Climbing Accessible Heights with Matthew Shifrin

April 8th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

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

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

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Transcript

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TR:

Greetings everyone, from at least 6 feet away!

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

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

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

Audio: Water flowing from sink…

TR sings…

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

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

TR:

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

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

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

TR:

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

MS

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

That was the vocabulary Matthew longed for.

MS:

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

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

Once Matthew gained access.

MS:

I just wanted people to have this resource because I’d benefited so much from it. Not all Blind kids have people that could write instructions for them. Everyone deserves to be able to build and to learn from what they’ve build.

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

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

[TR in conversation with MS:]

Would you consider yourself an advocate?

MS

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

And it did. Lego decided to produce the instructions.

MS:

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

[TR in conversation with MS:]

Are you still working with the company?

MS

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

[TR in conversation with MS:]
Wow!

TR:

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

MS:

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

[TR in conversation with MS:]

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

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

MS:

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

[TR in conversation with MS:]

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

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

MS

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

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

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

TR:

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

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

TR:

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

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

MS:

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

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

MS:

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

TR:

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

TR:
Like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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Live Inspiration Porn – I Got Duped

March 18th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

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

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

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

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Transcript

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TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family?

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

Welcome to those of you who are new here.

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

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

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

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

So let’s get this poppin!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio theme

# Intro

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

Audio: Sound of chaos!

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

Audio: Typing sounds….

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

Audio: Possibly use old episodes here

As if journalism is really impartial.

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

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

I feel a responsibility to both my guests and listeners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which leads me to this statement…

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

Audio:

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

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

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

Song sung by Little Richard at a MS Telathon.

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

First things first…

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

But, what does it really mean?

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

Is this really pity?

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

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

I then question the choices made for that episode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

Or…

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

TR:

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

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

Audio: Dream Harp

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

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

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

I was setup y’all!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

Then they pulled out the glasses.

Audio: Glasses clinking and sliding down a bar!

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

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

Well, in this particular case, while the dog and ponies sat up in front and this one off to the side a bit, the sighted donors were led into their temporary world of vision loss.

Reluctantly at first, one after the other each slowly began trying on the glasses.

“Oh my”…. “wow”
“where did you go Jeanie?”

And then the real fun began as they exchanged glasses with one another. Laughing as they realized how little they could actually see. Unable to find things they placed on the conference table. The host joking as she moved their cups of coffee.

Meanwhile, the dogs and ponies sat up front. While the jackasses continued with their disability experiment.

Empathy, I didn’t see that. But a check was written.

I don’t remember how the event finally ended, but I do know that was it for me. I checked out. There may have been some additional conversation but I doubt I had much to say to anyone after bearing witness to that display of ableism. I vowed to never be a part of anything even remotely like that.

I could easily imagine each of the donors around the table going home fulfilled and thinking “I should really count my blessings, because there’s always someone worse off in the world.”

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

All of this leads to my final question.

How are we telling our own stories?

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

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

What thought do you put into telling your own story?

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s the only one I have.

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

My response, Bruh, you should be so lucky!

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

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

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

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

Or is it?

“Here we go!” Slick Rick, Childrens Story

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

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

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio outro

Peace

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Ajani AJ Murray – Starting with Imagination

March 4th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

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

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

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

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

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


Ajani AJ Murray:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

Audio: AJ “Dope” “Fresh”

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

Audio: AJ, “Resource”

For anyone especially those adjusting to vision loss.

And with that said, let’s do this!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme

Audio: Tom Joyner show…

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

TR:

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

AJ:

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

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Laughing…

AJ:

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

TR:

AJ knew his true passion.

AJ:

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

TR:

Of course, there’s the big screen.

AJ:

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

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Laughs…

AJ:

TR:

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

AJ:

I appreciated that several years later.

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

Don’t open it! He’s lying!

(exhale)

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

AJ:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

AJ:

I always had this dream of being an actor. It was something that was always looming in the back of my mind. It was always in my spirit, but I didn’t know how to physically make the connection. I couldn’t necessarily afford acting classes at the time and I wasn’t in high school at the time to be a part of an acting club.

TR:

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

AJ, made use of what was in his reach.

AJ:

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

TR:

Screens bring their own access challenges.

AJ:

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

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

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

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

AJ:

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

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

TR:

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

Most things physical that is…

AJ:

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

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

TR:

AJ’s imagination was open.

His opportunity to hit the stage came in high school.

