Archive for the ‘Visually Impaired’ Category

Reid My Mind Radio – Microsoft Seeing AI – Real & Funky

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

!T.Reid wearing a hat with a "T" while the Seeing AI logo is imposed on his shades!
Okay, I don’t usually do reviews, but why not go for it! All I can tell you is I did it my way; that’s all I can do!
It took a toll on me… entering my dreams…
I’m going to go out on a limb and say I have the first podcast to include an Audio Described dream! So let’s get it… hit play and don’t forget to subscribe and tell a friend to do the same.

Resources:

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Wasup good people!
Today I am bringing you a first of sorts, a review of an app…

I was asked to do a piece on Microsoft’s new app called Seeing AI.for Gatewave Radio.

The interesting thing about producing a tech related review for Gatewave is that the Gatewave audience most likely doesn’t use smart phones and maybe even the internet. However, they should have a chance to learn about how this technology is impacting the lives of people with vision loss. Chances are they won’t learn about these things through any mainstream media so… I took a shot… And if there’s anything I am trying to get across with the stories and people I profile
it’s we’re all better off when we take a shot and not just accept the status quo

[Audio from Star Trek’s Next Generation… Captain La Forge fire’s at a chasing craft. Ends with crew mate exclaiming… Got em!]
[Audio: Reid My Mind Radio theme Music]

[Audio: Geordi La Forge from Star Trek talk to crew from enemy craft…]
TR:
Geordi La Forge from Star Trek’s Next Generation , played by LeVar Burton, was blind. However, through the use of a visor he was able to see far more than the average person.

While this made for a great story line, it also permanently sealed LeVar Burton and his Star Trek character as the default reference for any new technology that proposes to give “sight” to the blind.

[Audio: from intro above ending with Geordi saying…
“If you succeed, countless lives will be affected”
TR:
What exactly though, is sight?

We know that light is passed through the eye and that information is sent to the brain where it is interpreted and
quickly established to represent shapes, colors, objects and people.

A working set of eyes, optic nerves and brain are a formidable technological team.
They get the job done with maximum efficiency

Today, , with computer processing power growing exponentially and devices getting smaller the idea that devices like smart phones could serve as an alternative input for eyes is less science fiction and well, easier to see.

There are several applications available that bring useful functionality to the smart phone ;
* OCR or optical character recognition which allows a person to take a picture of text and have it read back using text to speech
* Product scanning – makes use of the camera and bar codes which are read and the information is spoken aloud again, using text to speech
* Adding artificial intelligence to the mix we’re seeing facial and object recognition being introduced.

Microsoft has recently jumped into the seeing business, with their new iOS app called Seeing AI… as in Artificial Intelligence!
There’s no magic or anything artificial about these results, they’re real!

In this application, the functionality like reading a document or recognizing a products bar code are split into channels. The inclusion of multiple channels in one application is already a plus for the user. Eliminating the need to open multiple apps.

Let’s start with reading documents.

For those who may have once had access to that super-fast computer interface called eyes , you’re probably familiar with the frustration of the lost ability to quickly scan a document with a glance and make a quick decision.

Maybe;
* You’re looking for a specific envelope or folder.
* you want to quickly grab that canned good or seasoning from the cabinet.

With other reading applications you have to go through the process of taking a picture and hoping you’re on the print side of the envelope or can. After you line it up and take the picture you find out the lighting wasn’t right so you have to do it again.

Using Microsoft’s Seeing AI you simply point the phones camera in the direction of the text

[Audio App in process]

Once it sees text, it starts reading it back! The quick information can be just enough for you to determine what you’re looking for. In fact, during the production of this review, I had a real life use case for the app.

My wife reminded me that I was contacted for Jury duty and I needed to follow up as indicated in the letter. The letter stated I would need to visit a specific website to complete the process. I forgot to put the letter in a separate area in order to scan it later and read the rest of the details. So rather than asking someone to help me find the letter, I grabbed the pile of mail from the table and took out my iPhone.

I passed some of my other blindness apps and launched Microsoft Seeing AI. I simply pointed the camera at each individual piece of paper until finding the specific sheet I was seeking. The process was a breeze. In fact, it was easier than asking someone to help me find the form. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s glancing!

Now that I found the right letter, I could easily get additional information from the sheet by scanning the entire document. I don’t need to open a separate app, I can simply switch to a different channel, by performing the flick up gesture.

Similar to a sighted person navigating the iPhone’s touch screen interface , anyone can non visually accomplish the same tasks using a set of different gestures designed to work with Voice Over, the built in screen reader that reads aloud information presented on the screen.

Using the document channel I can now take a picture of the letter and have it read back.

One of the best ways to do this is to place the camera directly on the sheet in the middle and slowly pull up as the edges come into view. I like to pull my elbows toward the left and right edges to orient myself to the page. Forming a triangle with my phone at the top center. The app informs you if the edges are in view or not.
Once it likes the positioning of the camera and the document is in view, it lets you know it’s processing.

[Audio: Melodic sound of Seeing AI’s processing jingle]

You don’t even have to hit the take picture button. However, if you are struggling to get the full document into view ,
you could take the picture and let it process. It may be good enough for giving you the information you’re seeking.

If you have multiple sheets to read, simply repeat.

Another cool feature here is the ability to share the scanned text with other applications. That jury duty letter, I saved it to a new file on my Drop Box enabling me to access it again from anywhere without having to scan the original letter

Let’s try using the app to identify some random items from my own pantry.

To do this, I switch the channel to products.

[Audio: Seeing App processing an item from my pantry…]

What you hear, is the actual time it took to “see” the product. All I’m doing is moving the item in order to locate the bar code.
As the beeps get faster I know I am getting closer. When the full bar code is in range, the app automatically takes the picture and begins processing.

[Audio: Seeing AI announces the result of the bar code scan… “Goya Salad Olives”

It’s pretty clear to see how this would be used at home, in the work environment and more.

Now let’s check out the A I or artificial intelligence in this application.

By artificial intelligence, the machine is going to use its ability to compute and validate certain factors in order to provide the user with information.

First, I’ll skip to the channel labeled Scene Beta…
Beta is another term for almost ready for prime time. So, if it doesn’t work, hey,, it’s beta!

Take a picture of a scene and the built in artificial intelligence will do its best to provide you with the information enabling you to understand something about that scene.

[Seeing AI reports a living room with a fireplace.]

This could be helpful in cases like
If a child or someone is asleep on the couch.

[Audio: Action Movie sound design]

I can even picture a movie starring me of course, where I play a radio producer who is being sought by the mob. The final scene I use my handy app to see the hitman approaching me. I do a round house kick…
ok, sorry I get a little carried away at the possibilities.

