Archive for the ‘Visually Impaired’ Category

Reid My Mind Radio: Employment Challenges for People with Disabilities

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

With all the hype about the economy and employment rate it’s seems like a good time to remind or inform people of the high unemployment rate among people with disabilities.
RMMRadio Alumni Joe Strechay, Director of the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services in Pennsylvania joins me to talk about the challenges faced by people who are blind and exactly what they’re doing to make a difference.
Picture of Joe Strechay

This episode includes some good advice for anyone impacted by disability looking to transition to employment.

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
There’s been some discussion in the news about the positive 2018 employment figures. The facts show that , the unemployment rate has been on a consistent decline throughout President Obama’s presidency.
I’m just saying’!

Depending on what you read, the percentage of people with a disability who are unemployed range anywhere between 45 and 75 percent.

So, I want to talk about employment among people with vision loss and disabilities in general.

[phone Ringing]

I decided to call an alumni of Reid My Mind Radio.

On that note, before I get into it… I’m T Reid and this is my theme music.

[Reid My Mind Radio Intro]

So I called Mr. Joe Strechay, also known to any listener of this podcast as the man who literally taught Charlie Cox, the star of Marvel’s Dare Devil how to be blind.
If you haven’t heard that episode I suggest you give it a listen.

Sometime after that interview, Joe took on the role of Director of The Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services or BBVS of Pennsylvania which is part of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

I asked Joe about the dismal unemployment percentages for people with disabilities.

JS:

When you look at the statistics I think your 45, 46 percent sound about right for unemployment.

But they would say 12 to 15 percent of people are not even engaged in the employment process and are not even counted.

Often the percentage you hear about, the 70 or 75 percent includes under employed, so people working at a level under their education or training. Some people like to provide the positive side of things, 54 percent of people who are blind or visually impaired are working, but again there’s a 12 to 15 percent that aren’t even included in those types of stats.
[TR in conversation with JS]
From your perspective, what are the challenges?

JS:
Employers knowledge and understanding and awareness around individuals who are blind and visually impaired…

I think it was back in 2011, the National Industries for the Blind did a study with Human Resource professionals asking them what their big questions were or concerns were with hiring someone who is blind or visually impaired. And these were the gate keepers in the employment process from a lot of big businesses, small businesses. Their number one question was could they do the job and number two was transportation. How were they going to get to work, but not even just the transportation to work how were they going to get around in the work place. Am I going to have to guide them to the bathroom?

TR:

That question for some, is more upsetting than surprising.
Unfortunately Joe says some of those whose focus is creating diversity and inclusion in the workplace,
are just as unaware.

JS:

They’re really worried that like you’re coming out of the elevator that the lip of the elevator is going to make you trip and fall down.

[TR in conversation with JS]
Wow!

TR:
This first barrier of employment for people with disabilities
could be summarized as social challenges. Joe recommends dealing with these by taking control of your messaging. This means being proficient in your choice of mobility, access technology and effectively advocating for yourself.

JS:

When an employer has those types of simple concerns about hiring someone that’s a problem. We have to address those because if you walk out of an interview and that employer has concerns or questions about you, they’re not going to hire you. The employment process is really about creating trust between you and the employer. Some other obstacles are actually transportation. The more rural you live, the harder it is to commute. The harder it is to get access. If you don’t live on a street with sidewalks or near bus routes it’s going to be more difficult. Persons with disabilities battle with isolation and the more isolated you are the less opportunity you’re going to have. Proprietary software corporations and business working with the companies or contractors to build out software to fulfill needs in their employment setting and if these software’s are not built in an accessible manner, most are not, that’s a big barrier. If you get the job you won’t be able to do the job.

TR:

Further examination of the unemployed population of people with disabilities, reveals separate more specific needs based on demographics.

For example, teens and young adults have a need to acquire different skills in comparison to others adjusting to vision loss with
workforce experience.

JS:

We’ve developed out a lot of different types of programs that provide job shadowing, work based learning experience. Programs like Project Search – which works with the Human Resources department in a business and develops out different jobs within that business and working with individuals to fit into those situations.

