Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

Reid My Mind Radio: On Music & Identity with Graham Norwood

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Full body picture of Graham in all denim in front of a brown wooden background with a white framed door.
“It’s been a long time coming…” and we’re finally here. Back with another episode and finally bringing you a request from a listener. NYC based Musician Graham Norwood spoke with me about his music, the process of becoming a part of the disability community and more. Plus hear some samples of his music and become a fan!

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Hello RMM Radio family.
I hope you all are doing well.
And I mean that with real sincerity.
I honestly miss you!
Before we get into this week’s episode I feel as though I should apologize. I’m truly committed to producing this show so when things get
reprioritized in my life I still want to make it happen.
Missing the last installment really bothered me but we’re back today with a new episode and a special one at that.
This one itself is long over do
Last year I received a request from a listener of RMM Radio asking me to interview a musician she followed on Instagram.
I know, it sounds like I am a private investigator for hire minus the fees. Actually, I think it’s pretty cool. She wanted to know more about this person and thought he would be a good fit for the podcast. She was correct and for that I send a sincere thanks.
It took some time for he and I to find some common ground in our schedules, but because it was a request, I couldn’t drop the ball on this one.
So here we go.
Audio: RMMRadio Intro
TR:
You’re listening to Graham Norwood, a New York City based musician.
He currently also serves as the Director of Foundations and
Corporate Relations for the Partnership for the Homeless a
New York City based nonprofit.
GN: I grew up a town called San Mateo which is about twenty miles south of San Francisco. I have a condition called L.C.A. Labor’s congenital amaurosis which is similar to R.P. Actually I thought I had R.P. my whole life until I had genetic testing a couple years ago and they said it was actually L.C.A.
TR:
LCA or Leber’s congenital amaurosis
has similarities to RP or retinitis pigmentosa and many
eye doctors consider it to be an early-onset form of RP.
Just like RP or retinitis pigmentosa,
LCA is a slowly progressive condition that
also has several forms, each with
different genetic causes.
As Graham experienced this all of his life it was his normal.
GN:
I honestly didn’t give it that much thought. All the schools I went to really kind of were willing to provide whatever accommodations were necessary but I don’t know I didn’t really need a ton of accommodations. Growing up my sight was a little bit better. I was able to kind of follow along okay, so wasn’t it wasn’t that big of a deal.
TR:
Music came pretty natural to Graham.
Starting with the piano around 7 or 8 years old, moving on to the guitar at 10.
He later realized he could sing and since then music was a central part of his life.
GN:
Music is kind of like a level playing field where whether you can see or not is pretty irrelevant. If you sound good then it’s not that big of a deal. I don’t think I was ever consciously aware of that but you know looking back that’s very true. I think I was able to meet and play with a lot of you know really pro level musicians and they were very accepting of me there was never any sort of like “well you’re blind you can’t do this.” That’s not always the case, I mean, there are certain professions in careers where even if you maybe do have a work around and people are still kind of suspicious and the joblessness rate in the blind and low vision community is seventy percent. It’s very hard for people with low vision to build careers for themselves and they deal with a lot of prejudice even just sort of unconscious bias they really don’t have a sense of what the technological adaptations are how people go about their lives they try to empathize and try to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. But if you don’t have the experience of being blind and figuring out the work arounds and having a good problem solving skills then you have you know your first thought is like “oh my God if I couldn’t see I couldn’t do anything.” So they don’t realize how adaptable people are and how they come up with ways to get around all that stuff and be successful in spite of the little vision
TR in conversation with GN:
Do you find that that was in all aspects of music? So do you get involved in the recording side of it as well?
GN:
You know, I honestly don’t really I’ve never really been that good with kind of recording myself. Certain programs like Reaper, an audio software program that’s pretty good and pretty accessible for low vision people, but I’ve honestly never gotten too far down that road I’ve always worked with other engineers. I really like the kind of studio atmosphere being able to focus in on the performance and having somebody else kind of worry about the engineering side of it.
TR in conversation with GN:
I am recording you through Reaper right now. (laughs)
GN:
(Laughs) Right on! Yeah it’s cool I just spent six months at Colorado Center for the blind and they showed me a little bit of how to use Reaper. And yeah it was cool. I did a little bit of recording on that it’s a pretty cool program.
TR:
The Colorado Center for the Blind is located south of Denver.
Taken from their website;
the center provides innovative teaching techniques and philosophy
that continues to have Far-reaching effects on
the lives of blind people, taking them to new heights of independence.
I was a little surprised to hear that he just returned from the center since he has experienced vision loss his entire life.
His explanation made total sense and gives a bit of insight into his character.
What sounds like the type of guy who will fix a perceived flaw.
GN:
There were certain things that I didn’t really learn when I was growing up. My domestic skills were pretty limited. I didn’t really know how to cook I didn’t really learn that much about like how to clean you know keep an apartment clean and things like that. I got to a point where I really wanted to learn those things. Colorado school teaches that stuff they also teach Braille, they teach mobility assistive technology. Some stuff I found more immediately useful than other things. I mean, I’ve had a cane training, I’m pretty mobile so the mobility stuff I felt like I had a pretty good handle on. Certainly, the home management stuff was really helpful to me and you know has made a pretty big difference.
TR in conversation with GN:
Did you have a lot of contact with other people who are visually growing up?
GN:
No I didn’t at all. That’s a good question because that was actually the thing I think that was most beneficial to me or made of the biggest impression when I did finally get the Colorado school. It was the first time really that I had been around a lot of other blind and vision people. It’s really only been in the last maybe five years maybe not even maybe four years, that I’ve kind of become much more involved and aware of that blind and low vision community and also the larger kind of people with disabilities community. When I was going up I was the only blind person I knew. I think in a lot of ways it was it was great for me in the sense of I never really thought of myself in those terms and I kind of when I would come to a situation where it would be harder for me to do something than a sighted person I would just sort of figure it out. I didn’t put any barriers or restrictions on myself in terms of what I could do. But I think what I didn’t get was it was the vision thing was something that I always kind of marginalised and I never really embraced it as a part of who I was. At the end of the day it’s a pretty big thing. It’s certainly not what defines me but it’s definitely a significant piece of that identity. And so I met some people maybe starting four or five years ago I started working as a grant writer at The National Organization on Disability and getting more and more interested in the sort of employment issues for people with disabilities. I met a few pretty cool blind people and the best advice I got actually was that you know you got to meet other cool blind people and you know see these other blind people that are doing really interesting stuff. So I found that very inspiring to start meeting other people in the community.
TR:
And that’s exactly what he did.
By volunteering with Team Sea to See.
GN:
S E A to S E E. It’s for kind of very successful business people who are also blind who are athletes and they’re taking part in this crazy bike race. Basically the world’s toughest bike race for blind people and then for sighted people riding tandems coast to coast in nine days. I’ve been helping them with fundraising we got funding from Google and the American Foundation for the Blind. Gatorades helping us out and some other pretty cool sponsors. And it’s basically to raise awareness of this godlessness issue. That’s kind of indicative of my transition over the past few years to really feeling more a part of the blind and low vision and people with disabilities community and wanting to be more involved in that. I think the biggest issue that people have, people with disabilities have, in a lot of ways is visibility and just getting out there. I don’t think people without disability see enough of that. One in six Americans has a disability I think something like one to two percent of the population this is low vision. It’s not like one in fifty people that you know are blind that’s not true for most of the population. People just don’t have a sense of how blind and low vision people or people with other disabilities can really thrive and succeed in and do amazing stuff. I’m much more aware of this idea now and I’m wanting to get the word out and just wanting to live my life in public as a low vision person so that other people can kind of be aware of you know the fact that they we’re out there and we’re doing awesome stuff and people can just sort of revise what they think is possible for people with disabilities.
