Archive for the ‘Visually Impaired’ Category

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!
———-

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – Who is Girl Gone Blind

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

This episode features the latest Gatewave Radio piece answering the question; Who is the Girl Gone Blind?
Immediately following the piece, check out what happens when I run with a bit of inspiration from something I heard in my conversation with Maria Johnson, aka, A Girl gone Blind.

Picture of Maria Johnson

If you haven’t yet, make sure you Subscribe to RMM Radio bit.ly/RMMRadioSubscribe
– In the meantime, hit the Play button below!

 

Resources:

 

*Girl Gone Blind
*Girl Gone Blind on Twitter
*Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy

 

Transcript

TReid:
What’s good everybody, it’s me T to the R E I D!

I’m feeling good today and that’s by choice not by circumstance… let that marinate.
And in this latest episode of Reid My Mind Radio I’m featuring a piece I did for Gatewave Radio…

Check this out!

[RMMRadio Intro]

TReid:
Going blind is a real challenge.
Different for anyone who goes through the experience. It involves adjustments for almost every aspect of a person’s life.
Education, Employment mobility and independence.

Today you will meet someone sharing some of her experiences online, on the internet via her blog.

 

TReid:
Girl Gone Blind, is Maria’s space on the internet, her blog where she’s been sharing experiences, observations and information about her life as a, well, girl who has gone blind.

Her story begins in April 2013.

MJ:
I was working as a fitness instructor. I was working at three different locations and I was also running my own Boot Camp as well as doing the mom things – running around taking my kids everywhere you know volunteering and all that stuff. And I noticed there was a blurry spot in one of my eyes but I didn’t really think too much about it cause I was busy and After a month or two it really wasn’t going away.

TReid:
TReid
With no changes in her vision, she sought an answer.
Multiple optometrist, ophthalmologists ; all trying different tests…
MJ:
… many scans, MRI’s spinal taps, steroid treatments, they could not figure out what was wrong. I was completely healthy except there was a problem with my optic nerve.
>

TReid: Finally, she found a neuro Ophthalmologist who tested her DNA. In September 2013 Maria was diagnosed with LHON.

MJ:
Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. It is a mitochondria mutation that is passed down from the mother’s side. When the mutation is triggered you start to lose central vision. It can spread into the peripheral a bit, but most of the time your peripheral is saved.

Treid:
Within a month of receiving the diagnosis, Maria was legally blind.
Her response?!

MJ:
Ok, Now what?

TReid in conversation with Maria:
So you started experiencing vision loss and then you decide three months later you know what, I’m going to do this in public! [Laughter from both]

MJ:
Yeah, I know right!

TReid in conversation with Maria:
What made you do that?

MJ:
I thought about righting a blog previously as a health and fitness Guru if you will, but I never did. And so I always had that little bug in me I think.
When my vision loss came to a point where I had to deal with it, I thought you know maybe I should write about this?
Come January I basically wrote about what I’ve been going through and what actually was going on with my vision and what it was called.
I remember clicking publish and thinking uh [exhale] my gosh I hope, I hope somebody reads this. Well I got the hugest response. Positive response on this blog and people loved it!
They loved it and they were appreciative of my vulnerability and my openness to share what had been going on with me over almost the last year. I got the bug right then and there and said you know what I’m going to keep going with this because people like it.

TReid:
There’s no one size fits all plan for adjusting to blindness.
Chances are if a person is losing their vision and seeks assistance, they will learn of the vision rehabilitation system. For those fortunate enough to receive services, it would include personalized training to aid that person to remain as independent as possible.
That can mean getting back to work or school, learning how to perform all of the tasks they once did like cooking, traveling using a computer and more.
Maria figured out what she needed to go through the process.

MJ:
I realized I needed to get my head wrapped around this whole “I’m now blind” thing!
Before I could even attempt to figure out how I was going to you know cook or you know knit or [giggles] all the other things they wanted to teach me.
I thought I need to get my head wrapped around this. I actually need therapy, and I need counseling.

