Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Let Me Hear You Say Black Lives Matter

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

In gold lettering on top of a red, black & green background appears "Reid My Mind Radio."

the title says it all! It’s the place we have to start if we are really going to make change in this country & world. I’m talking about individuals as well as society. And included among that group are the blindness consumer advocacy organizations; ACB and NFB. While there are differences in the founding philosophies of each, at the core both of these groups strive for Blind people to have the same rights as our sighted peers. Do they really mean all Blind people? I want to believe they do, but I guess I’m going to need to hear them say it; Black Lives Matter!

I’m trying to remain optimistic but right now, it really takes a lot of effort to be hopeful. I was reminded of a story from the Reid My Mind Radio archive that in a way illustrates some of what needs to happen in order to really move forward.

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Transcript

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Audio: Music… “Mission Start”

TR:

Welcome to or back to the podcast! My name is Thomas Reid and I’m the host and producer of Reid My Mind Radio – the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability. Sometimes I share experiences of my own as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

today, well, it’s right there in the title. That is, the place we have to start if we are really going to make change. I’m talking about individuals, society and yes blindness & disability advocacy organizations.

If you’re part of the Reid My Mind Radio family, you know I’m pretty optimistic. It takes a lot of effort right now, but I’m trying y’all, trying to remain hopeful.
Audio: News commentator announcing global protests in London, Australia, Japan, Korea & Germany. All mixed with the chants of Black Lives matter!

TR:
That solidarity & declaration that I’m hearing from around the world, feels good, but I
need to hear it from voices much closer to home.

Audio: Montage of voices saying Black Lives matter. Each panned along the stereo spectrum.

TR:
Let’s go!

Audio: The final voice says;
“Yo, Black Lives matter!” The voice of Siri from the IPhone says” Send”

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Audio: Sounds of dinner table/kitchen conversation from the Reid family household.

TR:

Like a lot of families meals are a time to come together. Not only to prepare and enjoy the food but also to check in with one another.
In the Reid household, we established some rules years ago around what was acceptable during meals. Like we don’t answer phone calls, we don’t look at our devices but rather we stay in the moment while we are eating together.

Audio: News commentator on the killing of George Floyd and protests.

TR:

Unfortunately, no matter how much I would like the rule to be in effect, just while we’re eating, there are times we can’t really afford to keep them. The most recent murders of Ahmaud Aubrey and George Floyd, the protests and of course, the self-described nationalist in the White House have caused us to rescind the rules. Both of my kids need to discuss all of this.

Riana who will be 23 soon is extremely passionate when it comes to issues around social justice. She needs to be active and she’s figuring out the best ways for her to do that. For example, donating to protester bail funds, continuing to educate herself through reading and research and sharing resources with her network.

Raven is younger, more internal and is really figuring out how to articulate her thoughts. Her friend groups are very diverse and she recognizes the differences and really appreciates them. Recently, she had to deal with the outing of a classmate, one in particular which has garnered a lot of national attention. This young 17 year old made very public awful racist comments. Listen to the statement from a young girl from Generation Z. Some thought this would be the post racial generation free from racism. Notice how deliberately she shares her revelation.

If you are triggered by little racists using the N word, skip ahead about 34 seconds.

17 Year Old Racist:

So, I’ve been seeing this video going around about why Brown people should be able to say the N word. So I’m here to tell you why white people should be able to say the N word. Because we made it up and none of you guys would be able to say that word if my ancestors didn’t decide to call you Black people Niggers all the way back in those old days. And so what do you guys do to try and show your appreciation, for coming up with your best word to call your best friend Nigga as you pass each other in the hall? You do what all good Black people do, you stole it. So all I’m doing here is trying to take back what’s already ours.

Audio: Ambient music

TR:

If it was shocking to you because you never heard this sort of language, it’s time to acknowledge your privilege. It’s not a time to pat yourself on the back because you raised your children to be color blind. It’s not a time to feel the need to share how you cried when Dr. King was assassinated or even you know someone who is Black. That doesn’t work towards a solution which makes you part of the problem.

Not even the four walls of our comfortable home can keep my family protected from the reality of violence against Black men, women and children. Like trying to explain to my kids how Travon Martin’s murderer was not going to face prison. Michael Brown’s killer would just walk free.

Riana has goals of moving out on her own. Meanwhile Breonna Taylor a 26 year old Emergency Medical Technician gets shot 8 times in her own home by police after wrongfully busting in her house in search of a suspect already in custody.

Audio: Two young children saying “Black Lives Matter”

Raven right now is learning to drive and I have to think of Sandra Bland and the others who have ultimately have fatal encounters with police because their driving while Black.

A word of caution:
What you’re about to hear is an example of the trauma and fear associated with police brutality. If the threat of violence is triggering, please skip ahead about 2 minutes.

Audio: Woman passionately trying to help a young Black man while he is being surrounded by police. We find out her boyfriend was also killed by police. The audio ends with her sobbing for them to simply put their guns away while begging the young man not to move.