TR in conversation with GN:
Was there any one thing that made you go that way? Was there something that occurred in your own experience?
GN:
I don’t think strictly so. I had a long term relationship and I think on a very practical level I went from living with this person for eight years to suddenly living on my own again for the first time in a long time. And I think you know on a very practical level that was a wake up call in terms of like the things that I took for granted that this woman helped me out with suddenly I had to do myself. Honestly, it was just maturing a little bit and realizing that I had been marginalizing this big component of my identity because I was so I was so paranoid of the idea that someone would just label me as like “oh the blind guy” you know and I never wanted to be that I wanted people to think of me more broadly and see the whole person as opposed to just the disability. That was something that I intuitively felt even from a very young age and so I just never wanted to make a big deal out of it and never want to be engaged with it and as I got a little bit older I think I realised that, I understood why I did it and I see you know the motivation behind feeling that way but ultimately I thought “this is kind of silly.” I need to own this more and be proud of who I am and you know not ignore this one thing but really embrace it and turn it into a positive. In addition to starting to work for the National Organization of Disability I went to National Federation of the blind, a national convention in Florida one year. I don’t know if you’ve ever been it was like completely overwhelming to me it was like twenty five hundred blind people in a convention center just like absolute chaos you know people like crashing into each other and just like (laughs). It was it was so overwhelming when I first got there. But then it really struck me because it was basically just a bunch of people who were like “you know what screw it like I this is who I am and this is this is how I get around and this is the way I live my life.” I hope this doesn’t come across the wrong way but one of the takeaways for me was you know blindness isn’t always elegant, right? Like you use a cane to feel what’s in front of you and you know sometimes you whack a trash can and it’s like super loud. But that’s what the cane supposed to do and that’s how you get around and it may not be the most aesthetically beautiful way but it’s how we operate. I think I also felt like maybe I had been I had been trying to minimize those kinds of situations but I was going to such great lengths to not have those situations that I wasn’t authentically being myself and you know being just a person with a visual impairment who is out in the world and being independent and so that was my other, I think, turning point was seeing so many other blind people just living their lives and doing their thing and and being proud of it and not ashamed of it. So that was another thing that happened around the time that I started working for a National Organization of Disability that just made me realize you know this is how it is and there’s nothing to be ashamed of there’s nothing to avoid. I came away thinking this is a really beautiful thing that I haven’t been authentic and I haven’t been embracing and I want to start being more more real about being a person with a visual impairment. I don’t think there was any real like turning point that brought me to that it was it was a slow process and I really kind of started by like dipping my toe in the water and starting to reach out individually do a couple in the vision people and then it built from there. Then you know I had these these moments where I was like oh I get this now and I want to be more apart of this.
TR in conversation with GN:
I know I met so many people with low vision who straddle that line. And I’m not saying that they need to make a decision and go one way but it sounds like what you chose was the best for you to continue on and be your authentic self and sometimes I don’t think that people necessarily make that their choice I don’t think they’re being really authentic. And you know I’m trying not to judge necessarily but I’m also just saying like I see them that they’re not doing everything that they can and they’re hoping they holding on are grasping on to something. Do you understand what I’m saying?
GN: Oh absolutely and it’s hard because especially you know like I said I was born and grew up with this. And I think it’s probably really hard if somebody has you know normal or relatively normal vision and then they have to navigate that transition. Because you know let’s face it there’s a lot of stigmatization out there and you don’t necessarily want to suddenly identify as being a, well I avoid the term disabled person I was always say person with a disability because like smoke alarms get disabled and people are still people whether they have a disability or not. But yeah I mean you know I think I’ll always probably straddle that line. But the important thing for me was was the realization that I could exist on both sides of it and I didn’t have to make a choice and when I want to I’m fully qualified to be part of the blind and low vision community and there’s nothing wrong with that and people except me there and I didn’t know if they would it and then I realize that they totally do. And if I want to just hang out with all of my sighted friends and I don’t want to talk about or think about blindness I can do that too. For the longest time I felt like I didn’t belong in either world and then eventually I realized that I belonged in both.
TR:
It’s pretty obvious that raising awareness of blindness and disability issues is a high priority for Graham. I can respect that.
Learning to self-identify as a person with a disability is a process.
It begins with real self-examination and truthfulness.
Based on those I have spoken to who have gone through the process, it appears it leads to a greater level of comfort in one’s own skin.
In a way, Graham’s relationship with music is mirroring his life.
He traditionally played a more supportive role as a musician.
Playing in bands and producing records for others.
He’s currently working on his own album and he hopes will
get picked up by a label and released later this year.
You can learn more about his upcoming album, show dates and more.
GN:
My website is just my name Graham Norwood Music dot com (spells out grahamnorwood.com ). Custom tracks up on there I put my upcoming gigs on there know we will be putting up some announcements about the album when it comes out later this year people can email me through that and that’s that’s probably the best way.
TR:
Producing this episode probably began sometime last summer. It took some time to actually reach Graham, then scheduling problems, then my back issues and more recently my other commitments.
With certain people I interview, I can’t help but think how effective it would be to have the opportunity to really hang out with the person and observe them in their environment.
I suspect I would have seen relationships between his day job,
his self-discovery and acceptance of his identity as a person with vision loss and his music of course.
I couldn’t help but hear some of my own story in Graham’s.
I always mention the impact attending the state conference of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind had on my life.
While it wasn’t as large as the national conferences and conventions it was impactful.
Meeting the cool blind people who were living productive lives.
Observing their level of comfort in their own skin made me know it was possible that I too could attain that.
I’m reminded of hearing about these cool blind people from
prior guests on Reid My Mind Radio including Josh Miele, Chancey Fleet and more.
I know Using my white cane to navigate effectively may not look very smooth at times.
Occasionally, I might mess up but that’s ok. I get better. Most importantly I’m better at accepting when I get a bit thrown off.
Like I did with this podcast.
Just to let you know I have some episodes coming up in the next few weeks so please stay tuned.
Remember, 2BlindMics; the number 2 capital B, lind capital M, ics.
This is the show I co-host with my podcast partner Doctor Dre. It’s right down the block on your local podcast app. Give it a listen and feel free to let me know what you think good or bad. I’m interested in hearing from the RMMRadio listeners. We have a lot of interviews with some of the rap artists and others involved in the Yo MTV Raps experience.
I really do appreciate feedback. it’s the only real way to improve…
Even if it’s something I disagree with, I can decide to not do anything about it but at least I was informed.
Sort of like Graham making the decision to go to the Colorado center to improve his own skills. You have to respect that. We’re supposed to fix our flaws and become the best person we can be.
You can do the same by subscribing to this podcast – Reid My Mind Radio – remember that’s R E I D.
It’s available just about wherever you get podcasts plus Sound Cloud, Stitcher and Tune In Radio.
And I plan to talk to you soon!
Peace!
Audio: Graham:
Whether you can see or not is pretty irrelevant, if you sound good it’s not that big of a deal.

