Posts Tagged ‘Accessibility’

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 – Who is Joe Capers

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
A picture of Joe Capers, an African American man seated on a couch staring into the camera with sunglasses!

Joe Capers

En Vogue, Tony Tony Tone and more musical artists from Oakland could help answer this question. In this  episode we meet two gentlemen creating a documentary that will help others do the same.

The second part of today’s podcast explores Hip Hop from two angles you may have not known existed.
* Krip Hop Nation, an international network for artists with disabilities.
* Hip Learning,  using the rap element of Hip Hop to help children learn science and more!

So stop what you’re doing
Prepare to hear the words they say
The only way to do it…
Press on the button that says Play!

… Oh snap, #Bars son!


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Resources

  1. Alternative Minds
  2. Krip Hop Nation
  3. The Best of Krip-Hop Nation on CD Baby

4. Hip Learning

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good family!
Happy Black History Month to everyone…
even if you don’t feel that’s something you celebrate or even really acknowledge.
The simple truth, if you are on this planet,
chances are great that you have been impacted by African American people. There’s so much from the world of invention, science and culture. An unfortunately, that’s not discussed during the other 11 months of the year.

Today’s episode includes a recent piece for Gatewave Radio that shows how sometimes people are like pieces in a puzzle. If one piece is missing, that full puzzle can never be complete.

Following the Gatewave piece you will hear more from two brothers who in their own way are expanding Black history. And ,  making sure we know, that includes people with disabilities.

Are You ready?
[Audio: “I know you’re gonna dig this!”]
[RMMRadio Intro]

[Audio Mix: “En Vogue, Tony Tony Tone, Digital Underground and MC Hammer!]
TR:
Today, the question, Who is Joe Capers?

In the 1980’s and 90’s  artist’s like , En Vogue,
Tony Tony Tony,
Digital Underground,
MC Hammer
all had a few things in common.
They all were based in Oakland,
each made their way to the top of the charts
and Joe Capers.

In order to find out who is Joe Capers,
I spoke with two gentlemen from California’s Bay Area.
First up, Leroy Moore, originally from the east coast, raised in Connecticut and New York City.

LM:
I’m an activist, journalist and author. I also started what’s called Krip-Hop Nation with a K. It’s an international network of musicians with disabilities. My disability is Cerebral Palsy. I had it since birth.

I found out about Joe Capers when I was doing radio. KpFA out here  in Berkley. They had a radio show about people with disabilities. Joe Capers was blind African American man here in Oakland in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. He had one of the first accessible home studios at that time.
TR:
That’s a full recording studio in the basement of his home. All sorts of Oakland artists from MC Hammer to En Vogue and others you may have never heard of recorded at Joe’s studio

Leroy learned of another person who could help further answer the question… who is joe capers?

Naru:
I got a call from Leroy one day, he said “Naru you knew Joe Capers?” I was like yeah Joe?

TR:
Meet Naru Kwina , an Oakland California  based artist and teacher. .

Naru:
Joe was just the coolest guy with the biggest smile.
Joe played the base, the drums the keyboards so he was a master musician.

TR in conversation with Naru:
Was Joe doing more of the production? Was he just kind of the studio owner? What was he actually doing?
***

Naru:
Listen brother! His studio was called “J-Jams Studio: Joe did everything.  He had his mix board in Braille. He recorded, he engineered he mixed, he produced. He did everything that you could every possibly do in the studio. And he had the greatest ear I have ever been around and I’ve  been doing music over 40 years of my life. If you had one note or one little thing off he knew and he would call you on it. You know because he was blind you thought you’d  get away with stuff.

TR:
Joe was a professional and  demanded that those  in his studio acted the same. Naru, who is also a rapper, and went by the name Quick back then, recalls the time when Joe instructed him to memorize his lyrics and not use written notes in the recording booth.

Naru:
I’m in the booth one day and I had my little paper… like nah he ain’t gonna know… [laughs] he was like bruh, I could hear the paper rattling in the booth. And he sent me home. He sent me home and told me not to come back until I knew my lyrics.

So he was really dedicated to the music and that dedication is still with me and when I started having my own studio and production I always said nope don’t come in here with no paper, learn your lyrics.
[Laughs] So I got that from Joe!