It’s not just how you do the job it’s how you interact with your co-workers, the customers, your boss as well. Individuals learn those basic skills from experience but also from seeing how other people interact. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired may miss out on some of that incidental learning.

[TR in conversation with JS]

What does that training process look like?

JS:
It could be starting out with job shadowing, occupational interviews, mock interviewing, actual interviews, work based learning experience where they’re actually getting to work a part time paid job. One of our emphasis is providing paid work experience because people are two and half times more likely to be employed after their education if they’ve had prior paid work experience. They’re even more likely to be successful if they actually found that employment setting themselves.

[TR in conversation with JS]
Can you give us an example of some of those successful projects?

JS:
We have a partnership with the Overbrook School for the Blind where they’re doing the Transitional Vocational Initiative, which is a three week summer program where students around the Common wealth of Pennsylvania go to Overbrook in Philadelphia and they work for two weeks doing those soft skills and then they move on to job shadowing and then the last week they’re working. They’re going to extend out the length of the working period in the coming year. That really is where the kids get that real world experience to work in an employment setting and learn about interacting with their co-workers and boss.

[TR in conversation with JS]
I know people listening would wonder, especially those not familiar with blindness would say ok, what kind of jobs can a blind teen do?

JS:
All kinds of things. Working in stores, point of purchase systems such as Square because those can be accessible, busing tables. We have kids that are washing dishes. WSe have kids…

[TR in conversation with JS]
Alright, alright hold on Joe!

TR:

Ok, I know! Some of you may struggle with the idea that a blind person
can hold a job as a bus boy. It’s ok!

I’ll let Joe answer that but in general when it comes to people with disabilities and employment
consider if the question should be; What job can the person hold or
how can we accommodate this person to make sure they’re successful fulfilling the job?

Back to Joe.

JS:

I’ve known a couple of bus boys who were totally blind. I know some dish washers who were totally blind. Some individuals working at a store on the register were totally blind as well. We’re also utilizing our Business Enterprise Program so our Randolph Sheppard Programs as locations; cafeterias and vending. The more opportunities the better. We don’t want to limit someone at one opportunity if they can get experience in multiple settings we’re all about that. We have people that are working in offices as receptionists answering phones and a little more high level if they have some more technical skills.

TR:

Getting teens with disabilities prepared for employment begins as soon as the summer following 9th grade.

In partnership with other organizations and agencies, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services offers the Summer Academy.

JS:

It’s a post-secondary preparation and career exploration program. Really an emphasis on that post-secondary preparation giving people a realistic college experience. Making sure they have the assistive technology skills. Getting orientation and mobility skills around the campus university and town. How to organize things. How to access things, cooking their meals and also to find out if college is the right avenue for them. They may be looking at more vocational training or opportunity.

TR:

Students even get the chance to take a college level course where they receive 3 credits upon completion.

This successful program is currently being replicated in other states.

When it comes to adults with vision loss of working age, BBVS provides services through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Services include;

* vision rehabilitation therapist who teach daily living skills like cooking and organizing household goods; things which often require a different approach following vision loss.

* orientation and mobility or teaching a person how to effectively travel using any remaining vision and or a white cane. This includes traveling through your home, neighborhood and taking public transportation.

* Vocation Rehabilitation counselors who help with finding employment or returning to work.

JS:
We also utilize programs that are out there. Whether it’s the Blindness Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh which can provide a setting a location if someone needs more in depth services they can go and stay there. Training centers around the country as well. We have the ability to develop out internships or other programs and we’re going to be looking into more internship opportunities for adults who are blind or visually impaired. We’ve been having some discussions with bigger corporations and businesses . We’ve seen some success like with SAP, one of the big financial software companies and Microsoft working with individuals with Autism and why couldn’t that also happen with individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

[TR in conversation with JS]
In general, I’m not asking about any specific company, what are those conversations like. I mean are they kind of open or what?

JS:
I think they’re more open then they have been in the past. Typically for a really successful relationship it takes having a champion within. Some of these companies they can’t create products or services that meet the needs of customers they don’t know about.

