of Audio Description automatically seek to include Blind professionals in their own operations. We are really far from that now, nobody does that, but that is my goal. I eventually want to return to producing music and get out of Audio Description but I would really like to establish that first.

TR:

As far as finding ways we can help, Rick suggests that those with a platform, podcasters, YouTubers, bloggers, no matter what your topic is, find a way to include discussions about Audio Description.

RB:

Get people talking about it whether they’re Blind or not. Kind of introduce people to it that don’t already know it.

TR:

And from the consumer point of view, well let’s share our comments; good or bad.

RB:

And they need to get those comments directly to anybody and everybody. In other words; tell the network, you write to the show, and to the description company that did it. And then publicly on social media. On your FB timeline on your Twitter account. Hey saw a great Audio Description and name where it was and when it was. And why? I love the voice that they chose or they had a horrible voice or the mix I could hardly hear the movie the description was so loud. Whatever it is be vocal about it.

TR:

If you want to be vocal about Rick, well, he’s on social media;

RB:

@BoggsBlogs (spelled out) on twitter. Facebook at rick Boggs.

TR:

You can find links to his social and more by visiting AudioEyes.com. Remember, that’s plural
RB:

AudioEyes (spelled out)

TR:
Or…

RB:

Give us a ring 818-671-6190. We’ll take your phone calls. We’ll talk to people, sighted people, Blind people, Voice over artists. I take demos over the internet all the time. Any Blind person interested in getting involved in this kind of stuff, I’m the only way in right now. We’re pretty busy but I do get to everybody eventually, if you’re patient and persistent. And I thank everybody really, if you listened this long, thank you so much for your interest in the whole topic, really!

Shout out to Rick Boggs! I enjoyed this conversation. Audio Description as you hopefully realize is about so much more than entertainment. It’s adoption, the level of commitment given by entertainment producers and broadcasters is a reflection of how Blind people are perceived in society.

Scripts censoring on screen scenes or talking down to the viewer, expecting quality control work for free,
overlooking the contributions and minimizing input from Blind people…

That to me sounds like a statement about how much Blind people are valued.

As Audio Description evolves it becomes more important to understand and assure its original purpose is maintained. All the more reason for more Blind people to be involved in its development.

I personally suggest Audio Description to those who are not Blind, however, I would not want to see Audio Description move away from centering Blind people and possibly becoming less about making the visual accessible.

How do you feel about Audio Description? Do you like this sort of dive into topics? Let me know; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com or leave me a voice mail at 570-798-7343.

If you liked what you heard today, Tell a friend to check out Reid My Mind Radio. It’s available wherever you get podcast

Transcripts, resources and more are over at 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

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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CoronaVirus – So Many Parts

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Corona – So Many Parts

Covid 19 and CoronaVirus is the most immediate & serious thing we as a human race have dealt with at the same time. Simultaneously, we’re all a part – as in a community. Yet, we see so many all over the world trying to tear apart any form of cooperation between nations and people – apart as in separate.

It’s been hard to focus on something other than this pandemic, but there is a connection to blindness, to disability… take a listen, I got something to say!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio: Sir Joe Quarterman- (I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind

Women yelling…
“I got something to say” (Fades out )
“I got something to say” (Fades out)
“I got something to say” (Prolonged yell fades out)

Ice Cube, NWA: “Yo Dre!”
Dr. Dre, NWA: “What up”
Ice Cube, NWA: “I got something to say”
Dr. Dre, NWA: Scratches on turntable

Lyric from instrumental mixes in… “I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind”

Audio Sample: “You have got what appears to be a dynamite sound”

Instrumental music…

TR:

Greetings Family!

I’m hoping everyone is healthy, safe, comfortable and optimistic

I’m just trying to find the right words now. Well the right words for the opening I know are …

I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer. of this here podcast known as Reid My Mind Radio.
Bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss and disability.

Every now and then I share my own thoughts and experiences as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

Finding the right words to express how I feel about all that is going on today isn’t so easy. The introspection though, can be helpful. It forces me to step back and get perspective. That search for the right words can even inspire a bit of creativity.

Audio sample: “Don’t toot your own horn honey, you’re not that good!”

TR:
I guess you can be the judge of that!

Audio sample: Woman yelling, “I got something to say” (Fades out )

Audio: reid My Mind Radio intro

Audio: Sir Joe Quarterman- (I Got) So Much Trouble In My Mind(continues from intro)
– Musical loop

Audio: Covid19 related News montage

– “It’s been another painful weekend in the CoronaVirus pandemic. The death toll is now more than…” (Fades out …)
– “More than 20,000 people have died from Covid and more than… ” (fading out …)”
– ” “More than 100,000 Covid cases in New York City. There’s also a serious shortage of swabs used to test for the CoronaVirus. That’s according to the city’s health department, which is now telling medical providers only test hospitalized patients.” (fading out…)
– “Perhaps because of The New York Times story, last night saying Republicans were trying to get the President to talk less every day, today’s White House briefing went on for over two hours. The president said some of the coverage is fake news. He said today flatly, everyone has the ventilators they need. He said we’re in great shape in every way.” (Fading out…)
– “Obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of push back about shutting things down” – Dr. Fauci

TR:

During my intro to the last episode, I purposely kept my thoughts about Covid19 and the CoronaVirus to a minimum.

It’s not as though I didn’t have anything to say, but I like to let my thoughts form fully before getting into a rant or ramble that I may end up regretting.

Today, I hope it’s okay that I share some of these feelings and thoughts I’ve been having, all triggered by Corona!
(stutter effect on corona_

Yeh, that’s right, this Corona has me stuttering. I’m shook!
I’m in no way making light of the situation. There’s just so much about what’s happening that is so ironic.

it’s the most immediate & serious thing we as a human race have dealt with at the same time. We are all a part – as in a community.

Meanwhile, so many all over the world trying to tear apart any form of cooperation between nations and people – apart as in separate.

That got me thinking…
Audio: Music stops… echo…
If this isn’t your first time listening to this podcast, you know that I tend to think about and focus on the process of adjusting to blindness.

Part of that adjustment includes things like employment, technology, orientation and mobility and just learning how to do the practical things.

From my own experience and conversations I’ve had with others, I know a very challenging aspect of adjusting is how we view ourselves after Blindness. Our self-image. It’s why many of those newly blind don’t’ want to refer to themselves that way. blind.

When your only substantive exposure to Blind people isn’t positive, well, why would you want to be a part of that group.

So chances are you wouldn’t see yourself as part of the disabled community either. I get it, I was there too.