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Reid My Mind Radio: Chancey Fleet Assisting with More than Technology

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

Returning from a medical leave (see the last episode and post for an update) we resume where we last left off…

We were looking at employment of people with disabilities. Continuing with the theme, today’s episode explores one person’s experience with lessons that are applicable to everyone not only people with disabilities.

Chancey Fleet is the Assistive Technology Coordinator for the Andrew Heiskel Talking Book Library in New York City. We hear all about how she landed that position and how she continues to expand her role while aiding the community.

When you’re done listening make sure you subscribe to the podcast and tell a friend to do the same!

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Today, I’m further exploring the topic of employment of people with disabilities through the experience of one young ladies career. We find out how she made her way into her current position and how she continues to expand it and grow benefiting not only herself and her employer, but the community which she serves.

As usual, I believe there are lessons that go beyond disability, but that’s really up to you the listener to decide.

Before we get into it, you know what I need to do…

[Scratch]
Drop it!
[Reid My mind Radio Theme Music]

TR:
[City Sounds]

If you walk across 20th street In New York City, between 5th and 6th Ave tucked in among the various commercial buildings is a library

TR in conversation with CF:
Andrew Haskell? Heiskel?

CF:
Andrew Haskell.
So here’s the thing . The technically correct pronunciation is Andrew Heiskel, but when you say it correctly you suddenly have a ton of people looking for the high school.

TR in conversation with CF:
[Laughs…]

CF:
So there’s just this wave of convenient wrongness where we all kind of say Andrew Haskell now, but you can avoid all of that by just remembering our web address which is talkingbooks.nypl.org, nice and easy.

We’re kind of two libraries in one. We are a full brand of the NYPL which means this is a place where all types of members of the community come to pick up their holds pick up their books and DVD’s. Use the Wi-Fi get some studying done take advantage of our computer labs and gather together.

We got story time for kids, we got programs for teens and adults. Opera concerts creative writing you name it.

The one things that you won’t find in this building that you find in most public libraries is a whole lot of print because as well as being part of the NYPL, we are a sub-regional location for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. And what that means is that we’re also an operations that sends out tons of Braille and audio books by mail and folks could come in and pick those up as well.

TR:
Meet Chancey Fleet. She’s the Assistive Technology Coordinator at that library.

Chancey says to her knowledge she is the first Assistive Technology Coordinator for the library.

While working as an Assistive Technology Trainer in a Vocational Rehabilitation Agency she became frustrated when she was unable to assist those who weren’t eligible for services.
CF:
sometimes the consumer would have a question about Twitter or Facebook or taking pictures outside and I would be dying to answer it but I would know that that was just outside of my scope of work. and it would need to just stay that way. And at the same time folks would come up to me knowing me from activism from outside of the place where I worked and they’d need help with computers and technology and if they were undocumented or they were homemakers or retired or happily employed or had vision issues or print issues that didn’t add up to legal blindness they wouldn’t be eligible to come see me. And all of that started to feel a little limiting and a little frustrating and I guess I started to think about why we have the structures that we have. And I think the structures that we have are great a lot of the time and I would never want to see them replaced but sometimes we need more than one way to do things.

TR:
In 2010 Chancey found that other way at the library. She approached the leadership at the Andrew Heiskel library and asked if she and some friends could offer a free computer clinic on Saturdays. And by free she meant F R E E, free…

CF:
Free one on one instruction. Free of eligibility, requirements, free of paperwork and free of charge at the library.

And we started out with just three or four volunteers. I was one of them,
my friend Nihal my friend Walei and lots of other folks joined us over the years.

we got the information into the library newsletter and quietly , slowly it started to take off.

What we do is totally peer supported, informal learning. So we’ll never replace comprehensive training right. Just like you wouldn’t go to the library to take a Chemistry class, but you might come to the library to get help on some specific Chemistry problem or finding a study group or finding the right resources. We do kind of the same thing.

TR:
The assistance includes some real world challenges related to vision loss.

CF:

I think one of the scariest or daunting things about losing your vision or about being blind without access to information is people are telling you things that might be good for you or not all the time and if you have a way to write things down and if you don’t have a way to refer back to things and decide on your schedule when you can sit down and figure out what’s important for you, it can be really overwhelming.

We’re here at the library so we have the digital talking book machines that are totally free of charge and we have flash drives and if nothing else,

if someone is super new to technology and they don’t have a way to write in Braille or write in print we can just record what we do here on a flash drive and they can play it back on the free players at any time. And that’s how we can scaffold them until they can get to that point where they can use their personal technology to take notes.

TR:
What started out in 2010 as a volunteer position offering 3 hours a week grew to the library providing about 150 hours of training a month in 2014.

That volunteer position, became a full time paid position that Chancey was perfectly suited to fill.

CF:
A job posting showed up at the end of 2013 and I was happy to see it. My Saturday’s at the library had become the highlight of my week and I saw an increasing number of volunteers and patrons coming to learn gathering at the library and really getting important work done in kind of a low key informal setting.

And sometimes the conversation would stray outside the boundaries of technology. and I’d walk in and somebody would be talking about how it is they sort their mail or sort their laundry or what it was like to take the subway for the first time instead of taking Access-A-Ride. And that peer to peer informal learning that might be about technology but touches all sorts of threads of importance in our lives. I thought that was really special and I wanted to see that continue to grow

TR:

It grew into more programming for the city’s blind and visually impaired community. In addition to providing individual help with Braille the, library offers some cool progressive programming. Like a class in photography and videography.
taught by Judy Dixon, Consumer Relations Officer of the NLS.

CF:

So folks learn about composing photos and videos . We learned about perspective and glare and how lighting conditions and distance affects things. And Judy shared with us a bunch of her favorite apps and strategies. We’ve done all sorts of social networking workshops. We’ve done an introduction to coding and electronics with Arduino.

