Posts Tagged ‘Blind’

Reid My Mind Radio – Meet Holman Prize Winner Baking Blind

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Penny of Baking Blind in her garden.

Penny of Baking Blind, in the kitchen.
What would you do with 25 G’s?

That question was posed to all legally blind people brave enough to submit their video to YouTube explaining exactly how they would use the money. It’s a contest sponsored by the San Francisco Lighthouse called The Holman Prize.
Today in this 3 part series you will meet the winners and learn the answers to…

  • Who is Holman?
  • Who is Penny Melville-Brown? * What is Baking Blind?

I got the answers… just hit play and hear how this winner is bringing “more than buns!”

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Today I’m bringing you the first of a three part series. And you know what they say about three right…

[Reid My Mind Radio Theme]
TR:
You’ve probably heard of well-known explorers like Magellan, Columbus, Marco Polo? What about Holman; James Holman.

Born in 1786 Holman went on to join the British Royal Navy and became lieutenant in 1807. In 1810he was struck by an illness that first afflicted his joints, then finally his vision.

By 25 years old he was totally blind. He eventually decided to go on to study medicine and literature.

Holman became an adventurer, author and social observer who circumnavigated the globe. Undertaking a series of solo journeys that were unprecedented visiting all inhabited continents.

Holman eventually was forgotten.

In 2006, Jason Roberts published the award winning biography
A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler.  

Today is the first in a three part series where we meet the three winners of the Holman Prize.

Brought to you by the San Francisco Lighthouse, 25,000 dollars is given to each of the three legally blind winners. Each in their own way exhibit the adventurous spirit and attitude of James Holman

All applicants had to create a 90 second video describing their ambition and describe how they would use the money.

A team of judges all of whom are blind reviewed each video and selected three winners.

Let’s begin with one winner in particular, who you will notice, has several things in common with James Holman. Plus, I was taught, ladies first!

PMB:

Well I’m Penny Mellville-Brown and I live in Hampshire in the United Kingdom. My first career was in the Royal Navy.

[TR in conversation with PMB]
Why did you want to enlist in the Royal Navy in the first place?

PMB:
I needed a complete change of life.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
What were you doing prior to that?

PMB:

Well I was at university so I completed my degree. I done a postgraduate qualification. I was due to get married the following year and my fiancé was killed in a car accident so I decided that I needed a complete change.

[TR in conversation with PMB]
Oh, I’m so sorry!

PMB:
I applied for every job that was going that looked vaguely interesting and I ended up in the Royal Navy. think in those days the women had their own service so I actually joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service WRNS) and twenty seventeen is the Centenary of their formation.

in the late ninety’s the women were integrated with the men so although I started off as a third officer which is the same as a sub left tenant, by the time I left I was wearing navy gold braid and had naval rank. I was what was in those days called the secretariat officer so I was doing NATO intelligence. I was doing home defense war planning, corporate public relations in the Ministry of Defense. Running the naval units in the universities and then I literally sat next to somebody at lunch and they said. “OH what we need is a female barrister.” I said, “I could do that.”

TR:
A barrister is a lawyer- mostly specializing in courtroom advocacy and litigation.

The US equivalent;

PMB:
Think of me as Tom Cruise…

[Audio: A Few Good Men Starring Tom Cruise & Jack Nicholson]

PMB:
Laughs, But not too much!

and then within about a year of qualifying my eyesight started deteriorating. I struggled on for about a year or two and went on to do another job. And then it all got pretty critical and I was having to lose the sight in one eye or actually I was going to die so I gave up that I. Went back to work in the Royal Navy and then the other eye started going and then I got promoted but by that stage I probably wasn’t driving. I used to be on one of those great big old tri-cycles. Do you know what those are? You know a three wheeler bike and that’s how I used to I used to cycle around the dockyard the naval base, terrifying everybody.

In the end it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to carry on a really successful career in the Navy so I was medically discharged as a war pensioner

## TR:
Penny’s vision loss was caused by Uveitis, a form of eye inflammation affecting the middle layer of tissue in the eye wall known as the uvea.

Possibly another connection to James Holman.

One similar trait that appears pretty certain

PMB:
OH! I Can do that!

TR:
That’s right! A can do attitude.

Her response to going blind?

PMB:
I think I was really lucky.

Firstly because the onset of my vision impairment took probably four or five years. That meant that I could adapt to it to some extent. I think it’s really difficult to do the adaptation. At least I had a bit more time rather than having some major injury which of course some of the naval veterans and other veterans have but I think so important was that I was able to work in the Royal Navy for probably three or more years with
very little vision and that proved to me that I could still do as good a job as anyone else. Just because I was blind was completely immaterial.

[TR in conversation with PMB]
Did that take some advocacy on your part or were they just open to that?

PMB:
They were pretty supportive.

You will hear that I’m quite a determined person

[TR in conversation with PMB]
Oh yeh, I can hear that already!

TR & PMB:Laughs!

## TR:
Although Penny knew she could work and be productive and
sought assistance in planning for her future,
service organizations weren’t as helpful as expected.

PMB:
They didn’t know what to do with me. One just kept taking me out for lunch which was very charming but pretty useless.

TR:
A can do attitude means,
you find or create the solution.

Penny decided helping others with disabilities gain employment
was a worthwhile goal that she could work towards fulfilling.

PMB:so actually I took my uniform off one day and two days later I set myself up as a disability consultant and within a year I’d set up Disability Dynamics.

So I spent lots of time helping employers with employment policies around disability.

TR:
Serving on boards like the UK’s equivalent of the IRS and working with other governmental agencies was one aspect of Disability Dynamics, Penny’s disability consulting company.

Working directly with people with disabilities, Penny found real joy and success helping others gain their independence.

PMB:
One of the things I found most successful and most rewarding was helping people to start their own businesses and become self-employed. It means that they’re in control of their work where they work how they work when they work so that they can manage employment alongside a health condition. We had you know hundreds and hundreds of people contacting us for help and turned out lots and lots of businesses everything from a funeral director, people who did dog walking, somebody was training microlight pilots all sorts of things. Really inventive different ideas often built from their own hobbies that they turned into a
business that made them feel great again; independent, financially not reliant on the state and usually improve their health and it particularly improved their family relationships.

PMB:

TR:
Seeking a way to reach more people. Penny began with an idea sparked from something she enjoyed.

PMB:
I always make Christmas hampers for my friends and family.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
A hamper to me is where we put dirty clothes! Laughs!

PMB:
Here we would call that a dirty linen basket.

TR:
A hamper simply put, is a gift of food.

PMB:
I was making at least fifty little Christmas cakes to go into these hampers and I thought well why don’t we video that. And just see whether this has got any legs whatsoever. My brother had some spare time so he came up and videoed it and I’d made some little Pewter Christmas cake decorations, so we popped those on the top and that’s how Baking Blind got started.