There’s the titles we assign to ourselves and then there’s how we’re identified by others.

Growing up, I’d often be asked, what are you Black or Puerto Rican? My self-identification doesn’t separate the two. Those with an understanding of the history feel me right here… Look up Arthur Schaumburg and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

Society has assigned me a label that often dictates how many choose to interact with me.

When I was stopped by the police, .
Ran out of neighborhoods while being called names,
Followed in stores…

I was never asked, what are you Black or Puerto Rican?

However you decide to self-identify, if your vision loss or disability is visible or recognized , society sees you as Blind. Society sees you as disabled.

I’m not here to tell you how to self-identify .

I want this podcast, at the very least to stimulate some thought around adjusting and all that comes with it.

Personally, my belief is that when you get a better understanding of the people the history, expand your understanding of what disability is and isn’t, defining yourself may be an easier process.

With all of that said, there’s a connection between blindness, disability and this pandemic. Even if you don’t see yourself as disabled, it’s worth knowing how this pandemic is impacting the community.

I’d encourage you to go check out RMMRadio alumni Alice Wong’s Disability Visibility project podcast and website for more perspective.

The pandemic’s impact on us all is different. Disability, economics, location, housing… so many factors that play into how this pandemic impacts us.

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 it’s Covid victims. And in Detroit where the majority Black population, more than a third of them poor it’s even more stark.”
– “There are many reasons why Black communities are disproportionately being impacted by CoronaVirus according to a range of experts I spoke to. Historic disparities between access to healthcare, education, information and government resources in Black communities compared to predominantly white communities. throughout American history there’s been great tension between Black communities and the healthcare industry. Tuskegee Syphilis experiment. Ongoing studies that show that black women particularly those who are pregnant, are less likely to be listened to by their doctors and healthcare providers.”
– “African Americans are being hit disproportionately hard. We broke down some of the reasons. Medically why do you think that is. (Second speaker-Doctor) People of color are generally more susceptible to diseases and we know that they have those pre-existing conditions; the Diabetes, the heart disease, the asthma that makes them more likely to suffer consequences because of the CoronaVirus.”
– “Can you describe the make-up of the people in your waiting room right now. (Second speaker- Doctor) We’re noticing more Black and brown and immigrant patients that are seeking care. A lot of these patients are essential workers. A lot of them are service workers.”

“The Real” Mobb Deep

TR:

Salutes to all of those men and women right now doing the work that will get us through this awful situation. I’m talking about the medical professionals, staff including technicians, receptionists, janitors, food workers and others. So many of these people have been doing this work for years and have been unseen even looked down upon. Now in the midst of a pandemic, it helps us see the value in their work.

Corona has revealed some truths about society that people have been trying to either hide or not think about.

We need each other!

We all have something to contribute.

Can I share a story?
(Well, I’m going to anyway, because it’s my podcast!)

My wife and I went to this party. this was post blindness. It wasn’t my first time attending a party Blind so I was familiar with the challenges:
Some are physical;
learning new spaces
dealing with the crowds in those space

Others are more emotional, philosophical;
Should I use my cane?
How can I meet or start and interaction with new people
Where’s the bar? (It’s a party, right!)

Although I knew the challenges, I had not yet figured out my method of dealing with them. By this time, I think I was intent on not letting avoidance be my answer.

There was nothing about the party that was overly memorable except how it felt like we were shown to a section of the space and sort of left there. We only knew a few people outside of the person who invited us. My wife and I both felt the tension.

I remember thinking about how the experience would have been so different before vision loss. Those who did know me would have called my name when we walked in, maybe we would have made eye contact during the evening, we would have been introduced to others. Instead, we didn’t feel welcomed. We were there, but not a part of that party.

Ultimately we came to the decision it was in our best interest to leave that physical space as it was crowding our emotional space.

Sitting there at the edge of this party, feeling as though we were on display, I wanted to be included. I wanted a role and not that of a bystander.

This pandemic triggered those same feelings. Chances are, it’s not just me.

Doing anything right now that doesn’t relate to Corona, just doesn’t feel right. I like other people want to be helpful. In some way.

Despite what seems like the world coming to a halt because of the virus, life is still happening. With or without this pandemic there are lots of people new to vision loss. Some of them are former nurses, doctors, EMS workers. Similar to how I felt at that party, these men and women I can imagine aren’t satisfied with being bystanders. Are there opportunities for these men and women to contribute if they so desire? Are there people with disabilities on the frontline.

This reminds me of the documentary produced by RMM Radio alumni Day Al-Mohamed, called Invalid Corps. It features the story of a virtually unrecognized troop of soldiers who served in the civil war. All were soldiers with disabilities.

Shout out to Day and let me encourage you to check out that episode.

Do I actually believe a Blind nurse or doctor can somehow be effective?

If you’re asking that question this must be your first time here! Welcome!

Am I proposing these newly Blind men and women are sent to the ER?

I’m not a doctor and I haven’t played one on TV. Even though I do have lots of experience watching medical dramas on television I don’t think I can make that determination. However, I don’t think the answer is a quick no like so many people would assume.

As people with disabilities We’re so used to being dismissed and hearing things like;
Well, it’s just not accessible…
It has to be done a certain way, we can’t just change how we do things.
Change can’t take place overnight.

Inaccessibility is somehow treated as if it’s natural.
The majority of inaccessibility is manmade. Physical access like getting into a building. Software constraints that keep many of us from either participating on the web or employment and then process restrictions that mandate how a job is performed.

And then, 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: Bill Withers Lean on Me Instrumental

TR:

Right now, I guess my role in this pandemic is staying home. It’s continuing to do this podcast. In thinking about how I can do more, I sure don’t want to do less so I’ll try to do what I can. I’m going to remain optimistic and not get caught up in conspiracies, although they can be very entertaining.

Eventually, this too shall pass. I just hope we will move forward and be honest about how we got here. I’m talking about the impact of years of all the isms, racism, sexism, ableism…
the neglect, , the poverty, the gaps between the have and have nots.

None of these things are new. They’ve been here way before any of us were here. Corona just highlighted those on the margins, the party goers who have always been apart, never actually partying.

I know many people are calling for a return to normal, but that doesn’t seem like what we should be striving for.

I hope you don’t mind that I shared this with you. I just needed to put my two cents out in the world in my own way.

I have some non-Corona episodes in the lineup. I can’t promise I’ll be silent on this topic, but at least I’ll try to make it sound cool and make you smile along the way.

