Posts Tagged ‘Accessibility’

Reid My Mind Radio: Get On Board With The Blind Captain

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Ahmet in his kayak on a blue sea with a beautiful beach in the background.

Holman Prize winner Ahmet Ustunel says the water is his “happy place.” Hear all about his plans to be the first blind person to independently kayak from Europe to Asia… alone!

Plus the water being my Happy place means Ahmet and I have at least two things in common.

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

What’s up RMMRadio Family…

If you’ve been here before, welcome back! If you’re a new jack, come on in…
take your shoes off if you like, it’s
not mandatory in my house, but I do want you to be comfortable.

Let’s get it! All aboard!
All Aboard!

[Audio: Ship Horn]
[Reid My Mind Theme]

TR:
In this second of our three part series, we’ll meet another winner of the Holman Prize.

The prize is named in honor of James Holman.
Known as the Blind Traveler, Holman completed a series of solo journeys taking him to all inhabited continents.

Sponsored by the San Francisco Lighthouse $25,000 is given to each of the winners who are all legally blind and in their own way exhibit the adventurous spirit and attitude of James Holman

Ahmet Ustunel Our featured Holman Prize winner today like James Holman, is quite comfortable on the water.

I spoke to him via Facebook Audio while he was at home in San Francisco.

Ahmet:
I am originally from Turkey. I have been in the US for about 11 years now.
In my free time I like water sports. I like swimming, kayaking, fishing, sailing.

I’m totally blind since the age of two and a half or three due to Retinoblastoma.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet:]

I’m also a Retinoblastoma survivor Sir.

Ahmet:
Man, yeh, wow!

TR:

Retinoblastoma, is a rare childhood eye cancer that usually affects children before the age of years old.
By rare we’re talking about seven thousand children a year.

In the US and other developed nations the survivor rate is
around 90 percent with significant children losing sight.
In under developed nations, the rates are reversed and children’s lives are lost.

One common sign possibly indicating Retinoblastoma is a
white reflection in a child’s eye resembling that of a cat’s eye reflecting light.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to saving both lives and sight.

By the time Ahmet’s cancer was detected, doctors in Turkey
were out of options to help.

Ahmet:

One of my relatives was in Germany working at a children’s hospital as a janitor so my Gran Ma took me there and they treated me there with radiation an enucleation.

TR:

Enucleation or the surgical removal of Both his eyes, Ahmet returned home to Turkey now as a blind child.

Ahmet:
I was lucky in terms of having really supportive people in my family. I grew up in a really big family. Everybody had a different approach in terms of blindness.

I was the only blind person in the family and even in the town I guess. I didn’t know any other blind person.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]

Wow! How big of a town are you talking about?

Ahmet:
Maybe like ten fifteen thousand people.
Then I moved to Istanbul which is like fifteen sixteen million people and that actually changed my life.

TR:

Ahmet was aware of the contrasting dynamics in his family as it pertained to his blindness. Some were over protective while others wanted to help him do the things other little boys were doing.

Ahmet:
Ride a bike, tie hooks on a fishing line… avoid Sting Rays when you are swimming.

TR:

These early lessons in the ability to make something accessible played a role in his education and future.

After not being accepted in a mainstream school , Ahmet watched as his peers went to school at around 6 years old.

Moving to Istanbul his parents tried to enroll him in the only school for blind children. With a waiting list Ahmet wouldn’t begin until he was 8 years old.

Attending school during the week and returning home on weekends, Ahmet credits this school with teaching him valuable life skills.
After 5th grade he would attend a mainstream school.

Ahmet:
They send you back to mainstream school with no support. So you go back to school with no books and no teachers for the blind.

I was the first blind student in the school. I had to prove myself as a blind person.

TR:

At an early age, Ahmet took his education and future into his own hands.

Ahmet:
I was walking around with my Walkman and asking everybody you know, can you read me a page or two.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]

So you were basically learning to advocate for yourself at that young age?

Ahmet:

Oh yeah I mean absolutely I mean there was nobody to advocate for me.
I could choose to sit around and do nothing you know get a C and pass, but if I really do well then people and teachers and you know the principal will understand that I can do stuff and they will let me stay. And if I cannot do it
I will just withdrawal myself.

TR:
Ahmet when on to not only prove himself to the administration but gain the confidence in his own abilities.

He studied Psychology in college where he met his wife, a US exchange student.

But his early life exposed him to more than academics

Ahmet:

When I was in high school my school campus was right on the water, you can literally jump into the water from the campus.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]

So is that where the kayaking came in, from high school.

