Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – More Than One

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Headshot of Alyscia Cunningham
Alyscia Cunningham is an author, photographer and film maker. Her latest book and documentary “I Am More Than My Hair” explores women’s hairloss. One of the subjects of the book and documentary is Marguerite Woods. Through this relationship, Alyscia became aware of the lack of access to the arts among Blind and Disabled people. It changed her approach to producing and thinking about art.
Yet, she couldn’t do it alone. It takes more than one…

In this latest FTS episode, we explore the power of one persons ability to spark an interest in access, help shape how we think about it and even create it. Once again, proving Audio Description is about so much more than entertainment!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
Your listening to Reid My Mind Radio.
Chances are, you know that already because you pressed play!
Duh!
This is where we examine this art form that in its basic essence, is making visual content accessible to those of us who are blind or have low vision.
But in actuality it goes way beyond that.
Today, we look at the power of one.
I know it’s the loneliest number and all, but really that’s only when it chooses to stay by itself.
This experience directly led her to her second book of photographs titled, “I AM More Than My Hair”.
It tells the stories of women who are bald.
Yet, according to Alyscia, the most common cause is stress.
And that can occur earlier than we may expect.
As part of both a marketing and fundraising effort, Alyscia recorded footage of some of the women included in the book.
She applied to Docs in progress – a nonprofit organization that fosters a creative and supportive community for documentary filmmakers.
— Music begins, a slow jazzy piano Hip Hop groove
That required her to contact some of the women featured in the book and arrange to capture their stories on camera.
I am bald, My skin is Mocha. leaning towards chocolate, and about five, seven. I normally wear certain shades. And I love interesting earrings. And so I normally have those on as well. I’ve got on a black dress. It’s sleeveless.
Her first experience began with Bustin’ Loose,
A film starring Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson.
The description Marguerite says was horrible.
— Richard Pryor saying…
so it kind of took a backseat for me for a while. But the thing that really got me with audio description was I like to go to plays and conferences and music shows and that kind of thing.
TR:
We didn’t get into that for the purposes of this particular discussion, but that to me sounds like a case of a lack of cultural competence.
— Music ends
What is more of a part of this discussion is her response.
When Alyscia was looking for women who were bald to participate in her book,
she put the word out and heard back from a friend who told her about Marguerite.
Marguerite wanted Alyscia to understand that while she herself is blind she doesn’t represent everyone.
I’m always encouraging people to go to places where there are lots of other people that may look like me, because we’re multifaceted. We’re not all the same, just like sighted people we’re not all the same we are of all manner of variables and we’re diverse and in so many things so don’t just think you really understand what’s going on with blind people cause you’ve met me.
About two months following that meeting, Alyscia premiered her documentary at a theater.
Marguerite was there.
She realized the impact of the visuals based on the audience response…
Check out the Reid My Mind Radio family connection y’all!
That documentarian was none other than 2019 Reid My Mind Radio alumni Day Al-Mohammed.
— Music Begins – an up tempo energetic, inspirational Hip Hop beat
That’s my good friend and another 2019 Reid My Mind Radio alumni,
Cheryl Green, Captioner and Audio Description Writer and Narrator extraordinaire.
It’ goes beyond Audio Description and captions in the documentary.
Alyscia created an accessible exhibit on display at Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland.
My hope for this was having the exhibit and also having a panel discussion with Cheryl and marguerite, Judy and three other women was that this will be an example of how museums and artists can incorporate accessibility in their work and into their venues.
One of the main challenges from the perspective of the museums and venues is often funding.
Unfortunately, we know that sometimes museums and other venues and businesses want to see a return on investment.
But it’s not as simple as build it and they will come.
this can’t be a onetime thing.
it’s like now that you know How could you not do anything about it because now you’re aware of it. It’s in your space.
Did you get any feedback from non-disabled people?
— Music ends.
I’m sorry y’all, but sometimes I really do just have to laugh.
Spending time and energy advocating for something can be challenging.
I was more interested in her getting a sense of, of blind people, and that we are asking for opportunities to be able to relate to our world, just like sighted people are, and that she as an artist and a creative person would do whatever she would do with it. And that would be good enough.
Marguerite: 26:36
Just interact ting on different levels, and asking people to recognize, I’m here in this space, and I want to participate.
And sometimes, because people don’t know, you got to be in there, in their mix to get your conversation in there.
Marguerite herself is an artist. She is quite thoughtful and makes some deep connections between the More than My Hair project and well,
life for example.
Marguerite: 30:51
People tend to want to treat you like you’re less then because you don’t have the same access to vision that other people had. But
As an African American?
Most of us realize that we’ve grown up in a country that has not been kind or fair to any of us. And even if we don’t have the words to speak about, it’s a heavy burden, to exist and grow in this society. And when you know that the majority of the power structure is literally walking around with disdain for us, because of the color of our skin. You can put on a happy face and move around. And that’s fine. But I think that it’s deeper than a happy face, I think that there are some natural laws of the universe, that are, are at work all the time. And it would be beneficial to get in touch with what they are, and try to work your life from there. Because if you go with the laws that this country is offering, it’s telling a story, and I’m just given a message that’s not healthy. And it’s not about wellbeing, especially for my community and for me.
Totally unrelated to that project, she’s also working on a new project in the horror genre and says she’s making sure to build in the space for Audio Description.
She’s continuing to give panel discussions on how to make art accessible based on her experience.
Whether you’re a consumer who can help someone learn about access,
a creator who can make your content inclusive or
you’re someone who can provide the funding,
we all play a part.
— “One” Sample from Public Enemy Number One, Public Enemy
— Music begins, an upbeat bright Hip Hop funk groove
The I’m More than My Hair, accessible exhibit will be on display through September 5, 2021. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions have probably been a factor in the lack of feedback from the Disabled community, but Alyscia is hopeful that the restrictions being lifted will help bring out more people.
She’s currently seeking distribution for I Am More Than My Hair the documentary,
which at some point will stream online.
This is just one example of what we know to be true.
When creators learn that their content is not accessible to an audience, chances are pretty high that they will want to do something about that.
Well at least the cool ones!
— Sample – “What the hell are you waiting for” from “Encore” by Jay Z
— Sample (“D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)
— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Hide the transcript

A Season for Honoring Ourselves

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

To conclude this first season of the podcast which fully focused on those adjusting to blindness, I share a few thoughts from guests featured so far in 2021. Some of these comments were not included in the original episodes.

This episode also includes some of what’s in store for the next season beginning in July. Plus, I too am personally headed into a new season of my life.

Please rate & review Reid My Mind Radio on Apple Podcast. It helps more people learn what we’re doing over here!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Greetings! My name is Thomas Reid, host and producer of this here podcast called Reid My Mind Radio.

We’re just about half way through the year. And this year has been full of emotions. I’m realizing now that 2021may be the start of a new season in my life.

Later this year, I’m sort of joining that category of parents known as empty nesters.

Both of my baby girls are moving on in their education in pursuit of what I hope is their passions. my oldest is headed to grad school. Shout out to Temple University and just a few miles away, her little sister will be at Villanova. Proud Dad in full effect.

Things are really going to be different around here.

— Audio – Knock on the door

TR:

Uh, come in.

Marlett:

I need you to come wash these dishes please!

TR:

Okay, I’ll be right there.
Maybe not that different after all.

I’ll be right back y’all!
Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

Creating content for people adjusting to blindness and disability has some inherent obstacles to overcome.

For example, much of my targeted audience may not even be online. After all, they need to learn how to use the Access Technology assuming they were familiar and comfortable using computers prior to their loss of sight. If they were not, well that could be a very frustrating challenge that not everyone is willing to take.

Then there are those who don’t even want to see themselves as Blind and definitely not disabled so why in the world am I including that in my description. Compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability?

I’m sure some may not even think that’s possible. “What’s compelling about a person with a disability?”

In this first part of 2021 I really wanted to highlight exactly that. I wanted to really make sure this podcast is being a resource for all those new to blindness. When I say a resource, I don’t mean providing steps 1 through 10 on completing a specific task. I mean the sort of resource that stimulates that confidence and belief in the idea that it’s possible. not by me shouting at you and telling you you are a winner and coming up with a cool slogan but rather, introducing you to the cool people who are either doing it or have done it already.

One great example of what’s possible when we change our perspective is my friend Cathy Kudlick. Among many things, she discuses the important role history played in her moving from denial to where she is today.