I hope when you listen to this podcast you feel a part of this community, my Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Last month’s episode titled Live Inspiration Porn – I Got Duped, attracted some new potential listeners to the web page over at ReidMyMind.com.

According to Google, a bunch of people in search of the term porn, were served the episode’s web page. I can only imagine the disappointment they had for google when they saw this particular episode in their results.

But wait, according to Google, several actually clicked on the page.

I don’t necessarily consider myself a good writer but I’m sort of proud of this one! I mean wow, shout out to me for what must have been a fantastically written blog post to redirect that person away from they’re original search.

I’d love to know if someone actually ended up listening to the episode based on that discovery term. And man if you actually came back… email me at ReidMyMindRadio at Gmail.com because that would be the best testimonial ever!

Don’t worry, no judgement here! Get your freak on!

If you like what you heard here today, tell a friend to check it out…

Let them know it’s available wherever they get their podcasts. Of course you can take a ride on the information super highway and get off on the ReidMyMind.com exit. 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!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Climbing Accessible Heights with Matthew Shifrin

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Matthew Shifrin is a musician, Inventor, Entrepreneur and Advocate.

His story of bringing accessible instructions to Lego is a great example of the power of individual advocacy. Hear about his other projects including virtual reality, comic book access, rock climbing and a new podcast.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Greetings everyone, from at least 6 feet away!

First and foremost, I hope everyone is doing well, and you each are as comfortable as possible. Most importantly staying safe and keeping each other safe by following the recommended protocol.

for right now, I’m going to keep my Corona Virus thoughts and observations to simply wishing you all the best. And reminding you all to protect yourselves physically but also pay close attention to your mental health.

By the way, my name is Thomas Reid host and producer of this podcast where we bring you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability. Occasionally, I share my own experiences as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult. All of this by the way has been brought to you since 2014 from the safe and sanitized studio located in my home. So really, ain’t nothing new here folks! We’ve been riding ahead of this curve for a minute!
Now, only one way to start this episode…

Audio: Water flowing from sink…

TR sings…

“Wash your hands, Wash your hands, Everybody wash your hands.
Wash your hands, Wash your hands, Everybody wash your hands.”

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

MS:
I’m Matthew Shifrin and I’m a Blind Musician and Inventor.

TR:

You may be familiar with Matthew. He’s received a fair amount of press in regards to his work with Lego. Specifically, his work making Lego instructions accessible to Blind children.

It all began when he himself as a five or six year old child followed a very specific instruction given to him by his close family friend.

MS:

Lilya who later created the text based instructions, she and I were driving back from somewhere , she stops the car and yells “Get out.” Ok, I get out. She says pick up this crate. This crate is like half my body weight. And so we manage to muscle this crate into the trunk of her car and she’s like, “C’mon open it.” I open it and this crate is full to the brim with Lego bricks.
And that’s really how my journey with Lego started.

TR:

Matthew began building Lego sets with the help of his parents.

MS:
Because they could read the instructions and I couldn’t.

TR:

Lego instructions are visual. They’re diagrams detailing how to connect the various pieces completing the design.

MS:

We were mainly building bionicals. , which were these action figures that Lego made. They were very formulaic. If I built one of them, then I could build the rest of a certain type on my own. Those were the only types of sets I could build on my own.

TR:

Building the sets required the help of Matthew’s parents.

MS:

So they’d just say okay you need to find such and such piece. I’d go scrounging around the bottom of the box to try and find something and then they’d say okay well here’s where you put it and I’d put it there and we’d go piece by piece. It would just take 4 to 5 hours to build a $20 set that was 200, 300 pieces.

TR:

While appreciative of his parent’s dedication and time, Matthew recognized the difference between his Lego experience and that of his friends.

MS:

They were building sets all the time. They’d come into school and say hey I built a spaceship yesterday and I’d say oh that’s so great. How did you do it? Then there’d be silence and they’d be like well, I looked at the instructions and they told me what to do and I just followed them. I just remember thinking all this time I wish I could do that.

TR:

In case you’re thinking Lego is just a toy.

MS:

When we look at Lego instructions they really provide a lot of insight into how things are made. How things are built. How mechanisms work.

And when I built on my own I really had none of that vocabulary.

TR:

This was evident from the experience his sighted friends had with Lego.

MS

they could build trains that ran, crossbows that shot actual darts because they were familiar with the engineering concepts that made these devices work.

TR:

Working with his parents gave Matthew[emphasis on some] some insight…

MS:

But as the Blind builder I was just following directions. I had no idea where we were going. yes, I knew it was some sort of frame that we were building but I had no idea what it would end up looking like. As opposed to the parents who did. There wasn’t a lot of vocabulary gained even then because I couldn’t see the instructions on my own I couldn’t flip ahead. I couldn’t imagine structures in my head because I had no vocabulary

TR:

Remember Lilya, the family friend who had Matthew lug that first box of Lego bricks into the car? On his 13th birthday, she brought him the next step in his access.

MS:

She gives me this big cardboard box with a big fat binder. And mind you this binder is thick, we’re talking two copies of the yellow Pages thick. In this binder there are these instructions that she’s hand Brailed on a Perkins Braille typewriter. And in the box is this Middle Eastern Lego Palace. This palace was big, 830 – 840 pieces. these instructions she created completely on her own. She invented her own vocabulary to name every type of Lego piece that was in that set.

TR:

That was the vocabulary Matthew longed for.

MS:

Put a flat 6 by 1vertically on the table. Put a flat 2 by 1 on its rear most button over hanging to the right horizontally. Put a flat 4 by 1 vertically to the front.

I got to a point where I was able to read instructions and imagine what it would be like to build a certain model or a certain sub section. That’s just spatial awareness, spatial reasoning, these sighted skills that are developed over many years in sighted children. The fact that I was able to really visualize on my own was a very valuable skill and I would argue an under taught skill when it comes to Blind children.

TR:

Getting access to Lego instructions was just a part of Lilya’s goal.

MS:

Her goal was that I should have the same experiences as other sighted children. And so she brailed board games, she brailed books. She did all of tshe did all of this stuff, but Lego was just the one thing g that she could not figure out how to make accessible for many many years just because the instructions were pictures.

TR:

Once Matthew gained access.

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.

TR:

making this information available to other Blind children required some steps.

MS:

We had to create more instructions, build more develop some sort of language. Make sure that this was durable and then we had to get it out to Blind people. I think Lego themselves were always an end goal but Blind people had to come first because we had to be sure that Blind people could engage in this content as much as I could.

TR:

Realizing the instructions could be produced digitally, eventually led to the website.