Ahmet:
No actually I did a lot of you know water related activities since my childhood as I grew up by Black Sea.

When I was in college I use to go rowing and stuff, but I haven’t started kayaking until I came here.

TR:
A Kayak is a very narrow boat like vessel. You steer and move the kayak with a paddle that has a blade on each end. They average about 25 to 35 inches wide and 12 to 19 feet in length.

Ahmet:

So let’s say you have a kayak nineteen foot long and twenty eight inch wide. You can go really fast but it will be a little tippy.

If it is twelve feet long and thirty five inches wide it will be really stable but you will go half as fast as the nineteen foot one.

It’s made of either corrugated plastic or fiber glass, there are some inflatable models.
So you sit in it. And you’re like really close to the water if you put
your hand your right there the water is right there. So you’re like maybe four inches above the water.

And you have a spray skirt which covers the kayak. So if you have a splash water doesn’t get in and if you flip over you are upside down but know water gets in.
So you have to pull the skirt off the kayak and get out of the kayak and flip it over and get back in. Or you can do the special row it’s called Eskimo row. Without pulling the skirt off you can flip the kayak back and keep paddling.

If you go paddling in cold water like San Francisco the water temperature goes below fifty degrees most of the time. So you don’t want to stay in that water more than 15 minutes. If you stay more than 15 minutes they say Hypothermia kicks in.

TR:

So what does Kayaking have to do with the Holman Prize?

[Audio from Ahmet’s Ambition]

You’re listening to Ahmet’s Holman Prize Ambition video where he explains what he would do with the 25 grand.

[Ahmet in Video……]

I have been kayaking for about 10 years and I always wanted to be able to paddle independently. If I win the Holman Prize I will equip my kayak with high and low tech devices that will enable me to navigate the kayak by myself.

TR:
His mission…

[Ahmet in video…]
My dream is to be the first blind person to paddle from Europe to Asia by crossing the Bosporus Straits.

TR:
You heard him correctly…
[Audio: Tape rewinding ]

[Ahmet in video…]
My dream is to be the first blind person to paddle from Europe to Asia by crossing the Bosporus Straits.

TR:
Exactly what is required for someone to non visually, independently navigate their way through the Bosporus Straits from Europe to Asia?

Let’s start with the Kayak

Ahmet:
The kayak I’m going to use has kind of like fins going down from the bottom of the kayak kind of like penguin feet. And so you can pedal with your feet if you want or you can just do a classical paddle strokes.

I want to keep my hands free because I’m going to use whole bunch of different technologies.

TR:

No surprise here the technology includes an iPhone.
Ahmet:

I’m going to use a G.P.S. app – Ariadni G.P.S.

You can mark way points and it will let you know when you get close to that way point.

It also has a compass with degrees and tell you how far you are from your way points. And then I have a talking audible compass. Similar thing it will tell you degrees and you will set you course before you start and it will tell you if you are off course.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]
and you will South your course before you start and it will tell you the field

Is that a separate device or is that an app?

Ahmet:

It’s a separate devise.

I will also have parking sensors or security cameras sensors.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]
Probably the same thing they use when the cars park themselves… right?

Ahmet:

Right, right right! You know when you’re backing out so if you are about to hit something it beeps.

I have a depth whisperer.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]

D E P T H?.

Ahmet:
Yes.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]

Ok at first I thought you said death (laughs) I was like I don’t like that one!

Ahmet:
Laughs… I hope not!

It tell you if there’s shallow water underneath the kayak. If you are about to hit a rock or something .

TR:

Ahmet does have to prepare for all scenarios.

There’s redundancy in his technology so if one device fails another can provide the same or just as useful information.

Not all the technology is off the shelf. While searching for the best methods for non-visually navigating his way through the water Ahmet
came across Marty Stone.

Marty is an AT&T I.T. Project Manager by day and after hours…

Marty:

I’m just one of those people that like to tinker with things.

TR:
Marty created a device that simply put:

Marty:
It was developed to allow blind people to get a kayak and race it in a straight line and then turn around and come back.

TR:

Reading about this device, Ahmet reached out to Marty who decided to expand on the original design.

Marty:
Now we’re working on something that not only includes a compass but gyroscopes, accelerometers, and three different axis.