TR:
We covered the Blind Arduino Project and its founder Josh Miele on a past episode which you should really check out.

CF:

So Arduinos are really small portable affordable computers that run essentially one program at a time and you can design your own super accessible tool.

because the components are so affordable and portable and because it’s so widely popular in kind of the mainstream community of makers and enthusiasts there’s a lot of great advice and code samples , kind of like recipes if you will that are out there so that even if you’re a total novice you can find all kinds of online instructions and code to work from and you can find components to do whatever you
may need.

TR:
Chancey and the library teamed up with DIY Ability a midtown Manhattan company offering workshops geared to serving people with disabilities, like
toy hacking workshops that help families retrofit or hack toys to become more accessible for people that have fine motor impairments
workshops teaching people with all different types of disabilities how to code and use electronics.

CF:
So our introductory Arduino workshops we call them “eyes free” or non visual Arduino workshops are a place to learn about the very basics of working with Arduino and working with code in a place where non visual techniques are well respected and well understood.

So it’s a safe space for starting out. It’s a community space for gathering and exchanging ideas and we hope it gives folks a foundation they can build on.

We’ve done that with both youth and adults. And we’re launching now into a program that teaches folks how to come in and use the tactile graphics embosser and tactile graphics design software as well as a 3D printer to create non visual spatial representations of the graphics and objects they need to understand. Things in their work school and leisure lives.

TR:
Chancey’s interest in the accessibility of graphical or visual information began with a request from a library patron.

CF:
Somebody called me and asked me where they could possibly get a map
that related the 5 boroughs of New York City to one another and their water ways. He just moved to New York City and he wanted to get the lay of the land sort of speak.

TR:
For a sighted person, this is an easy task, just launch Google maps or find an old fashioned printed map.
It’s much more challenging to access this information non visually.

Receiving grant funds, the library was able to purchase the necessary equipment. With this the Dimensions Project was off and running.

CF:

our premise is that we will teach community members sighted and Blind alike about some of the fundamental best practices around creating tactile images that are meaningful useful and legible. And then we’ll provide the equipment the space and mentorship that people need to create the images and the 3D objects that they’d like to experience.

TR:

The Dimension Project includes three workshops. Two specifically focusing on working with the equipment and the other on best practices for effective tactile graphics.

CF:

Tactile Tactics, taught by Annie Lease from the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Annie is an artist with low vision who also has a ton of museum education experience and she is no stranger to crafting meaningful and well-rounded tactile experiences for people.

she goes over the basics. For one thing if you’re creating a tactile graphic the first thing that you think about is purpose. Why does the person want it? What information are they hoping to have? So what needs to be on that map?

Annie also talks about scale. She talks about using labeling effectively and kind of introducing people to the graphic once it’s been created – creating the context for it.

It’s been exciting . I kind of designed and got funding for this project and started rolling out the workshops wondering if the community would really respond because at first I would tell library patrons coming in for computer instruction about it and I’d ask them if they would like to be able to make their own images and pictures and maps and they would throw it back at me and say for what? I would throw it back at them and say well what do sighted people use images for? What do sighted people care about? And they would kind of wrap their brains and come up with things.

TR:
One of the most challenging parts of this project is convincing people who didn’t grow up in image rich environments that tactile graphics have something to offer.

Real world examples can prove helpful.

CF:
One of our volunteers has a small business and he had to design a logo for his business. He had certain kind of Values or parameters that he gave to a sighted designer to have his logo designed. And first thing that he wanted to do when he came in and used the tactile graphic software was to find out what his logo actually looked like.

He had hoped that the letters would relate to each other in a certain way and it would kind of imply motion. So that was something that he was already really ready to connect to. I think part of what made that successful is that it was a tactile graphic that was expected.

I think street maps and floor maps are another place where we can start with something that’s familiar. So I think using something that someone already knows both for context and motivation is a powerful thing.

TR:

Available maps include;
* Tactile street maps
* Floor maps of the Heiskel branch – enabling customers to locate computer labs, training and community rooms and more.

* a prototype map of the five boroughs as requested so many years ago.

CF:
I was so happy that we got our first real live request in the fall to reproduce a floor map for the NFB of New York state convention.

We enlisted a sighted volunteer who has graphic design but next to no tactile graphic experience. And we paired her up with a few blind volunteers who don’t have graphic design experience but who have lots of experience with Braille and tactile graphics.

TR:

The collaboration worked well. Chancey and the other volunteers provided valuable input and feedback making the end result a usable map that was distributed to about 30 people.

CF:

I think we are on the edge of a new golden age in tactile literacy. In the same way that two hundred years ago we were on the edge of something spectacular in terms of textual literacy.

Now although we still have trouble convincing folks that Braille’s important and sometimes affording the Brail technology that we need broadly we have better access to texts than ever before thanks to electronic conversion into Braille and even text to speech and we are in a better place with regard to textual literacy than we’ve ever been.

TR:

Chancey speaks of a benefit she has seen in her own life after beginning to think more spatially.

CF:

I’m a person that never took chemistry or physics or calculus and a person that never really engaged to actively with the arts or coding.

And it’s only now that I’m working in the community of support such awesome collaborators across the city and across the country that I feel free to explore

TR:

Creative exploration like origami. And Chancey is now bringing this paper art form to the Talking Book library patrons.

CF:

Origami is paper craft.

origami is using a single sheet of paper or maybe even building lots of different
modules together and using different folds and most to create.

Most of the Origami instructions say hey check out figure E or it’s a totally silent You Tube video that just shows somebody’s hands. And so our Origami club that we’re launching in collaboration with the Origami Therapy Association here in New York here is a chance for Blind folks and say to folks to get together and use really clear descriptive language to explain step by step what you need to do to get to a certain origami model. If you check out YouDescribe.org and search for origami you actually
see some students from San Francisco State Universities TVI Preparation program have put up quite a few Origami instructional videos that are accessible, they all have a descriptive track. So we’re lucky to have them as collaborators as well as a few blind folks around the country help us learn new models and get them into clear descriptive language.

TR:

In a sense, Chancey began preparing for her role at the library at an early age back in Mechanicsville Virginia.

CF:
I went to a mainstream school in the 80’s and my folks always made sure that I had basically equal access to information and one of the most important ways they did that is by pushing for the school system to incorporate technology into my life from an early age. I remember having a Toshiba laptop in the first grade.

I could play text adventure games and I could get my word processing done. And one of the most powerful things that I still remember is that people could write notes to me and I could read over them and I could write out my assignments and send them to a printer which meant that I could get feedback from my teacher without having to wait for the vision teacher to come around and transcribe things.

So I learned really early on that having technology at my fingertips, mainstream technology that everybody could use together was going to be a key that would let me interact directly and not wait on a third party to grant me the access that I need.