TR:
This was late November early December 2016.
Posting the videos to YouTube, Penny’s aspirations were more than sharing recipes.
PMB:
I was looking for something to demonstrate to others that just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you can’t do stuff.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
Let me stop you…

PMB:
Sure.

Me sitting on the board well perhaps twelve other people see that. Me delivering projects well perhaps five hundred people might know that. Yes, thank you for spotting that. That is, that is what it’s about. It’s getting real traction in the much wider population.

TR:
Putting yourself in the public can risk being seen as seeking attention.

Penny is very clear to note that this isn’t about her. She’s only 1 person who is blind, 1 person with a disability.

PMB:
there are loads more of us with all those capabilities who just want to do a good job, integrate into society, have a place in their communities rather than sit at home and be lonely and miserable.

TR:
That’s one of the objectives of the Holman Prize; challenging the misperception that people who are blind are limited to four walls.

Contestants vying for the 25,000 prize had a wide range of goals including establishing businesses, providing technology for others and even becoming president of their country.

PMB:
And there was me just saying Oh I think I want to cook some buns you know.

[TR in conversation with PMB]
But it’s so much more than buns! How exactly are you going to fulfill your mission using the Holman Prize.

[Audio: Up tempo music begins…]

PMB:
I’m going out to San Francisco to have an orientation with the lighthouse team and then we’re trying to line up some cooking opportunities while I’m in
San Francisco.

I’m then going to whiz down to Costa Rica where I’m cooking in it’s called the Jungle Culinary Adventure Restaurant and we’re toying with
the idea of whether we could do dining in the dark down there. And I said well actually I think he I want him cooking in the dark.

Then I’m going back to Virginia Beach and I particularly welcome anybody in the Virginia Beach area to get in touch who might like to do some cooking with me. They don’t have to be blind it could be anybody. And I’m looking for professional chefs to.

then I’m coming quickly back to the U.K. really just to do
the washing and catch up on some sleep.
Then I’m whizzing over to Chongqing, n China where I’m going to be working with the Rotary Club there who are already running a project to help local visually impaired people.

Then I’m going down to Australia to a place called Chioma where I’m hoping to cook with a local M.P. who happens to be visually impaired. And there’s also somebody who does bush tucker; So when you’re out in the outback where do you get
food from but from the bush and then you turn that into something my fingers are crossed edible. Not too wriggly and creepy crawly.

Then I’m going down to Melbourne and I’m already linking up with another Blind Cook down there.

Then I’m going on from there to Malawi and then back to the U.K.

And then I’ve got a whole program of more activities back in the U.K. particularly exploring some of the things that James Holman and might have understood and recognized. Because of course I worked in the Naval Base, the dockyard and many of the buildings he might have known. His ship was just on the other side of the water Portsmouth here in Hampshire.

We’re going to make videos all the way through. So I’m hoping to publish a video every week for a year. And they’ll be blogs and of course all the recipes.

TR:
What would you do with 25,000 dollars?
I’m sure there are lots of ideas out there, but
ideas aren’t worth anything by themselves.

I’d imagine that , contestant’s ideas were only a part of how the winners were determined.

I think it’s more like investing in the person. You want someone who can show the ability to see things through.

[TR in conversation with PMB]

A lot of people have the idea , but then they don’t make that step. How did you make the step?

PMB:
I did say I was a bit determined didn’t I.

But I think I’m also quite a creative person so I’m always looking for that sort of added different approach

TR:
Cooking is just one of Penny’s creative outlets;

In addition to making jams and preserves, she does pottery, flower arrangements. Hammers out crafts and more using Pewter –
a metal mixture that includes mainly tin.

PMB:
I design buildings as well. I’m sitting in my conservatory which I built as a birthday present to myself. I had it very clear in my head what I wanted and I have this great architect. We designed it absolutely right down to where the power sockets would go on the walls from my head. Then he built me a little cardboard model so I could check that he done it right and now I’m sitting in it.

Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you can’t use your hands really
well.

TR:
Or your legs, your mind… you get the point!
Unfortunately, not everyone believes that’s true.

And too often those who lose their vision internalize these misbeliefs.

Yes, adjusting to blindness or any disability can cause depression. This could lead someone to feel their creative lives are no longer an option.

Penny offers additional insight and an approach to slowly breaking through.

PMB:

Much more of it is about the social isolation. The fact they can’t work. They’re sitting at home, they’re poorer, their health is suffering with that extra depression.

Their family and friends may be supportive but they still find it really difficult interacting across the broader community. yet underpinning all of that here is huge frustration determination motivation and if you can just tap into that and help them explore that, they’re away. And so I think people can convince themselves that they’re not creative the not. Aspirational because it’s a safe place to be. But actually once you can show them that you can achieve lots of things without risking safety too much you know we all need to know that you know life is a secure as we can make it. That all sorts of great things
are out there.
[TR in conversation with PMB]

That place to me, where I think they think they are, is a very scary place to me.

PMB:
Well status quo bias is where you believe that where the condition that you’re in at the moment is safe and secure even though that condition may be quite miserable.
And even if people demonstrate to you the benefits of making change you still resist it because you have that bias towards the status quo.

Here in the U.K. if you’re unemployed you may be in receipt of government benefits to help you live and people. feel that that safe and secure because at least they know they’ve got some income for the foreseeable future. And to break through that. Into it explain to the matter if you’ve got a job you’d be happier if family be happier your health would be better and have more money. It’s still getting across that big jump. Which is quite tricky for them and so the answer is you take in very small steps very small incremental steps so that at no stage are they having to make a huge decision to make that break from benefits into work. You help them make it gradually so that they’re not being faced with huge risk. The driving force behind I’m going to stick where I know I’m safe is very important but let’s just expand that area of safety so that it’s a bit more ambitious in the longer term.

[TR in conversation with PMB:]
Yeh, just dip the toe… dip the toe in the water!

PMB:
Yeah

TR:

That moderate approach to adjusting can allow a person to slowly realize what they once viewed as a cost of vision loss could
prove to be a real benefit. Something I had to learn myself.

PMB:
people miss that huge advantage of being slightly vulnerable relying on somebody else and the benefit you get out of it. The number of delightful people that I meet and the bonding you get supportive bonding you know it’s a joy. I travel down perhaps I’m Darbyshire and they’ll be eight people that I will meet on that journey all of the other people traveling just passed their ticket to the ticket collector and don’t speak to anyone. I’ve had all that delight in that person interaction all that way.

[TR in conversation with PMB]
For me I know for a long time I was thinking that the first way, just passing my ticket and being quiet was the best way. And I have to remind myself that no this new way actually probably is the best way.