TR:

Y’all know this isn’t about my privileged dinner time, right?

for Black people, it’s not only the threat of violence and interactions with police, but not dealing with the feelings around these murders is like allowing a virus to infect our bodies. We can wash our hands regularly, sanitize every package that comes into our homes, eat organic food but how do we protect ourselves from feeling as though we don’t matter.

Audio: A woman saying Black Lives Matter.

TR:

Being totally Blind doesn’t stop the images of these horrible killings from being engrained in my mind. I don’t need to see video of Michael Brown’s body left on the street after being murdered, I don’t need to see Ahmaud Aubrey being shot down or this deranged so called officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck to understand what that looks like. In fact, these images involuntarily flash in my mind without ever having seen them.

Recently I tweeted that I was waiting to hear a show of solidarity from the blindness organizations. I soon read one from NFB and then specifically questioned if ACB was going to show their support. They did. They also directed a tweet to me that they were waiting on a review before posting.

My response was that I was happy to see them done but the real statement will be seen in their actions like representation on their boards and leadership position and outreach.

Both statements were weak. In general, any solidarity statement at this point in time that does not include the simple phrase acknowledging that Black Lives Matter, it doesn’t have much weight in my opinion.

Audio: fire engine racing towards a burning building.

If a house was burning on a block of 10, should the fire department show equal attention to each house. Wouldn’t it be fair to first put the one fire out? Save the family in the house. Apparently some would prefer the fire department drive right past the burning house in order to make it clear that all the houses on the block are important. Meanwhile, do you all smell that smoke, the other homes on the block are beginning to burn.

Audio: Young man says Black Lives Matter

TR:

If a solidarity statement had to be generated by the Black or multi-cultural segment of the organization, it’s starting from the wrong place. Is that because some blind people like to think their blindness makes them immune to racism? Funny thing is most Blind people have had sight at some point. In fact, most Blind people aren’t even totally Blind. You’re not being honest with yourselves if you think racism doesn’t affect you. As if you don’t benefit from white supremacy.

Audio: Do Blind People See Race…

From Tommy Edison YouTube Channel:
“Martin Luther King always talked about don’t judge a man by he color of his skin but by the content of his character. And I have to be honest with you I think people like myself and other Blind people are the best at that because we don’t see the color of their skin.”

From YouTube, “Can Blind People See Race” Freedom is mine official.
“Can Blind people see race? Given that we identify a person’s race primarily by their appearance, what elements do the visually impaired use to perceive race. Several studies have been done into this area and the conclusion is definitely yes, visually impaired people can perceive race.”

TR:

History has shown when it comes to so called racial issues, America is all about weak statements.

America doesn’t want to examine their role. You know what, let me say that again to not sugar coat it …

Audio: Music…

TR:
White America doesn’t want to do the work to fix racial injustice.

I see the same right now from blindness organizations. Asking Black people to lead this effort isn’t the fix. Rather, once again for Black people, our dinner time with our families are being interrupted.

Why not start with a real self-evaluation. Have a conversation among the organization’s leadership and board about race. Whether personal but more specifically as it relates to the organization. Look back, how many members are even in the organization? How often does the leadership interact with them and what have those interactions been about? How often do we hear from Black people at our meetings and conferences. have we ever truly done any outreach or did we wait for those Black people in the organization to recruit others?

This is a problem that existed in this country for 400 years and won’t be fixed with one statement. it won’t be fixed in our lifetimes. It requires a lot of work that starts with honest self-examination.

To be clear, I think it’s time for these organizations to truly look at the intersections between disability and other identities. The majority of police brutality cases impact Black people with disabilities. Women with disabilities experience an overwhelming number of sexual attacks, LGBTQ and Trans communities have a significant population of people with disabilities. And Black Trans gender men & women need our support. Honestly, if you have a problem with that then you need to ask yourself if you’re really about justice.

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

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

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

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

TR:

In producing this podcast, I’m always searching for the right mix of education, resource sharing and entertainment. As I usually believe our stories have more to offer outside of those adjusting to blindness, I recalled this travel story from the Reid My Mind Radio archive.

Audio from “Traveling Zen”

Audio: Biggie Story to tell

TR:
Just this past Thursday I was traveling to Mobile Alabama –
Yes, Mobile Alabama…
Why?
Well that’s not really for this discussion.

In fact, let’s go revisit the day…

Audio: Car pulling to curb

TR:

Exiting the chauffeur driven Suburban I’m met by one of the Allentown Airport staff responsible for
Assisting travelers through the airport. I refer to them as the Meet and greet staff.
Normally, I have to get to the check in counter in order to request this, but luck
Just had it a very nice gentlemen by the name of Tom was waiting on the curb for someone who needed assistance.

Audio: SoundOfAirport – Check-in/Security

Smoothly clearing the check in process and
Security, Tom informs me that my flight is delayed just as we reach the gate.
It was close to 12 PM. And my flight was originally scheduled to leave at 1 O’clock and
Arrive in Atlanta at 3 PM for a connecting flight To Mobile at 5:15 PM.

Ok, no worries a departure at 2 is fine, I’ll get to Atlanta by 4. No problem, even though Atlanta’s airport
Is huge, I’d still have time to make my flight. And I’d rather wait in Allentown airport which is way smaller and comfortable.