While no technology can replace good mobility travel skills I can imagine a day where the scene identification function will provide additional information about one’s surroundings.
Making it another mobility tool for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Now for my final act… oh wait it’s not magic remember!

Microsoft Seeing AI Offers facial recognition.
That’s right, point your camera at someone and it should tell you who that person is… Well, of course you have to first train the app.

To do this we have to first go into the menu and choose facial recognition.
To add a new person we choose the Add button.
In order to train Seeing AI you have to take three pictures of the person.
We elected to do different facial expressions like a smile, sad and no expression.
Microsoft recommends you let sighted family and friends take their own picture to get a good quality pic.

The setup requirement, while understandable at this point sort of reduces that sci fi feel.

After Seeing AI is trained, once you are in the people channel
when pointing your camera in the direction of the persons face, it can recognize and tell you the person is in the room.

[Audio: Seeing AI announces Raven about 5 feet in front.]

Seeing AI does a better job recognizing my daughter Raven when she smiles. That too me is not artificial intelligence because we all love her smile!

The application isn’t perfect. it struggled a bit with creased labels, making it difficult to read the bar code.

Not all bar codes are in the database. It would be great if users could submit new products for future use.

As a first version launch with the quick processing, Seeing AI really gives me something to keep an eye on. Or maybe I should say AI on!

Peering into the future I can see;

* Faster processing power that makes recognition super quick,
* Interfacing with social media profiles to automatically recognize faces and access information from people in your network
* lenses that can go into any set of glasses sending the information directly to the application not requiring the user to point their phone
at an item or person and privately receiving the information via wireless headset.
That could greatly open up the use cases.

In fact, interfacing with glasses is apparently already in development and
the team includes a lead programmer who is blind.

Microsoft says a Currency identification channel is coming in the future;
making Seeing AI a go to app for almost anything we need to see!

The Microsoft Seeing AI app is available from the Apple App store for Free 99. Yes, it’s free!

I’m Thomas Reid
[Audio: As in artificial intelligence!]
For Gatewave Radio, audio for independent living!

[Audio: Voice of Siri in Voice Over mode announcing “More”]

I don’t know if that’s considered a review in the traditional sense, but honestly I am not trying to be traditional.

The thing is, thinking about the application started to extend past the time when I was working on the piece…

That little jingle sound the app makes when it’s processing… it started to seep into my dreams…
[Audio: Dream Harp]

[Audio: “Funky Microsoft Seeing AI” An original T.Reid Production]

The song is based around the processing tone used in the app with the below lyrics.

(Audio description included in parens)

(Scene opens with Thomas asleep in bed with a dream cloud above his head)

The processing sound becomes a sound with Claps…

(We see a darkened stage)

(As the chorus is about to begin spotlight shines on Thomas & the band)

Chorus:
Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

(Thomas rips off his shirt!)

Verse:
Download the app on my iPhone

{Background sings… “Download it, Download it!}

Checking out things all around my home

(Thomas dances on stage)

Point the camera from the front
Huh!
Point the camera from the back!

I’m like;
what’s that , what’s this
Jump back give my phone a kiss!
Hey! (James Brown style yell!)

(Thomas spins and drops into a split)

Chorus:
Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

(Back in the bed we see Thomas with a fading dream cloud above his head)

Ends with the app’s processing sound.

TR:
Wow, definitely time to move on to the next episode…

With that said, make sure you Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Tell a friend to do the same – I have some interesting things coming up I think you’re going to like.
And something you may have not expected!

[Audio: RMMRadio Outro]
TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – Connie Chiu – For the Love

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Connie dressed in white whith her hair slicked back looking upwards. The background is a bright white.

Photographed by,Ellis Parrinder


Connie Chiu, known as the first Fashion model with Albinism, has much more to offer than a pretty photo… a great attitude.
Ask her why she does it…. She does it for the love!

I had to ask myself what do I love to do… so I did it! I call it Connie’s Jam, check it out in this episode.

What do you just love to do? Are you doing it? Holla Back!reidmymindradio@gmail.com

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s up RMMRadio family…

I have back to back episodes that touch on the topic of Fashion.

Although the last episode was really about entrepreneurship and goals…
Today’s episode is fashion related, but I think it’s more about attitude and doing the things we love to do.

I love working with audio,
talking to people with interesting stories and something to say.
Put those together and that’s a partial recipe for this podcast.

Dinner is served, come and get it!
[Audio: Dinner bell ringing, man announcing “Come and get it!”]
[Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme]

CC:
My Name Is Connie Chiu and I am partially sighted. I have albinism. The condition affects my eyesight, it effects my skin. Those two are the main things. I like to
look at it as a cocktail of conditions or a Smorgasbord of conditions to just make it sound a little bit more delicious

TR:
Delicious as in pleasing, agreeable or gratifying-
I get the sense this is an important theme for Connie.

Born in Hong Kong, at 7 years old Connie and her family moved to Sweden.

CC:
my parents thought you know she’s quite she’s got light skin she’s got white hair surely she would blend in better in Sweden with Swedish people. But I was just a little bit whiter than Swedish people and my hair was just so very very white. My features were still Chinese. So yes I did stand out in Sweden and yes I did stand out in Hong Kong as well. I’ve been to America and yes I stood out in America. So really I need to go somewhere with a lot of white Chinese people for me not to stand out.

TR in conversation with CC:
[Laughing] I don’t know where that it…!

CC:
[Laughing] I don’t know iether.

TR in conversation with CC:
Children are children so I’m going to assume when you went to Sweden, you said around when you were 7 years old, you obviously stood out in class so I am going to assume that some kids bullied.

CC:
Actually I was quite lucky you won’t believe it I was quite tall as a child. When I was about nine ten people thought I was twelve. So I think they were they
were all quite small, I thought all my classmates were so small you know boys girls doesn’t matter. I was like a head taller than what they were. I think that helped
I don’t know why but it kind of was a quite positive response. They sort of gave me gifts. They sort of gave me drawings. They gave me little presents here and there. They were just nice to me.

In Sweden they celebrate Italian Saint called Santa Lucia. Ideally you should be blonde to be Santa Lucia. In our class we had like a little vote. Then you dress up as Santa Lucia. It’s kind of a whole thing and you sing songs and you have a little parade. They voted me because of my white hair I guess. That was something positive.

It’s very hard for me to say why I wasn’t bullied in school but…

TR in conversation with CC:
I think I know, I think I know…
CC:
Oh, OK you tell me.

TR in conversation with CC:
Because you said you were so tall… I think you were bullying them? Were you bullying them Connie? Were you beating up these kids?

CC>
[Laughing…]
{Sarcastically} Yes. The secret part of my life that I never told anybody… [laughs…]

TR in conversation with CC:
I figured it out! Now, here’s the story!