PMB:
the benefits are huge.

TR:
Baking Blind is a winner of the Holman Prize because Penny as a history of making things happen. That’s just one reason to be a fan of Penny & Baking Blind. Plus there’s that ability to adapt, the desire to create using what she has not wanting for what was lost, going for big goals like changing how the public views disability.

And of course the laugh!

If you’re interested in cooking with Penny go ahead and drop her an email at Penny@BakingBlind.com. Which is where you can find more about Penny, follow her journey and of course grab some recipes.

I’m Thomas Reid for Gatewave Radio

[Audio:
PMB: oh I could do that.]

Audio for independent living.

RMMRadio Outro

When I learned about the Holman Prize I actually
thought about entering. the truth is I really didn’t have an independent ambition. I wanted to tell the stories of the winners.
I wanted to have real access to the winners to shadow their progress and really see the inner workings of their projects and
them as individuals.

But who knows, maybe the future has something like that in store.
For now, I have Face Time, I have Skype and if that’s what I have to do then it’s all good baby!
Isn’t that the Holman spirit!

Penny, like Holman, could have easily taken that Royal Navy Pension and sat in her chair and found some other way to entertain herself.

Like Penny, my response to that…

[Audio: Penny Laughs]

Sorry it’s just such a great hearty laugh I couldn’t resist.

Make sure you visit and subscribe to Baking Blind on YouTube.
All the links are on the blog post accompanying this episode on Reid My Mind.com.

Next time you are going to hear about
a man who is planning on Kayaking alone from Europe to Asia. And no he’s not crazy!

And then, we’re going to Uganda, well via Skype for now
to visit with a gentleman who already has the country buzzing with
how he’s directly changing the lives of others who are blind.

Make sure you subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss these episodes.

Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio, Sound Cloud!

And if you like what you hear on the RMMRadio, give a brother some love by leaving a review wherever you download the show … especially Apple Podcast.

You know they say, Podcasters need love too!

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 – Abigail Style Means Business

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Abby is an illustration of a stylish fashion icon who walks in confidence, handbag in one hand, white cane in the other and her exquisite hairstyle floats about her head. She is wearing heels with a dress made of individual panels resembling overlapping banana leaves. The dress panels gently curve from her nipped in waist to just above the knee.
Who is Abigail Style?

Past guest of the podcast and fashion blogger Steph McCoy of Bold Blind Beauty is here to tell us all about Abigail. Plus she shares some life lessons on creating a business and working towards goals.

Now, here’s what you should accomplish;
1. Listen to this episode
2. Tell me about your goals and any methods or tools you use to stay on track… use the comments or email reidmymindradio@gmail.com
3. Subscribe to the podcast if you aren’t already…
4. Tell a friend by Sharing the episode on your favorite social network!

Resources:

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
What’s good family?

So the other day I’m in the park with my family.
I strike up a conversation with someone nearby and introduce myself.
They ask if I’m the host of Reid My Mind Radio!

I couldn’t believe they knew me.

Then all of a sudden another person standing near us over hears the conversation and
says they too are listeners…

Next thing you know the entire park breaks into this impromptu celebration of Reid My Mind Radio!

Fortunately I had my recorder going…
just listen to this…

[Audio: fourth of July Fireworks]

I’m still riding the high from that experience!

Raven: Uh, Daddy we need to talk

TR:
Talk about what?

[Reid My Mind Theme Music]

SM:
Bold Blind Beauty in a nutshell is all about real beauty transcending barriers.

TR:

Say hello to Steph McCoy.
If you’ve been riding with the podcast for a while you may remember Steph.
Some time ago I featured her on the podcast talking all about her blog BoldBlindBeauty.com.

SM:
I started with the purpose of helping blind women with makeup and fashion style beauty that type of thing because as a society we kind of think that people who are blind or vision impaired aren’t concerned with these types of things. And we know now that’s totally not true.

I’ve always been an advocate. I’m 56 years old. It took me about 54 of those years to figure that out. It’s who I am. I’m an advocate. I advocated on behalf of my son who had A.D.H.D. I advocated on behalf of my mother who has a physical disability. It became more difficult when I began losing my sight and then subsequently became legally blind. Now I had to advocate on behalf of myself. It’s easy to do this for other people but for yourself it’s a little different.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Has blogging, because it’s related to the vision loss, has that in any way impacted your adjustment process?

SM:
Yeah that’s a good question Tom. I actually do think that it’s helped it’s helped exponentially not just myself but others because blogging is hard. It takes real dedication. It’s not just about the writing. It’s the writing and researching it’s taking photographs it’s interacting with people, connecting with people. And every time I would get to the point where I thought you know I can’t do this anymore I just wanted to give up I would get either a phone call or text message or somebody reach me through Facebook or some other means and it would be a blind woman who would say you know I was just reading your blog and I just want to say that it’s so helpful to me, it’s such an inspiration and I love what you’re doing and it’s been people like that that have kept me going.

TR :

Steph said she got a late start on moving on after blindness due to
her Retina Specialist sugar coating the fact that she was legally blind.

A more pragmatic person Steph was ready to just move on with her life.

SM:
Hope is a wonderful thing. It’s awesome, we need hope. But at some point you have to be able to deal with the real issues so you can move on. I had to move on so I could know where I was going to go as far as my job as far as where I was living what I was going to do down the road and I thought
like he was sort of hindering that. Had he been onboard earlier and a supporter of the things that I wanted to do like when I suggested to him that I wanted to learn how to use the white cane and he said oh no you don’t want to do that. That would be a tragedy. See that’s in a sense the negative connotation of how people perceive blindness.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
He said that would be a tragedy? Is that what you said?

Yes! Yes, he said it would be a tragedy.
[TR in conversation with SM:]
Wow! Wow!

SM:
Here I am, trying to be proactive I want to continue with my life and I have this doctor a professional who I am supposed to be looking up to telling me that it would be a tragedy to learn how to use the white cane

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Wow!

TR:

She may have not gotten that quick start, but Steph is definitely in the race.

She’s recently launched her business which began with one person. Well,
fictional person, named Abigail Style.
fictional person, named Abigail Style.

SM:
Abigail, is my white cane icon. She’s a fashionista a real fashionista. I see her in my mind years ago I just didn’t have the ability to create her so a couple years ago I put out some feelers on the blog and a couple people recommended different artists`. I connected with one and I was telling her what I was thinking that the white icon looks like. She drew a couple of sketches for me. We settled on one and voila Abigail was born. As a matter of fact I recently just posted her back story on the blog. She’s just a real go getter.