At 2 O’clock I’m told we’re now Departing at 2:30.
Now this is a potential problem! With a connecting flight at 5:15…
There’s a good chance I’ll miss my flight.

I go over to the ticket agent to see what I can do about this potential dilemma.
Rosita, the ticket agent schedules me for the later flight Which leaves Atlanta at 9:15,
In the event I missed the 5:15 flight.

Requiring the assistance of a meet and greet means I’m one of the last people off the flight. This Adds to the probability that I
May miss my connection. On the flip side, I’m one of the first on the plane!

I’m pretty relaxed already, but now I decide it’s time for me to go into a Zen state of mind. One thing about adjusting to blindness, it means
Becoming accustomed to waiting.

The ticket agent announces over the PA that it’s time to board.

I grab my coat, bag and cane and proceed to the counter. I board with one of the ticket agents.
I ask her if she could somehow call ahead and make sure a meet and greet is there
When we arrive so I can exit the plane quickly and make my connection. She takes my boarding pass and says she would do that.

Sitting in the window seat, I strike up a conversation with my seatmate when he arrives on board Delta Flight 5387. I tell him about
My connection issue. He seems to think I have a strong chance of making the flight.
We chat a little more, I put my headphones on, and open my Audible app to read my book. I’m good, I’m pretty relaxed and calm… I accept what I can’t control!

At around a little after 4, the pilot announces that we’re about to descend and
We’re scheduled to arrive on time 4:40. My seatmate, nudges me,
I think you’re gonna make it, he says. Knowing what I know about the wait for a meet and greet
I tell him, “Meh, we’ll see! I’ll still have to wait for assistance…”

At 4:45 we’re on the ground taxiing to the gateway
I take out my phone and check the Delta app to determine the status of my next flight. There’s significant bad weather so I’m hoping
My next flight would be slightly delayed. Nothing…
The pilot announces we’re going to terminal C gate 33. By 5 PM we’re still on the tar waiting to be directed into our new gate, D 33.
My seatmate is excitedly telling me I can make that flight.
“Just run out of here you can make it he says. I’m thinking did he not hear me when I said I need to wait for assistance.

I check the app again, it now says my next flight is boarding and scheduled to leave on time.
At gate D29. I tell my seatmate… Aww you can do it! He says as
he stands up to retrieve his bags from the overhead. I ask him to pass me my back pack and folded up cane.
Is this yours too, he asks
A folded up white cane, I ask… Yes! Now, He sounds confused… I think it sinks in…

My man, I say… do you think you can help me Get to d29… it has to be right near this gate.
I didn’t think it would be a bother, he wasn’t connecting to another flight. Yeah! He exclaims
I say to him… “get in front of me and let
Me hold onto your right elbow.” He complies…
I grab my bag and we take off.

Audio: Victory music

My seatmate now ripping through the narrow aisle. And my shoulders knocking into chairs and walls
He apologizes… Bro, I can take a hit let’s do this… turn it up. Yeah, he exclaims again now even more determined to accomplish his goal…
We zoom past the flight attendants who say something about An assistant… I don’t bother responding, no time for that
My seatmate and I are now a team and we’re on a mission.
“He’s my blocker “I think to myself and we’re gonna score this touch down…

We can do this, I hear him say as we rip past the ticket agent at gate 33… As we’re quickly and purposefully walking, in search of gate D29-
I hear my name. … Paging Mr. Reid, Thomas Reid… That’s me I tell him.
“He’s here, he’s here” yells my Blocker… He’s here, he’s here…says the ticket agent at D29 into a telephone…

We get to the podium at gate 29… Touchdown!!!

As if rehearsed, We do a two hand high five, chest bump, all While the ticket agent and bystanders applaud….

Ok, that would have been the movie version celebration.

Instead, the ticket agent asked for my boarding pass… I retrieve my boarding pass
Thank my team mate and I’m hurried onto my next flight.

I didn’t get his name or even had the chance to Shake his hand, but man I appreciated him.

Sitting on my final flight to Alabama considering how through that entire process
I felt quite comfortable and calm with just going with the flow. I thought about the first part of that very well known
Serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

This experience reinforces what I believe is the power of team work. I thought about how this pertains to lessons
for those adjusting to blindness or for that matter adjusting to any sort of change.

I’ve always been one to think of that very broad definition of independent as doing something by myself.

Could I have done this by myself… Some may quickly say no, others may argue yes with the right circumstance as in accessible information…
like a good indoor navigation app. But honestly,…,…., it was way more fun with a team!!

Audio Bumper bringing us back to the present.
Audio: Music starts…

TR:

My seat mate and ultimately my team mate for a few minutes at least, was as far as I can tell a white guy. We worked together. I was in a position where I needed him to be out in front if I wanted to make my flight. It wasn’t my only option, but missing that flight would have meant a really long and possibly very uncomfortable delay. Not for him, but rather, just me.

Reid My Mind Radio will be back on August 4th. I have some really good episodes planned for the second half of the year but right now, I need to do a little recharging. If you’re new to the podcast, feel free to check out the archive. We have over 100 episodes and they don’t expire.