TR:
Ok, Connie was not a bully. In fact, she says that as a child she was more like the quiet nerd, a real day dreamer.
Today, Connie is known as the first fashion model with Albinism.

CC:
The Thing is albinism is just one part of me.

I always loved beautiful images. I started actually behind a camera. I did an art foundation course and I was taking pictures of people and I had different ideas how I wanted my images and I try to make people pose in a way that I want. But then I kind of understood that well actually I knew exactly what I wanted so I started to take photographs of myself. It sounds crazy and I’m probably a bit crazy anyway so I just sent a black and white photo to a French designer with my phone number on the back. I did it because I admired his work, he’s a bit crazy to.

A few months later I ended up doing his Couture show in Paris. Even though I kind of liked modeling I knew nothing about it. I kind of didn’t know about the super models and so on. Of course they were all there doing the catwalk as well.

It’s just the passion of it drove me to modeling and you know it just in a way such an honor to be part of a beautiful image. iether it’s the catwalk or magazines or T.V. commercials … and it’s just great to work with talented people.

TR in conversation with CC:
The Catwalk, does that… the lights I am assuming that there’s a lot of lights and people taking pictures, how does that impact you?

Yes.

Well I wore my lenses, my light protective lenses and they were absolutely fine with it. Jean-Paul Gaultier and his team. Sometimes that’s all you need it’s not like big adjustments.

TR:
Accommodations that enable participation from a person with vision loss or other disability for that matter are often quite easy. The challenge is less about how to adapt but rather attitude.

despite Connie’s optimistic view on life, she still has to deal with situations where those she works with are less interested in accommodating her needs. Even when it’s something simple, like light protective lenses.

during a commercial shoot , producers ignored her request to reduce the room lighting.

CC:
I did point out to him that my eyesight is light sensitive. We’ll probably need to sort of work around the lighting so they were aware of that. So when I got there I saw that the light was too strong. I stood in the light, I stood on the set, it was too strong. I told them it was too strong. They turned the light down
a little and I said well actually it’s still a bit too strong.

In the studio a whole wall was just Windows really so there was day light on top of the studio lights you know.

So I said the them , Well actually if you could cover up the windows behind the camera that would take a bit of the light away and that would really help me. The team who did the interview all they said was actually we want as much light as possible. At that point I thought OK that’s the way it is.

TR:
She even told them she had her light protective lenses and
it would only take a moment to retrieve and put them in.

CC:
They kind of didn’t react to that whatsoever. They just said oh let’s just let’s just get started with the interview. they wanted to do quite a lot in about ninety minutes. They wanted to ask a lot of questions. They wanted me to wear different outfits. They wanted to take a lot of photographs. So I think those were the priorities.

TR:
It wasn’t just about the discomfort of the bright light; Connie was aware that her uneasiness would be reflected in the final image.

Ironically, this was a commercial where she was talking about her condition; Albinism which includes the extreme sensitivity to light.

CC:
I also thought to myself well actually I could walk out but I’m actually not doing this just for myself.

I don’t want people to fink this is how people
with Albinism usually look. This is only how people with albinism look when they are suffering from bright light.

Somehow I don’t think they realize that actually I felt like they took a bit of my dignity away. Because they didn’t listen to me.

TR:
It’s understandable how Connie would feel that way. But remember she’s an optimist. She’s all about making things sound delicious!

CC:
The situation is not ideal but there are things I can control. I can’t control the light obviously, but I could control the things I said, the way I felt, how I answered the questions.

TR:
These negative experience aren’t enough to dissuade Connie from trying. She does things for the right reason.

CC:
For me if I love something and I’ve really want to do I just do it I don’t even think about how difficult it actually is.

TR:
Connie’s currently pursuing another one of her love’s … singing!
It took her a while to build up her confidence while
pursuing her modeling career but she’s recently released an E P.

CC:

It’s Called my Huckleberry songs. In Moon River there’s a phrase my Huckleberry friend – it sort of means very good friends. My Huckleberry Songs are sort
of my friends in a way. Songs that I really like. For Moon river I’ve written my own guitar arrangement. It’s very simple but it’s kind of the way I see the song as well because I like to do something slightly different.

I perform mostly right now in the U.K. I love it performing live because that’s kind of what jazz is about to be in the moment. And things are never quite the same even though you’re sort of singing the same melody.

I think that’s another sort of common thing with my singing and modeling is daydreaming. [Sighs, as if discovering something new!]

It’s just to be able to use your imagination and you can be somewhere else. I think that that’s really what it is to be somewhere else. And I think people can feel it. it has happened when people say like you just took me somewhere else when you sang that song. I just went with you to a different place.
I tend to go to lovely places, so do come with me! [Laughs!]

TR:

If you want to travel to lovely places with Connie; you can purchase her E P from iTunes and Amazon or on CD direct from Connie…
She’s on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube…

CC:

Connie see o double n ie. My surname Chiu.
If you just search Connie and Albino on Google, it will all come up. (…my information)

TR:
I’m Thomas Reid for Gatewave Radio…

[Audio: extracted from Connie’s opening statement… Just to make it sound a little bit more delicious!]

TR:
Audio for independent living!

[Audio: Bumper – “Alright guys, I think we’re ready to lay this first track down” – Christopher Walken Saturday Night Live skit … “More Cowbell”]

TR:
Connie Chiu’s identity isn’t wrapped in Albinism or being visually impaired. That was a very clear point she made when talking about modeling.

She’s comfortable in her skin.

While she wasn’t bullied as a child and I still haven’t found the proof that she bullied the rest of the kids,
her method of dealing with those who are antagonistic is commendable.

If you are new to being the different person in the room, for whatever reason, Connie has something to offer.

CC:
I’m quite used to it now and I think the way I am as a person I don’t walk around and think about what I look like. It sounds very strange to a lot of people because “you look so different” but to me I’m just me. And it’s not until someone approach me and asked me about my hair and where you’re from When you get those questions you know that that’s oh yes oh yes by the way you know of course compared to most people I do look different. Of
course you will have a lot of people who would like to belittle you for whatever reason they can find. For me it’s quite obvious it’s like white hair and
I’m Chinese but it could also be that I’m not that tall really. So I think if someone wants to belittle you they will find a way after a while I think you learn to read people quite well and you start to understand where people are coming from. What’s behind all the things their saying. What’s behind their behavior. For me that’s quite important to me to understand for me to respond to them. So I think when some people try to belittle me or they try to make me feel different then I just embrace it. It’s like yes I’m different so what? Have you got anything else to add? I think it’s quite important of course that you have to be quite happy with who you are and being comfortable with who you are and I think it’s is that in itself it’s a learning process; ongoing process.