TReid:
Counseling to help work through the barrage of both feelings and thoughts about the loss not only of her sight, but all that comes with that;
her independence, her perception of herself, trying to figure out what it means to be blind.
Loss, is painful!

MJ:
I would lay on my bed you know crying and crying and crying and think [uh, gasp] how am I going to be a good blind parent?
How am I going to be the mom that I was.
How am I going to be the mom that I expect myself to be?

[Soft sad piano music]

MJ:
I honestly was planning on how I was going to exit this world.
And when I would do it.

MJ:
I thought, but you know I can’t leave my kids.

MJ: So I actually did therapy and group therapy weekly for about a year and a half. It helped me to know that all of my thoughts and feelings were totally normal. The things I was doing to propel myself forward everyday were the right things.
I will rank therapy as the number one thing that has helped me adjust to this new life.

TReid:
In addition to the emotional, Maria was trained in orientation and mobility.

I assumed Maria was proficient with technology and probably received training in either magnification or screen reading software.
So I had to ask about something I read on one blog post.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
You use dictation. Is that still your choice of input?

MJ:
It is, it is, it is.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Do you do any keyboarding?

MJ:
Ok, here’s the back story on all of that!
alright, so I was always a pretty good typist when I was sighted.
Then I’m telling you Thomas, when I lost my vision and I could not see my keyboard any more….

[Fades out and Narration over MJ…]
>
TReid:
I am a big proponent of technology for all. Especially people with disabilities.
In some sense I’m an Access Technology evangelist…
I’ll tell anyone who will listen about the benefits it affords to people with vision loss or other disability.
I’m also a strong believer in the need to be proficient enough with a keyboard if physically possible
in order to have maximum control over your technology.

I did give Maria a bit of a hard time about her reliance on dictation.
But I’m not judging her!

Judgement, that’s one of the things that’s scary about
sharing personal stories.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Have you regretted anything you published?

MJ:
I’ve made it a real point to keep it to just my own experiences. What I’ve been through. The good the bad and the ugly and the and the crazy , the funny, but then you know there’s nothing to regret.

TReid:
So is keeping an online journal helpful to the adjustment process?

MJ:
I think where it helped me is I was able to put my emotions and my story out there and I knew inside that maybe it would help somebody else either relate or understand what I was going through. And on the other hand, I do feel it hindered me a bit because I was drumming up all these emotions that were really quite difficult for me.

TReid:
Girl Gone Blind has lead Maria to other outlets

MJ:
I knew that if I wanted to start making something of Girl gone Blind I probably needed to get on Twitter and I needed to start reaching out to all of these other avenues. And that’s where RNIB Connect Radio discovered me.
Now I do a weekly segment for them ; chatting with Girl Gone Blind as a Lifestyle Blogger. We talk about different issues and different situations that we encounter.
I also do a podcast, we call it the LHON Report. We do interviews with people in the LHON community and we also talk about our experiences.
This has turned into this wonderful place that I have set myself in and I absolutely love doing it and it’s so weird for me to say that I love what I do and it’s all because I lost my vision.
It’s been a crazy three years but I’m headed to a good place I just know I am and I’m just going to keep that arrow pointed that way and see where it goes.

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Sounds like a great plan

MJ:
Oh And I’m going to learn how to type Thomas…

TReid in conversation with Maria:
Yes! Yeah!

MJ:
Giggles… Goals, Blind goals.

TReid:
There it is! Hash tag Blind Goals. (#BlindGoals)

[Laughter from both and MJ claps her hands!… audio fades out]

TReid:
Maria Johnson is journaling her way through her adjustment to blindness. She’s a girl gone blind, but she’s not traveling alone.

She’s inviting those with LHON , those experiencing vision loss and others to ride along. Hopefully relate to the experiences and maybe even be inspired to continue on their own paths.

Remember that thing about Maria not using the keyboard?
The truth is Maria didn’t let that become an excuse for not starting or maintaining her blog.