MS:

LegoForTheBlind.com where all our instructions live. there’s 30, 40 sets there.

Our end goal was always getting it to a larger entity.

[TR in conversation with MS:]

Would you consider yourself an advocate?

MS

Sure. Advocacy is like a blob, you can shape it mold it. One might argue that lilya making those instructions was advocacy. After she made those instructions and we had that website, I’d always wanted to get it through to Lego but I really didn’t know how to go about it. To infiltrate such a massive company you need to know people.

TR:

His first attempt, contacting Lego customer service didn’t yield any results. But sometimes, all you need is to know someone, who knows someone…
MS:

I was interning at the MIT Media Lab. I had a friend who worked there adn there’s a group there called the Lifelong learning Kindergarten Group and they have a very long and fruitful collaboration with Lego themselves. So I went to this friend of mine and said hey I have this project and I told him about the project and he said yeh, I have a friend who just moved to Denmark two weeks ago and he’s working with Lego. I’ll send your story along to him. We’ll see where that gets you. This friend of his emailed back and he said oh yes this is a very interesting story I’ll send it to the head of the new projects division which is like Lego’s version of DARPA, all their secret mysterious projects that no one really knows about until they get released. Then when I got in touch with this guy Olaf Gyllenstenthat was really a pivotal moment

because this guy was in on it. He wanted this to happen as much as I did.

TR:

That’s known as an internal ally. Someone in the organization to help advance your cause.

MS:

Mind you this guy had no connection with Blind people. He had just never thought about Blind children as a possible segment of people who could enjoy Lego and their instructional aspect just as much as sighted children. Just because he never met Blind children. When he realized this impact that this could make on Blind children, he bulldozed his way forward through the ranks of the company. He talked to the head of Lego Niels B. Christiansen who runs the company now and Christiansen was very enthusiastic and when your project goes that high up , it’s going to go somewhere.

TR:

And it did. Lego decided to produce the instructions.

MS:

The Lego Foundation, they’re kind of their charitable we have cool projects arm. They were showing off these instructions and they wrote me an email and said we have a press conference we want you to present. Could you come and we also want to introduce you to all of the people that have been doing this. Could you spend six days in Denmark. (Laughing…) I was like well, I guess I can. It was a conference of Lego fans. They are very committed. They have blogs and websites, YouTube channels. We’re showing the kind of text based instructions and comparing them to the graphical ones and just kind of talking about the thrill of being able to build on your own. Just the response form these people was amazing. They and I are just united by a love of Lego. It was amazing to see how touched these people were by these instructions and by the spreading of this medium to people who previously could not engaged with this medium as your average sighted person could. That was just a really energizing moment.

[TR in conversation with MS:]

Are you still working with the company?

MS

Very much. I do quality assurance. Checking instructions and making them as understandable as possible. We’re hoping to have 25 to 30 accessible instructions out in the next couple of months for sets that are currently out.

TR:

Users will be able to purchase a Lego set from their favorite retailer and download the instructions from the Lego website, LegoAudioInstructions.com.

MS:

Hopefully they’re also going to redesign their packaging so that they can Braille the numbered bags. I don’t know how long that’s going to take but that’s just something they’ve been looking into and hopefully that would happen.

[TR in conversation with MS:]
Wow!

TR:

I really shouldn’t have such a reaction in 2020. Unfortunately, the response from Lego, isn’t the norm. Even companies who make they’re product accessible, packaging, well that’s another story.

MS:

When Lilya and I were making these instructions on our own we really wanted Blind children to have the complete experience of building the set. So we would describe the box art and the advertising from the back of the manual and the art and the little prints on the Lego people because we really wanted the Blind child to engage with the set as much as the sighted child could. And it’s wonderful to see that carry over to Lego’s instructions. They describe the little Lego people and they describe this and that . They really tend to energize the experience. They really guide you through the building process and they complement you once you finish something they’re like congratulations you finished the car. An adult might kind of get annoyed by that but for children this is what they need when they’re fist getting into Lego. It’s really important for them to feel really included in the process and engaged by the process not just I’m stacking pieces but hey I built a thing. Now I can revel in this thing and then can move on to the next part of the build the fact that Lego are really making their instructions so human, I’m very glad that they’re doing that.

[TR in conversation with MS:]

It’s funny because you said adults can get annoyed… I don’t know, I guess because I’m coming from a particular perspective…

TR:

I wasn’t a Blind child. I don’t even recall having any Lego sets growing up.

When I became Blind as an adult, I had small sighted children, but man, I wish I had a Lego set with accessible instructions to actively engage in with my kids.

I did have a set of Braille Uno cards. That was one of the ways I practiced Braille. Unfortunately my daughter only three years old then would beat me constantly and it just wasn’t any fun! And for the record, I didn’t let her win. I’m not that type of parent. She was just a little card shark. I’m still not over that!

Matthew recently found a cool way to pair Lego bricks with a new interest.

MS:

A few months ago I started climbing with a team of disabled rock climbers. I saw that the Blind rock climbers were really struggling because there’s a person at the bottom of the climbing wall who yells directions at you. And that’s great because then you can get up to the top, but you have no opportunity to think ahead and really plan for yourself. As opposed to the sighted climber who’s able to come up to the wall look at it and really strategize as to where they put their various appendages. I thought well wouldn’t it be cool to make a Lego based mapping system for rock climbers.

TR:

Next time he went to the rock climbing gym, HE brought his Lego bricks and figured out a method for mapping the wall.

MS:

Different types of pieces are used for different types of holes. Two by ones are jugs which are large rounded holes and then one by ones are crimps which are smaller holes. Three by ones are legends and one by one flat round pieces are foot holes.

TR:

The map is laid out by working with that sighted person who yells directions.

MS:

They can do it in a matter of minutes. A minute or less. And so this could easily be used in climbing competitions.

[TR in conversation with MS:]
And then the person right before they’re climbing could actually kind of go through it . Now do you retain that information?

MS:

I try to retain but sometimes when someone yells out it’s also useful because you’re able to correct yourself on the fly and you’re able to kind of rethink your process if you’ve taken a slightly different path up than you initially estimated the yelling person is really valuable because they’re able to make you reassess your situation in a very sensible way.

[TR in conversation with MS:]

You’re younger than me man, I don’t retain as much anymore. Laughs…

Has this an impact on your view of advocacy? Do you have intentions on kind of moving forward and doing more of this type of thing?

MS

I have a comic book accessibility project where I’m building a virtual reality headset for Blind people with engineers at MIT. This headset makes you feel different motions by affecting your sense of balance and messing with it.