TR:
Learning more about Joe, Leroy was surprised others didn’t know him.

LM:
Oh my god, this man needs to be recognized in Oakland because he really changed the Oakland sound of Hip-Hop and Soul.

TR:
During that conversation between Naru and Leroy the idea was sparked.

Naru:
When I said you know somebody outta do a film about Joe, he [Leroy] said why don’t you do it. I said man, I’m not a film maker man… he said but  yeah you know people. Reluctantly, I took that upon myself.

TR:
there’s lots involved in the process.

Naru:
I just contacted people who had cameras, mics and I had to contact all the artists. I literally probably have  6 or 7 hours of interviews. Everybody from MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Dwayne Wiggins from Tony tony Tone and other people who just knew Joe on a personal level or recorded with Joe… who were closer with Joe. Some of the more interesting interviews are from people you would never heard about who Joe touched in a particular  way. I could just say that he’s still here with us because all the people he touched and how many people still  think about Joe.

TR:
What began as a 15 minute documentary about the career of Joe Capers has morphed into much more. Running his own studio known as J-Jams wasn’t solely a business venture. This was back in the error when recording music professionally required significant investment.
Large studios charged hundreds of dollars an hour for studio time.

Naru:
Joe was changing like between $20 or $25 an hour r. The quality of sound was on par with anything coming out of these big studios. Joe knew the music that we were doing.  He understood it better than some of the engineers who were  in these big studios who were used to . doing rock music or folk and country. Joe  understood the R&B  and the Hip-Hop… the need for that bottom.

TR:
While the music might be about that base, for Joe it included the chance to offer help and encouragement.

Naru:
He was also a teacher. He would take young kids off the street from time to time. Some people were actually living with him. He would teach young kids  to engineer. Pretty much gave at least  two people I know roofs over their heads until they got their act together. They might have been out doing some street business and he didn’t really want that.  So he was trying to teach people another way to make money and be successful.

LM:
Joe Capers taught newly blind people independent living skills.

TR:
Making a documentary takes a lot of patience and research. It also takes creativity. Not only in the traditional sense as in the filming and writing, but also in the approach to resolving real  challenges that inevitably arise.

In order to make up for a lack of video footage of Joe and artists in the recording studio, original animation is being incorporated into the film.

And I am pleased to report that plans are included for audio description, making the film more accessible to those with vision loss.
When complete the film will be distributed by way of local public television, online, film festivals and live screenings.
Events developed around the release of the film will include a live concert focusing on emerging artists including those with disabilities. The concert will be an annual event taking place in August. in Oakland, this now has significant meaning.

Naru:
I wouldn’t say we, I helped but Leroy was the most instrumental…

LM:
Every August is now Joe Capers month in Oakland. That’s the first  Black Disabled man that’s been recognized  by the city of Oakland.

TR:
Here’s how you can help contribute to the success of this film

Naru:***
I’m working on some more funding  right now that’s why  it’s slow going. Everything’s been like a labor of love  out of my pocket. And Leroy put some money in as well.

I have a nonprofit, it’s called Alternative Minds Foundation and so all our stuff is going through there with this film. It’s a 501-3C so everything is a tax write off for people who want to do that.

LM:
www.alternative-minds.com

Naru:
And just later on just telling people about it when it comes out. That’s probably the best way you could help spread the word.

TR:
It sounds like these two are the right   choice for telling Joe’s story.
Leroy, through his work with Krip Hop nation, an international network of musical artists including
rappers, dj’s, producers, dancers, spoken word artists and others, all with disability; have already presented an award in recognition of Joe’s contributions. This award was presented to his family in Georgia.

Naru who had a personal relationship with Joe, while not as familiar with blindness, did gain what some may see as a simple lesson, but in fact is one that advocates have spent a life time trying to convey.

Naru:
My understanding about a person who was blind  is very limited and probably very skewed. Being around Joe was very refreshing. He was just a regular person, did regular things. Loved to joke and laugh, play tricks on you  and all of that stuff. He was just like we say, a regular Oakland Cat!
[Laughter fades out]

TR:
This is Thomas Reid,

LM:
Oh my God, this man needs to be recognized.

for Gatewave Radio.
Audio for independent living!