She held on to three words that she says can help her through most things…

MJ:
IGotThis! That was my mantra. I got this!

For more on Maria?

MJ:

My website is girlgoneblind.com.
I’m on Facebook at Girl gone Blind
and on Twitter a@Girl_Gone_Blind
And on Instagram @GirlGoneBlind.

TReid:
I’m Thomas Reid

[MJ: It is, it is, it is!]

TReid:
for Gatewave Radio,
[MJ: Ok, now what?]

TReid:
audio for independent living!

Following the Gatewave story, I included a “song” created using Maria’s words specifically “I got this”.

Reid My Mind Radio: A Note on Notes on Blindness

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

In this episode of RMM Radio, I take a look at Notes on Blindness, a new film released in the US and premiering in NYC. It’s the story of John Hull who recorded his thoughts, observations and more on audio cassette. This Gatewave story includes a conversation with Co-Director Peter Middleton.

 

Scenes from the movie Notes on Blindness super imposed in the head of John Hull.

It’s pretty hard to watch a movie about someone going blind without thinking of my experience. Checkout some of my own personal recordings included in this episode.

 

If you haven’t yet, make sure you Subscribe to RMM Radio bit.ly/RMMRadioSubscribe
– In the meantime, hit the Play button below!

 

Resources:

 

Transcript

 

TReid:

 

Today I am sharing a recent piece for Gatewave Radio. A first of sorts for me.
A story about a new film being released in the United States on the topic of blindness.

This was a challenge for me, I’ll tell you why after you take a listen.

Let’s Go!

[Sample from Kurtis Blow’s AJ… “1, 2, 3, 4 hit it!]
Music … Reid My Mind Radio Theme

[Notes on Blindness Audio:
John Hull:
This is cassette 1 , track one, um… fades out]

TReid:
This audio is from the movie titled Notes on Blindness, just released in New York City and playing at the Film Forum.

Theologian, John Hull using a cassette recorder, documented his experience and thoughts as his vision faded beginning in 1983.

The film was produced using both actual   tape of John Hull and his family as well as interviews he and his wife Marilyn had with co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney.

Actors portray John and his family, but they are lip syncing to the recorded dialog.

I spoke with co-director peter Middleton (PM) via Skype.

PM:
Using film to try and convey the sightless experience is quite an exciting creative challenge for us. So undoubtedly there was that sense of artistic project which first attracted James and myself to John’s story.

TReid in conversation with PM:
Water seems to play a big role; the idea of the rain, the tsunami…

PM:
We can’t take much credit for that. It’s all in John’s account. After losing sight he had these incredible powerful operatic dreams that were, often water was this kind of analogous feature of them…
He would have dreams of water sort of rushing down and sweeping his children away and dragging him to the depths of the ocean. And all this kind of very powerful imagery that was just absolutely kind of laced throughout his account. And of course the connotation of water as the bringer of life.

TReid:
Remember, The original audio used throughout the film was recorded via cassette in the 1980’s. Audio restoration, editing and sound design  are other artistic elements of the film.

It was the inclusion of audio description that gave me access to some of the visual techniques used to tell the story.

Like Shadows, blurred or out of focus fades and sun spots.
Darkness acting like periods, concluding a statement, some times
an exclamation mark or bold emphasis highlighting a turning point in his life.

Peter says audio description served more than giving people with vision loss access.

PM:
Since we’ve been releasing as well we’ve been trying to open this conversation around accessibility and different ways people could approach the film so it has taken on that kind of social angle as well which we’re very  much relishing and very much hoping to push further.
TReid:
In addition to the audio description, a Virtual Reality experience and enhanced audio version were created.

PM:
Which rather than having an external audio narration as you would do in audio description, actually built in  more narration from John and Marilyn, the key subjects of the film, along with sort of sound design and music. We’ve been releasing these audio tracks with a smart phone app that allows audiences to sync that up in cinemas or on TV o\r on DVD or home  or what have you.