You can get that just by subscribing to Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get your podcasts. None of my stuff is behind a pay wall because I really do want it to be an accessible resource for those adjusting to blindness.
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 Radio Outro

Peace! And I really mean that!
Audio: Headphones dropping on table.

Hide the transcript

A Peak at Finding A New Normal

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Today, everyone is talking about a new normal. Those adjusting to blindness or disability in general, have a lot of experience in this way of thinking.

Thomas & Marlett seated under a green tree with a blue sky and scattered white clouds hovering above.
As disability impacts the entire family unit or team, I invited my wife Marlett on the podcast to discuss the topic. The result? Advice on managing those inevitable uncomfortable public encounters, accepting change and even how Tick Tock can help during this pandemic. Well, sort of…

Our discussion is actually a sneak peak into an upcoming episode with Dr. Mona Minkara and her production team from Planes Trains & Canes.

Take a listen to this episode and then check out the documentary series before you meet them all here on the podcast.

Listen

Transcript

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Audio: Sounds of microphones being touched…

Marlett:

I am not touching the microphone or the stand.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Do you see me touching the microphone?

(Long Pause)

And I’m a professional! (Laughs…)

Marlett:

You heard my feet.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What?

Marlett:

you heard my feet, I did this…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Oh, don’t do that.

Marlett:

Ok!

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family! My name is Thomas Reid. I’m the producer and host of this podcast, bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss from low vision to total blindness.

Every now and then, when inspired, I bring you stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

If you are newly impacted by blindness and you found the podcast, first of all welcome. Secondly, I think you’re going to like it here.

Today’s episode does include my wife Marlett. Ever since the last episode titled Celebrating 15 years of being Blind, I received some feedback from people who enjoyed hearing from her. I made the mistake of letting her know that. As you’ll see here today, it may have went to her head.
Despite that, I asked her on because, well, I’m a great husband.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

TR:

Let me start this off with a warm virtual hug for you all. It feels like every day the idea of normal is pushed further and further. What we would have expected and accepted seems to be a continuous slide in the wrong direction. Specifically,
putting kids in cages, the death of 80 thousand people in two months or racists shooting an innocent young Black man.

Our responsibility, is not to accept it. not to simply act like it is normal.

On this podcast, I don’t often go into politics or current affairs except when I feel it relates to the process of adjusting to blindness. These connections are from my perspective. It’s called Reid My Mind Radio after all.

So when is a good time to accept a new normal?

Right now, just about everyone on this planet is dealing with a new normal. Although we’re all experiencing this pandemic differently, we’re doing it together.

There’s a similar feeling around acquiring a Disability. Now, I’m referring to all of those impacted; parent, child or spouse for example.

Similar feelings but there are some real differences between what is being felt during the pandemic and the experience of disability. For one, the entire world isn’t analyzing it on every news channel. There aren’t easy ways to gain multiple perspectives. It’s more likely something the family goes through alone. Hopefully it’s a real opportunity for that family to become a unit a real team.

I’m on this journey with you so I get it. And so does my wife, Marlett. I invited her on the show to get that team perspective from someone impacted by blindness.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What I noticed from the last time is that if I ask you to introduce yourself you have a big production necessary for the intro and I don’t think I’m going to do that this time. Laughing…

Marlett:

Ok!

Audio: Intro from Celebrating …

Audio: “The Baddest Chick”, Trina

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Can you please just state your name for the record?

Marlett:
Marlett Reid

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

And who are you?

Marlett:
I’m the baddest chick!

Audio: As the music gets louder …

Marlett:
I’m your wife!

The music continues.

Now back in the present.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughing… You want to introduce yourself anyway?

Marlett:

My name is Marlett Reid, currently writing a book so it’s going to be M.E. Reid.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Laughing… you’re here to promote your book? Laughing…

Marlett:

Laughing…

TR:

Ok, when my wife does publish her book, I’m not only buying a bunch for the RMM Radio family, but she’s definitely coming on the podcast. And that I tell you right now, will be the best episode I ever produce!

It’s not always the case, but Marlett and I shared some perspective around this idea of finding the new normal.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

When your life is uprooted because that’s what everybody kind of is really saying…

Marlett:

Right, right.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

And then now you have to start to see what is going to be the new normal. And I’m saying that we’ve …

Marlett:

Yeh, we’ve been there.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

The difference to me is that while we were doing that everyone was still living their normal. It felt like we were the only ones doing that because it was just impacting us and our family. Do you see any parallels between what we’ve been through and what’s going on right now?

Marlett:

Nothing new to us. Trying to figure out what to do coming up with new ideas of entertaining the family. Picnics in the living room or family night movies.

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

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Damn!

Marlett:

Well it’s true.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Mm Hmm… (In agreement)

Marlett:

They were distancing themselves. If we went to a party they did social distancing there too.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughs…

Marlett:

We would be in a corner or we’d be in one side and they’d be on another side. They just didn’t have a mask.

TR:

At least not one that was visible.