TR:
While attending William and Mary College Chancey had the opportunity to work as a peer Access Technology Trainer. Providing one on one training to other Blind and visually impaired individuals.

After graduating with degrees in Sociology and Psychology she felt more connected to Access Technology. A member of the National Federation of the Blind ever since receiving a student scholarship, Chancey began beta testing the first KNFB Reader – an early device to portably scan text to speech.

CF:
Little did I know that one of the times I was at a conference demonstrating , there was a recruiter in the audience from a place called Integration Technologies and the next thing I knew I was flying around the country training Federal employees with disabilities on how to use their tech and that’s kind of how I got my start.

It was fun to fly from office to office and see how lots of different types of people worked. I got to work with transcriptionists, IRS agents, judges, veterans and all kinds of people and it was a great first post college job.

TR:
technology isn’t just a 9 to 5 thing with Chancey.
She says it permeates her life.
Using apps to help her improve her ability to understand and speak Spanish, accessible ways of finding and cooking new recipes,
using GPS apps for travel
these are just examples of technology in her daily life.

She also thinks about the social implications of technology. Like Aira, the glasses and app that are connected to a live attendant who can serve as a blind users virtual eyes. Describing and assisting in navigation at any time. The service begins at about 90 dollars per month.

CF:

Aira is a premium product and it lets us get around a lot of accessibility problems and perhaps giving an accessibility workaround to the folks that are privileged enough to be able to pay for Aira, might not always be a good thing because if I have had my accessibility problem solved by Aira will I take the time to do the boring paper work and the advocacy follow up that’s required to make the bigger accessibility problem that I encounter go away or will I just hitch a ride with Aira and forget about it? I hope I won’t. I hope we can all have a conversation about how we can incorporate these tools into our
lives in a way that doesn’t keep us from being a good community advocates for accessibility that is for everyone.

##
Clearly, Chancey sees the bigger picture when it comes to the purpose of technology. It’s not what the tech does that makes it cool, it’s about how it can impact a person’s life.

CF:
One of my favorite stories is about a young lady that came from Syria and
when she first came to us she came because she wanted to learn to type. She didn’t really have much of a Goal beyond that. In addition to being blind and being newly new to technology she also has a speech impairment. She has a lot of trouble communicating especially with people with people that she doesn’t know or who don’t really slow down to listen to her.
So first she came in very quietly barely said anything and booked lots of time with talking typing teacher. When she finished with that she started to learn to use the Internet. She got a computer from Computers for the Blind, the refurbished computers out of Texas, and slowly she started to talk to us more because she had more specific questions about how to do different things on the internet and her personality started to emerge.

one of the first things that she wanted to do online was go on You Tube and look for makeup tutorials and we did.

Then she got an I Phone And with that I Phone we recommended that she get a Bluetooth keyboard. Fortunately she was able to afford to do that.

I’ll always remember the first big milestone with her. She. Typed out to me in one day hey could I take this keyboard in and type out what I want my doctor to know before I meet with my doctor? And I just like wanted
to do a fist bump like yes that’s exactly what this technology is for. She figured out for herself how it was going to help her. How it was going to empower her.

## That young lady not only continued learning Braille, but she began providing support for others new to technology and is now continuing her education in preparation for entering the workforce.

Looking back on Chancey’s career path a few notable milestones stand out.
There’s the technology experience and that early opportunity to travel and meet a wide array of people with vision loss that seemed to prepare her for her later work. Including serving as one of the first Holman Prize judges.

Chancey says her involvement with the National Federation of the Blind was also instrumental.

I first joined the National Federation of the Blind in two thousand and one and I came in the way that a lot of people do which is that they got me with
a scholarship.

So I came to a convention for a scholarship and I stayed for the philosophy.

it was Carla McCuillan that gave the first banquet speech. She is a pretty distinguished educator – I think she runs a
Montessori school. I remember the energy and I remember her addressing
the low expectations that the public often has for us and you know immediately I connected with that message that that that’s not a normal thing that we can do better for ourselves.

I think the National Federation of the blind is. Pretty unique in the amount of investment and trust that it puts in its ordinary members who become volunteers.

It is one of the greatest ways that I have
found to get work experience while I was waiting for actual work to come along beginning when I was in college.

TR:
It was an earlier volunteer experience working the phones at a women’s crisis shelter that helped Chancey realize a career in Psychology wasn’t for her.

That discovery Chancey says was just another benefit of volunteering.

CF:
It’s a way to develop skills and self-confidence meet people in the community give back but it’s also frankly
sometimes a way to find a job.

TR:

Like I said, lessons in Chancey’s experience once again go beyond disability

If you live in New York City or find yourself visiting head on down to the library and check out all they have to offer.

For more information on services and upcoming workshops visit Talking Books.NYPL.ORG

To reach out to Chancey directly you can find her at @ChanceyFleet on Twitter.

Remember to subscribe to the podcast; Apple Podcast, Google Play Stitcher, Tune In Radio and Sound Cloud.
Tell a friend!

CF:
… and quietly , slowly it started to take off.

[RMMRadio Theme Outro]

TR:
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Hello, From the Other Side!

Friday, July 14th, 2017

After over two years of interviewing different people I’ve become more comfortable with the process. I think I have a long way to go to become really good at it, but one thing is certain; I much rather ask the questions.

However, recently I was interviewed for the Vision Aware blog and the process was pretty painless. Writer, Susan Kennedy asked some good questions that really gave me a chance to get into the back story of Reid My Mind Radio.

While I don’t want to put myself in a box in regards to the things I talk about in the podcast, people adjusting to any form of disability, specifically vision loss; low vision or total blindness and everything in between, those are my people! I want them to know they can come here and hang out and it’s all good! I got you!

Head over to the Vision Aware Blog and check out the article. Hopefully this piece will attract all sorts of listeners & readers (don’t forget we have transcripts for Deaf and Hearing Impaired).

Either way, the plan is to continue amplifying these experiences and having fun while I do it!

If there are any new readers/listeners finding this blog & podcast … welcome!

Reid My Mind Radio – The Reidwind Episode

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Sometimes it’s worth pausing to take a look at your work. Maybe a time to reflect, re-evaluate or maybe just slow down to pick some others up as you continue along the way.

Today we rewind, or rather Reidwind, and take a look back at some of the prior episodes in the past six months.

There’s lots of ways to consume this content… Sound Cloud, Apple Podcast and others, even transcript.

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
For more than 2 years I have been producing this podcast.

The last 6 months or so include episodes that exemplify some of the reasons I enjoy doing this.

Today, let’s take a quick look back.

If you’re new here it’s a great way to introduce you to some of what Reid My Mind Radio is all about.

I say some because part of the stress and the joy of doing this is it’s mine… I can do whatever the Bleep I wanna do…

Like right now… I wanna drop my intro music!