AJ:

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

TR:

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

AJ:

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

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

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

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

Audio clip from film…

TR:

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

AJ:

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

TR:

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

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

Audio clip from film…

AJ is the focal point of the doc.

AJ:

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

AJ:

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

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

TR:

Think Living Single, Friends or the Big Chill…

AJ:

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

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

AJ:

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

TR:

Alright, fine, it’s not about me.

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

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

TR:

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

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

For example…

AJ:

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

TR:

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

AJ:

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

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

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

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

AJ:

That’s a hundred percent accurate.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

So it doesn’t sound like that dissuades you.

AJ:

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

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

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

TR:

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


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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ya dig!

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

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

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

TR:
Llike my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Adjusting to Vision Loss – A Creative Approach with Victoria Clare

February 19th, 2020  / Author: T.Reid

Victoria Clare with sculpture
Living a creative life for Victoria Clare is more than a way to express herself. It serves as a way to help her own adjustment to vision loss

Hear her story from denial and rebellion to acceptance and putting her in a position to support others.

Victoria Clare is a Sculptor, Musician, Entrepreneur… and she’s working on becoming a Scratch DJ! For real though!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family? I missed you all for real!

Happy 2020 to you all!

A bit of a slow start, but you know, you can’t hold a brother back!

So much of what’s going on in the world today makes it more challenging to find that hope and optimism.
Audio: There’s no need to fear…”

Reid My Mind Radio is here!

Let’s get this poppin

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

VC:
“Creativity is one of the most powerful, healing, it’s one of the most connective things that you could ever do to get to know who you really are.”

TR:
Getting to know who you really are is a big part of our early lives especially from our teenage years and on through college. For Victoria Clare, an artist specializing in sculpture, vision loss added to the process.

VC:

I just passed my driving test. I never had a lesson at night ever. Not any reason to that its was just my lessons were never booked for that time. When I passed my driving test I jumped in my car very elated wanted to go tell my boyfriend at the time that I passed my test.
Pulled out of my mom and Dad’s driveway and all of a sudden it became very very apparent to me that I really shouldn’t be driving. I just could not see enough to be driving.

TR:

On that ride to her boyfriend’s house, she clipped another vehicle and lost her driver’s side mirror. Fortunately, no one was hurt. It was enough to prompt her to see an Ophthalmologist

VC:

That’s when I found out I was going to go Blind.

TR:
The diagnosis was Retinitis Pigmentosa.

VC:
My particular Retinitis Pigmentosa is one of the recessive types so therefore we have no people in the family that have had it. So I’m literally the start of the chain if you will.
So finding that out as well kind of made me feel like wow what a responsibility. For me to get married and have children later in life would be a big choice for meat some point in my life which I was very aware of. However, I went back to college.

TR:

College in the UK refers to where many students go for two years after completing compulsory schooling at 16 in order to prepare for
exams to get into university. You can also take
vocational courses
at college.
While studying graphic design with plans to move on to University to continue in this field, Victoria just happened to come across a book about sculpture.

VC:

I knew when it was time for me to go to University that graphic design wasn’t for me. Sculpture was going to be my future
It was an amazing course. It only had 28 places in the whole of Europe. I was lucky enough to get one of those places.
I didn’t really consider that perhaps, hold on a second I may not be able to do this, I just carried on.

TR:

For some that may sound like optimism, positive thinking. But others who have been down this road would probably advise differently.

[TR in conversation with VC:]
Did you have contact with anyone else who was experiencing Vision Loss, anyone whose Blind?

VC:

No. No I had no contact with anyone like that.

TR:

Blind mentors can often help provide guidance, resources, and lend an understanding ear when dealing with all the additional loss that more than often accompanies the vision loss.

VC:

I had a lot of people kind of walk out of my life or just feel very awkward around me and didn’t know how to handle it.
My boyfriend I was with at the time, we got engaged, and he kind of was really struggling with the sight loss diagnosis and he actually saw it as too much for him so the relationship broke down.

[TR in conversation with VC:]

His loss! Hmm. We don’t like him.

VC:

Yeh!

TR:
Victoria soon learned that carrying on would require skills that she didn’t have. Living independently in a new town, navigating both in and outdoors.

VC:

I didn’t realize how simple everyday things would become so difficult for me. I had a hard time at Uny for a very short time, I mean literally I wasn’t there for very long before I decided that I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I left.