Audio: Plane taking off…

At the time of this conversation, I was in the process of producing what will be the next episode of the podcast featuring Mona Minkara and her Planes Trains and Canes production team.

The documentary series which can be found on YouTube follows Mona who is Blind, on a journey to 5 different cities around the world where she travels alone using public transportation.

I’m encouraging you to check out the series which I’ll link to on ReidMyMind.com.

I was curious to see what if any parallels Marlett would draw after an explanation of the documentary’s concept.

That is the resulting encounters a Blind woman receives as she’s recorded on video while traveling through an airport or subway.

Marlett’s perspective wasn’t what I expected, but it’s definitely understandable how she got there.
Marlett:

It made me think of African Americans, really. When they try to navigate or go through life, how people treat them.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]
Them? Are you Black?

Marlett:

How people treat us!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughs…

Marlett:

Walking into a bank or walking into a store or walking in a neighborhood.

Audio: YouTube…

“No Justice No Peace!” (Repeats while clips from a news reporter plays…)

“Arrests in the shooting death of a jogger in a Brunswick neighborhood for killing Amaud Aubry. The charges; murder and aggravated assault”

TR:

Perspective matters!

This conversation was on the heels of this latest senseless racist murder of Amaud Aubrey.

(Pause)

When it comes to adjusting to blindness, Marlett and my family are O.G’s in this game!

Marlett:

We have our thing down. We already know what’s going on like I know people talk to me instead of you and I know how I handle that.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Alright so give me an example of that.

Marlett:

If we go, anywhere you have to do something, they’ll talk to me.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

If somebody asked you for an example of that, is there any specific one that you would give. I’m curious to see if it’s the same one.

Marlett:

We went to go vote.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Oh my gosh!

Marlett:

The woman said you can bring him over here or something, you can correct me if I’m wrong but something to that affect. You spoke up. You said whatever it is that you wanted to say.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I don’t know if I said something or whatever? I probably said something…

Like oh you could talk to me. That’s probably what I said. So it wasn’t until after I got out …

Marlett:

And she said, I shouldn’t have done that. I liked her apology and it was to you. I don’t think she ever did that again.
[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

You’re right so we’re good. Like we’re real good. Like I say hello she says hello and it’s cool. It’s all good. That was a nice interaction because it came out where she got it like immediately.
Do you remember the first time. You might have not noticed it even happened the first time.

Marlett:

Maybe like the first time it happened I didn’t really think about it. Maybe about the third or fourth time I probably thought about it more. I think you and I spoke about it. You knew it was taking place and so you would just speak up real quick but then I think after we talked about it and I was like well I’m not going to say anything , you can just take your time in answering not just jump in there.

TR:

Y’all hear my wife’s way of trying to tell me to chill. That’s cute right! I know it’s because she doesn’t want me to be upset, but ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

I know I shouldn’t take things personally, but having someone talk around me while I’m standing right there? Remember, I said there are things we should never accept as normal, this is one of them. My recommendation?

Marlett:

You would speak on it or be vocal about how it made you feel, but not like it caused tension between us.

I never answer for you. I won’t answer for you. I will walk away or I’ll turn and look at you for you to respond or I will look at my phone.

TR:

Marlett is so great with these situations now that Every time this happens , I almost feel sorry for the perpetrator. I can feel their confusion. If I am feeling let’s just say a bit feisty, I’ll let them hold onto their confusion and embarrassment for a little while. You brought it out, you hold it! It works, they get it.

It’s a cool play that Marlett and I execute well together.

Marlett:
We still have hiccups.

In the beginning it was a lot of hiccups there because you were used to taking the bags and just going. Boom!

What works best for us when we travel is if we discuss it beforehand. When we freestyle we generally tend to have some hiccups.

TR:

Now first of all did you notice how Marlett made it sound like I was the cause – as in, you were used to taking the bags and going.

Marlett:

Boom!

TR:

She’s right! But truthfully we were both used to that.

She’s also right in the need for us to all be on the same page. Communicate the plan before trying to execute.

On this team, we each have to play our role at any given time.

Our roster includes two more players – our girls.

Marlett:

When they were little that was a little harder. Usually they walked in front of us Riana would hold her sister’s hand and they would walk in front of us. Sometimes behind us and I would glance back occasionally just to make sure they were still with us.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I remember that was a thing because I would always ask you where the girls? (_Laughs…)

Marlett:

Yeh!

TR:

They’re 16 & 22 now. Amazingly, Marlett is still hovering around 32.

Traveling with them today?

Marlett:

The girls leave us!

They’ll make sure that we don’t have anything to hold us up. All we have to do is to get where we have to go. They’re more intoned to what works to get us to where we need to go. Like when we went on the cruise, they took the bags.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I had a bag.

Marlett:

You wouldn’t give up your bag.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I know, yeh, I’m not giving up my bag.

Marlett:

You’re not going to give up your bag that easily. You still got that machismo.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Oh, wait we’re gonna go there? You think that’s machismo? That’s alright, I don’t have to go into that because you’re wrong and I don’t want them to be all like oh my goodness Marlett we don’t like her anymore.