So you get a lot better information as far as movement and heading. We’ve got a G.P.S. module that’s it’s married to along with Bluetooth. That’s going to be interfaced with a device Ahmet will be able to wear on his life vest that will have some buttons that either he can program in some coordinates or commands to the system that he’ll just wear a headset and it’ll talk to him.
It’ll tell him that in order to get from where he is to his next way point he needs to row in a certain heading direction. And if he gets off course the system will tell him to paddle more on the left or paddle more on the right. And when he gets to a way point it will let him know and then he needs to change his heading to another course direction and then it’ll tell him that.

TR:
With both equipment and technology accounted for, Ahmet needs a few more things to be fully prepared to reach his goal; first a plan..

Ahmet:
Istanbul is a city on both continents. And we have this Bosporus Strait that separates the city into two different parts. And the area I’m going to cross is about three, three and a half miles which is not a big physical challenge, but it has heavy traffic.

A lot of ships like tankers, containers, fishing boats, tourist boats, sailing boats you know all kinds of stuff.

These tankers are the size of multiple football fields. A small kayak would probably go unnoticed anywhere near such a large vessel. And getting out of the way even if you could see it would be virtually impossible.

Ahmet:
I don’t want to take my chance with those guys!

TR:
The Bosporus being such a very narrow waterway. Authorities closely control the traffic flow in each direction.

Ahmet:

I will listen to the traffic channel. Usually they have half an hour or forty-five minute break in between and I will do my crossing during that time.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]
Do you have to schedule this?

Ahmet:

Well, I talked to the Coast Guard in Turkey and they .. first they didn’t believe that I could do it and I showed my videos to them and they said ok do whatever, we don’t take any responsibility.
(Ahmet and TR Laugh)

There will be a really fast boat watching me from the shore. If something goes wrong they will come and pick me up in like few minutes.

I’m not worried about the physical challenge – I can paddle you know three miles right now, no big deal. Being an expert using the technology if the key because I don’t want to have hesitation right in the middle of the shipping channel you know. That could be fatal.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]

Why are you doing this man?

Ahmet:

I always loved the water, it’s my happy place. It’s the place I feel good about myself I feel free. I grew up in a fishing boat when I was a kid. My father was a fisherman. In the fishing boats I used to ask my Dad, you know can I steer the boat. he said yeh, you know, it’s water there’s nothing around you, it’s like miles and miles of open water. I used to take the steering wheel and just feel like I was the captain of the boat. And I was imagining like how can do something like this as a blind person as a blind kid. I always wanted to do something water related but my option were very limited in college.
If I grew up in the US I would have probably do something like marine biology.

I love what I am doing right now, I’m teaching special ed. It was always somewhere in my mind to do something water related and being able to do it independently. I have been thinking about it for a long time and I thought you know, it’s doable if I have the financial support I can do it.

TR:
I believe him. And I will admit it, partially because he is a fellow Retinoblastoma Survivor but mainly because he began as a child.
Think about the early lessons from his family helping him adapt all the different activities so he could participate…

[Audio in flashback Ahmet]

Ride a bike… tie hooks on a fishing line… avoid Sting Rays when you are swimming.

TR:
Then becoming his own advocate at such a young age and showing such determination to get an education.

I imagine these are some of the qualities seen by the Holman Prize judges who awarded Ahmet the 25 thousand dollars to complete his objective.

Ahmet:

You know, I’m not saving the world or I’m not creating job opportunities or changing the lives of blind people , but I think I’m doing something cool!

At least it might encourage younger kids to try new things. I see that my students, high school kids, they get discouraged in terms of finding alternative ways… I think it will help.

Everything could be adapted. Everything could be more accessible, that’s what I want to show. I don’t want it to be a success story of one person … he’s blind but he did that, he did this. It doesn’t mean anything you know one person did this.

[TR in conversation with Ahmet]

It’s cool, you focus on kids, you’re a teacher so that’s what you do, but for anyone, you’re pursuing your passion and that’s something that we forget in life. To be able to say you’re going to go and pursue your passion and have a dream and do it that is a universal thing that goes way beyond any sort of disability. There are people who are perfectly sighted, physical abled who are not pursuing their passion and we can all learn from that.

Ahmet:
Absolutely, yeh, I mean you know, it’s not a blind or sighted thing. It’s just I think being adventurous and take a risk take a chance.

TR:

That’s probably the final ingredient necessary to complete this mission. courage!

As a young boy on the fishing boat with his Dad, Ahmet dreamt of becoming the captain. It takes real courage to go for your dreams. I’d say Ahmet’s been captain of his ship for quite some time.

If you’re interested in wishing Ahmet safe travels or want to follow his progress, go and Like his Facebook page; Ahmet The Blind captain.