TReid:
Director Peter Middleton said John Hull was very specific about assuring that Peter and his Co-director James Spinney understood this was just one experience.

PM:
He was always careful to point out that he didn’t intend to speak for or on behalf of anybody. So we were aware that our kind of knowledge and our experience of blindness is very much refracted through his subjective story and subjective account.

TReid:
Yet a close examination can provide some insight into the shared vision loss experience. Like the strong need to continue.
For some that means continuing an education or a hobby.
In Hull’s case it meant his career.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull recalling a conversation :
No, look, how do blind people read big books?
They said, they don’t!]

TReid:
Finding new ways for accomplishing a task, well that’s a big part of a person’s adjustment to blindness.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
The first thing I did was build a team of people to record books for me

With ingenuity and a little bit of help there were problems that could be solved.]

TReid:
Resolving some of these basic difficulties offers hope!

Until… the next even more difficult problem arises.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
It wasn’t until The final tiny bit of light sensation slowly disappeared that my mood changed.]

TReid:
Another obstacle in the process of adjusting to blindness, , maintaining or establishing relationships.

Hearing his daughter scream as she plays in the garden,
John tries to quickly get to her aid.

[Notes on Blindness Audio plays in the background.]

When he arrives , Marilyn is comforting her and already has the problem under control.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
That was a frightening moment.]

He struggles with feelings  of inadequacy as a father.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
The discovery that you are useless is not a nice discovery for any father to make.]

Relationships with his wife, parents and even with God are all parts of his own journey.

Notes on Blindness, while a personal portrait of one man’s experience losing vision, is a poetic but practical look at the journey through loss.

Take for example, the role and importance of adaptations.

[notes on Blindness Audio playing in the background.
John his son Thomas saying bye to one another. ]

After Walking his son Thomas to school in the morning,
we watch as the father and son practice their special way of saying goodbye.
It’s the equivalent of both child and parent watching one another move further apart while assuring both the other is just still close
enough if needed.

[Notes on Blindness Audio: Their exchange of goodbyes growing further apart and his son Thomas’ voice fades with each goodbye.
John Hull describing the practice:
Echoing in chorus!]

We witness not only the bonding between father and son, but Hull’s appreciation for these small yet meaningful adaptations in his life.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull:
“I Love this!”]

Treid:
It’s not a movie for just the audience.

TReid in original conversation with PM:
What have you personally learned about blindness after all of this work?

PM:
Spending so much time with John and being able to listen to his account and researching has lead us to further research on different kind of people’s experiences. It’s been an incredibly fascinating process for us.

TReid:
Vision, often considered as the most feared sense to lose, yet the dialog offered by Hull and the sound design and music have a very calming effect. As if saying, it will all be  alright. Or maybe that’s just my final note on blindness.

The film has been nominated for 6 British Independent Film Awards including:
Best British Independent Film
Best Debut Director
Outstanding Achievement in Craft

You can catch Notes on Blindness beginning November 16  in New York City
at the Film Forum. Other cities are soon to follow. As well as on demand distribution in the future.
Visit BlindnessMovie.com for more on dates and information.
you can find them on Twitter @OnBlindness

I’m Thomas Reid;

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull and son Thomas exchange goodbyes…
John Hull:
Until his voice becomes faint.]

TReid:
For Gatewave Radio

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull and son Thomas exchange goodbyes…]

TReid:
audio for independent living.

[Notes on Blindness Audio
John Hull: “I love this!”]

T.Reid:
When I received an email asking if I were interested in doing a story on a new movie called Notes on Blindness, my first thought was …
“I don’t think you’re going to want me to do that!”

I like to profile people who are doing things that ultimately dispel the misperceptions about blindness.

I’m cynical  when it comes to movies  about blindness and disability.
My experience says they are probably going to be the sappy  oh look at this poor guy or wow, isn’t this person so amazing!

This, was not that!

Naturally I thought of my own experience while watching.
I guess you could say it was a comparison of notes!