Abigail is a homanation of ability and Nightingale – small little brown bird that has a beautiful singing
voice. She carries a white cane in her right hand, she has her handbag in her left hand. She has this really snazzy looking dress that sort of resembles banana leaves. They look like they overlap. It’s nifted at the waist, it sort of blossoms out. She’s a little bit hippy(laughs). She wears heels and she has this really cute hair style that was very unique. It just sort of floats in the air. It’s not a real structured sort of hair style. We wanted her to be the unique individual that she is; so she looks unique, she has a unique story, she’s a unique person, but she appeals to anybody not just women, but men and children I mean anybody.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Is this you alter ego?

SM:

When I first started I thought she was, but as story developed I realized that she is really who I would aspire to be. She knows no fear. She’s
adventuresome, she’s traveled the world. All the things that I would like to do Abigail has done and is doing.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Ok, so she’s Spider Man and you’re Peter Parker.

SM:
Yeah!

[Both laugh… fades out]

TR:

Both Steph and Abigale mean business.
Abigail Style is the E-Commerce component of Bold Blind Beauty.com.
Currently selling slogan printed apparel and novelties like
T-shirts, mugs and other items with messages tailored to the blog’s audience.
Messages like…
Blind Chicks with Attitudes
Hey, I’m walking here
And the Bold Blind and Beautiful series as in …
My Mom, My Sister or My Friend is Bold Blind and Beautiful

And for the men?

SM:
I actually have a few men’s t-shirts as well. The message isn’t targeted to men it’s targeted to women. Like if you’re a father of a young woman who is blind or visually impaired it would say my daughter is Bold Blind and Beautiful or my sister is Bold Blind and Beautiful.

It didn’t occur to me until just a few weeks ago I had all these things designed and I actually did the designs, I didn’t have one thing that said Bold Blind Beauty. I have my URL on the bottom of all the designs but nothing that says Bold Blind Beauty. I am actually working with a designer who is helping me with that so we will be carrying some products that do say Bold Blind beauty.

blind
I want to extend the product line beyond T-Shirts, mugs and tote bags. I would like to do cosmetics as well. As a matter of fact I recently implemented
a steering committee and they’re helping me with increasing our product line. We would love to begin carrying some apparel and jewelry and actually some things that are designed by blind women. I think we’re going to try to partner with other companies to get our brand out there. With Abigail, we call her Abbi. If a company has something that would be appealing to our demographic we would obviously want to have the Abigail brand on that particular item and then we would offer it up through the store. Some of the things that we’re thinking about doing, one thing in particular, the white Cane. We know that
there’s a lot of controversy over adapting them. My philosophy on the white cane is it is a personal choice. I love my white cane. I go everywhere with it but
I also wanted something that was sort of, that spoke to me. So I got a cane from Ambutech. Instead of the red section at the bottom it has a green section. So one of the things I was thinking about for Abigail Style was having a blingged out white cane. Not the entire cane but maybe just the handle with some crystals or the emblem. There’s so many different ways you can go with it. You know just to have fun. Women like to be pretty, they like to feel pretty so why not have a cane that represents that. I have one that’s green and yellow.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Oh, is it the whole cane or just the bottom?

SM:
I just have the bottom section is green and I think my handle is yellow or it might be vice versa. Even the tip, the tip is a different color. Now the rest of the cane I kept it white but you can design it the way you want to.

TR:

Starting a business for anyone can be a fantastic idea.
For people with disabilities who experience 50 to 70 percent unemployment,
generating income from a business venture can greatly enhance their lifestyle.

That business could be a side hustle, a part time gig supplementing other earnings or income.

This venture, for Steph is more than that.
She’s really going for it – working with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services for
several years to develop what has become Abigail Style.

SM:

they require that you have a business plan and you know all these different things and they will help you out you know financially with them as sort of
like a matching gift type deal. The person I was working with felt that the blog by itself wasn’t a business, but in my mind in my heart and soul it was. I just couldn’t get it to how they wanted it to be. But now that I’ve brought in these other people, I have a business plan I’m constantly revamping it, we can see how it is what I envisioned it to be and is gonna be bigger.
their IT we
What had to happen we had to narrow the focus because before it got to where it is today you know I was sort of all over the map. It makes sense now and it’s making sense to the customers because they realize they know that it’s Bold Blind Beauty. If they want to purchase something through the E-commerce store they go to Abigail Style, but they’re doing it through Bold Blind Beauty.

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Outside of the fact that you created that character around it why didn’t you just call the store Bold Blind Beauty?

SM:
Yeah I had wanted to do that but when I was setting it up I already had the .com for the blog and I couldn’t do that for the store. Now I could have done some other things but in my mind at the time I was thinking Abigail is the icon and she’s the reason for the store and again I was working with the bureau and they were telling me you know the business you have to have something you have to make money. So in listening to them I went and main the store Abigail Style after this character Abigail when I just should have went according to what my heart was telling me in the first place.

[TR in conversation with SM:]You’re right the whatever product that is exactly what it is so I started on one path once I got to a certain point I realized OK I have to put two things
Either way you make it work.

You kind of said how you were trying this trying that and now you’re getting more where you it’s starting to kind of narrow down and you’re really starting to focus in and get a better sense of the direction and where you’re going. Would you change that if you could go back or is there anything about the process where you think it was helpful. It seems like you just kept going and you figured it out.

SM:

You’re right. The word process is exactly what it is. So I started on one path once I got to a certain point I realized ok I have to tweak some things .

At one point, I forgot to mention, because the bureau was helping me I had implemented an image consulting business because that’s what they wanted
but it wasn’t what I wanted it was what they wanted. And I had to come home after a year, a whole year was put into this with the business plan and everything and after a year I sat down and thought about it. I scrapped it and went back to doing what I was doing and I tweaked it.

I think the moral is to go with your heart, but don’t stop. Just keep going. Just adjust as you need to. You’ll figure it out.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

If I tell you it’s not if it’s not right. The I.D.R. now is it to strive for perfection it’s just do the best I can with what I have. But they’re doing it through both
Yeah, I think we stop ourselves a lot and I know I’ve done that in the past and that’s one thing I realize. It’s best to just keep it moving, man, just do! Whatever it is just do!

SM:
And it’s ok if it’s not right.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

Right!

SM:
The idea now isn’t to strive for perfection. It’s just do the best I can with what I have.

TR:

Although she’s never started a business before,
Steph has worked in different businesses and corporations.

She made use of her technical experience and setup the blog and e-commerce sites herself.
Yet she realizes, she doesn’t have to do it all alone.

That can be really good advice for anyone.

Since we’re talking advice…

[TR in conversation with SM:]
Give some fashion advice for the summer. (Laughs!)

SM:
White is always in – that’s my favorite color for the summer. Everybody who knows me knows I love black. Even in the summer I love wearing black, but this year I have one pair of white jeans so I can wear that at least one time a week… I love them. Strappy shoes sandals. I’ve been seeing a lot of velvet. Like velvet handbags, velvet shoes. And thy’re for summer which is kind of interesting because I’ve always thought of velvet as sort of a winter time type material.
I like trends, I follow trends but I’m not really into trends I am more about styles.