My lecturers said to me that I was welcome to come back at any time. Which was really really gracious of them considering it was such a prestigious course.

I had a conversation with my parents, they were incredibly supportive. They came and collected me.

TR:

Back at home Victoria says she isolated herself from the world.

VC:

And I started drinking. Initially it was about trying to numb the pain. I just felt like my whole world had shattered into a thousand pieces. I didn’t know how I was going to go forward. I didn’t see a future for myself .
And then something happened.

TR:

To put it simply, Victoria was introduced to possibility. It came in the form of a rehabilitation specialist.
A really lovely lady. She had a work cut out, to be really fair, with me. I was really super rebellious so I didn’t want help from anybody. You know, don’t treat me like a Blind person bla, bla, bla you know a typical kid.
TR:

Soon after meeting, the rehab specialist realized Victoria wasn’t going to use a white cane.

VC:

I just was not going to use one. I wanted to learn every trick in the trade so I could get away without using one.
She started to teach me other things like echo location, which is still really useful to me. trailing, just small things like that, that was getting me by.

TR:

Sometimes it’s the smallest suggestions that have the greatest results.
She was the one that suggested that maybe I should try some sculpture just for therapeutic reasons.
I went out in my Dad’s shed, I got a big old’ block of wood, stole some of his chisels, used his mallet and started creating. It was amazing. I turned my world around because it made me realize alright, I’ve been diagnosed with this sight loss but nobody’s taken away the skills that I’ve always had. They’re still there.

TR

Remember the skills that she began sharpening in University?

VC:

The background and the love was the figurative work so I created a kind of table top size maybe like two feet tall female figure. I called it “Her Spirit”. that was put into a local gallery and sold. I then kind of returned and created another figurative female figure which was also sold. My work has changed a lot over the years but most certainly it was more figurative work back then.
[TR in conversation with VC:]

Did it represent something in your life at that time or what was that all about?

VC:

I would say for me it was more to do with the fact that the course that I had to leave in Uny was a figurative sculpture course. So of course I was kind of making that connection of wanting to keep the figurative sculpture part of me going even though if I had to walk away from the University

[TR in conversation with VC:]

How much of an influence is blindness. The subject of blindness not necessarily your adaptations if there are some but how much does that play into sculpting specifically.

VC:

Now a huge part because I get inspired by it. For example only two years ago that I put on the first sculpture exhibition that was completely in a pitch black gallery. everybody had to use their other senses to discover what the pieces actually were.

TR:

This particular exhibition enabled Victoria to express herself in three different ways.

VC:

It was to share my personal acceptance of my journey with sight loss. It was to also kind of share sight loss with the general public so that they would have an experience and an understanding of what it feels like. And three it was a very strong message to visual arts because they really , really need to up their game when it comes to accessible art in galleries. Most certainly for visually impaired people . When you walk into a gallery how do we navigate and involve ourselves in our environment? By feeling. To be told that you can’t touch a piece of sculpture a piece of art you’re immediately excluded from enjoying it.

TR:

The exhibit, a first of its kind received national media coverage and all of the pieces were sold.
the result opened new opportunities for Victoria including serving as a retina UK Ambassador

VC:

Raising money to create research and pioneer research for Retinal Dystrophies. public speaking started to grow from there really. I get to speak at conferences and various events. I’m speaking at the World 2020 Vision, that’s in Dublin and also chairing a panel.

TR:

The latter is a chance to meet others impacted by vision loss.

VC:

There’s a connection there. It’s something very special.

TR:

A big part of her personal journey is creative expression. Something Victoria believes can be of help to others adjusting to their own vision loss.

VC:

I would recommend anything that will lift somebody’s mood that will connect them to who they are and make them feel that they are enough and give them self-confidence and self-worth. From sculpture to painting, from dance to music and anything in between. I would just say creativity is one of the most powerful, healing, it’s one of the most connective things that you could ever do to get to know who you really are.

TR:

Her own creative expression goes beyond sculpture.
There’s music which began around the same time as vision loss. Specifically, she began learning guitar from a friend.

VC:

Probably one of the things that helped me as I rewind going back to those dark days because I would sit when I was alone and if I was feeling down would just play my guitar. Just compose. I did find that a little comfort at the time.

TR:

About 13 years ago now, she discovered piano.

VC:

I used to be working in a school and this piano was sitting in the hall never being used and I’d be the only person working up a tinkle you know. Slowly but surely I started thinking you know what this is great, I love it and I ended up buying that piano off of the school and it’s sitting in my spare room now. (Laughs)

TR:

And you’re recording your music?