The scene when he rushed to his daughter after hearing her scream;
I had my own similar experience and questioned my usefulness in emergencies.
Fortunately, I realized there’s no way I’m useless… as Hull felt at that time.

Again, the experience of blindness is specific to the individual.

One scene, John talks about how he can no longer
conjure up an image of his oldest daughter or his wife…

I never experienced that…
In fact I vividly remember both and
way more.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler so I’ll share that Hull comes to see blindness as a gift.
He’s clear to say it’s not a gift he would want for his children, but he recognizes there’s something there.

I don’t think I ever referred to it as a gift, but I know it’s not a curse.

I found myself very much curious about how John’s vision loss impacted his children. Specifically, his oldest daughter Imogen  who was around the same age as my oldest when I went blind.
She reflects on her relationship  with her father both as a child an as an adult in a short film titled Radio H.

[Audio from Radio H]

Notes on Blindness was focused on Hull’s experience with blindness and
not much time interacting with his kids.
At least not much that showed a playful side.
Like the tapes he made of his children performing and
him telling adventure and spooky stories.

It reminds me of some of the early recordings I did with my kids…

[Audio of Thomas and his children when they were younger.]
I’m a  sucker for Daddy Daughter stories!
For more on Notes on Blindness or Radio H;
see the links in the resource section included with the notes for this episode on Reid My Mind.com.

While you’re there, hit that subscribe button or subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio via iTunes.

Peace!

Reid My Mind Radio – Are Blind Conferences Fantasy

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Back from another Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Conference. This is not a recap.

After all of these years, this was the first time I recall hearing that such conferences  have been described as fantasy. Fantastic! Yes, but I never heard them described as being a fantasy.

Unicorn with Sunglasses

You could say this is my opinion on  the idea or you could just say it’s what was on my mind!

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Just about two weeks ago now, I attended my 11th conference of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind.

My first conference was in 2006. I attended with a group representing the newly formed Monroe County  Council of the Blind or as we called it MCCB. We were considered a young, energetic  and extremely enthusiastic bunch of new comers to the organization.

Most of the group were newly adjusting to blindness. The MCCB itself was formed after we met at a local support group and decided we wanted to do more with our energy than talk about the issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for talking and sharing our stories to help one another better manage the experience, but for many of us we were used to doing more and had a need to put our energy to good use.

I’m sure each of us who attended that first conference had our own expectations. I don’t fully remember what I expected, but I know I was open to learning. I can definitely recall trying to process so many different emotions throughout the weekend and during the first few weeks to follow.

Even today some things really stand out from the experience.

Like when one of our members Mary Ann,  was given a Braille menu at an Olive Garden during dinner on our first night at the conference.

Her excitement was infectious! It was just a menu! In fact, it was just Olive Garden – no shots, I enjoy the breadsticks and salad!

As the only proficient Braille reader in the group, Mary Ann immediately designated herself as the official menu reader for the rest of the group who did not read Braille, but even for those who could read print.
And the group honored that request, not as though they had a choice!

As a new advocate at the time, I was both excited for her but yet upset that she was still so surprised by the availability of the menu. Obviously something she did not experience often.

The next morning, I got my first glimpse of an accessible tour of what I recall was a train museum.

The tour guides used descriptive language as opposed to assuming everyone could see and recognize various features about the characteristics of these historic trains.

Some of the materials were available in alternative formats to standard print including Braille and large print for those with low vision

This may not seem like a big deal for those in the know, but when you’re new to blindness and beginning to believe you have to get used to just missing out on certain things;
observing that it doesn’t really take that much effort to be included, well it’s a real awakening.

I recently heard these types of tours and activities or even the conferences themselves  described  as fantasy.
The idea is that this is not and will never be the real world. The real world I guess in the minds of those who believe this is fantasy will always  exclusively cater only to those with sight and forever exclude people with vision loss.