TR:

Now that the prospective employee has learned proper orientation and mobility skills, is comfortable using their technology and
ready to advocate for themselves there’s still one question they need to answer.

In fact, anyone with a disability, especially those that are visible, deals with the question of when is the right time to disclose that disability to a potential employer.

JS:

I’m really passionate about that subject. I call it addressing the elephant in the room. Every time I walk into a room with an employer or business I have a visible disability. I have a long white cane and most likely you know I’m blind from that.

[TR Laughs]
I believe I have a duty if I want to really reach that employer to dispel any myths, but also address the elephant in the room. Make sure that they understand that I am a competent individual who’s blind. I talk about my background my work skills and how I deal with being blind and how I navigate that employment setting and I really think you’re better off building in to your sales pitch , the end of your sales pitch, you’re not going to lead with it, but how you performed tasks that will be related to a job. You use a screen reader and explain what a screen reader is and how you navigate and that you can use Microsoft Office and Excel, Access. I did HTML coding and explaining how I did that . I have my white cane, I’ve been trained in how to use it. My last job I traveled about 18 days per month all over the country independently and explaining that type of information otherwise you’re leaving the room without addressing the concerns and questions of the employer. And they’re not going to hire you if they have questions and concerns about you. I believe that persons with disabilities need to take charge of it. Own who they are. Not that your disability defines you but if you’re not comfortable talking about it, that employer is not going to be comfortable with talking to you about it and that can be a problem in itself.

[TR in conversation with JS]
So that was the interview process but what about when you’re trying to get the job whether that be your resume, cover letter. What do you guys recommend on that?

JS:

Point of disclosure. And I’ll tell you with the disclosure process there’s no right or wrong answer. Every situation’s different, every persons different. I can tell you that the employment process is about building trust and the earlier you let them know the more likely they’re not going to feel that you were dishonest with the. On my resume I don’t like write “blind guy”. I make sure that they know. I would want them to know before I walk in the door. As an individual who’s blind I’ve been in that situation where I didn’t let people know. I was going in for an Orientation and Mobility internship position. It went from a meeting about my internship to a three and a half hour interview where they basically grilled me on everything. I was supposed to have that internship but they didn’t know I was visually impaired at that time. I had to address it. At the end of it I knew I wasn’t going to have that opportunity , I could feel it. I felt it right when I walked in the door. You’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. There are positive and negatives to disclosing at any point in the employment process. I really believe at the time of scheduling an interview to talk to the person about it and explain that you are a person who’s blind.

TR:

Sounds like some real good advice and Joe should know, he’s been focusing on employment issues even before taking his current position as the director of BBVS.

JS:

I worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for about seven years. I supervised their employment initiative such as career connect which was an online career exploration , job seeking skills and E-Mentoring program. And also advising state agencies and even countries on their employment initiatives and also initiatives around transition from school to work.

TR:

Let’s recap the ingredients that go into improving employment opportunities for people with disabilities;

* A shift in the way we as a society think about disability in general and what is possible
* Training for both prospective employees and employers
* Policy changes in both the public and private sectors

From what I can tell, Joe has a very specific quality that seems like an essential requirement to take on this task; optimism.

JS:

One of the big impacts I’ve seen is around section 503 and their aspirational goals on federal contractors and sub-contractors around the hiring of persons with disabilities and also maintaining their employment. I really think that has made an impact. I’ve seen companies looking to hire persons with disabilities and there’s a 7 percent aspiration goal for federal contractors and sub-contractors and it depends on the size of the organization. I really think that is a big step and you know that stems from President Obama’s Executive Order where he pushed the Federal Government to being a model employer and looking to demonstrate that federal agencies could show the corporate world and the private sector how it could be done. And they were successful as of NI believe November 2012. In reaching that goal. Prior to Obama leaving office he was expanding it within the Federal Government. We’re hoping that these standards really continue and only grow to give more opportunities to persons with disabilities .