Cathy:
I direct the Longmore Institute, it’s a cultural center that tries to put disability at the center of all culture and academics. It celebrates scholar activism, and tries to get people to think about disability as a creative, generative force for change, and to really revolutionize social views around disability.

We believe in a world where everyone thinks that disabled people, they get better, and that the world is better because of disabled people. And that’s a very radical idea, but we do it through the film festival, we do it through lot of online programming over the past year with different cultural groups and trying to look at intersections and look at convergences and all of these ways that di sability is not just pity and tragedy and trauma and terror and all of those, but to really see it as a creative force.

TR:

Where we get to in our thinking about disability is going to be based on a variety of factors.
Like how we process information and our ability to be self-aware.

Pramit Bhargava, founder of the Louie app, was so generous with his sharing. He admitted he never considered disability because he was caught up in his own climb up the corporate ladder.

He also realized how he wasn’t putting in the work that he needed to do which included learning how to use a screen reader as well as other blindness skills.

Pramit:

In fact, If I can Thomas add to that, sometimes what happens We process somebody as low vision, or no vision as saying, oh, he cannot see. But I think important thing is what is going on in that person’s mind. Right, and how do we process it? How do we deal with that condition? I think that’s the bottom line.

TR:

In this season of Reid My Mind Radio, I really wanted to bring you a different idea of what many people often consider when they think of blindness and disability.

Disability impacts across race, gender, sexuality. However, so often in the media we only see a specific white cis gender privilege experience.

Similarly, we often see a very specific version of success. Usually that is based on financial statements, awards and recognition.

Well, either I’m going to be a part of the problem or I’m going to set out to actively do something about that.

In March I was really happy to bring you an episode featuring Lachi. She’s a musician, producer and just someone who does whatever she wants to do and of course I say that with the ut most respect.

During our conversation she shared a bit on success and it’s definitely something I can rock with!

Lachi:

And when I say success, I mean, right now people would consider me successful just because, you know, I’ve been doing international songs and touring and I’m all over the place and do a lot of great things with a lot of spins. And being on the Grammy panels, but honestly, my success started when I was just able to come out of my shell and showcase to everybody that I’m really good.

TR:

Similarly when I met young brother Envizion who in his own words said he owns everything about his blindness. We saw how he made a clear decision based on what was important to him immediately after losing his sight. That continues as he pursues his passion. To me, that’s an important level of success that needs to be recognized.

Embracing every part of yourself and staying focused on your goal.

Envizion:

I have this tag where I say (singing…) I don’t see nobody.

It’s a hater blocking term. Yeah, really. I’m blind. It’s all of that. And when you’re on your way to the top two, you don’t want to be focused on everybody.

— Applause …
— “We interrupt this program for a special news bulletin!” (Classic News Announcer)
— Applause continues… “Can you feel it?” (The Jacksons, Live in Concert)

TR:

That’s the message that we’re sharing!

— Applause continues… “Can you feel it?” (The Jacksons, Live in Concert)

TR:

I’m talking about this podcast!

— Music begins, Cool up tempo Hip Hop beat

TR:

For whatever reason, rating and reviewing the podcast on Apple Podcast actually helps.

Right now, we have a 5 star rating. That means if this was food being cooked up twice a month, it’s considered delicious.

Then there’s the actual reviews. Check out what people are saying:

Pioneer 94 says: Love the AJ episode it’s so well produced. Can’t wait to listen for more.

Angel Sweetheart says: Download and start listening now!
This podcast is very well put together. A strong activist in our community. Face with heart shaped eyes, grinning face
Grinning face with starry eyes, hands with medium dark skin tone raised in celebration, thumbs up with medium dark skin tone, flex bicep with dark skin tone

Thank you so much and I love the emoji’s.

shnupperdoodlez says; Great podcast
Engaging light hearted and fun, even when talking about the tough stuf. I enjoy popping in to learn more. your voice is needed out here

Hey Shnuppledoodlez, I appreciate you, but I’m going to need a bit more commitment from you. You are family so I’d expect you to be here on a regular basis. I miss you when you’re gone too long!

Blind Widow says This man knows his topic
I highly recommend this podcast to help people learn about disability and blindness and become comfortable with it and in all aspects of it.
It affects every aspect of our lives.
Ffor me a woman who is blind, acceptance in the arena of online dating as an older adult, the more normal people see us the better it is for everyone.

Blind Widow, I see you as super intelligent, powerful and go ahead with your bad self in the online dating arena. You’re a Gladiator, but don’t hurt them out there too badly love.

I hope I’ll be able to see more 5 star ratings and even more cool reviews. And go ahead and feel free to throw those emoji’s up there. You know that fire, raised fists, hearts and all that.

— Music ends abruptly.

— Now we return back to our show (Classic News Announcer)

TR:

Success is getting to know yourself and being comfortable with that person. Acquiring a disability later in life can feel as though you have to do this all over again.

It goes beyond the emotional. Catarina Rivera aka Blindish Latina recognized a real need to consider her blindness when moving through life.

Catarina:

I just started to see disability as something that I would incorporate into my life decisions, but not let it dictate my life.

When I was in college, the first thing that was happening to me with night blindness, and I had some issues with peripheral vision, as well. And I remember that I decided not to drink alcohol, because I didn’t want to impair myself any further, I saw that people were really cutting loose and partying. I remember thinking to myself is it’s every person for themselves here, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna get caught unaware, because, you know, I was a freshman.

My friends would help me navigate parties, I would dance, I would focus more on dancing, because I couldn’t hear people when the music was loud, and I love to dance. It didn’t stop me from having a good time. And making friendships and living life.

TR:

Whether disabled or not, chances are we experience something in life that changes our course. Most people I know had different plans for their lives. Yet, looking deeper, you may realize that your life contains the things that you were actually seeking. Love, friendships, opportunity

These episode make up the first season of 2021. All focused on that adjustment experience.

Lawyer and fellow podcaster Qudsiya Naqui beautifully wrapped up her episode and the season with some thoughts that can only come from someone who has been through their own adjustment experience.

Qudsiya:

Everyone has their own journey and their own experience and their own way of going through those stages of grief and getting to the other side, or whatever the other side looks like, and that’s okay. And you have to be kind to yourself, but know that there’s a community waiting for you. And there’s a lot of possibility and that you are a whole person. And your blindness is a part of that. And it is a really beautiful part of that. That’s something that you should honor about yourself.

TR:

Honor about yourself. I really like that.

Do you ever consider the decisions that we make that actually dishonor ourselves? It could be decisions based on money alone, how we spend our time or how we perceive our own value.

Honoring ourselves, that’s what this podcast is all about!

If you missed any of the episodes this year, I truly encourage you to take a listen.

Going forward in 2021 , we’re touching on topics. We’ll start with Audio Description. Now, at first you may think, wait, what more can we talk about with AD?
Well, I guess you’re going to have to wait and see. You know, it’s right there, but in order to really get into it, you have to Flip the Script.

I’m taking the month of June off. The podcast will be back in July
To make sure you don’t miss anything, my suggestion is that you follow the podcast on your favorite platform. Apple, Spotify, Google, whatever man!

You can also find it at ReidMyMind.com where we have all the transcripts and other resources too.

Now all that’s left is for you to properly spell that. Let me help you… it’s R to the E I D
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Smashing Disability Stigma with Blindish Latina, Catarina Rivera

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Catarina Rivera as a young girl with her hearing aids and a toothy grin.
Catarina Rivera grew up Deaf. By the time she was comfortable not only using hearing aids but with herself as well, she received a diagnosis; she was going Blind. She just so happened to be getting ready to leave home for college.

Today, she has a Master’s in Public Health and is using her platform, Blindish Latina, to advocate and spread awareness. Hear more about her journey and how you too can be a “Stigma Smasher!”

Listen

Resources

Catarina Rivera.com
Blindish Latina

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!

It’s so very nice to be back here with you.
If this is your first time here allow me to welcome you and introduce myself.
My name is Thomas and I’m serving as the host and producer of this here podcast which features compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

Every now and then I bring you stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

In case I haven’t mentioned it for a while, my focus here is on those adjusting to becoming Blind. Honestly though, the more I learn and consider the adjustment process, I think the specific disability isn’t as important. Yes, of course, it matters, especially when trying to resolve specific challenges or learn technique, but there can be so much insight to gain no matter the disability.