TR:

And then there’s something that I’m pretty sure impacts the majority… Pursuing our interests… for the right reason.

How many of us have dreamed of dancing, acting, writing or any activity, but we don’t pursue it. We have jobs, families , responsibilities…

It’s hard to justify pursuing our dreams.

When asking Connie why she decided to model, make an E P, perform on stage…

CC:
I know it sounds crazy but I did it just because I love it.

TR:
The older we get man we complicate things.

I’ll share my own experience…
I’ve always loved music.
I hear music in everyday situations… beats and melodies.
My family will tell you, I make up songs at the drop of a dime for no reason.
Yes, they’re silly… but their fun!

Ever since gaining access to a digital audio workstation;
that’s the type of software I use to record and edit this podcast;
I started recording some of these silly songs…
but honestly, not enough.
I tend to feel as though it’s a waste of time.
But it’s no more a waste of time than watching sports on TV… yeah I said it!

When the inspiration strikes, I should record..

Like during the production of this podcast, while researching Connie’s music, I came across this one song Surfing in Rio…
It was this one particular part…

Add that with Connie spelling out her name, like a rapper

Well, I had to do it! And I thought we should send a message to those commercial producers who wouldn’t listen to Connie…
Put some respect on that name!
[Audio: An original production by T.Reid using a sample of Surfing in Rio and added some Hip Hop drum beat and scratches as Connie spelling out her name (C o double n ie…) along with some quotes of hers yes, I’m different…
I call it Connie’s Jam! ]

TR:
What’s that thing you just love to do?
Are you doing it!

Seriously, holla back! reidmymindradio@gmail.com
let me know what you’re doing – I’d love to mention it here in a follow up episode…
that could be a source of encouragement for someone else.

If you’re not, consider what Connie said and do it for the love cause it’s simple…

Like subscribing to this podcast
available on Apple Podcast, google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio & Sound Cloud.

Now I’m off to pursue my other dream, to some a nightmare, interpretive dancing!

Don’t judge me!
[RMMRadio Outro]
Peace!

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Reid My Mind Radio – Abigail Style Means Business

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Abby is an illustration of a stylish fashion icon who walks in confidence, handbag in one hand, white cane in the other and her exquisite hairstyle floats about her head. She is wearing heels with a dress made of individual panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped in waist to just above the knee.
Who is Abigail Style?

Past guest of the podcast and fashion blogger Steph McCoy of Bold Blind Beauty is here to tell us all about Abigail. Plus she shares some life lessons on creating a business and working towards goals.

Now, here’s what you should accomplish;
1. Listen to this episode
2. Tell me about your goals and any methods or tools you use to stay on track… use the comments or email reidmymindradio@gmail.com
3. Subscribe to the podcast if you aren’t already…
4. Tell a friend by Sharing the episode on your favorite social network!

Resources:

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
What’s good family?

So the other day I’m in the park with my family.
I strike up a conversation with someone nearby and introduce myself.
They ask if I’m the host of Reid My Mind Radio!

I couldn’t believe they knew me.

Then all of a sudden another person standing near us over hears the conversation and
says they too are listeners…

Next thing you know the entire park breaks into this impromptu celebration of Reid My Mind Radio!

Fortunately I had my recorder going…
just listen to this…

[Audio: fourth of July Fireworks]

I’m still riding the high from that experience!

Raven: Uh, Daddy we need to talk

TR:
Talk about what?

[Reid My Mind Theme Music]

SM:
Bold Blind Beauty in a nutshell is all about real beauty transcending barriers.

TR:

Say hello to Steph McCoy.
If you’ve been riding with the podcast for a while you may remember Steph.
Some time ago I featured her on the podcast talking all about her blog BoldBlindBeauty.com.

SM:
I started with the purpose of helping blind women with makeup and fashion style beauty that type of thing because as a society we kind of think that people who are blind or vision impaired aren’t concerned with these types of things. And we know now that’s totally not true.

I’ve always been an advocate. I’m 56 years old. It took me about 54 of those years to figure that out. It’s who I am. I’m an advocate. I advocated on behalf of my son who had A.D.H.D. I advocated on behalf of my mother who has a physical disability. It became more difficult when I began losing my sight and then subsequently became legally blind. Now I had to advocate on behalf of myself. It’s easy to do this for other people but for yourself it’s a little different.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Has blogging, because it’s related to the vision loss, has that in any way impacted your adjustment process?

SM:
Yeah that’s a good question Tom. I actually do think that it’s helped it’s helped exponentially not just myself but others because blogging is hard. It takes real dedication. It’s not just about the writing. It’s the writing and researching it’s taking photographs it’s interacting with people, connecting with people. And every time I would get to the point where I thought you know I can’t do this anymore I just wanted to give up I would get either a phone call or text message or somebody reach me through Facebook or some other means and it would be a blind woman who would say you know I was just reading your blog and I just want to say that it’s so helpful to me, it’s such an inspiration and I love what you’re doing and it’s been people like that that have kept me going.

TR :

Steph said she got a late start on moving on after blindness due to
her Retina Specialist sugar coating the fact that she was legally blind.

A more pragmatic person Steph was ready to just move on with her life.

SM:
Hope is a wonderful thing. It’s awesome, we need hope. But at some point you have to be able to deal with the real issues so you can move on. I had to move on so I could know where I was going to go as far as my job as far as where I was living what I was going to do down the road and I thought
like he was sort of hindering that. Had he been onboard earlier and a supporter of the things that I wanted to do like when I suggested to him that I wanted to learn how to use the white cane and he said oh no you don’t want to do that. That would be a tragedy. See that’s in a sense the negative connotation of how people perceive blindness.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
He said that would be a tragedy? Is that what you said?

Yes! Yes, he said it would be a tragedy.
[TR in conversation with SM:]
Wow! Wow!

SM:
Here I am, trying to be proactive I want to continue with my life and I have this doctor a professional who I am supposed to be looking up to telling me that it would be a tragedy to learn how to use the white cane

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Wow!

TR:

She may have not gotten that quick start, but Steph is definitely in the race.

She’s recently launched her business which began with one person. Well,
fictional person, named Abigail Style.
fictional person, named Abigail Style.

SM:
Abigail, is my white cane icon. She’s a fashionista a real fashionista. I see her in my mind years ago I just didn’t have the ability to create her so a couple years ago I put out some feelers on the blog and a couple people recommended different artists`. I connected with one and I was telling her what I was thinking that the white icon looks like. She drew a couple of sketches for me. We settled on one and voila Abigail was born. As a matter of fact I recently just posted her back story on the blog. She’s just a real go getter.