[Audio: Taken from Rap Battle on MTV
“There’s no charity in a rap battle!”, Sway]

TR:
The first time I thought about Hip Hop and disability was just prior to me losing my sight.  It was the fall of 2003, I believe it was MTV2 who was airing a rap battle. One of the contestants included young rapper by the name of Blind Fury.  I remember thinking his opponent was corny. He got stuck on the blind and disregarded the fury.

Blind Fury by my account was indeed better and should have won that battle.  He was more lyrical,
had a method for finding out visual details about his opponents and  he had multiple flows.  I realized the perception of Blind Fury’s talent was based on his disability.

Why would blindness limit the ability to rap? It’s vocal, what’s the big deal.
Yes, battle rap might require the ability to quickly gain information about your opponent, but Blind Fury was making that happen too.

Eventually Blind Fury took his place in history with his success on  BET’s 106 and Park’s Friday Freestyle.

[Audio: From Wild Style… “South Bronx Subway Rap”, Grandmaster Caz ]

The truth is people with disabilities have been involved with hip hop since its origins.

Leroy prior to his interest in rap was into rock and heavy metal.

LM:
Ozzie Osbourne, Metallica, ZZ Top…
***

TR:
He was then introduced to Rapper’s Delight, from the Sugar hill Gang.

[Audio: rapper’s Delight, Sugar Hill Gang]

LM:
Back then you bought the record and tried to learn all the lyrics.

This is gonna be cool!

At that time I had a walker . So picture me  with my walker going to the subway to the Bronx. Here I am this skinny guy with a walker and everybody around me has muscles,  break dancing and all that stuff.
I was just a writer back then . I dabbled in poetry.  I always told myself that I want to get in the cypher
TR:
If you’re not familiar  with the ciphers,  rappers would get together to rhyme  with one another. A time to test your newly written verse or maybe freestyle. Picture a circle of rappers passing the imaginary microphone to one another. It’s a meticulous process. You wait your turn. And you better be ready because you are going to get instant feedback on your 16 bars, or your verse. This is the place where you truly hone your skills.
While the ciphers were often about seeing who had the better skills, these
groups of mainly African American and Latino young men attracted the attention of the police.
Becoming more familiar with Leroy’s presence, he was soon declared “The  Watch Man”.

LM:
Because you’re disabled  you can watch out for the cops. The cops won’t do nothing to you . When the cops came  I used to yell you know, “po po”  and they used to scatter.  They’d just leave me there with my walker  and the cops used to get so pissed off.

TR:
Leroy played his position . He listened to more and more music.

LM:
When Run-DMC came out and did “Walk this Way”  and mixed rock with rap I was like alright this is it!

TR:
[Audio: It’s Like That, Run-DMC]

Right before I was scheduled to speak with Leroy, I read an interview he did with Daryl McDaniel’s better known as DMC of Run-DMC fame.

Now, when I heard [It’s Like That] as a young teenager, I lost my  [Censored Beep] mind!

TR in conversation with Leroy:
What was that like meeting DMC?

LM:
Oh my God, you know, I told him I grew up with you… he’s like no no we grew  up together!
For me it’s one of the highlights of my journalism career.

I saw that DMC had a book out about his depression. I also knew that back in I think the late 80’s he had a voice disability. I was like ok, DMC needs to know about Krip-Hop.

TR:
And more people need to know about Krip Hop.

In general, people are uncomfortable with disability. They don’t understand what to say to a person, how to act, maybe there’s some fear of even thinking about disability…
You know what I’m talking about because chances are you experienced it from at least one side or both.

Leroy never did participate in any of those early Bronx ciphers, but Hip Hop did get into him.

One important aspect of art and culture, is seeing yourself represented on the screen, on the canvas or stage and in the music.

As a black disabled man, that doesn’t happen that often.

LM:
My father had a huge Blues record collection and of course as we know Blues artists were blind… like Blind Willie Johnson.
[Audio: “It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, Blind Willie Johnson]

My father liked Robert Winters. Robert Winters had Polio  and walked with crutches…
[Audio: “Magic Man”, Robert Winters]

Wow,  there’s disabled Black  men that do music!

I think it played a really big part of where I am today with Krip-Hop.

This year is our 10th Anniversary and we have loose chapters…

TR:
These include countries within Africa, the UK, Germany and Spain.