TR:

Listening to Steph’s experience building Bold Blind Beauty & Abigail Style
you can pick up some valuable lessons applicable to more than just business.

Choosing to accept a request to volunteer time and participate in a presentation on
the subject of fashion and beauty care for women with vision loss
directly led to the development of Bold Blind Beauty and the business component.

Her passion for the subject inspired her to really pursue the opportunity.
She put in time to do the research and then all that came after.

She made mistakes. So what? She persisted!
Through that she learned that pursuing her own goals can create a circular flow of goodness.
She inspired others and that flowed right back to her when she needed it the most.

many of us sit on our dreams and never really work towards realizing them.

It doesn’t have to involve starting a business.
Maybe it’s pursuing a new career, hobby or relationship.

Whatever it is…

SM:

I think the moral is to go with your heart, but don’t stop. Just keep going. Just adjust as you need to. You’ll figure it out.

TR:
Not everything is easy to figure out.

Fortunately, Subscribing to this here podcast is simple… even I can do it!
We’re on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio, Sound Cloud.

And for the final word…

SM:
the website is Boldblindbeauty.com

It’s about walking boldly with confidence, transcending barriers changing the way we perceive one another.

[TR in conversation with SM:]

That sounds like a good way to finish it off right there Steph.

SM:
giggles!

[Audio: Reid MY Mind Outro]

TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript


Disclaimer: The white cane icon “Abigail B. (Abby)” is copyrighted and was specifically created for, and is the property of, Bold Blind Beauty and Abigail Style, LLC and is not a replacement for the nationally recognized white cane icon.
Abigail (Abby) and her backstory are a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Reid My Mind Radio – Talking Nomad Food & Feedback

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

A bit more on our last episode’s guest Jim Paradiso, the Blind Nomad. Since we’re going to discuss some of the feedback received from the episode I thought it made sense to include some conversation around food!

If you haven’t’ listened to that episode titled Fears of a Blind Nomad you should do that before listening to this one.

Better yet, scroll down to the different ways you can subscribe to the podcast!

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good family.

Today’s sort of a first for Reid My Mind Radio.
We’re going to talk about some feedback from the last episode Fears of A Blind Nomad.
Which will include a bit of food talk. Get it!
Talk about Feedback… food talk!
Ok, I like making connections.
[Audio: All You Can Eat, The Fat Boys]
[Audio: RMMRadio Theme]

TR:
I think most people want feedback on things they produce. If you write a book, you want to know whether or not readers enjoyed the story, found the information useful or gained some insight into something they never knew about. What you wouldn’t want is a barrage of comments that are meant to be hurtful or just straight criticism as opposed to constructive critiques.

I don’t usually get too many comments on episodes. There are often a few Likes on Sound Cloud and Facebook and Twitter, but not much more.

I personally thought Fears of A Blind Nomad touched on a lot of issues and would stir up some sort of an emotion in the listeners. I especially thought those adjusting to blindness would have things to say. I’m not sure why but that’s not often the case. I sometimes hope that a topic would stir up some conversation around these issues that those adjusting to blindness have to grapple with. Then again, I’m sure people aren’t that comfortable having such conversations in public.

Fortunately, as a member of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind which is a peer network of people impacted by vision loss, I asked for some direct feedback.

Some reacted to the ideas, others reacted to Jim and some went beyond.

One commenter wrote:
> I wouldn’t want a newly blinded person to think that they, in six months have to accomplish the amazing stuff that he accomplished. Rather, I would hope that they would take > away that anything they dream of, anything they want to do is possible, despite their perceived limitations.

I agree! In fact, there are certain things that make Jim equipped for living that nomad lifestyle.

Learning a new environment is more challenging to some than others.

Everyone isn’t a trail blazer. Some people do great following a path, a set of instructions while others shine in carving out a way.

Adapting to the local culture is a must. many of us are used to a certain lifestyle that we expect everywhere we go.
Food, for example, can be a challenge. For some!

JP:
The two of us had breakfast. It was $1.25 for both of us.

TR in conversation with JP:
What kind of breakfast would $1.25 get for two… what would that be?

JP:
Well it’s a big cup of they call it Horchata tea, which is a herbal tea they make down here. They serve it in a large beer mug. He had, I don’t know, some sort of a bread that they fry with something in it. I had a couple of empanadas. You know it’s a substantial breakfast. It’s not starvation food.

TR in conversation with JP:
Yeah, yeah!

JP:
It was what he wanted.
The other day I bought him breakfast and it was a full meal. I mean it was rice and soup and meat and everything else and it was $1.25.

TR in conversation with JP:
In the states, people are wondering if you’re having eggs and home fries or omelets or something like that! (laughing)

JP:
The other day I was walking down the street and … I’ll eat anything by the way, I don’t care what it is. They put it in front of me I’ll eat it. I don’t care. So I’m walking down the street and they got something that smells really good on the grill.
It was a buck so I gave her a buck for it. It smelled really good!

It was cow’s stomach.

TR in conversation with JP:
Oh wow!

JP:
With Barbecue sauce!

TR in conversation with JP:

Anything with barbecue sauce is probably good! (Laughing)

JP:
(Laughing ) It wasn’t!

The other thing is they serve guinea pig down here.

TR in conversation with JP:
Oh wow!

JP:
The way the serve it is… they take the fur off it. They cut it down the middle, remove its guts and then they shove a stick up its ass and they throw it on a barbecue grill. It has head and nails and teeth…

TR in conversation with JP:
Oh wow!

JP:
…and they throw it on the barbecue and they cook it that way, they grill it. And again it smells really good.

TR in conversation with JP:
(Laughing)

JP:
I had this thing three different ways and I still don’t like it. It’s like eating a rat.

TR in conversation with JP:
Uh! Don’t tell me you tried that too?

JP:
Of course I tried it… I told you I’ll eat anything, I don’t care. If they serve it here I’ll eat it.

TR:
Honestly, I was sort of surprised to hear that at least one person felt the piece has a whiff of super Crip. I was upset. Not at the commenter but the idea that I may have put
forward that sort of imagery.

That term refers to one of two kinds of stories in the mainstream media when it comes to people with disabilities;
the poor helpless person who can’t survive without the able bodied person in their life
The over achieving;
– Athlete with a disability
– The musical prodigy
These are just two examples. The problem with the super Crip is not that these individuals seek to accomplish these things, it’s promoted as an impossible standard others with disabilities should strive towards. Living a “normal” life as in going to work, raising a family never seems to be enough.