I tend to highlight those things that I think are especially important for someone new to blindness, but we all hear differently – meaning you may resonate strongly with something said where I may not. I’d love to know if that is the case so, please remember you can always reach out and share that with me by emailing ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

Now, let’s get this Poppin’!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Catarina:
I’m Katerina Rivera, the founder of Blindish Latina. I am a light skinned Latina woman with long dark brown wavy hair. And I’m currently wearing blue glasses.

— Music Begins – A smooth chill Hip Hop beat…

When I was about three or four years old, that’s when my parents first started noticing that I had trouble hearing, I think I was walking away from them and then not responding when they would call me.

We found out that I had hearing loss and I was fitted with hearing aids, I went to one year of special education, and then I was mainstream. I still received speech therapy on a regular basis, I had an IEP continuously throughout my education. And for the most part, though, I was mainstreamed.

TR:

Catarina and her family had no explanation for her hearing loss until she was 17 years old.

Catarina:

I was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, which is a combination of progressive vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa. And hearing loss depends on which type of Ushers you have

TR:

There are three major types of Usher syndrome, known as type 1, 2 and 3. They’re distinguished by the severity of hearing loss, the presence or absence of balance problems, and the age at which signs and symptoms appear.

By 17 years old, Catarina, adjusted to her hearing loss, fully accepted wearing hearing aids and was comfortable in her own skin.

She was on her way to Duke University on a scholarship when diagnosed with vision loss.

Catarina:

When I first got diagnosed, I felt like it was a huge tragedy in my life. It was upsetting, surprising. And it felt like a very big loss. I think that I had to go through the stages of grief in some way. When I was reacting to this, when my parents heard about it, they were very upset. And I felt pain for them. So, I felt like I had to be strong for them.

TR:

Presenting that strength doesn’t give much opportunity to deal with the emotions. Even sharing with friends who often don’t know how to respond doesn’t feel right.

Catarina:

I felt like I was dropping a bomb. I felt really heavy. I don’t tell people, hey, I’m going blind, I find that when I would do that, it would really evoke a sense of pity. People feel sorry for me. And I was feeling bad. At the time, I was feeling bad about it. But as I progressed, in my journey, that language doesn’t resonate with me anymore. It’s not the way that I tell my story. It’s not, it doesn’t feel like a tragedy anymore, but I can definitely empathize with myself at that time.

TR in Conversation with Catarina: 10:05
You never said anything about even exploring the idea of postponing school where I’ve heard from other people, and it would be sort of understandable where someone might, hey, I gotta take some time. It sounds like you still went straight to college.

— Music Ends…

Was there ever any sort of, thing about Oh, okay, maybe I should postpone this because of the vision loss?

Catarina:

That’s a very interesting question. I have not heard that before. And I mean, I get it, it makes sense, every person is going to have their own response to something like that.

I never felt like I needed time away from school.

TR:

Retinitis Pigmentosa is progressive so the early diagnosis didn’t impact her studies as much as the hearing loss.

With an accommodation allowing her to register early, Catarina avoided the large classes in auditoriums and opted instead for smaller classes making it easier for her to hear the lectures.

There was more of an impact on her social life.
And she wisely considered her vision loss in her decision-making process.

Catarina:

I decided not to drink alcohol, because I didn’t want to impair myself any further, I saw that people were really cutting loose, you know, and partying. And I remember thinking to myself is it’s every person for themselves here.

I would focus more on dancing, because I couldn’t hear people when the music was loud, and I love to dance. So, I never stopped myself from having a good time.

TR:

All of this considered, it’s not surprising, Catarina didn’t feel a part of the blind community. For a while she could still drive and wasn’t using a white cane.

It wasn’t until she moved to New York City after graduation and began seeking out community.

Catarina:
When I moved to New York, I didn’t have a job, I had decided to go into the field of education. And I was very motivated to make a difference for the Latino community, for my people. I had applied to a program called Teach for America, where you commit to working in a low-income classroom for two years. And I was very lucky, because not only could I move to New York, to access great public transit, I also was able to go even further than what I had hoped.

I basically got a job as an elementary school teacher teaching third grade, and bilingual education and I was working with students who had Spanish as their first language. It was exactly what I wanted to do, it felt meaningful. I taught at that school; it was in the Bronx.

— Music Begins, a strong, dramatic intro to a driving Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

(Laughing) I can just imagine the people who have their preconceived notions, not only about disability, whether it be the hearing loss and the blindness, but then you know, you threw in my beloved bx borrow, okay, you know. And so, then they’re like, oh my she’s, she’s, she’s deaf and blind and she teaching in the Bronx, you say?

Tell me a little bit about how you did your job.

Catarina:

Sure. Yeah. So, I was really happy to be in the Bronx, my fathers from the South Bronx, he’s Puerto Rican. I felt like, Okay, this is like a full circle moment, where I can kind of be in a space that my father grew up in and give back. So, it felt amazing to me.

Now, as far as just some of the logistics, I purposely chose where I was going to live based on the commute to work, I ended up living in Washington Heights, which was just across the river. And I took a bus every day, to my school, I basically only had to walk five to 10 minutes to catch the bus in Manhattan. And I, the bus stop was directly across from the school. So, the only issue that I would have is when I would fall asleep, because it was really early in the morning, and miss my stop in the Bronx and have to walk back. (Laughs)

I also had a really great teacher who also worked at the school who would drive in from Jersey. And so, if I was ready early enough, I would be able to meet her, and she would just pick me up from 100 81st Street and just take me to work as well.

I think people who have preconceived notions of any place need to check that and not make assumptions.

TR:

Word!

There were, however, real challenges of the job that she never actually considered.

Catarina:

One thing that was difficult was knowing who was bothering who, when you have a lot of children sitting there and I’m in the front. It’s very hard, like I don’t have that peripheral vision. So I’m not able to see like filano was poking filano.

Filano is a term for like anybody, like whoever. So that’s how we use it.

TR:

It’s not just behavioral. When young children have questions or want to participate, it’s important that they’re recognized.

Catarina:

That’s something I did do with them. I would let them know and it’s simple, hey I can’t see well. If you have your hand up, I might not see you. So, wave it around. I put it up high, I’m going to scan. I would feel so bad if the kid had their hand up and wanted to talk and I really didn’t see them. That’s demoralizing. So, I would try to make sure They were aware of what was going on with me and I’d give recommendations for what they could do.

TR:

In classroom is challenging enough, but what about field trips?

Catarina:

Generally, on a field trip, the teachers in the front, you got to lead the way, you got to set up the access to the subway present the form to the conductor. That was so stressful for me, because I do well in environments that I know.

TR:

And then there’s dealing with parents.

Catarina:

Phone calls were also hard to the parents being able to hear well, on the phone, I didn’t know about any of the programs that were out there and that I had been able to use now that has somebody transcribing the phone call while you’re on it or use AI for that. I didn’t have any of that. So anytime I called home, it would be maybe a different voice that I had never heard before. I would let them know that I don’t hear well, repeat yourself. And then a lot of times, you know, it’s like parents are speaking in Spanish. So, I really worked on my Spanish as well during that time.

TR:

After three years Catarina left that job and worked for a charter school in Harlem for about a year.

— Music Ends

Catarina:

I realized that in education the way to move up was to move out of the classroom, to become an administrator. And that wasn’t really the way that I wanted to go, I didn’t want my daily life to be about that. So, when I started to become interested in food, and seeing the food that my kids were eating in the classroom and starting to question why they are eating so many bags of chips and candy in the morning.

TR:

Actually, that’s a great question especially coming from the person responsible for educating these young minds.

— Music Ends…

And we should know, proper nutrition impacts your ability to focus and learn.

So, she began researching.

Catarina:

I remember going to Western beef, the supermarket and looking at all the products, the corner store and seeing, hey, the waters all the way at the bottom of the refrigerated case why?

The first part of my journey with food was approaching it from an education lens. I had this idea that people needed to be educated.

I started a community health program in my neighborhood where I started teaching families about health, including fitness and nutrition.

TR:

In addition to the research mentioned, Catarina also has a master’s degree in Public Health and certification in holistic health.

Catarina:

I realized that the system was also a huge force in people’s ability to eat well. And if I focus just on education, I was really missing the mark.