TR:

It sounds like the lessons learned with Lego are being applied to his latest project.

MS:

I thought about the way comics were made. I found that comic books run on scripts. These scripts are like movie scripts that they’re incredibly detailed and they tell the artist exactly what to draw and how to draw it. I thought this is our way in. What I need to do now is to network with authors and artists and comic book companies and really energize them. I’ve been in talks with Marvel Comics and combining this helmet that we’re working on with their comic books really provide a new dimension to their work via blind or sighted

The total strangers who owe you nothing but who are still incredibly enthusiastic. I go to comic book conventions every year to network with authors and kind of tell them about it engaging aspects of advocacy the project and Blind people and how comics help Blind people learn about the world around them.

These people are really energized by the fact that comics are being interpreted in a new way. I’m a random Blind guy with ideas. When I come up to their table and say I’d like to kind of look into how you write. Are any of your scripts available on your website? Could I figure out how to do this and make this accessible? They don’t owe me anything. They could say, sorry I only sign books goodbye. But no, they’re thrilled that comic books are going beyond the newsstand, beyond the bookshelf even beyond the television screen into new medium. The more success you have with advocacy the more energized you are to go out there and advocate more and make more things accessible to Blind people or disabled people or whoever.

TR:

Matthews latest project is looking at a different sort of access.

MS:

We have practically no Blind people in the mainstream podcasting space. And it’s interesting because podcasting seems to be such a Blind friendly medium, but when you look at places like I don’t know MPR, major broadcasters no one there is Blind. I started a podcast called Blind Guy Travels. First couple of episodes are hopefully going to come out in a month or two. It takes these mundane experiences like going to the movies or gestures or making funny faces from the standpoint of a Blind person. I’m doing it with Radiotopia who are kind of the podcast branch of NPR.

TR:

To me this story of making accessible Lego instructions is not only about the power of individual advocacy, the importance of stimulating a child’s imagination but also one of friendship and commitment.
MS:

When Lilya died she left a couple of instructions for sets that we hadn’t built yet. And it’s interesting now finishing those sets and building them and just kind of keeping the energy alive. Lego will do their own thing but hopefully Lego for the Blind will do its own thing just because Lego are going to start adapting from a certain year. Everything before then will be inaccessible. I have a list of sets that people want made accessible. The goal will be to find instruction writers. I can teach them easily how to do this and the goal will be to find instruction writes and to teach them to craft instructions and to keep the Lego For the Blind website growing and going beyond what Lilya and I have done.

TR:

How many times have we heard; a picture is worth a thousand words.

I don’t think we need a thousand words to describe the benefit of making the images that are the Lego instructions accessible.

MS:

I just remember building that set and feeling completely (exhale…) very free!
TR:

If you’re interested in helping this effort or just want to know more about any of the projects mentioned or more about Matthew including his music, contact him.

MS:

On Lego For the Blind there’s a contact uplink at the bottom and they could find me there. On Twitter @MatShhifrin Mat with one t. And on YouTube I’m Shifrin2002.

TR:

If you liked what you heard hear, all I ask is that you share the podcast. It’s safe, you don’t have to be within six feet of anyone to do so. Just send a text, email, a tweet a post on FB. Let them know you’re listening to something that you find enjoyable and informative.
It’s available wherever you get podcasts. And transcripts and more can be found at ReidMyMind.com. Just make sure you let them know, it’s R to the E I D (Audio: “D, and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

TR:
Like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Live Inspiration Porn – I Got Duped

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Podcasting as a passion project takes some real perseverance. There’s always some excuse lurking around the corner just waiting for you to take
hold.

In this episode I’m working through one which has been nagging me for a while. Giving it some real consideration led me to recall a story from my own adjustment experience. A time when I got duped into being a part of a live performance of inspiration porn. Well, sort of. Let’s just say I wasn’t there for the same reasons as those running the event.

Like most episodes, I believe this one can give those new to blindness and disability some things to consider. In fact, like all episodes I don’t think it’s restricted but that’s not really up to me. I’ll leave it right here for whoever wants to partake.

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TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family?

Yo soy Tomaso, Thomas Reid, host and producer of this podcast – Reid My Mind Radio.

Welcome to those of you who are new here.

This podcast introduces you to compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

every now and then, like today’s episode, I share some of my own thoughts and experiences as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult. And yes, I say adjusting, I don’t think I’ll ever really use the ed suffix on adjust. That’s not to mean there’s no progress. It’s just a continuous journey. Once you get to the understanding that it’s not one to be feared or even think negatively about, it gets better. But It’s like life, there’s always going to be change, and vision loss or any disability is now a part of that.

If that’s part of your reality, a family member or friend or maybe people you work with, well you’re definitely in the right place. If you yourself are going through some other sort of life change or you just like podcasts. There’s something here for you too, if you are opened to that.

Everyone is truly welcomed here with the exception of those with real hate in your heart. Energy works in mysterious ways and I don’t want that negativity being passed along to me or any of the family.

So let’s get this poppin!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio theme

# Intro

Today I’m sharing some thoughts about this podcast. These are not stream of consciousness. No way I wouldn’t do that to you. My mind can be a scary place when I’m trying to figure things out.

Audio: Sound of chaos!

Chances are as I navigate these thoughts they will prove to be applicable to more than this podcast and hopefully useful to others. That’s exactly how I feel about every episode. I focus on those adjusting to blindness , but lots of others can relate and enjoy.

Audio: Typing sounds….

Since I began this podcast and maybe even prior, I have been very specific about saying I don’t see myself as a journalist. I’m an advocate, straight up! If you listen to the podcast, you know there’s a certain message about blindness and disability. My opinion or feelings in most cases are evident. The overall message is one of empowerment. I’m not impartial.

Audio: Possibly use old episodes here

As if journalism is really impartial.

There are times though when I need to make all sorts of journalistic decisions. It could be the way I edit or the specific questions I ask, even the overall feel of the show, the sound design. It’s intentional. My approach is different from your standard so called impartial reporter.

I’m connected to most people who are guests on the podcast. Usually, the connection isn’t personal. Rather it’s through blindness and disability Sometimes it could be race or we have something else in common.

I feel a responsibility to both my guests and listeners.

I want my guests to feel what I hear when they tell me their story. I want them to know I respect them and their experience.

I want listeners to find the multiple ways they relate to my guests. Yes, there’s the disability experience, but maybe they share a similar motivation, desire or goal.

That’s what I want, it doesn’t mean I can always make it happen.

every listener brings their own past, prejudices, preconceptions and experiences to the podcast.