Abigail is a homanation of ability and Nightingale – small little brown bird that has a beautiful singing
voice. She carries a white cane in her right hand, she has her handbag in her left hand. She has this really snazzy looking dress that sort of resembles banana leaves. They look like they overlap. It’s nifted at the waist, it sort of blossoms out. She’s a little bit hippy(laughs). She wears heels and she has this really cute hair style that was very unique. It just sort of floats in the air. It’s not a real structured sort of hair style. We wanted her to be the unique individual that she is; so she looks unique, she has a unique story, she’s a unique person, but she appeals to anybody not just women, but men and children I mean anybody.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Is this you alter ego?

SM:

When I first started I thought she was, but as story developed I realized that she is really who I would aspire to be. She knows no fear. She’s
adventuresome, she’s traveled the world. All the things that I would like to do Abigail has done and is doing.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Ok, so she’s Spider Man and you’re Peter Parker.

SM:
Yeah!

[Both laugh… fades out]

TR:

Both Steph and Abigale mean business.
Abigail Style is the E-Commerce component of Bold Blind Beauty.com.
Currently selling slogan printed apparel and novelties like
T-shirts, mugs and other items with messages tailored to the blog’s audience.
Messages like…
Blind Chicks with Attitudes
Hey, I’m walking here
And the Bold Blind and Beautiful series as in …
My Mom, My Sister or My Friend is Bold Blind and Beautiful

And for the men?

SM:
I actually have a few men’s t-shirts as well. The message isn’t targeted to men it’s targeted to women. Like if you’re a father of a young woman who is blind or visually impaired it would say my daughter is Bold Blind and Beautiful or my sister is Bold Blind and Beautiful.

It didn’t occur to me until just a few weeks ago I had all these things designed and I actually did the designs, I didn’t have one thing that said Bold Blind Beauty. I have my URL on the bottom of all the designs but nothing that says Bold Blind Beauty. I am actually working with a designer who is helping me with that so we will be carrying some products that do say Bold Blind beauty.

blind
I want to extend the product line beyond T-Shirts, mugs and tote bags. I would like to do cosmetics as well. As a matter of fact I recently implemented
a steering committee and they’re helping me with increasing our product line. We would love to begin carrying some apparel and jewelry and actually some things that are designed by blind women. I think we’re going to try to partner with other companies to get our brand out there. With Abigail, we call her Abbi. If a company has something that would be appealing to our demographic we would obviously want to have the Abigail brand on that particular item and then we would offer it up through the store. Some of the things that we’re thinking about doing, one thing in particular, the white Cane. We know that
there’s a lot of controversy over adapting them. My philosophy on the white cane is it is a personal choice. I love my white cane. I go everywhere with it but
I also wanted something that was sort of, that spoke to me. So I got a cane from Ambutech. Instead of the red section at the bottom it has a green section. So one of the things I was thinking about for Abigail Style was having a blingged out white cane. Not the entire cane but maybe just the handle with some crystals or the emblem. There’s so many different ways you can go with it. You know just to have fun. Women like to be pretty, they like to feel pretty so why not have a cane that represents that. I have one that’s green and yellow.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Oh, is it the whole cane or just the bottom?

SM:
I just have the bottom section is green and I think my handle is yellow or it might be vice versa. Even the tip, the tip is a different color. Now the rest of the cane I kept it white but you can design it the way you want to.

TR:

Starting a business for anyone can be a fantastic idea.
For people with disabilities who experience 50 to 70 percent unemployment,
generating income from a business venture can greatly enhance their lifestyle.

That business could be a side hustle, a part time gig supplementing other earnings or income.

This venture, for Steph is more than that.
She’s really going for it – working with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services for
several years to develop what has become Abigail Style.

SM:

they require that you have a business plan and you know all these different things and they will help you out you know financially with them as sort of
like a matching gift type deal. The person I was working with felt that the blog by itself wasn’t a business, but in my mind in my heart and soul it was. I just couldn’t get it to how they wanted it to be. But now that I’ve brought in these other people, I have a business plan I’m constantly revamping it, we can see how it is what I envisioned it to be and is gonna be bigger.
their IT we
What had to happen we had to narrow the focus because before it got to where it is today you know I was sort of all over the map. It makes sense now and it’s making sense to the customers because they realize they know that it’s Bold Blind Beauty. If they want to purchase something through the E-commerce store they go to Abigail Style, but they’re doing it through Bold Blind Beauty.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Outside of the fact that you created that character around it why didn’t you just call the store Bold Blind Beauty?

SM:
Yeah I had wanted to do that but when I was setting it up I already had the .com for the blog and I couldn’t do that for the store. Now I could have done some other things but in my mind at the time I was thinking Abigail is the icon and she’s the reason for the store and again I was working with the bureau and they were telling me you know the business you have to have something you have to make money. So in listening to them I went and main the store Abigail Style after this character Abigail when I just should have went according to what my heart was telling me in the first place.

[TR in conversation with SM:]You’re right the whatever product that is exactly what it is so I started on one path once I got to a certain point I realized OK I have to put two things
Either way you make it work.

You kind of said how you were trying this trying that and now you’re getting more where you it’s starting to kind of narrow down and you’re really starting to focus in and get a better sense of the direction and where you’re going. Would you change that if you could go back or is there anything about the process where you think it was helpful. It seems like you just kept going and you figured it out.

SM:

You’re right. The word process is exactly what it is. So I started on one path once I got to a certain point I realized ok I have to tweak some things .

At one point, I forgot to mention, because the bureau was helping me I had implemented an image consulting business because that’s what they wanted
but it wasn’t what I wanted it was what they wanted. And I had to come home after a year, a whole year was put into this with the business plan and everything and after a year I sat down and thought about it. I scrapped it and went back to doing what I was doing and I tweaked it.

I think the moral is to go with your heart, but don’t stop. Just keep going. Just adjust as you need to. You’ll figure it out.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

If I tell you it’s not if it’s not right. The I.D.R. now is it to strive for perfection it’s just do the best I can with what I have. But they’re doing it through both
Yeah, I think we stop ourselves a lot and I know I’ve done that in the past and that’s one thing I realize. It’s best to just keep it moving, man, just do! Whatever it is just do!

SM:
And it’s ok if it’s not right.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Right!

SM:
The idea now isn’t to strive for perfection. It’s just do the best I can with what I have.

TR:

Although she’s never started a business before,
Steph has worked in different businesses and corporations.

She made use of her technical experience and setup the blog and e-commerce sites herself.
Yet she realizes, she doesn’t have to do it all alone.

That can be really good advice for anyone.

Since we’re talking advice…

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Give some fashion advice for the summer. (Laughs!)