I don’t look at Jim as a super Crip at all. We all have unique talents and qualities that make us perfectly equipped for something. It’s our job to figure that out.

Jim never set out to be this nomad. He chose the lifestyle partially because of a lack of options.

Traveling may not be your thing. Maybe because of real or perceived fears or lack of desire.
Some find it uncomfortable due to physical limitations.

One commenter said:
> the fear of not knowing what was ahead or how I would manage would keep me pretty much on a short chain, the fear of it I guess. I will never be a world traveler, I do not have the desire to do that, but it made me look differently about things I would like to do but have not done yet.

She went on to explain how she left her comfort zone to begin online dating. I can remember a time when that was thought to be a very risky thing to do.

Challenging our comfort zones, I think that really is what Jim is encouraging. And at least one commenter summed it by writing:
> Coming to terms with vision loss can be a tough road to travel. Stories like Jim’s challenge us to continue the journey with renewed determination.

What’s wrong with challenging ourselves?

We can’t all be nomads.
Although one gentlemen poses that as people who are blind, to some extent we may already live the life of a nomad.

“Like the nomad” he wrote;
> who enters a strange land with less than perfect knowledge of the terrain and topography
we as people with vision loss have to ask similar questions and use our skills to ascertain information.

We share the need to orient ourselves both in and outdoors.

We can share access issues;
– In a foreign land the nomad if unfamiliar with the language, can’t really do much with local printed information.
– Interpreting gestures or customs presents a challenge, not because of sight but rather unfamiliarity.

For some, a real need to ask for assistance would deter them, but as the comments’ author wrote::
> Such a position could sadden and inhibit the nomad – as I think it saddens and inhibits so many persons with vision loss – but it does not need to do so…

He proposes that asking for assistance can become a way of making connections and accepting help becomes a way of starting relationships.

For Jim, forming these relationships give him the chance to offer his help and the community while giving him purpose.

As one commenter wrote;
> a blind person’s world can be small unless that person is blessed with a personality to want to expand…

How we choose to interact with people like how we interpret Jim’s story is very much based on individual perspective. Our life experiences, identity and other factors really come into play in how we process what we hear.

Not everyone has the ability to interact with strangers or make friends with ease.

If we work with the idea that being blind already has an element of being a nomad, then I think we can agree that adventures can be found in our neighborhoods or in any aspect of our lives that we choose.

It’s about challenging ourselves.

For one gentlemen who is 70 and has been blind for 20 years now; he finds adventures by traveling to unfamiliar restaurants alone. He wrote:
> Every walk is an opportunity to talk to someone new and share a conversation with a young girl, a guy from Africa or an old lady from Poland. I truly believe a blind person must strive to create the world they want to live in.

Just like a nomad!

Unlike the nomad, there’s no need to search for this podcast;
Subscribe on any podcast platform…Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, Tune In Radio
Follow the podcast on Twitter @reidmymindradio
I’m at tsreid on Twitter

I told you we’re out here!

[Audio: RMMRadio Outro]
Peace

Hide the transcript

Reid My MindRadio – Fears of a Blind Nomad

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Jim Paradiso at the Inca Ruins
When I heard about Jim Paradiso, I had to find out more. He’s a Blind Nomad… I had to hear his story. Turns out it’s so much more than that… he’s forcing you to challenge what you think is possible. That is, if you believe!

Take a listen and let me know; do you believe?

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good fine people.

I have a lot to say about this episode so I’m just going to get right into it.

Well of course after the intro…

The best way to kick this one off…
[Audio: Been Around the World, Notorious BIG]
[Audio: RMMRadio Theme]

JP:
By the way what I’m about to tell you is true and I don’t give a damn if you believe it or not!

TR:
Any story that begins like that, well, you know it has to be good. whether it’s true or not, that’s for you to decide.

That voice you just heard is Jim Paradiso.
you can call Jim, a nomad!

A modern day nomad refers to people; often those with an online virtual business, where one’s income isn’t tied to a brick and mortar location.
Earning 60K for example and living outside of the US on various continents can really stretch that dollar.

That’s not exactly Jim’s situation. He’s been living a version of this lifestyle for over a year now and is currently in Loja, Ecuador.

According to Jim;

JP:
The adventure is the journey

TR:
With that said, let’s begin with the journey that lead Jim to Loha Ecuador.

JP:

I was talking to a friend, he was moving to Vilcabamba and I’d never heard of Vilcabamba and I said it sounds like a good name so I left to go to Vilcabamba. Which is a fifteen hour ride on a bus from. Manta to Vilcabamba. So it took me four weeks to get there.

I get into Cuenca and of course with me now I’m traveling alone for the first time. And I’m up in this Hostel, I said well OK, so I posted on FB { I’m in Cuenca, what’s there to do for a blind man traveling on his own?

TR:
Ok, , the fact that Jim is blind for most people probably makes the idea of him living a life as a nomad and traveling in unknown places, is maybe;
Very frightening?
Unbelievable?

Well, then let’s pause on the journey through Ecuador for a moment and hear what some may think is an unbelievable adventure of Jim’s vision loss
and the series of preceding events .

JP:
I had an aneurism Thirteen years ago on my left eye. And they tried to fix it and they screwed up the eye entirely. Then three years ago I woke up one morning and I had an aneurism in the other I. And I went through ocular injections and everything else that went with it and I had a bad reaction to the ocular injections which caused me to have a stroke.

so I was living with a girlfriend who decided she didn’t want to be with a blind man.

I ended up homeless. I was a month from being blind enough to qualify for Social Security. I was unemployed and Basically I was living on the couch of a motor home
that belong to a friend of mine who was in a retirement community.

So I get a phone call from my brother who was living in Ecuador and he said Well Linda is looking for a manager for a B&B would you like the job? I said, well what’s the pay. Room and board and fifty dollars a week.

Ok, I could be homeless in a motorhome in Florida or I could be homeless on a beach in Ecuador?
kind of a no brainer to me.

TR in conversation with JP:
and I’m sure fifty dollars is different in Ecuador than in Florida.

JP:
It doesn’t make any difference as long as you got food and shelter who cares about the rest of it. I live very inexpensively because that money doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.

I went for a pedicure because I couldn’t see my toe nails and I was catching them on my socks and when she cut the calluses off the bottom my feet so when I went for a walk on the beach I ended up getting third degree burns on the bottom of my feet.

I picked up a flesh eating bacteria and I had to be medivac the act from Ecuador to the United States after two operations down here and five days in the hospital.
The flesh eating bacteria that I picked up is usually fatal within seventy two hours and the only cure for it is amputation; actually they call it debridement which really is amputation. They have to remove all of the bacterial growth because it doubles in size every nine minutes.
Once I got back into the United States they put me in the teaching hospital in Shands of which this was the second case they had in fifty years of this particular virus. They amputated two toes and debride most of my foot and then they had to regrow it in an oxygen rich environment.