That makes sense, it’s like anything else. Two people hear the same song , see the same film or read the same book and have drastically different interpretations.

Some people see a reflection of their own lives and goals while others never see themselves in a podcast where blindness and disability is so prevalent.

It’s probably not one or the other. I think there are some who have a bit of both. Either way, I can’t control that.

Which leads me to this statement…

“You should always remember, there are people worse off than you.”

Audio:

“No matter how you’re sad and blue, there’s always someone who has it worse than you”, Shaggy

YouTube Videos
* ” If you’re having a bad day, just consider the day ….”

* “Bare in mind, there’s always someone worse off than you”

Song sung by Little Richard at a MS Telathon.

“… As I look around, so many people who cannot walk, not talk nor see, I thank God for the health and strength that I have, for there’s someone worse off than I am.”
TR:

First things first…

I’m pretty sure I said this same thing at some point in my life. it’s a common statement and an accepted way of thinking.

But, what does it really mean?

How can you compare someone’s life and happiness without all the information??

Is this really pity?

As a content producer, I cringe when I hear it now especially in relation to my podcast.

There’s never been a guest on Reid My Mind Radio that’s in need of someone’s pity.

I then question the choices made for that episode

Did I present this person in a way that says they should be pitied?

I don’t think I focus on the illness side of things. I do include or mention mainly because;
Others with the same diagnosis can relate.
It can also serve as a way to normalize illness and disability. They are a part of life and not a mysterious thing that happened to one person.

AudioFx: Ambiance head in skull
Am I creating inspiration porn?

Most of you are probably familiar with that term. It’s the
idea of presenting people with disabilities as inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability.

This idea that this person’s story which often you don’t even get, well it should inspire you or just give you that warm fuzzy feeling reminding you that most of the world is so considerate.

Watch how the rest of the high school students cheered on as the coach let the intellectually disabled kid in the game for the last 20 seconds.

News Report Audio:
Crowd cheering.Coach: He comes to ppractice everyday, he shoots with them, he cheers them on…”

TR:

Or…

News Reports:
Reporter 1: A very special student indeed…
Reporter 2: All thanks to the compassion of one of his classmates….
Reporter 3: But the emotion of this night involved a student who cannot take the field, but is universally admired for his determination…
Reporter 4: A special needs student with Williams Syndrome. He’s a fixture on the sidelineduring football games always rooting on the team. But hi fives are one thing senior prom is something different.
Student: She could have picked anybody to go to prom with.. her.

TR:

I just don’t want to put that sort of thing out in the world.

Does it sound like I’m making a big deal out of this? Maybe because I’ve seen inspiration porn live and in full effect. In fact, I unknowingly was recruited to be a part of the performance.

Audio: Dream Harp

Many years ago when I was still very new to blindness, I was asked by a local organization serving those with vision loss, to give a access technology demo during an event.

I took to the technology pretty quickly and they thought I could be helpful sharing that information.

There was no money involved of course, but they’d provide my transportation and I think there was going to be a lunch. Whatever, I was down to help the cause for sure.

I was setup y’all!

Arriving at the center, I was shown to the main room where the event was taking place.

There were three or four individuals with vision loss seated up in the front of the room. The rest of the group was seated around a large conference table.

I was shown to a table in the front of the room off to the side where I setup my laptop.

Shortly after, the host of the event, the director of the center, welcomed the guests and kicked off the agenda.

Each of the men and women seated in the front of the room were asked to share the story of their vision loss.

Here’s how I recall that event;
Audio: Trap Beat!

each individual told their story while the event host accentuated the misery.

Storyteller:
” Before I went blind, I used to take long walks in the park
Now, I can’t see anything, my whole world is dark!”

Host: “Pitch black, the world is dark, too dangerous for you in the park.

TR:

Laughs! I said, that’s how I recall it today, but that’s not exactly what happened. But I do recall the questions and comments from the host were obviously selected to highlight the negative.
She was playing to the fear of the guests seated around the conference table.
these were potential donors.
All who probably already had beliefs about blindness;
“it’s probably the worst thing that could happen to you and if we don’t help these poor people they won’t be able to do anything. They can’t do for themselves.”

I was setup to be a part of a dog and pony show to help fundraise for the organization.

the fact that it was a fundraiser isn’t the problem for me. I would have still agreed to attend.
However, I would not have participated if I was aware of the approach being used to raise that money.

My so called presentation was probably less than 5 minutes. The host asked some specific questions and then made it seem like it was my technology background that enabled me to grasp the tools and less about the technology as a tool for independence.

Then they pulled out the glasses.

Audio: Glasses clinking and sliding down a bar!

No, not drinks. I don’t even think that would have helped. . No, it was the blindness simulation glasses. These are created to help sighted people understand what it supposedly looks like when you have certain diseases like, macular degeneration, RP, glaucoma and others.

At first thought, you may think ok, that’s probably helpful. It helps people understand and therefore empathize? Sympathize?

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.”

As far as I could tell, I was alone in my review of the event. I believe some of the others continued to participate. I pretty much severed ties and ended up having a sort of reputation, so I was never asked again. perfect!

All of this leads to my final question.

How are we telling our own stories?

I highly doubt any of the people sharing their story were given instructions on how to tell it. Chances are, the director simply knew these individuals would supply what she wanted for the audience.

Some may say the ends justify the means. The center received the money and therefore can do good things for the clientele. I don’t agree. I believe several of those in the room were employers in positions to someday hire a blind person. I doubt they would. But that’s a subject for another day.

What thought do you put into telling your own story?

In most instances, we’re doing the telling of our own story. We don’t have a videographer, podcaster, journalist.

We’re probably not standing in front of an audience equipped with a PowerPoint presentation. We’re simply talking to people. Most often one on one.

Crazy thing, I tell other people’s stories but not my own. I can do it in a presentation, no doubt, but one on one not so much. I feel strange.

Audio: Cameo Strange! moves into “Children’s Story” Instrumental Slick Rick

I should tell my story as if I’m giving a presentation. it’s mine, it’s a good one. It’s worth telling. It can be helpful.

And it’s the only one I have.

And in the event someone hears it and their thought is
“Wow, I’m so grateful because I’m not like Thomas!”

My response, Bruh, you should be so lucky!

I’m not flexing’ or being conceited or anything like that. But this is my life why shouldn’t I be proud of what I do, when I do it and how I do it.

the same decisions I make for my guests and you all the listener, shouldn’t I put that much time and thought into my own story?

If you say yes, then maybe you too should do the same.