The great thing about working in the nonprofit space is that I did work with kids in the beginning, I was working on an after-school program. But once I transitioned into Program Administration, I realized how much less stress I had in my life, sitting at a desk and working in a different way. Working on partnerships.

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

So, is that the work that you do today?

Catarina:

So, I’m still in the nonprofit space working in food insecurity. And I’m so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to get training and public health, and learn about food justice, and food sovereignty, which are really important ways for approaching the issues with food and what we can do about it. And as part of that, I’ve been able to involve myself in community organizing. And I founded an organization in Washington Heights called the Washington Heights, Inwood food Council. So, it’s in both neighborhoods, Washington Heights, and Inwood. And this group is pursuing food justice in the community, they’re gardening, they’re working with people in the neighborhood of all backgrounds. And the group now exists without me that I’ve transitioned myself out there completely sustainable and continuing to do very good work.

— Transition
— Audio of Catarina from InstaGram:
“Heres a two minute inclusion tip from Blindish Latina. Caption all of your videos…”

Voice Over from IPhone: “Video by Blindish latina”
Catarina from video: “Happy International Women’s Day! I want to tell you about a women I really admite. And, it’s my mom!”

— Music Begins, A Latin influenced Hip Hop groove.

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

Talk to me about Blindish Latina. First of all, explain the name blind ish.

Catarina:

The name blindish Latina means a lot to me, I wanted to showcase my intersectionality the multiple identities that I have, especially because we don’t see a lot of representation of people of color, of Latinidad that within disability. So that’s why I chose a Latina. And the reason I put blindish is because I wanted to give a hint of the fact that blindness is a spectrum. And I know that so many people don’t know this. They think that when somebody is blind, they don’t see anything at all. They don’t have any space in their mind or any concept in their mind of someone like me, who can see really well in such a small window. But I still retain vision.

TR:

The mission of Blindish Latina?

Catarina:

To smash disability stigmas through storytelling, through training and through advocacy.

TR:

Right now, all of this takes place on Instagram.

Catarina:

I talk about my own disability journey. And frequently share stories even about things that might seem small to me. And like something that nobody else would be interested in, for example, I did a video about swimming with hearing aids. And just talking about the fact that I have to be concerned about where I put my hearing aids, when I go swimming, and that I get really scared about somebody stealing them off the beach. So, I might leave them at home, and then not here for hours. But I got so much response on this post that other people feel the same way.

TR:

It’s not always specific to the Deaf or Blind community.

Catarina:

I also share about disability awareness in general, for example, self-identification.

TR:

For example, the debate over using identity first language versus person first language. Identifying as a Blind person as compared to a person who is Blind.

If you gather the right people, this could be a full podcast episode, but Catarina’s point is that it’s up to that individual how they choose to identify.

In addition, she’s sharing best practices and awareness of all sorts of advocacy issues.

TR in Conversation with Catarina: 49:45
What is it that made you become more interested now, in sort of connecting with the cross-disability community?

Catarina:

One thing that made me interested was the documentary Crip camp on Netflix about the disability rights movement, and the story of this camp that brought people with all different kinds of disabilities together in the 70s.

People of all different kinds of disabilities coming together to take these actions. And it really occurred to me that I had not been in a space like that. It’s something that has been inspiring.

TR:

Catarina’s been involved in some of the digital communities, but it’s not as personal.

Right now, she’s focusing on taking Blindish Latina beyond IG.
Catarina:

So, one of the things that I’m doing with Blindish Latina, is public speaking, and offering workshops, and speeches. It’s very important to me to grow my impact and be able to talk to corporations and institutions about disability awareness, why they should care about disability and accessibility, and the actions they can take to create an inclusive workplace and implement best practices. So, this is a major component of Blindish Latina and where it’s headed.
— Music ends

TR:

Catarina is hopeful that corporations will be receptive to her message. Especially considering the attention being given to diversity equity and inclusion initiatives.

This is where that smashing comes in.

— audible smashing sound

Catarina:

I think for me smashing stigmas, or being a stigma smasher was exciting, because it was action oriented.

I’m all about actually creating change. I’m not on Instagram just to talk or post photos of myself or get likes, I’m on there to share best practices to activate allies to move people along this continuum, where they are now going to operate differently and make an impact on their sphere of influence wherever they live.

TR:

Check out some specific advice for allies or accomplices who want to work with the community in smashing stigmas, straight from Blindish Latina.

Catarina:

People have this idea that being an ally is a huge undertaking.

I’ve broken it down into three simple steps. One, you have to care. You have to believe that it is important to be aware of accessibility to do better.

Second educate yourself. You can learn without putting the burden on people with disabilities to teach you, there are so many people producing content, you can engage with them, follow them, this podcast is a perfect example. Books, websites and trainings and presentation. So, you can do a lot of self-education.

— Music Begins, a triumphant smooth Hip Hop groove
TR:

The final step doesn’t actually require a lot of expertise or going far beyond your comfort zone.

— Smash sound —
Catarina:

Wherever you exist. Whatever community you’re a part of you can take action. For example, if you’re part of a church community that’s going to have their masses on zoom, you can advocate for a platform that has closed captions, and speak up and say, Hey, we should consider this other option.

If you are managing your staff, and you’re going to have a meeting off site, you can create a registration form for people to RSVP. And you can have a question in there that says, what accommodations Do you need, and it can be anonymous. And you can create a space that is welcoming. That’s taking an action that’s being an ally.

4TR in Conversation with Catarina:
You see what you did there? You still teach Academy.

— Catarina and Thomas share in a laugh.

TR:

That’s the value of experience. The ability to apply what we learn throughout our lives in different areas. That’s wisdom.

Showing the world who you are. All aspects.

Catarina:

One of the reasons that I started Blindish Latina was to show that I am here, that I am a professional, disabled, Latina woman and I exist. I don’t think there’s a lot of representation of all of those dimensions of people who are disabled and are not white, of people that are disabled and are in the workforce, especially for people with blindness. I feel like there’s a lot of assumptions that blind people cannot work. And there are many of us in the workforce. So that’s why I use that term professional. Look, I’m here educated. I have two graduate degrees. I was Valedictorian of my mph, like, Come at me.

TR:

Better come correct!

You can check out all of the content including best practices, informative videos with captions, images with alt text and more on Insta Gram @BlindishLatina. You can also connect with her via Linked In by searching by name, that’s Catarina Rivera (spelled out)

Catarina:

And I have a website as well. CatarinaRivera.com

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

So, I don’t know if you know, but the fact that you are on the Reid My Mind Radio podcast. That means you are now officially part of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

You perfectly aligned with what we are doing. And so, if I could borrow your turn because we’re trying’ to smash it up too.

(Laughs…)
— Smashing sound…

Catarina:

Love it!

TR:

Some great take aways in this one y’all!

Like using our experience, talents and interests to create impact.

Shout out to Catarina! We’re rocking with you Sis!

Continue to follow what’s happening here on Reid My Mind Radio wherever you consume your favorite podcasts. I hope we can one day make your list.

In the meantime, tell somebody you love or at least like a lot or even if you have no real feelings for this individual, let them know you are part of the Reid My Mind Radio Family. Let them know we have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com. Now this can be a challenge for some so be patient and no matter how long it may take, explain that it’s R to the E I D…
(“D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!

— Music ends into the outro

Audi o: Reid My Mind Radio outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

The Power of Friends Talking: Pramit Bhargava, Louie and More

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

There is power in conversation. A real friend can not only make you feel better by listening, but every now and then, they say something that affects you. Some times it lifts you up. other times it may not feel so good, but it’s meant to empower. Occasionally, it can even spark an idea.

Pramit Bhargava, is the founder of an Android app called Louie. Today, we explore his personal adjustment to blindness story. He shares an honest look into his experience with vision loss and how his view of blindness and disability has dramatically changed over the years.

And of course, there’s Louie!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

[show_more more=”Show the transcript” less=”Hide the transcript”]

“Friends” Whodini

“Friends! How many of us have them? Friends! Before we go any further…”

— Instrumental continues

TR:

Allow me to welcome you back to the podcast.

My name is Thomas Reid. I’ll be your host on this journey. even better, I hope I can be your friend.

See on this podcast, this podcast right here, we’re all about featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of Blindness and disability.

And one of my core beliefs as a person adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult is that the people we meet along our journey who have been traveling that path before us can be really important to helping us find our own way.