[Audio: “Tales of the Krip-Hop”, Rob da Noize Temple]

With the network formed by Leroy and co-founder Keith Jones, the two being disabled activists, the focus continues to be on education and advocacy.

LM:
So we saw Krip-Hop as a way to bring awareness around the history of disabled musicians from the Blues to Hip-Hop and really educate and to push the Hip-Hop arena  around Ableism thinking around disability and to really say that disabled musicians have been here since the Blues.

TR:
Krip Hop Nation produces live events featuring all sorts of artists with disabilities including; dj’s, emcee’s, spoken word artist, dancers and more.
They have put out 4 CD’s including their latest.

LM:
Our 10th Anniversary CD just came out on CDBaby.com. It has Wonder Mike  from the Sugar Hill Gang, DMC from Run-DMC.

TR:
Two names you are probably familiar with, but some might be new…like;

George Tragic
[Audio: “Industry Epidemic”, George Tragic]

Wheelchair Sports Camp

[Audio: “Hard out Here for a Gimp”, Wheelchair Sports Camp]

Toni Hickman
[Audio: “Cripple Pretty”, Toni Hickman]

Rap music and hip hop culture ironically was birthed to some degree from
exclusion and isolation.
Young kids from the South Bronx who  didn’t have access to much
including instruments so turn tables and beat boxing became its  replacements.
Barred from the downtown discos and night clubs; the community centers and parks became their place to party.

[Audio: “This Can’t Be Life”, Prinz D]

Hip Hop is a culture that created an outlet for expression.
It’s common themes consist of stories about overcoming adversity,
rebelling against  oppression, yet the disability experience goes mainly unheard.

Obviously this isn’t exclusive to rap ,
but this music with its infectious beats and rhymes is perfectly suited for Communicating all types of information with
the intention of educating.
Whether changing commonly held beliefs or getting young students to recall all types of information.

[Audio: “Hip Science”, Naru Kwina]

That’s where Naru saw a way to use his love for hip hop and combine it with his love of teaching.

While working as an assistant teacher he had the challenge of trying to teach science to kindergartners.

Naru:
The kids were like “uh!”

At recess I heard them all outside, they were singing this song off the radio; the lyrics were horrible. [Laughs…]
But, man, they knew the whole song….
And a lightbulb went off like huh!…
If I could turn these lessons into music like that and get these kids excited I wonder if they would learn these lessons like they learned that song?

So I did a series of songs  about the body and gave them to my students, the CD’s to the parents  to take home and listen to and then we did some in class. I mean they caught it so fast, it was amazing.

And so I was just using it in class and people kept telling me you need to market  this… you need to do this you need to do  that…
I ended up applying for my first grant. It’s a grant called  the Creative Work Fund. It was a partnership with this organization called the African Scientific  Institute out here in Oakland. We got the grant. $35,000 grant. I was able to produce a play, the CD and pay a lot of people in my community as well to perform  and got other artist involved to  record with me. That’s about 10 years ago. I’m still doing it to this day. Outperforming , online sales. It became half of my career. I’m still an after school teacher but I do a lot of Hip Science. I enjoy it!

TR in conversation with Naru:
What was that reaction like from the other teachers? Were they cool with this or did you get any negative feedback from them?

Naru:
They were amazed. First of all I don’t think any of them knew I rapped. I don’t know why but I kind of kept that part of my life separate  from working with the children and never realized that was one of my strengths.
I should have been using it all along.
I never even thought it would be anything like that. I just wanted my kids to learn.

TR:
And it wasn’t just his kids that were learning.
Shortly after releasing the CD series he received a call from a company interested in the product.
Naru:
This company, it’s called Overbrook Entertainment and they wanted to buy [laughter] my whole business. I’m like what? I’m not selling my business. And it turns out that was Will Smith’s company. He was in town  in San Francisco  shooting the Pursuit of Happiness  and I don’t know how  he got my CD’s  but his kids were listening  to it. I never finished the negotiations because  they were talking about they wanted to have all the marketing … I wasn’t looking to sell. It was like  this  is my baby right here!

I was like wow, I know I’m doing something now if their trying to buy  my company man! [Laughs fade away…]

***

TR:
Doing something now, well that sounds like Naru’s default mode…
He creates music with his daughter who herself is a singer and rapper at the Oakland School for the Arts.