[Audio Reid My Mind Theme Music…]

TR:
This podcast is a place for me to share opinions. Like…

After attending the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind conference; where people with vision loss are the main attendees, the environment is made very accessible. Unfortunately, outside of these types of experiences, this rarely occurs.

TR: From [” Are Blind Conferences Fantasy” Posted November 2, 2016](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-are-blind-conferences-fantasy/)
I recently heard these types of tours and activities or even the conferences themselves  described  as fantasy.
The idea is that this is not and will never be the real world. The real world I guess in the minds of those who believe this is fantasy will always  exclusively
cater only to those with sight and forever exclude people with vision loss.

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

TR:
Whenever possible, I like to include my daughters in my podcast.
I just enjoy their company,
when we hang out it’s always fun …
we laugh and act silly.
We share our sense of humor so it’s going to be fun.

In early December I tried to convince them
to do their own episode of the podcast as they did a few years ago, but
this time with a special twist.
From [“Join the Coalition” Posted December 31, 2017](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-join-the-coalition/)

[TReid in conversation with Raven]
Alright, I think we need to bring back Rizzle Razzle this year…

Raven:
I agree!

TReid:
…but

Raven:
Oh no…

TReid:
… you should have a guest…

Raven:
Ooooh, who is this guest?

TReid:
… me, Daddy!

{After several seconds…}

Raven
No!

[Silence]
TReid:
Yeh, I know, you’re probably just as shocked as I am!

After about 30 minutes or so I let it go…

Maybe I went about this the wrong way.
Rizzle is the oldest, she’d be able to influence Razzle.
Even though she’s away at school, we speak everyday…
I’m ready for her call usually in the morning as she’s walking to class.
That’s when I decided, I’ll get her on my side and the show will be a go…

Here’s how that went down…
[Sound of Harp indicating going back in time.]
[Sound of iPhone ringing]
TReid:
You know, why drag it out?

Riana: “No!”

[Jay Z, What more can I say…]

TR:
They came around and we
closed the year with the [Rizzle Razzle episode](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-rizzle-razzle-year-end-special/)
Even though they sabotage my microphone!

*This episode did not include transcripts as it was very much dependent on the music being discussed.

TR:
Reid My Mind is more than personal …
it’s about telling people’s stories…

People adjusting to blindness like
Robert Ott who drew from his martial arts background to move forward after losing his sight to a gun shot womb.

RO:
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. Everything was racing through my mind. I’ve got pictures of me doing dive rolls over large groups of people and doing splits in the air. I used to go running a lot on the beach and hand springs and just all kinds of beautiful great stuff. I was so weak I couldn’t even do a push-up and now I’m blind. I can’t get around, my independence, my confidence, my self-esteem, my balance.

TR:
While these stories are specific to adjusting to blindness,
it’s easy to see how everyone has their own way of responding.

Maria Johnson, AKA Girl Gone Blind , decided to share her experiences and challenges on her own blog. …
She spoke very candidly of her adjustment process.
One memorable moment was some of her personal words of encouragement that led to a little creativity …

In [“Who is Girl gone Blind”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-who-is-girl-gone-blind/) I included a “song” created using Maria’s words specifically “I got this”.

TR:
I don’t like to use the often referred to idea of
overcoming blindness or disability and accomplishing goals.
I like to think of working with what you have …
making the most out of your situation and counting your blessings…
Like young Ant, the first female blind rapper
From [“Meet Young Ant, First Female Blind Rapper”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-meet-young-ant-first-female-rapper-whos-blind/)

TReid:
Young Ant in the building!

YA:
Young Ant in the building!

Treid:
Uh Oh!

So the way I look at this; Antynette is the person, Young Ant is the rapper!

YA:
[Laugh!] Yeah, that’s right!

TReid:
Alright, so first who is Antynette?

YA:
Antynette is a young lady who has been through a lot in a little bit over a year and half and is trying to find her through it with adjusting and coping
and in different techniques that I’m learning and trying to find different avenues of expressing how I’m feeling.

[Intro to “Count your Blessings” by Young Ant]

TReid:
Beautiful!
I lost my sight about 13 years ago. And so…

YA:
Really!

TReid:
Yeh so one of the things that I like to hear from people adjusting to blindness is that they don’t first start with who they are with the fact that they
are blind. You said you are a young lady!
Now, tell me who’s Young Ant?

YA:
Well Young Ant is a motivational rapper!

TR:
And then some like Doctor Dre best known for Yo MTV Raps and more, who’s adjustment process is about Fighting Back…

From[“Doctor Dre’s The Fight Back”](https://t.co/CzpxqDcUXg)

Dre:
I embrace it. And in embracing it he has put me on a path  to help other people and to reach out and express myself not  just about the type 2 Diabetes
not only about the blindness but  about when something goes on and there’s a struggle sometimes embrace your struggle to find your solutions.
It doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee for a cure or a guarantee to a perfect answer  but what it does is says you know what  I’m more than what’s going on with
me.
I can also work with this.

If you have a good relationship with your family, friends and  other people and reaching out. I learn every day from so many different people  and I pay
attention and I  try to pass on some of the knowledge of what I get  so that people can help themselves

TR:
It’s more than the adjustment experience.

We heard from
Robert Lewis sharing his story of
growing up in a segregated school for blind students.

From [“At The Intersection of Black & Blind”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-at-the-intersection-of-black-and-blind/)

RL:
We went to one restaurant and the lady said you got to eat as fast as you can so we can get you out of here before the owner comes  back because if he
saw we had Black people here he would fire me!

TR:
In North Carolina, it was more than getting a meal.

RL:
Guys jumped out of the car and came over and they were going to beat us
all up.
We had no idea … What is this all about? Is it because we are blind; no, it’s  because you’re black and you’re blind!

TR:
Naru Kwinah and Leroy Moore, the two gentlemen producing the
documentary of the life of Joe Capers. Played a big role in artists like EnVogue, Tony Tony Tony and MC Hammer

From [“Who is Joe Capers”](http://reidmymind.com/reid-my-mind-radio-who-is-joe-capers/)

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

TR:
In that same episode we learn about Krip Hop from founder Leroy moore.

LM:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:
That’s just a taste of some of what has appeared here on
Reid My Mind Radio over the past few months.

Subscribe now to make sure you are riding along during
the months to come.

You can subscribe via Apple Podcast or where ever you like to get your podcast content. That includes Stitcher and Tune In Radio.

Go check that out now, there’s lots of good stuff.

If you’re listening on Sound Cloud, hit that follow button.

I’m Thomas Reid
[Audio: Young Ant “Don’t get it wrong, I’m in my zone”]

[Audio: Reid My Mind theme music outro]
Peace

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – Certain Victory

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Occasionally, I come across a story that I think fits into a specific category. This latest piece for example was supposed to be about Robert Ott, a blind entrepreneur, but it ended up as so much more.