TR:

Joe says he’s looking at more opportunities that will come from mentorships and less traditional routes for employment and entrepreneurship
through freelance and job outsourcing web sites like Fiver and Up work.

If you are or know of a person with a disability interested in talking about the employment experience, I’d love to listen. Send me an email at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com. I’m especially interested in sharing stories of people with disabilities in nontraditional roles or finding creative income streams whether via employment or entrepreneurship.

Now I have a job for you, whether you’re a person with a disability or not… subscribe to this podcast if you are not already.

You can do that through Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio, Sound Cloud or just visit Reid My Mind.com and all your options are right there.

I’ve been trying to come up with a slogan for Reid My Mind Radio. Maybe something like

JS:
Some people like to find the positive side of things!

I’ll keep working on that, but for now break time is over yawl…
let’s go to work!

[RMMRadio Outro]

TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – 14 Year Old Makes Talking Laundry Machine

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

TReid in front of washing machine which appears to be talking... machine says "47 minutes remaining on the wash cycle!
Touch screens and digital displays look sexy and futuristic, but for those who are blind or low vision these can present a real access issue.

Jack DuPlessis, a 14 year old programmer stepped up to the challenge of making a washer and dryer talk! Hear how he did it and the possible impact this can have on the future of appliances.

Resources

More of Jack’s work on Git Hub
* Purchase from First Build

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR :
What’s up RMMRadio family.
We’re getting right into this today.

And I can tell you from the jump, there’s know original musical creations in this episode.
[Applause]
Oh seriously who did that… that’s not cool!

[Reid My Mind Theme]

TR:
Accessibility issues are everywhere. Transportation, information like the printed word or that which appears in movies but isn’t spoken and too often employment.
When you think about the problem solvers who find solutions to these types of access issues, you may not think he’d sound like:
[TR in conversation with JD]
How are you?
JD:
I’m good!

TR:
… Well, like a 14 year old young man.
That’s Jack DuPlessis,.

Jack developed a way to make an otherwise inaccessible washer & Dryer talk.

Many of the newer appliances on the market today whether stove tops, microwaves and laundry machines are using digital displays and no real tactile options.

I spoke with Sam DuPlessis now known as Jack’s Dad.
I wanted to learn more about First Build, where this project all began.

SD: First Build was started about three years ago by G.E. appliances. We’re a wholly owned subsidiary of G.E. appliances. We want to incubate new products and
we want to do it in an open and collaborative way. We have all the tools to design build and sell new products and new innovations. And we invite anybody to come in and collaborate with us. Truly we mean anybody. We’ve got an on-line presence. You can come in and sign on and use our tools and create with us or you could go online and submit ideas to our website – we call it Co creation.

TR:
Others in the community and those who visit the site vote for their favorite ideas. The more votes and idea gets;

SD:
We put them in queue to make them and see if we can make products out of them. So really let the creativity of this place and ideas of a large group, come in and help us accelerate product development where from a G.E. appliances point of view things used to take years, we want to just take weeks and months to get these ideas out there tested.

TR:
First Build isn’t just sitting around waiting for ideas to come to them.

SD:
Once a year we do something called a mega hack a thon.

TR:
Hackers usually refers to computer programmers .
A hackathon is a fast paced event that
can last for a few hours or over a weekend.
The intention is to design a new piece of software often with a specific goal in mind.

In the case of the First build hackathon, hackers includes
programmers, engineers, machinists and others.

SD:
We just take things apart and put them back together and try to create new concept products in a weekend.

This year’s Hackathon is September 9 & 10.

TR:
Last year’s hackathon inspired what would become a talking laundry machine. But it started with a Stove or cook top.

SD:
An induction cooktops that was really designed specifically to address some of the cooking issues for the visually impaired. It was a great idea it had a pan locator on a smooth cook top where the visually impaired person wouldn’t have to feel with their hands where the burner was starting to warm up. They could just feel with the pot and it kind of self-locates over the cooking surface. we’ve never seen that before. We happen to have here in Louisville. the American Printing House for the Blind. It’s been here for one hundred fifty years and it’s where they print almost all the materials and teaching aids for blind and visually impaired education in the United States. When their leadership came in and reviewed the cooktop, it had like a cap touch control. It’s not very accessible.