SM:
White is always in – that’s my favorite color for the summer. Everybody who knows me knows I love black. Even in the summer I love wearing black, but this year I have one pair of white jeans so I can wear that at least one time a week… I love them. Strappy shoes sandals. I’ve been seeing a lot of velvet. Like velvet handbags, velvet shoes. And thy’re for summer which is kind of interesting because I’ve always thought of velvet as sort of a winter time type material.
I like trends, I follow trends but I’m not really into trends I am more about styles.

TR:

Listening to Steph’s experience building Bold Blind Beauty & Abigail Style
you can pick up some valuable lessons applicable to more than just business.

Choosing to accept a request to volunteer time and participate in a presentation on
the subject of fashion and beauty care for women with vision loss
directly led to the development of Bold Blind Beauty and the business component.

Her passion for the subject inspired her to really pursue the opportunity.
She put in time to do the research and then all that came after.

She made mistakes. So what? She persisted!
Through that she learned that pursuing her own goals can create a circular flow of goodness.
She inspired others and that flowed right back to her when she needed it the most.

many of us sit on our dreams and never really work towards realizing them.

It doesn’t have to involve starting a business.
Maybe it’s pursuing a new career, hobby or relationship.

Whatever it is…

SM:

I think the moral is to go with your heart, but don’t stop. Just keep going. Just adjust as you need to. You’ll figure it out.

TR:
Not everything is easy to figure out.

Fortunately, Subscribing to this here podcast is simple… even I can do it!
We’re on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio, Sound Cloud.

And for the final word…

SM:
the website is Boldblindbeauty.com

It’s about walking boldly with confidence, transcending barriers changing the way we perceive one another.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

That sounds like a good way to finish it off right there Steph.

SM:
giggles!

[Audio: Reid MY Mind Outro]

TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript


Disclaimer: The white cane icon “Abigail B. (Abby)” is copyrighted and was specifically created for, and is the property of, Bold Blind Beauty and Abigail Style, LLC and is not a replacement for the nationally recognized white cane icon.
Abigail (Abby) and her backstory are a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Reid My MindRadio – Fears of a Blind Nomad

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Jim Paradiso at the Inca Ruins
When I heard about Jim Paradiso, I had to find out more. He’s a Blind Nomad… I had to hear his story. Turns out it’s so much more than that… he’s forcing you to challenge what you think is possible. That is, if you believe!

Take a listen and let me know; do you believe?

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good fine people.

I have a lot to say about this episode so I’m just going to get right into it.

Well of course after the intro…

The best way to kick this one off…
[Audio: Been Around the World, Notorious BIG]
[Audio: RMMRadio Theme]

JP:
By the way what I’m about to tell you is true and I don’t give a damn if you believe it or not!

TR:
Any story that begins like that, well, you know it has to be good. whether it’s true or not, that’s for you to decide.

That voice you just heard is Jim Paradiso.
you can call Jim, a nomad!

A modern day nomad refers to people; often those with an online virtual business, where one’s income isn’t tied to a brick and mortar location.
Earning 60K for example and living outside of the US on various continents can really stretch that dollar.

That’s not exactly Jim’s situation. He’s been living a version of this lifestyle for over a year now and is currently in Loja, Ecuador.

According to Jim;

JP:
The adventure is the journey

TR:
With that said, let’s begin with the journey that lead Jim to Loha Ecuador.

JP:

I was talking to a friend, he was moving to Vilcabamba and I’d never heard of Vilcabamba and I said it sounds like a good name so I left to go to Vilcabamba. Which is a fifteen hour ride on a bus from. Manta to Vilcabamba. So it took me four weeks to get there.

I get into Cuenca and of course with me now I’m traveling alone for the first time. And I’m up in this Hostel, I said well OK, so I posted on FB { I’m in Cuenca, what’s there to do for a blind man traveling on his own?

TR:
Ok, , the fact that Jim is blind for most people probably makes the idea of him living a life as a nomad and traveling in unknown places, is maybe;
Very frightening?
Unbelievable?

Well, then let’s pause on the journey through Ecuador for a moment and hear what some may think is an unbelievable adventure of Jim’s vision loss
and the series of preceding events .

JP:
I had an aneurism Thirteen years ago on my left eye. And they tried to fix it and they screwed up the eye entirely. Then three years ago I woke up one morning and I had an aneurism in the other I. And I went through ocular injections and everything else that went with it and I had a bad reaction to the ocular injections which caused me to have a stroke.

so I was living with a girlfriend who decided she didn’t want to be with a blind man.

I ended up homeless. I was a month from being blind enough to qualify for Social Security. I was unemployed and Basically I was living on the couch of a motor home
that belong to a friend of mine who was in a retirement community.

So I get a phone call from my brother who was living in Ecuador and he said Well Linda is looking for a manager for a B&B would you like the job? I said, well what’s the pay. Room and board and fifty dollars a week.

Ok, I could be homeless in a motorhome in Florida or I could be homeless on a beach in Ecuador?
kind of a no brainer to me.

TR in conversation with JP:
and I’m sure fifty dollars is different in Ecuador than in Florida.

JP:
It doesn’t make any difference as long as you got food and shelter who cares about the rest of it. I live very inexpensively because that money doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.

I went for a pedicure because I couldn’t see my toe nails and I was catching them on my socks and when she cut the calluses off the bottom my feet so when I went for a walk on the beach I ended up getting third degree burns on the bottom of my feet.

I picked up a flesh eating bacteria and I had to be medivac the act from Ecuador to the United States after two operations down here and five days in the hospital.
The flesh eating bacteria that I picked up is usually fatal within seventy two hours and the only cure for it is amputation; actually they call it debridement which really is amputation. They have to remove all of the bacterial growth because it doubles in size every nine minutes.
Once I got back into the United States they put me in the teaching hospital in Shands of which this was the second case they had in fifty years of this particular virus. They amputated two toes and debride most of my foot and then they had to regrow it in an oxygen rich environment.

This took ten weeks and then they put me in a nursing home for a month. Rehab they call it but it actually was a nursing home.

While I was there I had an abscess on the back of my head so I went to the doctors when I had my foot looked at and they slants the abscess and said this isn’t right so they sent me to a Dermatologist.
Well when they slants it they gave me MRSA – which is another flesh eating bacteria. While I was at the doctor’s they said oh I don’t like these moles on your back let me have them biopsied. Well as it turned out I had skin cancer. They had to operate on my back and removed the skin cancer. Which I thought we were just going to remove a mole but they ended up doing 19 stitches on each side and trenched both sides of my back. Then they had to put me on different antibiotics in order to kill the MRSA they gave me and then when they removed that they discovered it was a tumor. Then they had to remove that. And that was in six months.

At that point I was afraid of dying.

When I finally got settled with Social Security Disability, I Flew back to Ecuador.