Picture of Robert Ott

Adjusting to blindness, disability  or any significant life change takes real strength, courage and spirit. Hear how Robert fought back from trauma to become a successful entrepreneur in the Business Enterprise Program.

Hit play to start listening, then subscribe to the podcast and tell a friend!

 

 

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
What’s good everyone!

In this episode I’m bringing you another piece produced for Gatewave Radio.
If you don’t know they are the radio reading service  out of New York City.
their purpose is to provide access to printed materials to those who are print impaired.
Meaning blind or visually impaired, or
for other reasons like physical or cognitive disability, they can’t read print.

Yes, many people today have access to technology that eliminates the need for this service, but
there are still a lot of people who either cannot afford or learn the technology.

One of the things I have realized over the last few years is that I really appreciate telling other people’s stories.

I’m also realizing it’s getting time for me to take another step.

To really tell some one’s story you have to spend time getting to see who they really are and what they are all about.

Doing that, takes a budget.
All of my productions are best described as NMO & NMI…
No Money Out & No Money In!
Well definitely NMI…
If you factor time and equipment well there’s a cost.

I’m honestly not sure what the next step is for me.

I guess I am just letting the universe know I am ready … or
at least open to taking a new step in telling people’s stories for a purpose.

Let’s get into this story and then some more immediately following the Gatewave piece.

But first…
[Audio: RMMRadio Theme Music]

&********

RO:
My name is Robert J. Ott. I originally graduated the Business Enterprise Program  in the state of New Jersey. I then became recertified in the state of Washington and moved my life out here and became a blind entrepreneur in this program.

TR:
The Business Enterprise Program  or B E P
is a federally authorized program implemented  by each state and territory in the United States.

they train and license   people who are blind or visually impaired
to establish and operate food service businesses in
public and private facilities.

RO:
That business did the food services for the western regional center of the National Oceanic Atmospheric  Administration. it was about  a thousand people in the complex. I took over the day care center, I fed 52 kids a day, overseeing 48 vending machines. We did all the catering; breakfast, lunch, fancy dinners . We used to get liquor permits from time to time for international meetings that we’d have there. I spent 10 years of my life there.

TR:
During a Washington state meeting of  B EP vendors,
Robert learned about an opportunity to gain a military contract.
Such contracts were never awarded to a blind vendor in the state and
only 35 vendors in the country had ever received such lucrative opportunities.

Feeling as though he reached a peak in his business at that time,
Robert decided he would pursue the contract.

After 2 and a half years of legal battles with the department of defense ,
Robert was awarded the contract.

RO:
I formed a corporation; it was titled Certain Victory Food Services Incorporated. I had 833 employees.

September 1, 2004 I walked into my office on what is now called  Joint Base Lewis McChord. We were providing the labor, proper service; we were taking care of these young men and women for fighting  for freedom and independence.

TR:
Robert success story can be defined by one word; Pilsung.

The definition, is in his story,
beginning with his introduction to the Martial Arts.

Growing up in Southern New Jersey.  Robert was raised by a single mom.

Like most boys who first watched Bruce Lee on the big screen,
Robert immediately began imitating the acrobatic moves.

[Audio: Bruce Lee’s fighting scene]

RO:
I wasn’t sure what I was doing. My brain wasn’t even doing the thinking. My body was simply kicking  and moving, punches and everything else.

TR:
Robert’s mom couldn’t afford to send her son to lessons.

When Robert turned 12, an affordable and convenient opportunity was presented and
he began studying Tae Kwon Do

RO:
I ended up  winning the New Jersey State Championships two years in a row. From there, the Junior Olympics down in Florida, The Fight for Cancer Championships, Northeast Pocono Championships Garden State Championships. I also lost some battles too. What it was really doing on the inside was  building my self-esteem and confidence to look somebody eye to eye and shake their hand with warmth, goodness and my own self security confidence  at the same time.

TR:
Robert continued studying different forms of Martial Arts with
multiple instructors in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Each instructor providing something new,
One in particular stood out to Robert.

RO:
I remember opening up Tae Kwon Do Times magazine. In the back was the directory  of instructors and little pictures of their faces. And it was one in Pennsylvania  and I said this is the guy I need to go to. And I remember my girlfriends said what are you talking about. I said, he’s looking at me. And she laughed. I said no he is. There I met Grand Master  Go Chae Teok. I became one of his students. A year following that I became the officer manager and chief  instructor . I began to operate, run and dealt with sales instructing, maintenance, advertising, marketing and the biggest thing that happened during that time is that here I am  standing in front of a group of 60 children with all of the parents up on the second floor loft looking down  and I’m teaching. Or I’m standing in front of all of these adults that are much older than me and here I am their instructor and they’re looking to me for guidance. Here I am in the office when people would come in with challenges they’d have in life and we’d be talking. I began to realize more than anything  else that I  do this from the heart and I’m good at what I do . It’s a passion I had. I was 18 years old.

TR:
By 1990, Robert was running his own school teaching Hapkido.

RO:

Which is a Korean Martial Arts. It translates to art of coordinated power. It was growing. So much was going with my life. A lot of responsibility, my relationship was being challenged, I had a great business but I was still trying to figure out how am I going to get everything to tie in together and make ends meet. I’d just given my mother away at her wedding. She married a beautiful man  and my mother gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. This is when I was 21 years old.

TR:
On October 6, 1990 Robert’s life would change forever.

RO:
It’s funny because all that night, I kept saying to myself over and over again you’re not gonna go out, you’re not gonna go to this bar. I couldn’t shut my mind down I had to do something and I guess going there was that answer at the age of 21.

[Audio: Sounds of bar crowd]

So I went in, I was chit chatting, this and that, it was no more than 10 minutes  later a large group of people came in who were heavily intoxicated. I was talking to a female , we were having a nice conversation and the next thing you know another individual  came between us and was getting involved, he wanted to put his hands on her.

She’s with me, I think you had a little bit too much to drink.

She went towards the back of the bar and I was slowly putting on my jacket  to go back to the end of the bar  to walk away from the situation. I certainly could defend myself  and take care of myself but I also learned in life that when you’re dealing with people in certain situations  they could be 1 inch tall and you may be in the best shape of your life but if they don’t care about life  you’re dealing with a whole other ball game!

As I was walking away he pushed me from behind . I turn around to defend myself. The next thing you know, the manager of the bar  was pushing me out the door . The bouncer was pushing the other guy out the door and it was all just happening.

I remember very little, but the key parts I do remember is my right leg going between his legs and sweeping his feet off the ground. Dropping my knee into his groin and I was on top of him. And then the next thing I remember I was tucking my shirt in with my friend in front of me. The door cracked back open  that went out to the parking lot and the  man while I was looking the other direction put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger.

[Audio: Gunshot, followed by ambulance…]

The bullet entered the left part of my skull  and went through the left temporal lobe of my brain. Caught the nerve to my left eye , destroyed my taste and smell and blew up in my right eye.