Marlett:

Some weird laugh that basically translates to whatever! Ok!

TR:

Ok, despite my lovely wife’s incorrect assessment that I have even an ounce of machismo, her lessons here can be helpful no matter who makes up your team.

For example, producing Planes Trains and Canes requires a real team effort. You can hear all about that in the next episode of this podcast.

Before that episode drops on June 2, go check out Planes Trains & Canes. It’s not necessarily a pre-requisite but we do dance around some specific scenes from the documentary series.

I’m also curious to see if we see similar parallels between the show and adjusting to blindness.

Marlett:

I feel like if you’re traveling with someone who is Blind , you two should have a conversation. What makes each one comfortable?

In the beginning when this all happened I was I think in my feelings. I don’t think I really thought about you or me but more so how everybody else was looking at us. Once I got over that part, which I’m not fully over it, but for the most part I am; we work better!

TR:

Adjusting to blindness is not really a place you arrive but rather an ongoing journey. You either decide to take it or find yourself well not really going anywhere.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What would you say goes into being able to accept a new normal?

Marlett:

Understanding you can’t change anything so you got to make it work for you. You know the pandemic came around, there’s nothing we can do about it, there’s no cure. The only thing at this point is you got to stay away from people so that is going to be our new normal. Handle it! Things always change that’s life. Nothing ever stays the same, you got to change with the times.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

… That’s real talk!

It doesn’t sound like you’re very compassionate about it . Like I thought you might be a little more compassionate.

Marlett:

I am being compassionate. I’m telling you the truth. I’m trying to get you to get over it quickly. Pull off the Band-Aid. It is what it is. I could hold your hand and we can go through it but…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

See I don’t understand why you can do that but when I do that you’re like (mockingly) Tommy! (Laughs) ]

I’m just going to put this out there because I try to tell everyone I’m the compassionate one in the family.

Marlett:

Exhales… Uh Lord!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

And I think I just got proof of that. It’s definitely evidence.

Marlett:

I realized one thing about this pandemic, this whole thing with the Tick Tock.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Oh God! Laughing…

Marlett:

But wait a minute. This whole thing with the Tick Tock!
[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Hold up, hold up, hold up! I don’t know if everybody knows Tick Tock.

Marlett:

Well Tick Tock is this app where the older generations are dominating this app. I think a lot of people know about Tick Tock. But the great thing about Tick Tock is that…

Audio: Marlett continues with volume lowered….

TR:

Reid My Mind Radio Family, I need your help. I think my wife has an addiction to Tick Tock. If you don’t know, it’s a pretty popular app now that was pre-pandemic considered for the kids. It enables quick short videos often consisting of lip singing or short dance routines.

I’m going to spare you as she tries to rationalize her obsession with claims of this app building bridges.

I’m not saying it’s not true, because honestly, I don’t really use the app. the majority of the content that I’ve come across is predominantly visual and audio description is not an option.

Even the killer content I made with my youngest Raven, a highly sophisticated and intricate dance routine, had no way of including description.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Yo whose the Tick Tock Killa?

Marlett:

That would be you Thomas. (Said very sarcastically!)

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

That’s me, the Tick Tock Killa!

I think you only like Tick Tock because you like to say Tick Tock. I think that’s why this app is actually doing so well because people like to say Tick Tock.

Marlett:

Tick, Tock!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I should have named my podcast Tick Tock and I probably have a whole lot more people listening and subscribing, you know what I’m saying?

Marlett:

I don’t know maybe you’re right. I do like Tick Tock. Yeah!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I ask people to subscribe…

Marlett:

It’s the way you ask people… (she fades her own voice out)

It’s the way you do it! You have to ask…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Wait up, first of all how do I do it? That it’s the way I do it.

Marlett:

I don’t know how you do it, but it’s not the right way. I’m just saying it’s probably not the right way.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

How can you say it’s the wrong way. Oh my God! (Laughing hysterically)

Marlett:

So I’m going to ask everybody to subscribe. And leave me a little heart emoji or a smile or say hi Marlett. (Spelled out)

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Where are they going to do that?

Marlett:

At ReidMyMind.
my content

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Dot com you’re talking about? You want them to subscribe and leave a comment on the episode page?

Marlett:

Yeh!… Yeh!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Now I’m gonna tell you right now…

Marlett:

Yeh! I would like everybody to say hi. I would love it. I feel that energy it would just make me so happy. Just, just tell me hi!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Long pause…

Do you know how many times I ask people to subscribe, to reach out?

Marlett:

And Subscribe…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I give the phone number. I get some people, but you think you’re going to get…. (Laughs…)

Marlett:

What’s so funny?

My energy and their energy. They’re feeling my energy and they’re going to go and subscribe and they’re going to say hi Marlett.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

So what’s the matter with my energy?

Marlett:

Hi Marlett. (Name spelled out)

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What’s the matter with my energy?

Marlett:

And I’m going to say hi right back. And I’m going to send emoji’s and everything. Yeh!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Ok!

Marlett:

Cause I have an awesome energy.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Ok, I hope you’re right

Marlett:

I’m right!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Exhale….