TR in conversation with JP:
Why?

JP:
Because my kids wanted to put me in a retirement villa.

TR in conversation with JP:
How many kids do you have?

JP:

Again that’s an odd story…

I have four kids but they’re not mine.
TR in conversation with JP:
Oh Ok!

JP:
My ex-wife’s two kids from her previous marriage.
And I have her ex-husband’s two kids from his previous marriage.

TR in conversation with JP:
OK that’s a new situation!

You have her ex-husband’s kids? (laughing!)

JP:
They all consider me dad and I was always there for them.

By the way, have you ever heard a story this ridiculous?

TR in conversation with JP:
so many people stories that I have heard of do have like one thing on top of the other you know but this flesh eating viruses and tumors, yeah… you’re winning!
– laughs!

TR:
Now, returning to Ecuador Jim met up with a friend.

JP:
He didn’t have any money and I said OK I need someone to travel with because blind people can’t travel alone!

Well I spent three weeks in the Andes and then two weeks in the Galapagos. Then we came back and we went up to Colombia – we spent three months in Colombia. Then we took a cruise and went from Cartagena through Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. And then circled around back and then went hiking in the mountains and Colombia

TR:
That friend Jim was traveling with was 42 and at the time Jim was 60.
Plus he was still recovering from flesh eating diseases,
multiple cancer surgeries and newly adjusting to blindness.

He learned a valuable lesson.

JP:

There are some things that are worse than traveling alone and that’s traveling with somebody else!

So at Christmas I flew back to Manta.
TR in conversation with JP:
So Jim can I ask you… you just
shared all of that … I mean you talked about a cruise and
flying to the Galapagos and stuff so you’re financing that on the Social Security?

JP:
Yeah!

TR in conversation with JP:
OK! And at this point you’re not paying rent or anything like that just traveling so you’re a Nomad.

JP:
Right, I’m a Nomad, I’m homeless.
I’m doing this on $1,127 a month.

So anyways when I got back to Manta I had infected my foot again and I had to stay off it for six weeks which drove me nuts.

So I was talking to a friend he was moving to Vilcabamba and I’d never heard of….

TR:
That brings us back to Jim’s journey.

When we left off, he was on his way to Vilcabamba
and stopped in a Hostel in Cuenca
where he posted the question

JP:
In Cuenca, what’s there to do for a blind man traveling on his own?

One guy suggested why don’t you head up to Ingaperka which is a Aztec ruin in the Andes which would be Eastern Ecuador.

TR:
So off he went to Ingaperka to find the ancient Inca Ruins.

Now if you’re thinking Jim is probably fluent in Spanish
or of course everyone speaks English,
well you’re wrong.
In fact, most people in the town of Ingaperka speak a dialect of the Incas.

JP:
The bus let me off in the middle of this town. I have no clue where I am I finally find somebody that speaks about four words of English.
And she asked me what I was doing and I say I was looking for the ruins. And she says ruins Cinco. I said Cinco kilometers. She says no Cinco minutos. I said where and she say aqui and pointed me to a road and so I walk up the road. I walk into this beautiful state park.

TR:
After receiving a tour of the ruins
well, it’s time for Jim to begin making his way to Vilcabamba.
He catches one bus to Cuenca and another to Loja.
Which is where he of course posts to Facebook:

JP:
What’s there to do for a blind man travelling alone through Loja?

Well this woman posts back well I have these two. English students who
are blind and would like to meet you. They’re sisters. So I meet them for coffee they come in on the arm of somebody crab walking because they don’t travel alone they’re in their thirty’s and they’ve been blind all their life.

They sit down and we’re talking and one of them looks at me and says who are you traveling with? I said nobody.

She Says Do you speak Spanish? I said no she said you can’t do that! I said yeah, I can!

TR:
By now you probably get the impression that the response, yes I can,
that’s something Jim is quite used to saying!

JP:
I’m here!
She takes me over to the elementary school which I’ll tell you is like a prison. Two meter high concrete walls surrounding it with broken bottles over the top of it and they’re all concrete bunkers and it’s just… it’s got mold it’s just… it’s a horrible place.

TR in conversation with JP:
Is that specifically just for blind children or is that…

JP:
Yes, it’s specifically for blind children. And there are residents there and there are day people that come from the city and this is the only blind school for elementary school children in the area. And she tells me that they don’t teach mobility there because they had to cut they cut their budget and the person they cut from the budget was the mobility trainer.

Now my experience with mobility training is I am blind
and I am mobile. There are my qualifications for the position… so now I’m the mobility trainer.

TR:
See what I mean by saying yes…
Jim not only said yes to teaching others who are blind to use the
white cane and more, but he has a pretty packed schedule.

JP:
I’m working four days a week from eleven to one at the elementary school. I work five days a week teaching conversational English at a college and I work two nights a week teaching mobility and technology at the high school.
I’m starting a nonprofit… We’ve got a doctor. Who is volunteering his time services to do prosthetic eyes on the kids that have missing eyes plus I have the Go Fund Me going…other than that I’m not really that busy!

TR:
That Go Fund me is a campaign to raise money to purchase white canes,
iPhones or iPads to provide children with GPS capabilities
in order to improve their mobility.

You can find more at:
http://GoFundMe.com/3noxfco

If you’re wondering what are the living conditions for a blind nomad
in Ecuador
Jim says his apartment in Ecuador
would probably rent for several thousand in New York City.

JP:
It’s the studio penthouse with a balcony view of the mountains. Glass all the way around its fully furnished. It has a hot tub, a walk in shower. The bathroom is ten by twenty and I pay $350 a month for it including utilities.

TR:
Jim’s a volunteer! He’s not paid for any of his work.
Well not in the traditional sense!

JP:
What I get from a kid who comes up and hugged me. You know – I’ve got children that actually… they don’t speak the language that I speak and they cannot express themselves on how much they really appreciate me.

I get people hugging me all the time. That’s what I get paid in!

While I still have work to do here I’m not leaving. It’s just different it’s a different lifestyle I found a place where they need me so I’m staying. When they don’t need me any more I’ll go somewhere else.
TR in conversation with JP:
How do you feel today about everything that happened? That whole crazy story you told me.

JP:
I will tell you something that you will very seldom hear from a blind person.

Going blind was the greatest opportunity of my life! Without that none of this would have happened. And that’s how I look at it.

TR:
And isn’t that what it boils down too!
How we choose to look at it!

Jim is actually looking for an assistant volunteer
to join him in Ecuador.
He needs help with some of those things he’s doing like
teaching mobility and technology.

He can provide room and board, but
the candidate needs to pay for their own travel.
Oh, yes, and the candidate must be blind.