They got me over to Cooper Trauma Center which is located in Camden New Jersey. It was a total of 17 hours  that I laid there and it was nothing they could do.

TR:
Robert wasn’t expected to survive.
His mother was told if he did it was almost certain that he would have severe brain damage.

RO:
A nurse by the name of Fran Orth  who worked in the Trauma Center came in on the second shift. She spent time reading my information looking at me, reading information, looking at me,  she began to question why wasn’t my head lifted up. Why was not this done, why was not that  not done. And the Neuro Surgeon said there’s nothing we can do he’s going to be dying. She said but did you call Dr. Luis Servante?

TR:
Dr. Servante received the call and answered.
He went on to perform surgery that gave Robert another chance at life.

Recovery, would take some time.

He had to deal with Meningitis that required another stay in the hospital.

At the time of the shooting, Robert was a fit 185 pounds.
As a result of the fall after being shot
Robert’s jaw was broken and wired shut.
He dropped to about 125 pounds.

RO:
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. Everything was racing through my mind. I’ve got pictures of me doing dive rolls over large groups of people and doing splits in the air. I used to go running a lot on the beach and hand springs and just all kinds of beautiful great stuff. I was so weak I couldn’t even do a push-up and now I’m blind. I can’t get around, my independence, my confidence, my self-esteem, my balance.

TR:
The recovery wasn’t just physical.

As the owner and operator of a Martial Arts school,
Robert was more than just an instructor to his students.

RO:
My school was still operating. My students were keeping it going for me, but I was embarrassed to go back. I didn’t want the children and people to see me now. I was ashamed of myself. I could have taught you ten different way when someone puts a gun to you. Techniques and things and ways of taking them down and removing the gun from their hands etc. How your body moves and how your eyes are and how you react to it.

I never thought it would really really happen!

TR:
It was Martial Arts that would once again  help Robert find his way.

RO:
Richard Kemon was my very first Martial Arts Instructor. I really looked up to him, respected him so much. He was like a father to me. And he said Bobby you have to put your uniform on, you gotta go back to your school.

TR:
Robert would go on to regain his  self-confidence and seek out new opportunities.

When it was time, he learned of the BEP program.

RO:
I remember this guy came by the house  to bring me a watch, a talking watch from the New Jersey Commission of the Blind. We started talking about the Business Enterprise Program. I decided to investigate it more. It was what I wanted to do, my dream, but I didn’t look at it as my dream. I looked at it as my tool.

TR:
This was just one tool of many.

Robert already had tools he began accumulating  when introduced to the Martial arts.

I’m talking about more than  the
flying kicks or wood shattering punches.

RO:
Working with people with self-control, confidence, peace of mind, communicating properly, sharing your energy and spirit.

TR:
That spirit eventually guided Robert to Washington state.
Fortunately, he didn’t leave his  sense of humor behind.

TR [In conversation with Robert]:
What made you go from Jersey all the way to Seattle?

RO:
Well that’s a lot of times what  happens when you’re blind and get behind the wheel.

TR:
[Laughs…]
Nice!

TR:
In addition to becoming a successful entrepreneur, he began once again teaching Martial Arts and more…

RO:
I started getting involved with working with other individuals who are blind. I put together a women’s self-defense seminar. I spent time with he Wounded Warriors. I got involved with the children at the Elementary School. I wrote a book.

TR:
The name of that book?
Certain Victory, which is also the name of Robert’s company.

Once again, it goes back to the martial arts; it goes back to pilsung!.

RO:
That same magazine that I told you I was reading when I told you I saw the picture of Grand master Goh.

The article I read in that magazine was called Pilsung. It was about a man and he just earned his first degree black belt.

TR:
Soon after, while piloting his own plane, he crashed.

RO:
And he ended up hitting the high tension line; wires. And 90percent of his body was burnt and he survived.

The whole story  was about overcoming this, getting through this, fighting the fight, finding what he called certain victory. In Korean, pilsung means certain victory through strength, courage and indomitable spirit.

TR:
One word, two syllables Pilsung  helped one man strive to reach his potential.

Robert’s book, Certain Victory is available on Bookshare.org.
It’s also available on Amazon.com and his website Certain Victory.com.

This is Thomas Reid
[RO:
There’s one in Pennsylvania and I said this is the guy I need to go to.]

for Gatewave Radio
Audio for Independent Living.

[Audio Bumper]

Some of my favorite conversations here on Reid My Mind Radio are with those who are adjusting to Blindness.
Notice I didn’t say adjusted.
I truly believe the adjustment process is a continuing practice.

If you ever talked to anyone experiencing blindness or disability,
you may have heard stories about body snatchers and mysteriously disappearing people.

Ok, I’m not being literal.

These are the people in our lives who no longer come around or
they just act very differently around us…

Robert says this was one advantage of making the move out west.

RO:
Nobody knew me here from when I could see.
Thomas the other issue I battle with is I was very well known when I could see. And every time I turned around I’d run into somebody in the supermarket or in the store and they were just always saying to me we’re so sorry for what happened Robert. But they were getting together with me anymore. They weren’t the friends they used to be. I was not the same Robert  any more. I was not the same Bobby. I was somebody different.

Out here I was who I was . No more nor less. people know me for who I am right now. It was almost like breaking free.

TR [In conversation with Robert]:

Yeh, a lot of people kind of fade away. They fade away! It is what it is!

RO:
They do!

TR [In conversation with Robert]:

That ability to start fresh really sounds nice!

RO:
Yes, there’s several components Thomas that I think have been  what I have grabbed onto to help recreate and or clarify who and what I am right now. And in so many words I am the same guy I always was. You know when we were younger all we wanted to do was know, know, know. Learn more and learn more  and learn more. And as I’ve gotten older I’m now trying to understand , understand  and understand more more more!

TR:
Those things that we want to know when we are younger and
try to understand more when we’re older
are said to always be inside us.

That idea that Robert talked about, Pilsung or
strength courage and  Indomitable spirit.
These are already inside of us and
we just need to believe that and
find our way of accessing especially
when we experience life changes.
It’s not easy, but hearing from people like Robert and others, it’s worth the effort.

I don’t know my next step in producing this podcast,
stories for Gatewave or any other outlet  or
even other things I tend to focus my energy on…

But I do know as Robert said…

RO:
Hey if it makes a difference  for one person in this world Thomas then we win!

You can win too!

Subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio in your favorite podcast app…
just look for Reid My Mind Radio… remember that is R E I D.

You can also listen via the Stitcher or Tune In Radio app.

Check out ReidMyMind.com for links, all past episodes plus more.

Big thanks to Robert for sharing his story.
Thanks to riley Gibson for recording Robert’s side of the conversation.
Thanks to you for listening!

[Audio: RMMRadio Outro Theme]

Peace!

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