“Friends.”

Friends come in all shapes sizes and colors. Today, we even have virtual friends… You think you know what I’m talking about but let’s find out!

“Friends!”

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

— Audio of Louie sample from YouTube…

TR:

You’re listening to a sample of an app called Louie. It’s a virtual friend who can assist you in completing tasks within apps like YouTube, What’s APP, Uber and more.

We’ll get more into that later.
Right now, I want to share the story of how it came to be, which like the app, is really all about being of assistance to those adjusting to vision loss.

pramit:

I’m Pramit Bhargava, I’m the Founder of an app called Louie Voice Control for Visually Impaired people like us!

my life has been half with vision half visually impaired. I am by education a computer engineer. And then I went in for MBA. I had normal vision. So I was just like a regular guy.

TR:
A regular guy who attended both the India Institute of Technology and the India Institute of Management where he received his MBA.

Think M.I.T!

After graduating, well, he entered that race.
Pramit:
Running running to go up the corporate ladder. I was working like crazy. And with these global companies, you had to keep all kinds of hours giving the time difference.

I was in marketing, and then I moved on to managing businesses. For example, for quest diagnostics, I set up a couple of businesses in India. And life was all about, you know, moving up the corporate ladder and running and running.

TR:

He was about 30, living a very active lifestyle which included playing Squash. He began experiencing rheumatic joint pain.

Pramit:

it just came out of the blue, no family history, and they couldn’t diagnose it. So they put me on what we know as hydrochloriquine.

— Audio clips of Hydro chloroquine & Covid19

Pramit:

The good thing was that I could still get some correction. So I could still continue to work with these companies.

But then all along my vision was dropping and I kept sort of readjusting. I was also moving into a senior level position. So a lot of my work therefore involved strategy, thinking through problems, leading teams.

Emails, PowerPoints, and excel sheets are all there. The capabilities that I was leveraging, were really the strategy thinking, and execution, team leadership, so not so much, looking at the screen all the time.

TR:

There’s often discussion around when and how to disclose a disability to a prospective employer. Pramit opted for transparency.

Pramit:

I think the reason was very simple, because my vision was so bad they would have seen it
So I had a very clear plan of action. I would be upfront.

TR:

Not only did he disclose his disability, but pramit even suggested that hiring managers take some additional time to be sure of their decision to hire him.

Occasionally there were empathetic people in power, but the response he received let him know decisions were being made based on his skill set.

Pramit:

Look, it doesn’t matter. Because we want a certain skill set. We want your mind to work your brain to work, it doesn’t matter. Yes, they had expectations of some very basic,
I should be able to manage my emails, I should be able to read some stuff. they did have those expectations.

I think the fact that I was very upfront, and I didn’t want to sign on the dotted line, so to say, and I wanted them to think about it, , before we took the next step.

A couple of them in fact, asked me to go for eye test, , and of course, the eye test results. Were not great or anything, but at least , the whole thing was very transparent. It just knocked off the pressure.

TR:

Well at least external pressure.

We want to believe in the idea that we’re judged based on our skills. A meritocracy, but the statistics tell me that’s probably not a common experience for most people.

Remember, Pramit graduated from the top technical and business schools in India.

— Audio transition changing tone …
Pramit:
there came a time. Suddenly, I couldn’t read anything at all. I couldn’t make out any Excel sheets, PowerPoints.

And, , because I had that little vision, I wasn’t really using any of the technologies, I wasn’t using a screen reader,.

So the mind said oh, I don’t need it, I can manage it.

TR:

Over a 12 year period as his vision changed, his adaptations did not.

Pramit:

I hit that point where suddenly my confidence was gone.

In my mind the devil saying, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. If I can’t do this, how will I be able to do a job like this?

TR:

It wasn’t anything external, in fact, Pramit continued to get job offers.

Pramit:

I was sort of just sitting at home two and a half, three years doing nothing.

Every time I would get offers, , for similar positions, and something inside me will tell me no, no, no, , let me not make a mess of it, I won’t be able to do it.

I was getting very, very dependent for simple things. 

I mean, even to answer the phone, , I had to ask somebody, okay, Who’s calling? Or if I had to dial somebody on a touchscreen.

TR:

Pramit was living with decreasing Low Vision for about 12 years. Not passing as sighted, but also not working as Blind

At first glance, it might appear as if he were in a really good situation. He had a high level career, management was supportive, he had resources including assistants. So I had to ask in order to make it clear.

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 13:49
What made you lose your confidence?

Pramit

(Long pause… followed by a slight laugh)

I think See, I think combination of two things if honestly, if you asked me, I think a I was in that phase of life where I was trying to run, run and like I said, go up the corporate ladder. So let’s say if there was a goal, if at that time somebody had asked me, what is that one thing you want to achieve in life? I would have said, Okay, go up the corporate ladder, become a CEO, become a CEO of a bigger company. So that was one. Sometimes the way I almost think of it was that the higher you are flying, the bigger is the fall. (Laughs)

It’s A – about my aspirations and just not knowing what I should be doing next with life.

TR:

pramit wasn’t receiving negative feedback from his peers or management.

Pramit:

You know, that you are hitting that point where performing to that level is going to be difficult, just struggling for everything struggling to present struggling to analyze.

For example, let’s say you look at a trend on an Excel sheet. Now if you can see it, the numbers start speaking a story. When you try and do it with a screen reader cell buy cell buy cell, sometimes that story may get lost. And because I was not even using a screen reader. (Chuckles) So imagine, now, I’m not seeing anything, and suddenly those numbers are coming. I think a combination of, I was trying to fly high. My aspirations, the fact that I was not preparing myself for that, gradually I could have, but I didn’t.

That loss of confidence was not because of anybody telling me, it was all inside me all in my mind.

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 17:32
I definitely understand, and I just wanted to kind of pull that out, because I think it’s an important piece. So it’s like, you have your own standards. And if you’re not meeting your standards, well, that starts to impact you. It’s not always external. And so that’s why I wanted to drag that out a little bit from you.

Pramit:

Yeah, yeah! Absolutely!

In fact, If I can Thomas add to that, sometimes what happens We process somebody as low vision, or no vision as saying, oh, he cannot see. But I think important thing is what is going on in that person’s mind. Right, and how do we process it? How do we deal with that condition? I think that’s the bottom line. And that’s where, you know, I think my biggest whatever bottleneck was,

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 18:32
My teacher that I always go back to he used to say, everything starts with the thought.

Pramit:

Yes!

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

How is blindness perceived from your perspective in India? Because in a sense you were very privileged, would you classify yourself as that?

Pramit:

absolutely no doubt. I mean, the fact that I had vision, the fact that I had that kind of education and the kind of experience Yeah, certainly.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

What are the opportunities for others who may not have been or may not be as privileged?

Pramit:

I’ll give you a personal angle to this and I think it’s really important Right. Rather than saying how others would perceive, I can talk about how I used to look at blind when I had normal vision, I think it’s very important.

Honestly, I never interacted with somebody who’s blind. It’s not that I didn’t see them on the road. Because typically I’ll see them with a stick, and, you know, somehow managing or whatever, you know, people helping them, I just had zero empathy for blind people, you know, I’m just being very, very truthful on this.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

I appreciate it.

TR:

He admits, he had tunnel vision – focusing only on his goal of making his way up that corporate ladder.

Pramit:
Now, if I were to, let’s say, Now, extrapolated to a broader world in India, I would say that there are people of all kinds, I think, fortunately, I think there’ll be fewer people like me, who will have no empathy.

I think in India, also on top of it, I think the facilities, you know, for example, facilities for the visually impaired are fairly limited. Now, now that consciousness is going up. Like for example, now, all metro stations in India are designed for visually impaired, they have a lot of help available, right. There are tracks specially for them, you know, which they can follow. So, now, things are changing, but, there is definitely a perception issue.

TR:

And one of the best ways to change those perceptions?

Pramit:

I started interacting only when I started developing the app, Louis voice until such time, would you believe it, I have not had a real interaction. When I say real interaction, I may have seen somebody, I may have exchanged a word or two. But you know, that heart to heart one on one conversation, I, you know, till about, I would say two years back, I had not met a single visually impaired person in that sense. I was just trying to solve my own problems. I was just doing things on my own.