Marlett:

I’m right!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

On the real, I’d be jealous. I’m not going to lie. I’d be a little jealous. I’m not going to hate though. I don’t think they’re going to do it anyway.

Marlett:

Laughing… Alright!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Cause I know you’re only doing this because you lost the Tick Tock battle, because you never did it because I won the Tick Tock battle.

Marlett:

Exhales….

I didn’t do the Tick Tock because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

I killed that joint! If I have an audio described Tick Tock, Bee, I’m killing the game! Put some audio description on my Tick Tock, and then everybody be like Yo! Tick Tock Killa, T.Reid… Tick tock Killa!

Marlett:

You know, speaking of audio description…

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Alright, thank you babe!

you’re trying to take over the podcast now I can tell.

Marlett:

I’m not done.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Excuse me!

Marlett:

I’m not done.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughing… what? Laughing…

Marlett:

Why are you trying to kick me off . You know what it is right?

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

What?

Marlett:

He’s jealous. (Long pause)

Because the shows I’m on do so well. Mm hmm. Because I’m on it.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughs…

Marlett:

It’s that energy.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughing…
The energy that’s going to get people to do what?

Marlett:

They’re going to go and they’re going to subscribe

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Umm hmm And how are you going to know they did that?

Marlett:

Because they’re going to leave me a little note and it’s going to say Hi Marlett! (Named spelled out again)

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

You know you got that spelling thing from me right?

Marlett:

I think you got it from me. Yep!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughing…

Marlett:

So make sure you go, Reid My Mind Radio!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Where can they go to subscribe?

Marlett:

Anywhere that has podcasts.

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

And then what’s the website?

Marlett:

ReidMyMind.com

R to the E I D

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

Marlett:

Like MY last name!

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughing… That was good!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Marlett:

Peace

[TR in conversation with Marlett:]

Laughing… There it is. alright, Nice!

You’re trying to get your own podcast. Whatever Bee. I didn’t press record.

Marlett:

That’s not even funny!

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

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!

Hide the transcript

The 2019 Rap Up… Yes, Rap Up!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

A brief update about what’s been going on with the podcast as well as some thoughts on the future. I’d really appreciate feedback!

I was inspired to take a look back at this year’s episodes and create an “original” production I’m calling the RMM Radio 2019 Rap Up. It features my daughter Raven Reid along with yours truly spittin’ that fire!

Shout out to DJ Pain 1 for this free beat on YouTube that just inspired the hook!

“It’s 2019|And it’s the end of the year| Here’s some episodes, that you should really hear| 2020’s on the way| We don’t have long to go| Do the right thing, subscribe| Reid My Mind Radio”

Happy Holidays!

Listen

The 2019 Rap Up Video

Ok, maybe I was just having way too much fun… I decided to make a video of the Rap Up song.

The video simply contains mainly still images of those episodes featured in the song. Since it features my baby girl Raven, I decided to take some footage from a video of her when she was much younger, maybe 3 or 4 years old!

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Happy Holidays Family!

Ok, so this is the actual last episode of the year. Although I consider these sort of extra. To me the real nourishment, the value are the people you meet every two weeks. Those are the people you should know. Me, I’m just the guy who enjoys bringing them to you.

Oh, if you’re new here, please be sure to check out the meat and potatoes, those other episodes I referred to. And allow me to introduce myself to you I’m Thomas Reid host producer and the extra garnishment on the plate and I guess I’m the Chef who serves it all up! I’m also the pro at running the heck out of a metaphor.

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

In 2018, I started thinking about taking this podcast to what I considered a next step. That’s moving from a passion project, aka a total personal expense to a sustainable venture; at the very least having the expenses covered.

At the most, I’d expand the podcast in scope and frequency. That would include multiple producers and other talent. Specifically, blind or low vision producers and those with disabilities.

That shot was with the Google PRX Podcast Creators Program.

When Google announced they were getting into the podcast business, they also decided to team up with PRX, the Public Radio Exchange to help find and train podcasters that were creating for diverse or marginalized communities.

I figured, I meet these qualifications! I applied.

I made it to the semifinals but ended up not making it all the way. I was encouraged to try again during the second round of the program this year. I did.

Out of something like 10,000 entries, I’m happy to report that Reid My Mind Radio made it to the finals. We didn’t win, but we sure enough didn’t lose!

The PRX team invited two other runner up teams and myself to join the 6 winning teams in Boston for a podcast training boot camp. It was very cool. I met some great podcasters from around the world including Brazil, Columbia, India, Lebanon and Spain. And then some much closer including the only winning team from the US in New York/New Jersey and the other two runner ups from Boston and Oakland.

A big shout out to all of the teams including the PRX training team. It was cool to be among other podcast creators.

Audio: “What’s Your Name?”

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is the name of this podcast. I know it doesn’t exactly communicate the goal of the show. Obviously, there are better names that I could come up with that would make for better Search Engine Optimization especially for those searching Apple Podcast based on a topic like; adjusting to Blindness or disability.

On the last day of the Google PRX Podcast Creators Program Training Boot Camp, each team had to present their show to a panel of podcast industry experts.