I’m Thomas Reid for Gatewave Radio,
[Audio repurposed: Ahmet ” do whatever, we don’t take any responsibility! ]

audio for independent living!

[Audio: Grand Funk Railroad… The Captain]

TR:
Being affected by the lack of accessibility is frustrating. Especially when you know the so called limitation isn’t real.

It could be a website or program that doesn’t work with a screen reader. That was a choice. Probably not an intentional one, but if made aware of the problem and
a solution isn’t sought well, that’s intentional.

Companies usually fall back on the cost and yes there could be a cost to updating a product, but there’s no real cost to changing how we think and design for the future.

Inaccessibility is frustrating when you know that the reason for technology is to make our lives better.

That was one of the reasons I wanted to reach out to Marty Stone, the developer creating an enhanced device to help Ahmet stay the course.

Marty:
You can never accuse me of being an optimistic person I’m afraid, but I do hope that we can save the world with science, I really do. The world needs a lot of help and a lot of people really don’t trust science or scientist it’s kind of shameful.

[TR in conversation with Marty]
This is what technology is all about.

Marty:
Helping people…

[TR in conversation with Marty]

Yes!

Marty:
Absolutely, the stuff I do for AT&T is great and all that but doing this other stuff… this is the best stuff in the world. Volunteering and doing this other work. Taking some of that Geek ology and helping other people’s lives.. make them better. Man that’s just the dandiest thing in the world.

TR:
We need more of a bridge between the users of technology and the programmers, engineers, scientists … nerds.
Marty:
It’s cool to be a nerd now, yeh…. laughs.

TR:

The opportunity to profile Ahmet and his story came at the right time for me personally.
For the past few years, September has been a pretty busy time here on the Reid Compound.
As a survivor and a family impacted by Retinoblastoma, my family and I have spent the past few years telling stories to bring awareness of this childhood cancer.

September is childhood cancer awareness month. This year unfortunately we couldn’t produce the stories so being able to bring you Ahmet and drop a little info about this eye cancer means a lot to me personally.

In fact, I’d encourage you to check out some of the prior videos we have produced and see how the cancer impacted their lives. While these are videos the visuals included are enhancements, the story is told verbally.
I’ll have some links on this episode’s post on ReidMyMind.com.

I’m always hopeful that a story like Ahmet’s when presented in the mainstream media is done the right way. By that I mean, find and convey his message to the wider audience. In addition to the accessibility and self-advocacy I’m always personally encouraged when I see others going for their dream.

Ahmet was already preparing for the dream. He just needed the funding. His fortune, the San Francisco Lighthouse created the opportunity. Ahmet was prepared. Some say that’s the definition of luck… being prepared for opportunity

That’s another take away for me, be prepared for that opportunity. Begin moving towards your dream.

I hope the Holman Prize winners; Ahmet and Penny are encouraging you the listener to go for your dream if you’re not already.

I hope they’re encouraging you to subscribe to this podcast just
about anywhere podcasts are distributed… Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In and Sound Cloud

The world is going to be buzzing with this next episode, featuring
the final Holman Prize winner. Don’t miss it.

Peace

Hide the transcript

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

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

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

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

Resources

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

Transcript

Show the transcript

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

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

[Reid My Mind Theme]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year’s Hackathon is September 9 & 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, talking laundry machines!

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR & Dad laugh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SD:
Santa Clause is getting some hints!

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

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

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

[Tr in conversation with JD:]

And accessibility too, right?

JD:
Yeah!

[Tr in conversation with JD:]
Laughs!

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Thomas Reid for Gatewave Radio

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

Audio for independent living!

TR: RMMRadio Outro

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

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

I can really appreciate this story for several reasons.

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

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

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

People who internalize that idea and restrict themselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace!

Hide the transcript

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

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

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

Resources:

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s start with reading documents.

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

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

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

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

[Audio App in process]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have multiple sheets to read, simply repeat.

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

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

To do this, I switch the channel to products.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Audio: Action Movie sound design]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peering into the future I can see;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Audio description included in parens)

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

The processing sound becomes a sound with Claps…

(We see a darkened stage)

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

Chorus:
Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

(Thomas rips off his shirt!)

Verse:
Download the app on my iPhone

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

Checking out things all around my home

(Thomas dances on stage)

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

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

(Thomas spins and drops into a split)

Chorus:
Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

Microsoft Seeing AI
Helping people see without their eyes

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

Ends with the app’s processing sound.

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

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

[Audio: RMMRadio Outro]
TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – 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!


Subscribe & Follow


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!

Hide the transcript

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!