At various times  throughout my journey with vision loss I came close to believing things can’t change. My struggle with cynicism was only made worse  with the random encounters with those who remind me that they see me first as a blind man and their definition of that goes beyond my inability to see.
For them it’s the subconscious stereotypes and misperceptions that create their image of who I am. the things I do or don’t do are viewed through a lens painted with layers of misinformation that so much of society has been lead to believe about blindness and disability.

Being conscious of that  comes with a price.
I can sometimes put more pressure on myself to   do something “right” believing that if I veer off course or make a simple mistake I may confirmed a false truth about blindness.

The fantasy world of blind conferences or conventions actually provided me a place to practice all of my blindness skills in a friendly atmosphere.
These conferences also  offered me a chance to relieve myself of the burden of believing I had to represent every blind person in the world.

There are times when I can get up from my chair during a conference  and almost perfectly walk out of the room using my white cane and easily navigate my way to my destination.

Then there are the other times when I get a little side tracked for various reasons.

These conferences have over the years taught me that both results are okay.
There’s no perfection.
People with all levels of  Orientation and mobility skills have and do both.  People with 20/20 vision do both.

it’s not my responsibility to explain how my cane tapping against  a planter or some obstacle in the middle of the room is not a sign that I am lost, but rather me gaining access to that information to determine which is the best course to avoid that obstacle.

I can’t change what someone else sees. This is determined by their experience and knowledge , not me. I know there are those who will lump all people who are blind together.
We share the experience of blindness, but for many that’s it! We’re different in so many ways.

Maybe these conferences are considered fantasy based on the cooperation and the way people tend to work together.

Since that first conference, I watched how people with all different levels of vision loss could help one another.

The person in the elevator who has low vision searching for the right button extends their gratitude to the person with no sight whatsoever who quickly identifies the button using Braille.

the teamwork of one gentleman using his white cane while  supporting a man with both vision loss and mobility challenges , slowly losing his strength, make his way to his hotel room.

Throughout the weekend, I witnessed people  all in support of one another. I saw more to blindness than I did prior to the conference. It confirmed that  not only was I right in thinking my vision loss didn’t have to mean more than I can’t see. It didn’t reduce who I am as a person. it didn’t put me in another class of people. It didn’t in any way impact my competence, my manhood my spirit. It simply means my eyes no longer work and I need to figure out other ways to get the information that I need to do certain things.

Since 2007 I’ve been a part of the conference planning team and I have been the coordinator  since about 2010 . My hope each year is that those newly adjusting to blindness will walk away from the conference  believing  that what some see as a fantasy is really inevitable.

There are changing demographics that make accessibility  a much more mainstream term today than even in 2004 when I was first introduced to that word.

Companies like Apple have committed to accessibility  making so many things usable for people with disabilities.
Smart phones and their apps
Television and movies along with audio description
indoor navigation which basically brings  GPS inside.

All of this progress is real!
We can touch it,  put it to use today and measure its effectiveness.

However, we’re not able to count the degree in which the attitudes are changing.

For many people the last few years have been an awakening to things that have existed since this country’s beginning.

The police brutality against people of color
Law enforcement’s corruption and cover ups of these incidents
Racist ideologies and behavior throughout society.

Camera’s and demagogues like Trump bring all of this to the forefront for all to see and confront.

Meanwhile those in the communities effected have been raising their voices in protest forever. The larger society not wanting to believe it or refusing to believe this could be true simply lowered the volume control and went on with their lives.

Blindness according to multiple surveys is ranked as America’s greatest fear… even more than death.

Some of these surveys are as recent as August 2016.

We know that people fear what they don’t know or understand.

This level of ignorance in 2016 is not surprising  but also not excusable.

The other side of this ignorance are those who are overly amazed by blind people living their lives every day.

Successfully living lives shouldn’t be considered amazing.

Maybe then we raise the bar for what we expect from people with vision loss and others with disabilities. And there’s no doubt that these expectations would be met.

In no way will I frame my perspective as a fantasy. It’s in progress. The more access gained the more people will have a chance to hear our voices, learn of our stories and rid themselves of their fears. It’s happening, just watch!