— Audio “Gladiator”

Pramit:

I started realizing that look, you know, just living for personal gain and living selfishly the way I had been all along. You know, it’s not something that’s great. Because I was very transactional, everything was about what is the benefit for me. You know, there’s nothing called you know, selflessly doing something. Now I’ve been consciously trying to change it.

TR:

Pramit’s self discovery didn’t begin with the app.

Pramit:
I think it’s a broader change which happened 15 years back now.

I was doing well in my career.

All of a sudden, these thoughts started coming into my mind, where am I running? What am I doing? Why, why am I here on earth? What is my purpose in life? I mean, it just came out of nowhere.

TR:

That inner voice may have always existed. Maybe the volume is low at first, but at some point it becomes noticeable.

Pramit:

Of course, I ignored it. You know, I kept ignoring it. I think it was only about maybe six, seven years back that I landed up, you know, at a meditation center.

TR:

I know, he doesn’t seem like a meditation center kind of guy.

Pramit:

There is so much of what happens when you’re an engineer, and an MBA from a top Institute. I was so left brain that I thought I knew everything in the world. That’s also part of that ego.

so I had gone to meet a friend who is like me, you know, similar career. So you know, again, you know, and he himself same materialistic, same same kind of thing. just happened over dinner, I just asked his wife tell me some good books.

I had just got introduced to audiobooks, by the way. So for years, I had not read anything.

Initially, of course, I started with some business books and so on.

so and then she just said, okay, read this book and nothing else.

The title sounded interesting, because I would have read a lot of autobiographies of business leaders, but not a yogi. I had zero interest in anything about Yogi’s or spirituality or religion.

TR:

That’s Autobiography of a Yogi
(available on Audible & BARD from the National Library Service for the Blind and print Disabled in the US.

Pramit:

I read the book, then there was this a certain meditation technique in that, you know, so I have just feared having read the book that my life will go to waste. If I don’t do that, you know, don’t learn that. And then accidentally, I had gone to a place to buy a book.

TR:

A book on that form of meditation.

While in the bookstore, he noticed a large hall . He asked about it.

Pramit:

They said, We teach this meditation.

I just landed up there by accident. So this is like all coincidences.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

No, that’s not coincidence.

Pramit:

Yeah, but I mean, it just looks like that now,

Ever since I came onto the path , I can well appreciate a lot of these things. I’m not doing it. It’s really a lot of you know, higher forces.

TR:

No matter what you believe in, the outcome and resulting actions should speak for themselves.

Pramit:
today, if I’m self-critical, it’s only because I am able to now assess myself because I can pull out and I can assess how big a jerk I was. And let’s say up to this time, and even now, sometimes, so I think which is good, that kind of self-assessment, and which happened only because I got onto this path.

TR:

Before he arrived on his current path, he admits trying other routes with alternative destinations.

Pramit:
I wanted to go back to the same life, the same kind of jobs.

TR:

But his confidence for that life was gone.

Then, he had a beer. But before you get excited, this is not an excuse for you to do the same. See, it’s not about what he was drinking. It’s about the friends he was drinking with.

Pramit:

One of them asked me a very, very pointed question.

He said, look, you are still living in the past, you’re still chasing what you used to do earlier. He said, Look inside and tell me, what is it that you really want to do now?

That suddenly changed my position, you know, and that and then I opened up? I said, No, yeah, you’re right, you know, all that I’m not interested, you know, I really want to do this. And I actually had something, you know, I could actually tell them, but I was trying to keep it down.

TR:

Identifying the problem is one thing, but understanding why can really be helpful.

Pramit:

We are leading our lives based on what others around us think. Therefor you want to just do the acceptable thing.

Slowly I think I started accepting the fact that look, I don’t need to care whether somebody likes it or doesn’t like it. This is what I want to do.

TR:
Others like family, friends or colleagues in many instances.

But remember that beer with friends earlier?

— “Friends” Whodini!

Pramit:

Then we had another round, In fact, with a bigger set of friends, they called up more people. By that time, I had greater granularity, I said, Okay, this is what I really want to do. And then ideas started flowing. Nobody was being judgmental, nobody was trying to say, Oh, this is bad, this is good. They said, Okay, if this is what you want to do, let’s see how we can help.

TR:

Pramit began consulting, but on his terms.

Pramit:
Some of these guys then got me contacts. And then basically what I did was that rather than doing regular jobs, I said, I’ll go into consulting, but a very different way.

I will do it one day, two day, three day, whatever I feel comfortable with, I will go work inside a company, work with their team drive their team, and I will not give them a consultant’s report, but I will actually deliver for them, whatever results or whatever targets that they had in mind.

I was lucky because some of these guys were connected, they put me in touch with people

I started my first consulting work within 10 days. My confidence was back.

I knew that I am 95% as effective as I was earlier. And doesn’t matter because I was using screen reader effectively. And I mean, there were people around so once in a while, I couldn’t see an image so I can ask them. Okay, what is this image? Just tell me, right? I mean, you have to take help whenever you need to. Yeah, but then I was independent.

TR in Conversation with Pramit: 39:18
Wow, wow. How good did that feel?

Pramit:

See, it’s like a bird released out of a cage. And that cage was created by me by my mind around me, nobody else. I mean, I cannot blame anybody else. for it. It’s only you know, how my mind was processing it.

TR:

The impact of all that, went beyond work. He began traveling on the metro subway – which even further enhanced his confidence.

Enjoying his new found freedom and career, , pramit approached a potential client, the managing director of a large Venture Capital firm.

Pramit:

he knew that I am visually impaired. So he was very keen. He asked me, in fact, a lot of questions about what apps you’re using, how are they? Do they do the task for you? Where is the gap? And you know, it was almost like, you know, trying to assess a market? Yeah. And at the end of it, he said, Look, forget consulting, you are just wasting away your life.

Let’s build apps for visually impaired.

He said, I can see because I’ve been tracking this market for a while, and I have some personal interests. He was cited.

TR:

But Pramit was comfortably consulting and even booked some long term projects. Why leave that?

Pramit:
I had gone to meet an uncle who’s like, you know, very wise and old. He said something, he said, Look, if I look at it from a material perspective, I will tell you do not do the startup because it’s very risky right now, you are doing well in consulting stick to that. But he said at the same time, I will say one thing, there are very, very few people in the world who would leverage their disability, to do something that can help others with similar disability. He said, If you can do that, you know, and he said, I wouldn’t advise you, if you can do that. I mean, that’s something.

TR:

That really resonated with him.

Pramit:

Way back in 2009, early 2009, when suddenly, I joined quest diagnostics, and my blood sugar levels turned out to be very high, and had a family history of diabetics, I lost my father because of diabetes complications. And I knew that, you know, going on to insulin doesn’t really help because I’d seen him taking insulin injections, two times a day, from childhood. Something clicked and I just changed my lifestyle. And let me tell you, because I was on this whole corporate ladder trip,

I was leading a really bad lifestyle, lot of stress, very little sleeping a lot of junk food, because junk food gives you that instant energy, it makes you feel, you know, you got energy back and you’re you know, in control. Yeah. And I was overweight, obese, you know, not overweight. So I lost something like 20 kg.

TR:

About 44 pounds.

He shared his progress on YouTube ad free, by the way and he says he’s still contacted by people around the world in regards to his journey with Diabetes and weight loss.

Reframing the idea of developing apps from this perspective made a difference.

Pramit:

When I look at all my senior positions back then it doesn’t give me joy, honestly, you know, so that was when I said, Okay, I’m ready to do this startup.

It’s very easy to criticize the tools that are available around us, you may say, Oh, this is not good. This is not bad. This app doesn’t work. You know, it doesn’t work here. This gentleman who was in the venture capital company he said, Look, I’ve heard enough about this not being good, that not being good. Tell me what is good. define it for me. So next week, I want to see what is good.

TR:

Then one evening after hanging out with a friend, Pramit began to arrange for an Uber when his friend said something.

Pramit:

He said give me your smartphone. And let me book it for you.

There were all these options. I gave him a destination. I would say take this ride, take this, there’s so much fare this fine. I’ll pay by this method, and confirm and calling. So you know, that whole experience was so beautiful. What if I could create a virtual friend right there on the phone screen, which will do exactly similar kind of continuous conversation with me. It will do everything within an app, because my friend could have done anything, you know, including cancellation, including messaging. And that is how the thought for Louie was born

TR:

Concept in mind, it was time to test the effectiveness of both Siri and Google Assistant. What he realized is that what would become known as Louie, came out of a very specific idea.