TR:
It was through this outreach and communication with those who are impacted by the inaccessibility, where Sam received a request.

SD:
As things get more electronic like laundry, the knobs just spin three hundred sixty degrees they don’t have a home position. They don’t even have a home beep. You’ve grown this capability but you haven’t really addressed a good universal control. If you can give me a home beep . On Something that would be great.

So I took that as an idea for laundry. Something that here at first build we could just program a test for that and have something maybe that we could
update have in the field and just have a home beep on laundry. Really easy to do. I came home and I asked Jack would he be willing to work
on something like that.

[TR in Conversation with JD]
So your father comes to you with the idea, what did you think about it when he first asked you?

JD:
Yeah, I never thought about visually impaired people using a washer and how hard it would be without something as simple as a home position. So that was just a new take on controlling a washer, but I thought it would be a fun project.

[TR in Conversation with JD& SD]
Jack did you get into programming because of your Dad? Dad, how did it happen
SD:
The cool thing that I did was I brought home a Raspberry Pi and connected to a T.V.

TR:
Sam’s not referring to an actual pie here.
He’s talking about the tiny and affordable computer that you can use to learn programming through fun, practical projects

Getting his hands on this in 4th grade along with a visual coding interface, Jack began working on small projects that included making his own games.
Eventually that led to him learning other languages and other projects like a website that lets users test their typing speed and proficiency

And of course, talking laundry machines!

JD:
So yeah, I went with it and got a working like prototype version in about a weekend or so.

[TR in conversation with JD:]
For some kids, that would deter them to even continue. “Ah this is gonna take too long”, but that’s not you, it doesn’t sound like that.

JD:
[long pause]
No!
[TR & SD: laughs]
## TR:
Jack is humble which is an endearing trait for a very bright talented young guy.
Plus, he has Dad. And Dad’s love to talk about their children.

SD:
What took a few hours that weekend, was a very limited functionality and as this thing developed and we got the feedback, Jack rewrote this to not only address just the knobs but to address many of the buttons that are on the laundry and went through four total structure rewrites. and it has turned him from a very simple piece of code into a very very elaborate piece of code and it’s all self-taught.

I’m an engineer and I lead the technical development here at First Build. The passion that we look for in successful engineers is you got to see the problem and want to solve it and Jack has that and spades. He really
sees problems and really likes to dive in to figure out what it takes to solve it.

When Jack makes a significant improvement in anything the corners of his mouth turn up ever so slightly.

TR & Dad laugh!

TR:
That code Jack wrote is now on a small device that attaches to both washer and dryer via a cable that plugs into the diagnostic ports in the back of each machine.

Turning the knob on the machine gives you immediate feedback:
[Sample Sounds]

It even allows you to press a button on the device while the machine is running and hear how much time is remaining.

[TR in conversation with JD & SD]
Have you gotten any feedback from anyone who is visually impaired who may have used the device?

JD:
Yeah…So we put a device in the Kentucky School for the Blind. So we’ve gotten good feedback from them.
And that same person who gave us the feedback about the cook top from the American printing House for the Blind, he has given us great feedback on it as well.
SD:
Not only has he been able to take their feedback you know one on one, but he’s since been able to release software that provides the features that they asked for.
[TR in conversation with JD & SD]
Congratulations to you young man! It’s a really cool thing you’re doing. Dad you too. Obviously you introduced him to it. What are you learning about accessibility?

SD:
I’ve made appliances for twenty five years and we’ve got we call it a heuristics evaluation. Where we look at the usability of controls. And from a I mean just a basic use of what could be in a control to make it more accessible I’ve learned that there are they they can actually be free and we can start putting them in appliances that we make today. If something has a tone capability instead of having it beep the the same beep as it slews through maybe a couple different selections. If it has a high and low tome Automatically it’s much more usable. With these types of insights you know we can put a home beep, it the minimum and that’s free.