I told you this wouldn’t just be related to podcasting. In fact, it’s not just related to disability.

Or is it?

“Here we go!” Slick Rick, Childrens Story

You can find Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts. And if for some reason that isn’t the case, like teddy said, come on over to my place… ReidMyMind.com. That’s R to the E I D

Slick Rick “D, and that’s me in the place to be”

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio outro

Peace

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Ajani AJ Murray – Starting with Imagination

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

AJani AJ Murray , a Black male with short haircut & facial hair seated in a wheelchair. He wears black & white print baggie pants with a blue long sleeve hoodie with words printed in black: "Young, gifted, black and disabled."

Pursuing your passion can take you down a road filled with all sorts of obstacles. Ajani “AJ” Murray knew from an early age that he wanted to act. his first school was television which he studied intently.

His latest role is in Best Summer Ever, screening at SxSW later this month

Hear how television and movies provided much more than entertainment for him and his family. His methods for navigating the obstacles along his journey and how he’s making his own place in an industry that isn’t always welcoming. In each case, imagination was at the start.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


Ajani AJ Murray:

Our friend that we have in common, Cheryl green, told me about you and I’ve been listening to your podcast and I love it! It’s so dope and fresh. I’m kind of a Geek so I watch like a lot of PBS and I listen to NPR and so it reminds me of like radio documentaries. I particularly enjoyed when you were talking to Leroy about the Black History especially from the disabled perspective. I did something like that on my Insta Gram and some of my friends were like keep it coming AJ. So now you’re a resource.

Ajani Jerard Murray, a lot of people call me AJ.

TR:

And me, I’m Thomas Reid
producer and host of this podcast.

I usually reserve the opening of the episode for me to
tell you a bit about what this podcast is all about,
but as you’ll see in a minute, AJ is a media connoisseur,
so I was like man, everyone needs to hear his review.

I like to let new listeners know that here,
we bring you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability,
told in a way that sounds

Audio: AJ “Dope” “Fresh”

And I do always hope Reid My Mind Radio can be a

Audio: AJ, “Resource”

For anyone especially those adjusting to vision loss.

And with that said, let’s do this!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme

Audio: Tom Joyner show…

AJ:
I became a big fan of radio because of Tom Joyner. We went to one of his Sky shows in Atlanta and it was at Greenbrier Mall. It was the whole cast and we listened to the S.O.S Ban. From that point for about 2 or 3 years I did a mock radio show.

TR:

A youngster at the time, AJ study the format of the now retired
Tom Joyner, host of the number 1 nationally syndicated urban
(that’s code for Black) morning radio Show.
AJ created his own show which he put on for his family.

AJ:

To make a long story short as I told you earlier I can really talk and go on long.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Laughing…

AJ:

I kind of sort of gave up on going into radio because I realized that in mainstream FM radio you don’t really program your own shows. You’re basically playing the same music and also to get to where I really wanted to be and the kind of radio that I would do is something that you have to be in the game for years and years for, like a Tom Joyner.

TR:

AJ knew his true passion.

AJ:

I’m a huge, huge fan of the screen big and small. From the time I was a very little kid I was always just enamored by the screen . I grew up on three camera sitcoms; Cosby Show, A Different World, Facts of Life, Different Strokes. As I got older there was the Fresh Prince era, the TGIF era, the Martin era, the WB era. My love for television in the very beginning was the sitcom.

TR:

Of course, there’s the big screen.

AJ:

My mom loves film. When it came to film she wasn’t really restrictive on what we could watch. Now we couldn’t watch everything, there were certain films I couldn’t watch but like it was 1989 I remember actually going to see Do the Right Thing. I had to of course cover up my eyes during the Mookie ice scene.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Laughs…

AJ:

TR:

Shout out to Rosie Perez!
If you don’t know the scene let’s just say Ice cubes are for more than chilling your lemonade on a hot summer day.

AJ:

I appreciated that several years later.

TR:

Now, I’m from the era where parents let you ride in the front seat with no seatbelts,
where you were encouraged to leave the house and explore so
I cannot judge.
[TR in conversation with AJ:]

You know the movie Death Wish? Charles Bronson. I saw that at 6 and nobody cared (laughs) and nobody cared.

Audio: Scene from Death Wish: Knock at door and unsuspecting woman says she’ll anser it. She asks who is at the door and the intruder replies he’s delivering her groceries…

TR:

Don’t open it! He’s lying!

(exhale)

Fortunately, there’s a lot of good that can come from family movie outings.

AJ:

That’s one of the ways we connected as a family.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Very cool. So it was the whole family going?

AJ:
My mom and my two sisters. In my house it’s three women and me.

We’re all very very close. That’s one of the ways we bonded. Sometimes we’d listen to classical music or something really peaceful because I grew up in a very peaceful household.

TR:

Television & movies can also initiate conversations about all sorts of topics and
even ways to explore culture.

Just be careful about that last one there, we know Hollywood doesn’t always get culture right. (Ahem!)

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.

TR:

Financial accessibility, we don’t often talk about that in our conversations around access.

AJ, made use of what was in his reach.

AJ:

The screen was my classroom! Anything I could get my hands on or watch or any old interview s. I really appreciate actors that do interviews like I stay stuck on the Biography channel, on Actor’s Studio. Any time there was a documentary series about behind the scenes I’m all over it!

TR:

Screens bring their own access challenges.

AJ:

when I watched re-runs of television in the 50’s and 60’s even like 20 years ago, 30 years ago, they always had like a voice over guy read everything. One of the things I always laughed at is like watching re-runs of the old Andy Griffith show. the announcer says it’s the Andy Griffin Show, starring Andy Griffin and I always laughed because I’m like didn’t he just say it’s the Andy Griffin Show.

But I realize he said that because he was reading the opening credits. Everything was announced. it really helps me as a visually impaired person.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

People think Blindness is an on or off, so you see everything or you don’t. I know that there are real specific challenges for people with low vision when it comes to that.

AJ:

I’m glad you brought that up. There could be things that I can see one day and the very next day I won’t be able to see. I look like I can see and so people they start laughing or they think you’re lying or they think you’re not looking hard enough. I’m like I can’t see this.

Even when I’m in my power chair I would rather like walk behind someone so it could be like a human guide.

TR:

AJ’s vision loss is related to his Cerebral Palsy or CP.
It impacts all four limbs so as he described to me, he needs physical assistance with most things.

Most things physical that is…

AJ:

If I was watching Happy Days or Laverne and Shirley or Three’s Company or All in the Family I would create a character, none of it is written down because I’m not able to physically write.