Jim can be contacted directly through his Facebook page titled:
Blind Jim Can’t do That!
(Yeh, I can!)

I’m Thomas Reid
for Gatewave Radio,
[JP: I don’t give a damn if you Believe it or not ]
Audio for Independent Living.

TR:
I have never described myself as a journalist.
In fact, I make sure to say, I’m not.
I am a self-described Advocate who uses audio to make a point.
I don’t hide my opinion,
I choose the stories I want to tell and have a real solid perspective.
The idea of a journalist is that they supposedly don’t have that bias.
I don’t believe that at all!
However, A journalist would have done some real fact checking of Jim’s story.

They would have contacted various sources to try and confirm
his account of the events.

I am a New Yorker,
I instinctively don’t believe you!
It’s something I am really trying to rid myself of but it’s so ingrained in my being it’s really hard to separate.

I know there are some who will listen to this and not believe him.

Some will assume he has some residual vision – and say
that’s the reason he can do it.

Jim does have a bit of light perception which allows him
to see shadows out of a part of one eye.

Some will think it’s his nature.
Well, it’s probably fair to say Jim is something of an adventurer.
Before losing his sight he was a professional scuba diver diving throughout
the US and Caribbean.

That included salvage work for insurance companies, body recovery,
owning his own diving school and treasure diving in the Caribbean.

So here’s the thing…

I do believe Jim.

Jim is 100 percent telling the truth about the fears of a blind traveler.

Those fears are not just contained within the person who is blind.

You know that because as you were listening you felt uncomfortable.

You know you did.

I don’t care if you are sighted or
any degree of blind, you felt it!

I felt it! And feeling that way upset me.

I travel alone to different states but I had a fully planned itinerary.

Jim’s story made me challenge how I look at the world
and what I really believe is possible.

During our conversation a woman interrupted Jim and I asked him to explain what happened.

JP:
some woman just walked up to me and said You’re an inspiration to the people down here. I overheard your conversation.

I have people walking up to me on the street constantly doing that.

TR in conversation with JP:
How does that feel?

JP:
I don’t think I’m anything special.

I think everybody has it within themselves just that I choose to do that my question to people is Why don’t you choose to do it.

There are so many people out there that don’t want to leave their house and it bothers me.

TR in conversation with JP:
Why?

JP:
I’ve met so many blind people in my. Limited time being blind. And most of them tell me that they have limitations on everything they do.

You know they tell me it’s OK that you can do this but I can’t and then they give me a list of reasons why they can’t.

TR in conversation with JP:
What are some of those reasons?

JP:
Oh I could get hurt I could fall down. I could get lost.

So what’s the big deal you don’t think I get lost you don’t think I fall down you don’t think I get hurt?

TR:
I think it’s fair to acknowledge that the emotions behind these thoughts are real. But Fear you may have heard
is an acronym for False evidence appearing real.

You know what else is real!

Our perspective!
And we can actually control that!

JP:
I survived cancer. I’m blind. I survived the flesh eating bacteria What are you going to do to me that God hasn’t done already? It’s true! What fear do I have now. They told me I was going to die on three different occasions.

TR in conversation with JP:
you know you’re going to go at some point.

JP:
Right, we’re all gonna go some time!
I’d rather go out swinging then go out crying.

There is nothing holding you back but yourself.
I was at a Blind I Can meeting I can do is what they call it…

And they were talking about having an outing and they were talking about going out to lunch.

I mean, what is going to lunch proof for a blind person. Everybody eats!

They asked me what my idea of a good outing was…

There’s a place in Florida in Orlando called Machine Gun America. It’s automatic weapons… what the hell could possibly go wrong!

TR in conversation with JP:
Laughing!… I love it!

JP:

Make yourself feel alive.

You’re dead, nobody’s told you!

TR:
Jim, like many who lose their vision later in life, especially over the age of 55, never even had real mobility training.

JP:
My mobility training consisted of twenty minutes.

I learned everything on the internet and by myself reading books so when
they finally picked up my paperwork they put me through … they put me in front of a mobility trainer who told me that in familiar surroundings I was Ok, but I needed work in unfamiliar surroundings.

So I was hiking staying at an Echo lodge called Ukuku in Columbia it’s outside of Ibagué.

It’s a two kilometer hike up a mountain across three rivers. To get to this and the last river you crossed There’s a log and you got to balance on a log to cross the river.

Now do you know the proper caning technique for crossing a log bridge?

TR in conversation with JP:
Laughing… No I do not!

I think mine would be to straddle the log and then slowly go across. That would be my technique.
But that’s just me!

JP:

So I had to call back to the person who was in charge of the mobility training and I said, hey Tom what’s the proper caning techniques for crossing a log bridge?

TR in conversation with JP: To the avenue.
Oh my gosh! Did they have any advice for you?

JP:
Oh hell no.

TR:
But don’t get it twisted,
Jim isn’t some sort of blind Evel Knievel.
(If you’re younger than 40 Google him!

Jim is practical about his travel.

JP:
I have a theory. It’s really simple when I get to a town if I check into a Hostel I get the business card of the Hostel, put it in my wallet.

If I get really lost I take the business card and I give it to a cab driver and I ask the cab driver donde esta aqui… where is this? And he takes me there.

TR:
That practical advice goes beyond travel…

JP:
I’m trying to convince people that just because you have a problem doesn’t mean you can’t get your ass out and do something.

I listen to people tell me they can’t get a job. Well, go volunteer and get some experience!

TR:
I’m hoping to speak with Jim again.

And who knows maybe that will be in person, in Ecuador.

There are links on Reid My Mind.com to both the Go Fund Me and his Facebook page if you want to communicate directly with Jim.

I usually close with my reminder for you to subscribe to the podcast…

well today, I’m closing out with part of a favorite quote taken from Jim’s Facebook page.

Maybe someone will find it helpful… I think Jim may have.

Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

Peace

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Reid My Mind Radio – A Captain & Her Guide Dog

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Transcript

Show the transcript

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

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

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

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

And then discover the valuable lessons within.

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

[Audio: Reid My Mind Theme…]


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

TR:
Macungie, Pennsylvania.

LO:
Yes Sir!

TR:
How long have you had Bryce Krispy?

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

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

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

[Audio: Sound of rain and city sidewalk]

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

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

TR:
You heard correctly, slapped in the face!

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

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

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

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

[TR in conversation with AW]

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

AW:

Absolutely!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can answer your questions for you.

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

LO:
oh my goodness yes!

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

“You show mommy how to get home!”

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

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

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

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

I got quite a bit of negative feedback.

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

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

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

AW:
that’s called blaming the victim

TR:
Once again, Dr. Watson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s because it’s worn on you.

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

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

[TR in conversation with Dr. Watson]

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

AW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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