This took ten weeks and then they put me in a nursing home for a month. Rehab they call it but it actually was a nursing home.

While I was there I had an abscess on the back of my head so I went to the doctors when I had my foot looked at and they slants the abscess and said this isn’t right so they sent me to a Dermatologist.
Well when they slants it they gave me MRSA – which is another flesh eating bacteria. While I was at the doctor’s they said oh I don’t like these moles on your back let me have them biopsied. Well as it turned out I had skin cancer. They had to operate on my back and removed the skin cancer. Which I thought we were just going to remove a mole but they ended up doing 19 stitches on each side and trenched both sides of my back. Then they had to put me on different antibiotics in order to kill the MRSA they gave me and then when they removed that they discovered it was a tumor. Then they had to remove that. And that was in six months.

At that point I was afraid of dying.

When I finally got settled with Social Security Disability, I Flew back to Ecuador.

TR in conversation with JP:
Why?

JP:
Because my kids wanted to put me in a retirement villa.

TR in conversation with JP:
How many kids do you have?

JP:

Again that’s an odd story…

I have four kids but they’re not mine.
TR in conversation with JP:
Oh Ok!

JP:
My ex-wife’s two kids from her previous marriage.
And I have her ex-husband’s two kids from his previous marriage.

TR in conversation with JP:
OK that’s a new situation!

You have her ex-husband’s kids? (laughing!)

JP:
They all consider me dad and I was always there for them.

By the way, have you ever heard a story this ridiculous?

TR in conversation with JP:
so many people stories that I have heard of do have like one thing on top of the other you know but this flesh eating viruses and tumors, yeah… you’re winning!
– laughs!

TR:
Now, returning to Ecuador Jim met up with a friend.

JP:
He didn’t have any money and I said OK I need someone to travel with because blind people can’t travel alone!

Well I spent three weeks in the Andes and then two weeks in the Galapagos. Then we came back and we went up to Colombia – we spent three months in Colombia. Then we took a cruise and went from Cartagena through Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. And then circled around back and then went hiking in the mountains and Colombia

TR:
That friend Jim was traveling with was 42 and at the time Jim was 60.
Plus he was still recovering from flesh eating diseases,
multiple cancer surgeries and newly adjusting to blindness.

He learned a valuable lesson.

JP:

There are some things that are worse than traveling alone and that’s traveling with somebody else!

So at Christmas I flew back to Manta.
TR in conversation with JP:
So Jim can I ask you… you just
shared all of that … I mean you talked about a cruise and
flying to the Galapagos and stuff so you’re financing that on the Social Security?

JP:
Yeah!

TR in conversation with JP:
OK! And at this point you’re not paying rent or anything like that just traveling so you’re a Nomad.

JP:
Right, I’m a Nomad, I’m homeless.
I’m doing this on $1,127 a month.

So anyways when I got back to Manta I had infected my foot again and I had to stay off it for six weeks which drove me nuts.

So I was talking to a friend he was moving to Vilcabamba and I’d never heard of….

TR:
That brings us back to Jim’s journey.

When we left off, he was on his way to Vilcabamba
and stopped in a Hostel in Cuenca
where he posted the question

JP:
In Cuenca, what’s there to do for a blind man traveling on his own?

One guy suggested why don’t you head up to Ingaperka which is a Aztec ruin in the Andes which would be Eastern Ecuador.

TR:
So off he went to Ingaperka to find the ancient Inca Ruins.

Now if you’re thinking Jim is probably fluent in Spanish
or of course everyone speaks English,
well you’re wrong.
In fact, most people in the town of Ingaperka speak a dialect of the Incas.

JP:
The bus let me off in the middle of this town. I have no clue where I am I finally find somebody that speaks about four words of English.
And she asked me what I was doing and I say I was looking for the ruins. And she says ruins Cinco. I said Cinco kilometers. She says no Cinco minutos. I said where and she say aqui and pointed me to a road and so I walk up the road. I walk into this beautiful state park.

TR:
After receiving a tour of the ruins
well, it’s time for Jim to begin making his way to Vilcabamba.
He catches one bus to Cuenca and another to Loja.
Which is where he of course posts to Facebook:

JP:
What’s there to do for a blind man travelling alone through Loja?

Well this woman posts back well I have these two. English students who
are blind and would like to meet you. They’re sisters. So I meet them for coffee they come in on the arm of somebody crab walking because they don’t travel alone they’re in their thirty’s and they’ve been blind all their life.

They sit down and we’re talking and one of them looks at me and says who are you traveling with? I said nobody.

She Says Do you speak Spanish? I said no she said you can’t do that! I said yeah, I can!

TR:
By now you probably get the impression that the response, yes I can,
that’s something Jim is quite used to saying!

JP:
I’m here!
She takes me over to the elementary school which I’ll tell you is like a prison. Two meter high concrete walls surrounding it with broken bottles over the top of it and they’re all concrete bunkers and it’s just… it’s got mold it’s just… it’s a horrible place.

TR in conversation with JP:
Is that specifically just for blind children or is that…

JP:
Yes, it’s specifically for blind children. And there are residents there and there are day people that come from the city and this is the only blind school for elementary school children in the area. And she tells me that they don’t teach mobility there because they had to cut they cut their budget and the person they cut from the budget was the mobility trainer.

Now my experience with mobility training is I am blind
and I am mobile. There are my qualifications for the position… so now I’m the mobility trainer.

TR:
See what I mean by saying yes…
Jim not only said yes to teaching others who are blind to use the
white cane and more, but he has a pretty packed schedule.

JP:
I’m working four days a week from eleven to one at the elementary school. I work five days a week teaching conversational English at a college and I work two nights a week teaching mobility and technology at the high school.
I’m starting a nonprofit… We’ve got a doctor. Who is volunteering his time services to do prosthetic eyes on the kids that have missing eyes plus I have the Go Fund Me going…other than that I’m not really that busy!

TR:
That Go Fund me is a campaign to raise money to purchase white canes,
iPhones or iPads to provide children with GPS capabilities
in order to improve their mobility.

You can find more at:
http://GoFundMe.com/3noxfco

If you’re wondering what are the living conditions for a blind nomad
in Ecuador
Jim says his apartment in Ecuador
would probably rent for several thousand in New York City.

JP:
It’s the studio penthouse with a balcony view of the mountains. Glass all the way around its fully furnished. It has a hot tub, a walk in shower. The bathroom is ten by twenty and I pay $350 a month for it including utilities.

TR:
Jim’s a volunteer! He’s not paid for any of his work.
Well not in the traditional sense!