If I was watching Three’s Company, if Jack and Larry were going down to the Regal Beagle well I was too. If I was watching Law and order , no I couldn’t be a detective but I could help Jack McCoy as one of his assistant DA’s. I just made myself a part of the cast.

TR:

AJ’s imagination was open.

His opportunity to hit the stage came in high school.

AJ:

I had such a ball in high school. It was such an atmosphere of like were going to support you and you’re a part of us. My favorite drama teacher his name was Dr. McMichen. I was thanking him for making sure the stages had ramps and I was included in on all the trips.
He let me know, you are a part of this club and a part of these plays and it’s because you are good not because you are in a chair. And that made me feel so good.

TR:

following high school he continued working on his craft by attending workshops and finding a community of other actors.

AJ:

I would say over the last three and a half years I’ve gotten the opportunity to be on screen.

the first thing I booked when I got my agent was, we did an episode of Drunk History. And that comes on Comedy Central. That episode was actually about 504Act. That’s kind of the precursor to the ADA.

Then I was able to do an episode of ABC’s Speechless. I played a character named Charlie.

I was able to do an independent film called Bardo Blues. It’s an interesting very nonlinear artsy film that talks about depression and bipolar. I play the neighbor to the lead.

Audio clip from film…

TR:

His latest role is Best Summer Ever, A Musical.
It takes place in a high school.

AJ:

It’s a romantic story and all kinds of teenage angst ensues. I play the older brother so I’m not involved in the teenage angst but I do sing in the film.

TR:

The film consists of a cast of over
60 disabled actors as well as those without disabilities.
It’s being screened at South by South West on March 14.

You can also see AJ in Becoming bulletproof.
Every year, actors with and without disabilities meet at
Zeno Mountain Farm to write, produce, and star in original short films.

Audio clip from film…

AJ is the focal point of the doc.

AJ:

I also did a documentary, it’s called Take A Look At This heart. So I talk about my experience around my sexuality and dating. So it’s an ensemble so It’s not just me. I believe that’s now streaming on Amazon.

TR:

AJ’s getting some roles and definitely
making a name for himself by judging film festivals, hosting events yet
he found himself in a dark place.

AJ:
Heavy dark! Like I was really, really down.

I was on a walk with my mom. I was in California at the time and it was a beautiful sunny day. It came to me, instead of being down about not getting auditions or you know nobody’s calling or you’re having a hard time with employment; why don’t you write what you want to see?

TR:

By now you can tell AJ puts a lot of thought into what is on the screen,
big or little. So of course he would do the same for his script.

AJ:

A lot of characters that we see it’s either one person with a disability and I’m not saying you don’t ever see it, typically they don’t have any friends. To my experience I have a bunch of friends with disabilities. Not just CP, but all kinds of disabilities.

I just want to lend my voice to reflect that on screen.

TR:

Think Living Single, Friends or the Big Chill…

AJ:

These group of friends, People with disabilities in a more adult context. All with different types of disabilities like CP, like me. He also works. Then you have another character who has CP they walk with a gate. Another character she has a traumatic brain injury and she’s very athletic…

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
And may I lobby for a Blind guy who likes audio and…

AJ:

If we get picked up brother I’ll write you in a couple of episodes.
[TR in conversation with AJ:]
There you go man, there you go!

TR:

Alright, fine, it’s not about me.

In order to physically write his words, thoughts and ideas AJ has a very special writing partner.

AJ:
My mom helps me a lot with a lot of stuff behind the scenes. We’re actually working on a book and that’s going to be out sometime soon and we do public speaking.

TR:

The latter is done under the name, I Push You Talk. What a powerful statement.

Pursuing your passion can really be hard.
There are always reasons to throw in the towel or change course.
Legitimate reasons that wouldn’t in anyway classify someone as a quitter.

For example…

AJ:

Just because you perform in school, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to translate to the screen or you’re going to have this career.

TR:

There’s also the physical pain that comes with his CP.

AJ:

I’ve been in pain since my early teens to pre-teens. As I’ve gotten older sciatic pain and nerve pain over the years have like sort of advanced to like more of a chronic level as far as nerve pain.

My love for everything that I experience and everything that I’m going to and want to experience has to be bigger than my pain.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

You don’t probably see people with disabilities in many of these films that you are watching.

AJ:

That’s a hundred percent accurate.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

So it doesn’t sound like that dissuades you.

AJ:

I didn’t necessarily have this as a child but with the combination of my mother speaking to me and my imagination, I just had this sense that it was put inside of me so I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing.

There’s people of faith in my family so I do have spiritual background. With all those things combined because of my atmosphere, I’m the man you’re interviewing today.

Audio: AJ Scratch… Ladies singing “AJ” while beat rides under…

TR:

That’s Mr. Ajani Jerard Murray.
Actor, Writer, Speaker, Consultant and soon to be Author Producer &…


AJ:
Things sort of have this way of coming back around full circle. I’ve gotten into podcasts and I want to start a podcast and I want to do it with a group of people like a morning radio show. Sometimes my dreams are very big and lofty, but I have a lot of faith and I believe it could happen.

TR:

It really does all start with imagination.
And it continues with that determination, persistence and faith.

AJ, brother, thank you for letting me share your story!
And you know what’s up, you are officially a member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family.

You can reach AJ via social media at:
Twitter – @GotNextAJ
Instagram: @AjaniAJMurray
Ajani Murray on Facebook

You can catch both
Becoming Bulletproof and Take a Look at this Heart
streaming on Amazon.
For those with that prime membership it’s included.
Unfortunately they don’t have Audio Description, however Becoming Bulletproof does at it included on the DVD.

Best Summer Ever is screening at South By South West so if you’re hanging out there go check it out.

I’ll have links over at Reid My Mind.com to AJ’s social media and more including a web series on YouTube.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know AJ as much as I have. I look forward to continuing our conversations and I have a feeling based on his thoughtful insight that you’re going to hear from him again in this space.

If you agree that what we’re planting here on the podcast can provide some nourishment or maybe a sweet treat, please share it with others.

Ya dig!

If you want to help it grow a bit, you can even go on over to Apple podcast and leave a rating (5 stars, a review would be pretty cool too!

Please, , do not apply water to the podcast, that will not help it grow at all!

Reid My Mind Radio is available wherever you get your particular flavor of podcasts. Remember links and Transcripts are at ReidMyMind.com.
That’s R to the E I D
Audio: Slick Rick, “D, and that’s me in the place to be!”

TR:
Llike my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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