We started to update our heuristics evaluation. I’m taking what we’ve learned in this point of view and seeing how we can update our control algorithm so that everything comes
out a little bit more accessible.

TR:
Of course, I had to ask about an iPhone app

SD:
That’s probably where in a few years I think many of our appliances will end up.

Wi-Fi has started to be added to our top end appliances including laundry and there is
a laundry app. One of the things Jacks work has done is uncovered these communications that Go back and forth in the app don’t exist. He’s actually telling
them the things that they need to do to create a more accessible app experience..

[Tr in conversation with JD:]
What’s your favorite piece of technology right now Jack?

JD:
My favorite piece of technology right now that I want is probably a Mac Book.

SD:
Santa Clause is getting some hints!

[Tr in conversation with SD:]
And it sounds like he’s been a real good boy!

[Tr in conversation with JD:]
Do you see yourself going more into what area? Do you want to stay with manufacturing coding, I heard games what do you want to do?

JD:
I’m not sure exactly what I want to do. As long as it involves computers, programming it will probably be good with me.

[Tr in conversation with JD:]

And accessibility too, right?

JD:
Yeah!

[Tr in conversation with JD:]
Laughs!

TR:
It’s refreshing to know that this talented young man and possible future leader in technology is already showing signs of committing to accessibility.

Right now, the First Build Talking Laundry Module is available for one GE washer and 2 dryers 1 electric and one gas.

The modules right now are being produced on demand and available for purchase
via the First Build website; firstbuild.com

It costs $99 and works for both washer and dryer. and comes with the cables and AC adapter.

The device is 5 x 5 x 2.5 inch and has built in speaker and volume control knob and includes magnets on the base to hold the unit to the side of dryer

I’m Thomas Reid for Gatewave Radio

[JD: from the piece… long pause and he then says… No!]

Audio for independent living!

TR: RMMRadio Outro

The purpose of technology is to help us accomplish a specific task. The first tools used by our ancestors in Africa could be considered assistive technology.

Accessibility, just extends the us. For too long us only included those with fully functioning… fill in the blank.
More people are understanding and being informed that just because your eyes don’t function at a certain level, you don’t hear the way others may or any other disability, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to get the same things accomplished.

I can really appreciate this story for several reasons.

I can relate to the Dad, Sam, recognizing that his son’s interest. Then challenging him to get involved with a project that has a real world purpose. Encouraging him to not only get better at coding but gaining an early lesson about technology – it should improve our lives.

There’s another lesson that can be gained… it’s about disability but even more so it’s about humanity. Everyone has unlimited potential. Disability doesn’t reduce that in anyway. People do.

People who see limitations and then whether directly or otherwise restrict someone from reaching their potential.

People who internalize that idea and restrict themselves.

People who refuse to make their products accessible even after learning that by doing so they are restricting 20 percent of the population who has some form of disability.

Whether from a business or creative perspective, not working towards a fully accessible product is a very limiting move. Convincing me once again that the limitations are in the eye of the beholder.

Accessibility advocates will tell you the goal, is accessibility included in the design phase. The time when all those involved with the creation of the product are beginning to figure out what the product will look like and how it will work. It sounds like Sam is taking steps toward that. Especially realizing that it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

We can say that Jack getting involved at 14 is right in line with that. Part of the problem is that accessibility isn’t often included in computer science curriculum.

Getting introduced to the concept of accessibility at 14 years old, makes me optimistic about the future.

You might say this is one person, one story, but that’s never really the case unless the story goes untold.

Well Jack’s story has definitely made its way around the web and I’d like to think that the accessibility conversation has been advanced a little further.

Shout out to Sam and Jack DuPlessis First Build and GE for advancing access for those who are blind or visually impaired.

And here’s hoping Santa is listening to this episode of the podcast and Jack finds some cool stuff under that tree this year!

You know what else is cool? Yes, you do!
Subscribing to this here podcast. You can subscribe on Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio and follow on Sound Cloud.

Give the podcast a rating, a review and or tell a friend or two to take a listen.

Peace!

Hide the transcript

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!

Hide the transcript

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.