JP:
What I get from a kid who comes up and hugged me. You know – I’ve got children that actually… they don’t speak the language that I speak and they cannot express themselves on how much they really appreciate me.

I get people hugging me all the time. That’s what I get paid in!

While I still have work to do here I’m not leaving. It’s just different it’s a different lifestyle I found a place where they need me so I’m staying. When they don’t need me any more I’ll go somewhere else.
TR in conversation with JP:
How do you feel today about everything that happened? That whole crazy story you told me.

JP:
I will tell you something that you will very seldom hear from a blind person.

Going blind was the greatest opportunity of my life! Without that none of this would have happened. And that’s how I look at it.

TR:
And isn’t that what it boils down too!
How we choose to look at it!

Jim is actually looking for an assistant volunteer
to join him in Ecuador.
He needs help with some of those things he’s doing like
teaching mobility and technology.

He can provide room and board, but
the candidate needs to pay for their own travel.
Oh, yes, and the candidate must be blind.

Jim can be contacted directly through his Facebook page titled:
Blind Jim Can’t do That!
(Yeh, I can!)

I’m Thomas Reid
for Gatewave Radio,
[JP: I don’t give a damn if you Believe it or not ]
Audio for Independent Living.

TR:
I have never described myself as a journalist.
In fact, I make sure to say, I’m not.
I am a self-described Advocate who uses audio to make a point.
I don’t hide my opinion,
I choose the stories I want to tell and have a real solid perspective.
The idea of a journalist is that they supposedly don’t have that bias.
I don’t believe that at all!
However, A journalist would have done some real fact checking of Jim’s story.

They would have contacted various sources to try and confirm
his account of the events.

I am a New Yorker,
I instinctively don’t believe you!
It’s something I am really trying to rid myself of but it’s so ingrained in my being it’s really hard to separate.

I know there are some who will listen to this and not believe him.

Some will assume he has some residual vision – and say
that’s the reason he can do it.

Jim does have a bit of light perception which allows him
to see shadows out of a part of one eye.

Some will think it’s his nature.
Well, it’s probably fair to say Jim is something of an adventurer.
Before losing his sight he was a professional scuba diver diving throughout
the US and Caribbean.

That included salvage work for insurance companies, body recovery,
owning his own diving school and treasure diving in the Caribbean.

So here’s the thing…

I do believe Jim.

Jim is 100 percent telling the truth about the fears of a blind traveler.

Those fears are not just contained within the person who is blind.

You know that because as you were listening you felt uncomfortable.

You know you did.

I don’t care if you are sighted or
any degree of blind, you felt it!

I felt it! And feeling that way upset me.

I travel alone to different states but I had a fully planned itinerary.

Jim’s story made me challenge how I look at the world
and what I really believe is possible.

During our conversation a woman interrupted Jim and I asked him to explain what happened.

JP:
some woman just walked up to me and said You’re an inspiration to the people down here. I overheard your conversation.

I have people walking up to me on the street constantly doing that.

TR in conversation with JP:
How does that feel?

JP:
I don’t think I’m anything special.

I think everybody has it within themselves just that I choose to do that my question to people is Why don’t you choose to do it.

There are so many people out there that don’t want to leave their house and it bothers me.

TR in conversation with JP:
Why?

JP:
I’ve met so many blind people in my. Limited time being blind. And most of them tell me that they have limitations on everything they do.

You know they tell me it’s OK that you can do this but I can’t and then they give me a list of reasons why they can’t.

TR in conversation with JP:
What are some of those reasons?

JP:
Oh I could get hurt I could fall down. I could get lost.

So what’s the big deal you don’t think I get lost you don’t think I fall down you don’t think I get hurt?

TR:
I think it’s fair to acknowledge that the emotions behind these thoughts are real. But Fear you may have heard
is an acronym for False evidence appearing real.

You know what else is real!

Our perspective!
And we can actually control that!

JP:
I survived cancer. I’m blind. I survived the flesh eating bacteria What are you going to do to me that God hasn’t done already? It’s true! What fear do I have now. They told me I was going to die on three different occasions.

TR in conversation with JP:
you know you’re going to go at some point.

JP:
Right, we’re all gonna go some time!
I’d rather go out swinging then go out crying.

There is nothing holding you back but yourself.
I was at a Blind I Can meeting I can do is what they call it…

And they were talking about having an outing and they were talking about going out to lunch.

I mean, what is going to lunch proof for a blind person. Everybody eats!

They asked me what my idea of a good outing was…

There’s a place in Florida in Orlando called Machine Gun America. It’s automatic weapons… what the hell could possibly go wrong!

TR in conversation with JP:
Laughing!… I love it!

JP:

Make yourself feel alive.

You’re dead, nobody’s told you!

TR:
Jim, like many who lose their vision later in life, especially over the age of 55, never even had real mobility training.

JP:
My mobility training consisted of twenty minutes.

I learned everything on the internet and by myself reading books so when
they finally picked up my paperwork they put me through … they put me in front of a mobility trainer who told me that in familiar surroundings I was Ok, but I needed work in unfamiliar surroundings.

So I was hiking staying at an Echo lodge called Ukuku in Columbia it’s outside of Ibagué.

It’s a two kilometer hike up a mountain across three rivers. To get to this and the last river you crossed There’s a log and you got to balance on a log to cross the river.

Now do you know the proper caning technique for crossing a log bridge?

TR in conversation with JP:
Laughing… No I do not!

I think mine would be to straddle the log and then slowly go across. That would be my technique.
But that’s just me!

JP:

So I had to call back to the person who was in charge of the mobility training and I said, hey Tom what’s the proper caning techniques for crossing a log bridge?

TR in conversation with JP: To the avenue.
Oh my gosh! Did they have any advice for you?

JP:
Oh hell no.

TR:
But don’t get it twisted,
Jim isn’t some sort of blind Evel Knievel.
(If you’re younger than 40 Google him!

Jim is practical about his travel.

JP:
I have a theory. It’s really simple when I get to a town if I check into a Hostel I get the business card of the Hostel, put it in my wallet.

If I get really lost I take the business card and I give it to a cab driver and I ask the cab driver donde esta aqui… where is this? And he takes me there.

TR:
That practical advice goes beyond travel…

JP:
I’m trying to convince people that just because you have a problem doesn’t mean you can’t get your ass out and do something.

I listen to people tell me they can’t get a job. Well, go volunteer and get some experience!

TR:
I’m hoping to speak with Jim again.

And who knows maybe that will be in person, in Ecuador.

There are links on Reid My Mind.com to both the Go Fund Me and his Facebook page if you want to communicate directly with Jim.

I usually close with my reminder for you to subscribe to the podcast…

well today, I’m closing out with part of a favorite quote taken from Jim’s Facebook page.

Maybe someone will find it helpful… I think Jim may have.

Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”

Peace

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