Pramit
I can build something which can be just tailor made for a visually impaired, tailor made for a blind. Louie is keeping a blind person in mind. I think that’s the difference.

TR:

Exactly how to do that required answering a few questions.

Pramit:

Can I give just voice commands to Louie , can I control my favorite apps or key features on the phone?

Just by my voice commands and with the thought that I should be able to do each and everything and being in control all the time?
I think that was very important.

TR:

That constant control is crucial. You want to be assured that whenever you need to access the app whether for information or to provide detail it’s available.

Whether ordering an Uber while out on the town, contacting a friend via What’s APp or just chillin’ on your couch surfing YouTube.
Pramit:

You can manage your contact, edit, delete block so on, everything with just voice commands. You can call, text messaging and there’s a whole series of apps and pain points of visually impaired that we are working on.

Messenger on Facebook, Google search, basically being able to navigate around in a browser, being able to read articles, being able to read documents. Even simple things like these, like, for example, some of the visually impaired even have a problem receiving their calls, picking up their calls, disconnecting their call.

What I realized the aspirations of a visually impaired are no different from that of a sighted.

These two gentlemen said, Oh, food ordering, why don’t you do food ordering? E-commerce for example and with that two way continuous interaction which the voice assistant’s don’t provide.

TR:

Pramit believes Louie can do it.

— “You can do it Louie” —

In fact, others do too. Which is why they formed the company Visio Apps.

Pramit:
Currently, we have investors, both in India, as well as USA. And I think very importantly, I think one of our investors, which I think was really important for us, he was the Google India and Southeast Asia head. And he was in Google, at that time, when he invested in the company. He just felt that look, this is something great, I really want to be a part of. So I think that has really helped.

We have 14 people in the team. Apart from me, there are three more visually impaired, there are five people in technology who are cited. People in marketing. Visually impaired people are contributing significantly, both in testing as well as user experience.

It’s a small team, we have employee stock option plans, we’re all passionate about this cause.

TR:

Since the pandemic the team has been working remotely and it looks like that will continue.

Which means there are opportunities for developers worldwide. In fact, Pramit is interested in hearing from Blind developers especially those working in IOS and Java.

You’re probably already recognizing ways that this sort of an app can go beyond the Blind community which is great. But it’s Pramit’s response to that which really sums up the power of Louie to me.

Pramit:
I’m very clear that the focus will always be the use case of a blind person. And with the assumption that look, if it works for somebody who cannot see the screen, it should work, theoretically for anybody else.

TR:

I’ll have all the links to Louie and how to reach Pramit on this episodes blog post over on ReidMyMind.com.

Again, Louie is for Android users only right now, therefore understand I have not used this myself.

But I’m all about friends helping friends get through a challenging situation. Especially when we’re centering that Blind experience.

Pramit:

I’m everyday interacting with users, I like to speak to them. So my phone number, my WhatsApp number, you know, my email is like, freely available. to anybody, and I do get calls or you know, just out of the blue from a whole lot of visually impaired because that really helps.

Just talking to people one on one, understanding the challenges with the app. I’m just trying to make it better and better.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:
So you’re telling me the CEO is the customer service?

Pramit:

Laughs… yes!

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

I officially welcome you into the Reid My Mind Radio family, Sir.

Your story is one that I think would be helpful for people adjusting to vision loss. I salute you in terms of where you’ve been, and

Pramit 1:13:59
no, no, not really. No, I’ve been a jerk I’ve been, as you can see,

If my experience can help I look at it that way.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:
But I say that because I don’t think anybody can throw stones because we all have done something. But we all don’t admit it. So I’m not saluting your jerkiness, right? I’m saluting your openness and you sharing that that’s what I’m saluting and the fact that you recognize it. When I became blind and I became aware of inaccessible websites and whatnot. And I said to myself, Oh, my goodness, I built an inaccessible website before, because I didn’t know I didn’t know. So now I know. So it’s really like when you know, it really matters what you do, then. You know what I mean?

Pramit:

absolutely.

TR in Conversation with Pramit:

That’s what I salute, sir.

TR:

Our latest addition to the Reid My Mind Radio family just provided an incredible amount of insight and value to this conversation of adjusting to blindness and disability.

It’s worth reviewing and truly sitting with and thinking about the experiences he shared.

If you know of someone right now who is in the midst of such an adjustment, reach out and tell them about this episode, tell them about Louie.

Of course let them know they can subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever they get podcasts!

Transcripts & more are over at ReidMyMind.com.

Now be a friend and say that with me…

R, to the E I D!

(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!
[/show_more]

They Call Me Marcy’s Son – A Eulogy

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Marcelina Reid, my mom, a tan skin woman with salt and pepper short hair standing in an off white and tan lace dress, poses in front of a stream with low green shrubs with a building reflected in the water.

My mother Marcelina passed away this month. I always wanted her to come on the podcast to have an open conversation around the topic of adult child/parent relationships after Vision Loss or disability. But Mom was from that generation that didn’t really get into those types of conversations, especially with their sons. I tried off microphone before and it wasn’t happening.

I felt the need to share some of these feelings and I know many of those adjusting to Vision Loss will see some of their own relationships in my experience with my mother.

My mother Marcy, the woman who raised me. My partner in silliness! probably my introduction to stories and the person who taught me how to find the good in bad situations. Yo soy El hijo de Marcy, Marcy’s son!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Soft ambient music begins

TR:

Hey there Reid My Mind Radio family! Much love to you all!

It’s your brother Thomas here on the check in…

If this is your first time joining the podcast, I’m the host and producer. Twice a month, we bring you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness. Every now and then I bring you stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

Today’s episode sort of falls into that last category. But I’m considering this a special episode.

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR:

In the intro, I said we bring you this podcast twice a month. Well, yes there are times when that’s not true, usually though, I let you know when a brother needs a bit of a break.

This month, I had to change it up a bit.

My mom passed away and I didn’t want to release an episode that was actually ready to go.

I usually include some social media promoting of the episodes after each release, I didn’t want my public voice talking about the podcast while my private voice was grieving the loss of my mother.

On multiple occasions during the life span of this podcast, I wanted to have my mother on as a guest. My mother was very charismatic and actually quite funny. I know she would have been really entertaining, however, my real goal was to get some insight into the relationships between children who become Blind as adults and their parent or parents.

Unfortunately, my mom was from that generation that didn’t talk much about that sort of thing.

My mom as far as I know continued to blame herself for my having Retinoblastoma as a child. Me losing my left eye as a baby I know had a tremendous impact on how she treated me in comparison to my older siblings.

So when I had to tell my mom about the tumor found behind my right eye as an adult, that wasn’t easy for me to do and I know not easy for her to hear.

— Soft melancholy piano music begins —

“Put it in God’s hands!”, was her response. Five words I’d come to hear throughout my life. As an over analyzing, action oriented young man this phrase never really sat well with me. My interpretation was that it didn’t mean much if we ignored the conversation about what we should do about the problem.

Mom didn’t say much in this situation with her words, but I realized her actions actually completed what I needed to hear. She was always ready to do whatever was required. You need a ride, she’d drive. You need someone to watch the girls, she was on her way to the house. Quiede comer? Do you want to eat? If yes and actually even if you didn’t answer, she’d cook up something just in case.

— Soft melancholy music fades to an end —

Being Blind around my mom was personally really difficult for me. As a man, I want to be seen as a protector of my family. My immediate family, my wife and girls see me that way. Whatever is necessary they know I’ll do.

We know for example, driving, for those who lose their sight as adults is one of the most difficult things to give up.

We hear about the loss of independence. I stopped driving immediately when I knew I could endanger my family and others.

As a little kid, I remember watching my Dad and the older men in my family pack up the car, discuss the best route to take and then pilot us safely to our destination. Honestly, it wasn’t just men, my Mom and aunts often did a lot of driving. It’s something as a young boy to watch other older men that makes me see myself in that role someday. One of the reasons I probably loved taking road trips with my family before my vision loss.

I remember watching my older cousins chauffeur their mother and think that was the coolest thing ever. I loved how they’d get out the car with their car keys in hand, appearing almost like a body guard for their mother.

Being a protector of my mother could also mean just being there for her and helping her get things done.