VC:

I Literally just come out of the studio.
Audio:
“Know you Matter”, Victoria Clare

TR:

Singing and performing in bands since she was 23 years old, “Know You Matter” is Victoria’s most recent production. It’s a message to all those that have self-doubt and serves as a personal affirmation to remind her that she matters. She hopes it will resonate with others.

Know You Matter is available on ITunes, Apple Music, Spotify and just about wherever you listen to music.

Next up creatively…

[TR in conversation with VC:]

And you’re rapping too?
Laughs!

VC:

Laughs! Working on it. I want to get into a bit of scratching, you know Tom. Laughs…

TR:

She’s serious! She’s a Hip Hop fan.

Dela 1

VC:

I like a lot of Hip Hop, Dance music, but then I like a lot of singer song writer stuff.

[TR in conversation with VC:]

Since you said Hip Hop, who did you like?

VC:

I absolutely love Dela Soul. Yeah they were definitely my favorite.

TR:
The more I think about her art, it makes sense. She takes an existing piece of wood and crafts that into a whole new thing. That’s Hip Hop.

This past Christmas Santa brought her a DJ controller or the modern day DJ turntables so who knows what she’ll create.

I know what you’re thinking, does this woman ever get bored? Well, she has the answer for boredom.

VC:

Board sports! (Laughs…)
[TR in conversation with VC:]

Yeh, I guess which is really another form of expression I would say.

VC:

When I was 23 a big life change happened for me because I decided to go backpacking with my best friends around the world. Probably the best thing I ever did. I was being faced with beautiful beaches and all the surf community and I was sitting there watching all these guys and girls just riding those waves and I just longed to do it but in my head the voice was saying you’ll never get to do that you’re going Blind you can’t do that.

TR:

If this were a movie, we’d queue up the dramatic music, the camera would pan out to the others easily riding the waves, maybe one falling off the board. The scene would move to Victoria slowly looking at a surf board next her and then back out toward the ocean. Seated on the san, she’d confidently straighten her back, stand, grab that board and sprint toward the water. Her friends would cheer her on as she paddled out to catch a wave…
But this ain’t no movie!
She privately held on to that desire like so many of us do.

VC:

It wasn’t until 2014 that I was actually doing my first solo exhibition. it was a really big14 piece collection exhibition. It was quite stressful at that time trying to do everything for it.
TR:

That’s when her husband had an idea.

VC:

Let me teach you how to surf . And that was it, I was hooked.

TR:

Once upon a time, she was adamant about not using the white cane. Today, Victoria puts that long white cane to good use.

VC:

Skateboarding!

TR:

that’s her way to expel that board energy when she can’t hit the waves.

And of course, where does Victoria go from here.

[TR in conversation with VC:]

You have a line of skateboards?

VC:

Yep, I’ve got the…

[TR in conversation with VC:]

Geez, you make me tired. (Laughs)
I got to up my life! I’m not doing enough.
(Laughs)

VC:

they’re called Blinded Soul and they’re bespoke solid deck skateboard.
When we started surfing we also taught my nephew to surf and then I took that one step further, I made him a surf board. I did the same for skateboards. I was just so amazed how smooth a ride they are. They’re built like in a retro style. They’re not built for tricks, but they’re definitely built for long distance really, cruising.

[TR in conversation with VC:]

The other day when I was reading your blog I was like man I think I want to do this. (Laughs…). Like, I want to try skateboarding Now it’s been years. I skateboarded as a kid.

Audio: from “It’s A thin Line between Love & Hate”
“Here I am laying in the hospital, bandaged from feet to head

TR:

Ok, all jokes aside, I’m going to give that a try.
My personal creativity and expression for a few years now has been less about sports and physical activity today compared to my past.

For anyone experiencing vision loss, finding a creative outlet is worth exploring. It’s hard because the reality is for most these endeavors just don’t help pay the rent.
But that’s not a reason to not pursue a passion or interest. there’s levels to this stuff. find your level and enjoy. The benefits are real.
Victoria’s pursuit of her own interest in music proved fruitful in ways she probably never expected.

[TR in conversation with VC:]

You mentioned your husband. Did your husband know about your vision loss initially?