Audio: Mark Intro…RMMRadio

That was my intro, you know I got hype right?

Anyway, some of the feedback I expected was around the name. A lot of people actually were interested in hearing more about the personal experiences. That’s something I’ve been told on several occasions, but have resisted for various reasons.

If I do eventually decide to re-brand what we do here, I will definitely keep Reid My Mind Radio and maybe start to share more of my personal experiences and maybe comment more about blindness and disability related events and issues.

What do you think about me changing the name of the show going forward? Maybe re-branding and repurposing Reid My Mind Radio?

let me know if you would be interested in listening to this type of thing. ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com or 570.798.7343.

All in all, it was a good year for the podcast.

This is where I should insert flashbacks from this year’s episodes. You know a wrap up.

Then, as I was sleeping I had a thought or maybe it was a dream. Maybe

Audio: Dream harp

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio 2019 Rap Up

Music begins…

TR Talking:

So I figured this year 2019 we should do like a wrap up. It’s Christmas time right? Well not a wrap. Really it’s an rap.

“Coo Caw” Bird wings flapping…

I did bring somebody to help me out. Close out the year, you know, in a special way

Music Crescendo….

My baby girl, Raven Reid, get ’em, hah!

Chorus Raven Reid sings…
It’s Twenty Nineteen
And it’s the end of the year
Here’s some episodes
that you should really hear
2020’s on the way
We don’t have long to go
Do the right thing, Subscribe
Reid My Mind Radio

Verse – TR:
First ep in 2019, I was talking opportunity
Just feeling positive for you and me
Next was the first of more to come
The topic, Audio Description ,
“Read by Roy Samuelson” (Audio from Audio Description)

Episode 3 was right on time
Yes, celebrating 15 years of being blind

Black Disabled History was episode 4
Straight from Krip Hop called my man Leroy Moore
(Audio: Leroy Moore says “Krip Hop!)

Now William Greer, he was referred to me
He’s from the film fest, cinema touching disability

Access is Art, you should know what I mean
If not check Episode 6 with my friend Cheryl Green
(Audio: Cheryl says, “It’s about equity!”)

Shout out Alice Wong amplifying
(Audio: Alice says “Disabled voices of color”)
That’s why Disability Visibility.com is like no other

We say Representation matters, they say what’s the fuss
I’ll remember in the dark, hashtag LetUsPlayUs?

Chorus Raven Reid sings…
It’s Twenty Nineteen
And it’s the end of the year
Here’s some episodes
that you should really hear
2020’s on the way
We don’t have long to go
Do the right thing, Subscribe
Reid My Mind Radio

Verse 2 – TR:
Day Al Mohammed produced and directed the Invalid Corps
She does policy, writes books and a whole lot more
(Audio: Day says: “Invalid Corps”)
Elizabeth Sammons is an author touring the country in an RV
At least that’s where she was when she spoke with me!

I Always rep the BX, New York City
Shout out to Prince Bri, Power Not Pity
(Audio: Power not Pity opening music…)
Is there room for the blind on the AD scene
Ask blind consultant, her name’s Colleen

Audio Description there’s more to the game
like describing Sports, Conferences, right Kat Germaine
(Audio: Kat Germain says “Yes”)
Next 3 eps feature the spark event
Sue talked about it and she’ll be back again!
(Audio: Sue says” We’ll sit down for another one”)
Mom and author Kristin Smedley was there live
She says It’s not just her kids but we can all thrive.

She started Captivating, Bold Blind Beauty Oh Boy!
Third time on the podcast, what’s up Steph McCoy
(Audio: Steph laughs…)
Chorus:

TR: “Take it to the bridge”

Bridge Raven Reid Spoken Word…

Since 2014 when this podcast was kicked off
It was geared to anyone feeling vision loss

See, those newly adjusting, it’s their own abilities they question
Reid My Mind Radio is changing perceptions

If you haven’t done so yet, hurry, act fast
Subscribe at ReidMyMind.com or wherever you get podcasts!

Make sure you spell Reid, R E I D
The podcast making blindness funky!

Verse 3:

Question, are Leaders made or are they born
The answer comes from AFB’s Megan Aragon

Landing your dream job is more strategy than luck
Coach Nancy gives some game plus she gives a duck
(Audio: “Quack, Quack”)

Audio description & physically integrated dance
Alice Sheppard, Laurel Lawson, Audimance

Man, this year flew by, like 1 2 3
Closing it out, my Bro Joe Strechay,
(Audio: Apple TV Plus)
See!

TR: “Daddy Daughter let’s go!”

Chorus – Raven Reid & T.Reid: (Repeats)
It’s Twenty Nineteen
And it’s the end of the year
Here’s some episodes
that you should really hear
2020’s on the way
We don’t have long to go
Do the right thing, Subscribe
Reid My Mind Radio

TR:
That was fun!

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza Happy Three Kings Day whatever you celebrate or don’t.

All the best to you, Reid My Mind Radio Family from the entire Reid family.

And of course, so there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D, like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio outro

Peace

Hide the transcript


The 2019 Rap Up… Yes, Rap Up!