A few months before my second Cancer diagnosis, my brother passed away. I got the call while at work. I stopped everything and went to my mother. I always kept a copy of keys to her apartment with me in case of an emergency.

I opened the door. I can still see the image of her sitting on a chair in the foyer just a few feet from that door to the apartment. She just sat there alone crying, looking as though she was waiting for someone to come through the door.

I felt proud to be that person for her. Arriving in time to take care of everything that she needed. Making the arrangements, answering questions, taking the phone calls. She later told me how much she appreciated me being there. Of course, I didn’t want my brother to leave before my mom, she already lost my oldest sister 25 years earlier. I was however very thankful I could make it easier for her.

Then just a few months later, it seemed like I’d never really have that chance to be seen the same by my mother.

After becoming Blind, the way she responded to me felt like she could never see me as that strong adult able to take care of her. Rather, she wanted to be the
care giver. Even though it wasn’t necessary.

“Quidau!”, she’d say over and over. Be careful as I get up from my seat. I’m fine Ma! I’d say in frustration. “He’s fine Ma!” my wife, Marlett would offer knowing I was growing more irritable. “Abuela” Daddy’s fine!” my oldest daughter would offer in my support.

This scenario would repeat as often as we were together. It took place in my own home, in her apartment – where I grew up. It took place in public which was ten times worse for me. to handle. It was as though not only could she not see me in a strong male role, but it felt like she pointed that out to anyone inevitably watching.

She tried to get better about that. I know Marlett tried to explain how that made me feel, but it was just who my mother was. I would always be her baby! That I can understand now with babies of my own, but it never really made it easier for me. I never again felt as though she saw me as someone who would protect her as she did me when growing up.

My sister Camille had the chance to be there for Mommy in the end. My mother lived with my sister and her family in what became her final years. Cam and the rest of the family did great in keeping mommy safe and healthy as she could be. She remained by her side through her last breath.

— Calm music begins which opens to a steady rhythm —

If it wasn’t going to be me there with her then I’m so thankful it was my sister.

During the wake we set aside some time to celebrate my mom’s life. We invited family and friends to share any memories or stories of my mom.

During this celebration, I had an opportunity to Eulogize my mom. I didn’t get to actually do it the way I think it should have been done so I’d like to share it here as a way to hopefully share some of that incredible light my mom shined on all who met and knew her.

Eres el hijo de Marcy

When we were growing up, random people in a pizza shop, supermarket perhaps or in front of some building in Co-op City in the Bronx would confirm that fact.

You’re Marcy’s son?

At that time, it meant I had to be careful.
I had to be on my best behavior because if my mother found out I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing,
that would be bad enough. But finding out from a friend, I think that would have been way worse.

But being Marcy’s son, daughter or anything for that matter, to me means you benefit in some way from some of what she had.

You have to begin with strength.

That’s strength and courage to experience adversity and remain faithful in what you believe.
That’s what she did after burying two children way before their time. Plus losing her husband of 31 years.

It means, being stubborn. Incredibly stubborn.
But that’s conviction. Because everything she did was done with passion.

it’s an incredible sense of humor,

Honestly, some of that can be a bit crude and
while I don’t think she’d mind, I won’t go into specifics.

Mommy, could laugh at her own ways and flaws.
Never taking herself too seriously.

Mommy, was just so silly!
As little kids, you never knew when
you might turn the corner in the apartment and
there she was. Waiting on you.
Sometimes she was in one of those facial mud masks.
Other times she’d put on this orange alien looking mask.
She’d raise her hands in that supposed to be scary monster attacking pose while growling.

Even in more recent times, I know if
I ever needed anyone to act silly with, Mommy would never disappoint.

My Mom was a natural storyteller.

Those who had the chance to experience it definitely remember, Story time with Marcy…

It could have started with something simple like, let me tell you what happened today…

But, if you’re lucky, it began with a meal in her kitchen. That in itself is a gift!

If she was in the mood to share a story, alright, who am I kidding? it didn’t take much…

Mommy, tell them about the time… that could be anything.

I’m talking about either her childhood stories from Puerto Rico or
some of the early adventures in 1950’s New York City.

Mommy told stories in 3D.
She didn’t just tell you a story,
she brought you into it with sound effects she made up on the spot.

Panga na could be a crash, a punch…

She make these big , over exaggerated movements to illustrate or re-enact.

Sometimes, you might even be used as a prop.

Veng aki, as she pulls you out of your seat.

Of course, she had an action packed and dramatic tale.

you might wonder if she was embellishing.

That is until you experience something with her in life and you realize, oh no, those stories are true.

Marlett, Riana & Raven and Mommy were all hanging out at the mall.
I’d say about 8 or 10 years ago. Mommy had to be 75 or 77.

When they got home, the girls came and told me;
Daddy, Abuela got into a fight with this lady at Arthur Treachers.

That’s not news to me!

It wasn’t really for them either because they heard the stories of her past.
But now, after seeing her in action, there would never be any doubt as to the validity of those stories.

They believed her stories about her athletic prowess because at around 75 years old
they watched as she outskated a much younger woman at the roller rink. Because my mother was incredibly competitive.

But her best stories come out of her just being herself.

— Music ends —

When my sister Camille and I were young kids, Mommy
would tell us something then say, like a friend says and proceed to elaborate on something or explain

It was a very frequent thing.

Cammy and I would sort of look at one another …

Privately we’d wonder,
how many friends does mommy have?
Are they the same people always telling her these things?
Just something we wondered about for years.
It wasn’t until we were much older when we came to realize,
Wait, say that again, mommy,

Like a friend says

One more time

(exaggerated)Likay For instants

Mommy was saying for instance. All these years, it was just her accent that made us think she was saying like a friend says

I got into lots of trouble because of that accent.
Like the time she sent me to the store for Epson Salt and I came home with Eggs and Salt!

Teasing my mom and imitating her accent was and will always be one of the things that bring me joy.

As a kid, it got lots of laughs from her and my father so of course I continued.

Now, don’t get it twisted, my mom was to be taken seriously. She just had a cool way of combining the serious and the sweet.

As a child growing up dealing with lots of invasive doctor visits and exams under anesthesia, Mommy made them special. But first, she had to teach.

At each appointment from the time I was very young, it was my responsibility to sign myself in at the doctor’s office,
make sure no one was being seen before me,
even ask them to put the next set of drops in to assure everything stayed on schedule
I hated it because I was the only child doing that.
Isn’t this your job, I thought!

I realized later what she did and why.

She was a natural fighter and wanted to make sure her children were capable of standing up for themselves.
Showing me, not telling me how to do it!

But every visit was followed by either two hot dogs, a soft pretzel and a bottle of my favorite drink, Yoo Hoo, at that time.
On more special occasions, she’d take me to a restaurant. We shared memories of those times together later in life.

I looked forward to these appointments and
later learned how different that was from how other kids experienced these things.

Mommy, was an optimist.
She saw good in people but at the same time
she’s not going to fall for your nonsense.

— DJ scratch launches into a smooth beat! —

“So where you from?”

TR:

She was small, yet strong.

Definitely a bit heavy handed sometimes, but yet she had a delicate touch.
As a child it made everything better.
So much so that as an adult you still sought that comfort she could provide.

— “Marcy Son! Just thought I’d remind y’all!” Jay-Z lyric pans from left to right —

TR:

She was Mommy to my sister and I , Abuela to her grandchildren, Chela to her siblings and those who knew her back in the day.

If you knew her, I’m certain Marcy was someone special to you.
chances are you were impacted by her in some way.
even if you were the woman in Arthur Treacherss.

No seriously, on multiple occasions after the argument almost turned brawl, they’d see each other in the mall. And my mom would stare her down.

Esa vieja or the old lady as my mother called her, meanwhile I’m pretty sure my mother was older than her.

Today, something is and will forever be missing
not only in our families hearts
but honestly, the world feels a little emptier without her here.

There’s just places she’s supposed to be…
A family gathering, a rosary in her apartment, planning something here at Saint Michael’s .
That makes me very sad

But I’m so proud and happy that I will always be
El Hijo de Marcy, Marcy’s son!

— DJ scratch leads into “Marcy Son! Just thought I’d remind y’all” panned left —-

— DJ scratch leads into “Marcy Son” panned right—-

TR:
R E I D!

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

TR:

We Love You Mommy!

— Reid My Mind Radio outro

TR:
May you rest in peace!

Hide the transcript