VC:

Yes, yes. We met through a band that I was in. I was the singer he was the drummer. he had the same kind of silly sense of humor I guess that I’ve got. We’d just have good fun. He would drive me home after rehearsals and stuff. probably only took a couple of months for me to realize that a. how much I liked him and b, I had to tell him.
I sat in the car with him one night, we were just outside the flat where I was living at the time. And I had to take a very very deep breath and I told him. He just hugged me. And I said to him if this changes things you know it’s ok. And he was like no way. I just couldn’t imagine it changing anything between us.
He’s a very, very positive person. Very optimistic. He supports me in everything I do.

[TR in conversation with VC:]

And what’s this fine gentlemen’s name?

VC:

Ah, this fine gentlemen’s name is Adam.

TR:

you just never know where the pursuit of your interests may lead.
Victoria talks about all of her endeavors over at her blog Beyond Vision.

VC:

I want to reach as many people as I can. I want to support as many people as I can but along the way I want to share my vulnerability as much as my successes. I think it’s all very well to sit an talking about all the wonderful things that you get to do with your life but I think it’s more important to share also the vulnerable side of you too because it makes you more relatable. I really do get quite honest with my blogs. They really do tell a story within themselves. They’re raw, they’re authentic.

TR:
T
Encouraged to write her own story in the form of a book, first reluctant, Victoria eventually had an idea to help make the task more attainable.

VC:

What if I started thinking like the book is an extended blog?
So I got in touch with an editor, Molly Somerfield Smith, lovely lady she’s actually a ghost writer. When I first wrote to her I was kind of talking in a way that I wanted her to write it but she was the person that said to me you’ve got to write this yourself. This is your story this can’t come from me, this has got to come from you.
here I am a year later and she’s now got the version that I put together and she’s editing.

[TR in conversation with VC:]

First of all, I see that you’re doing audio blogs. So it’s not enough that you’re doing all the other stuff now you gotta come on into audio? Come on Victoria let some other people keep the audio… (laughs…)

VC:

You know what tom, it’s purely for selfish reasons.

TR:

For the record, I actually welcome and promote more of our voices in the space.
By now you probably can tell Victoria is all about productivity. She’s voice recording what she would have once written for the blog.

To check out her work and more…

VC:

I’ve got my professional website which is for the sculpture and that is www. VictoriaClareSculpture.com And then I got my advocacy website, VictoriaClare-BeyondVision.com. Where there’s all sorts of crazy stuff going on and it’s also got a lot of resources , support and that kind of stuff. And that’s where the blogs are as well.

TR:
Victoria’s working on moving her sculpture website to a more accessible platform.
You can also find her on Insta Gram at VictoriaClareSculpture. That’s Victoria Clare (spelled out)
Don’t forget to go on over to ITunes or wherever you get your music and get her latest single Know You Matter.

Audio: Break of Dawn, DeLa Soul

Shout out to Victoria Clare for sharing her journey. And shout out to Steph McCoy for making the connect!

I’m always hopeful that somehow this podcast finds those who are in the place where many of us once were.
That’s losing their sight, receiving a diagnosis they never expected, maybe fighting against the idea of using a white cane.

It’s easy to focus on what is being lost but as we heard today, the pursuit of those things that bring joy can really help you find what you’re seeking. It’s just right around the corner.

Audio: Lyrics… “Break of Dawn”

If you like what you heard today, subscribe wherever you get podcasts. Why not tell one or two people about what’s taking place here.
Let’s get this information into the ear holes of those who need it the most. In fact, you know we’re about that access here so it’s available for finger tips and eyes too in the form of transcripts available on ReidMyMind.com

That’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

The 2019 Rap Up… Yes, Rap Up!

December 18th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays!

Listen

The 2019 Rap Up Video

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

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

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Happy Holidays Family!

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

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

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

That shot was with the Google PRX Podcast Creators Program.

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

I figured, I meet these qualifications! I applied.

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

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

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

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

Audio: “What’s Your Name?”

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

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

Audio: Mark Intro…RMMRadio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio: Dream harp

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio 2019 Rap Up

Music begins…

TR Talking:

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

“Coo Caw” Bird wings flapping…

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

Music Crescendo….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR: “Take it to the bridge”

Bridge Raven Reid Spoken Word…

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

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

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

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

Verse 3:

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

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

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

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

TR: “Daddy Daughter let’s go!”

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

TR:
That was fun!

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

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio outro

Peace

Hide the transcript


The 2019 Rap Up… Yes, Rap Up!