Naru:
Matter of fact, the first song she ever wrote with me  she was 3. It was called love is the thing It’s featured on Rosie O’Donnell Family is a Family documentary. We did a video for it and everything. It was real cool!

TR:
Over several summers, the two have written a book that’s now complete and he and his daughter are creating an accompanying soundtrack.

Naru:
It’s called Panela’s Journey. It’s a very fanciful tale of a young girl who’s struggling with her identity  in the world and  her place in the world and wondering why the world is the way it is. She seeks refuge in a fanciful place.
That  one should be coming out soon as well. We’re gonna have some augmented reality, apps that go along  with the book.

TR:
Continuing to put out his own music, his latest project should be out soon.

Naru:
Naru and Strong Soul and we are The Living Room Legends!

TR:
I have some links on the blog… Reid my mind .com if you want to check out more on both Leroy and Naru.

Salute to both of these brothers for the good work their doing, truly expanding the culture.

I don’t know about you but I feel like I have to start producing some    more content!

n that note, make sure you subscribe to this podcast.
Go to your podcast app of choice and search for Reid My Mind Radio… that’s R E I D.
You can also follow me on Sound Cloud soundcloud.com/t-Reid.

[Audio: RMMRadio Theme]
Thanks for listening.

Peace!

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Reid My Mind Radio: A Note on Notes on Blindness

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Resources:

 

Transcript

 

TReid:

 

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

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

Let’s Go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TReid:
Resolving some of these basic difficulties offers hope!

Until… the next even more difficult problem arises.

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

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

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

[Notes on Blindness Audio plays in the background.]

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

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

He struggles with feelings  of inadequacy as a father.

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

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

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

Take for example, the role and importance of adaptations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Thomas Reid;

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

TReid:
For Gatewave Radio

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

TReid:
audio for independent living.

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

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

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

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

This, was not that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Audio from Radio H]

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

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

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

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

Peace!

Reid My Mind Radio – Are Blind Conferences Fantasy

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

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

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

Unicorn with Sunglasses

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

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

 

 

Transcript:

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

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

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

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

Even today some things really stand out from the experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of these surveys are as recent as August 2016.

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

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

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

Successfully living lives shouldn’t be considered amazing.

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

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

PennyPushUps is now The RAE of Hope

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

PennyPushUps since 2013 has been my family’s awareness and fundraising campaign to spread information about Retinoblastoma, the childhood eye cancer that is responsible for my loss of both my eyes.

As the parent of a RB survivor it seemed right to try and do something to spread awareness.

 

The original idea was pretty straight forward; I’ll complete 100 push-ups a day and you sponsor me like a walk-a-thon just 1 cent per push-up… do the math!

 

The campaign turned into us sharing our story as well as others impacted by the cancer. Probably not a shock considering I enjoy telling people’s stories. The shock was I thought I could easily do this on video. Fortunately, I wasn’t 100 percent wrong. (Non visual video editing is possible… I do it!) Even more fortunately, my wife thought she could do a better job at the video production. She was right and she began to earn her keep and her name… Super Producer Marley Marl now formally known as Super Producer Marlett!

 

It became apparent that people weren’t really interested in my push-ups. One of the comments on the videos went something like; “Really interesting and important but why is there a guy doing push-ups.” LOL! I guess they didn’t listen to the introduction which summarized everything I just said about the campaign.

 

Logo for The RAE of Hope - a beam of light shining on to the earth from space

Focusing on raising awareness & empowering others while raising funds for World Eye Cancer Hope the name sort of wrote itself when we let the universe take over… The RAE of Hope, “Shining a light on a childhood eye cancer”.

 

We just finished airing our first full week of videos. We post them to our Facebook page “The RAE of Hope” and via YouTube.

 

I would love for you to come on over and “Like” our FB page or follow us on twitter @TheRAEofHope. The stories this year feature a bit more in the way of video production but the full story is told via audio. In fact, this year we incorporated closed captions available via YouTube, so we’re fully accessible – the way it should be!

 

Below is our playlist of all our videos so if this works properly you could pretty much bookmark this post and watch the latest video as we move through the month. We post new videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

 

Tell a friend and help us spread the word about Childhood Cancer it can truly save a life and sight!