Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

Reid My Mind Radio: On Black Panther Audio Description – Race, Selection & Time

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

More on Black Panther? Well, yes, sort of! It’s really a good movie that raises some issues about Audio Description that need to be a part of AD conversations. In fact, these issues go further and touch on so called race and disability. I thought I’d begin here… Plus some suggestions as to how we can enhance the Audio Description improving the movie experience for Blind movie goers.

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Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up RMMFamily!

It’s been a while since I felt the need to share some thoughts on my mind.

So here I go!

What you’re hearing is a scene from this year’s record breaking super hero movie from Marvel Studios, Black Panther.

I enjoy a super hero movie like everyone else , I’m just not one to get all fan boy about it before actually seeing the movie. I do enjoy the build up to the premier and the anticipation from those more passionate about the character and genre.

Black panther was a little different for me. It was pretty difficult to open my Twitter app and not read something about the movie. Whether television, radio or podcasts and all other media, Black Panther was a trending topic.

We planned to see the movie as a family either during the first week or soon thereafter. Unfortunately, my back problems forced us to alter our
plans.

Audio: “Doctor Says I need a backiotomy!” Dave Chappelle, “Half Baked”

Over the past few years, as Audio Description has increasingly been included in major movie releases (at least most that I’ve been interested in seeing) I find myself assuming that movies will be accessible for me.

Rather than questioning if it’s going to be included, Marvel’s Black Panther led me to be more concerned with the quality of the Audio Description or AD. To some extent we can probably consider that progress. However, improving the quality is a major part of moving to an experience closer to that of a sighted movie viewer.

My issues with Black Panther’s Audio Description begin with their choice of narrator and those scenes and elements included in the description. I propose we should think about description outside of the limitations set forward by movie’s start and end time.

The AD included in Black Panther was in my opinion lacking from the beginning.

One of the reasons I was excited to see this movie is because of the predominantly Black cast. The movie mostly takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakonda. This relatively small nation appearing to the outside world to be underdeveloped was actually the most technically advanced nation on the planet. Home to vibranium which absorbs sound waves and other vibrations, including kinetic energy making it the strongest metal.

Now, yes, this is a fictional movie, but for African Americans it represented the chance to see characters that display the people and culture in a positive light on screen. Finally getting a break from the roles of thugs, domestic, the white persons best friend who’s only existence appears to be to aid the friend and the sassy Black woman. And when it comes to movies taking place in the future – we’re more than often just written out completely.

Hollywood just has a problem with representation in general outside of your able bodied white male.

For many Black Panther lived up to the hype and fulfilled the void of not seeing positive representations of people of African descent. The vibe of this movie was unapologetically Black.

For those of us watching with Audio Description, well the vibe wasn’t the same. Trying to remain in the dream nation of Wakanda was impossible when we’re being shaken awake by the narrator who by all accounts was a British White man.

Does this mean, white people shouldn’t be allowed to narrate movies with predominantly Black casts? It’s really probably more like the reverse, should narrators of color be able to narrate stories outside of their culture. Of course.

However, when the movie is so deeply associated with a culture – I think it makes sense to extend that to the audio description.

Concise and informative description is even more imperative in fictional movies such as Black Panther. Often, the technology, architecture and possibly fashion is unique to the fictional location.

So much of these things were left out of the movie, forcing blind viewers to ask for input from others. For example, the description of the city itself being described something like a mix between modern and ancient… My view of ancient or modern may be different from another person’s. It seems too subjective.
In fact, someone who has never seen modern may not get much imagery at all from that statement.

There were several other things that I learned of only from having conversations with friends and family following the movie. Some of these things I thought really helped tell the story of the people and culture of Wakanda hence the story of Black Panther.

Now maybe this seems weird to you, but I was annoyed that a decision was made to not read the credits. This is especially relevant in a Marvel movie. Those familiar with these movies know not to leave until the credits are done because Marvel includes a scene or two that’s relevant to the telling of the next story in the series – somewhat of a preview or sneak peek. I personally enjoy hearing the names of the actors in the cast and sometimes enjoy hearing the many names of those involved in the production. Without this access I’m forced to ask who ever I’m with to read or look for a certain cast member. That usually feels like too much to ask someone.

— Close —

Looking at movie making as a process you can sort of neatly put things into categories or phases.

This includes everything from the idea to the creation including pre production to post production. Writing, casting, filming, editing and distribution.

Right now the Audio Description as far as I can tell takes place right before that last distribution phase.

Movie studios contract with companies specializing in Audio Description. Many of these companies also specialize in closed captioning as well and possibly language translations.

When we talk about access to technology; software, hardware, apps & websites the goal is access from the design phase. Shouldn’t we want the same from Audio Description?

Movies, televisions programs, documentaries, theater plays..any visual medium are really works of art. Someone has a vision. With movies and television , it’s the Director who is in charge of what the consumer sees. He/She is setting up and or approving camera placement, lighting and everything involved with the final images. They’re telling the story. That’s what the consumer sees.

Audio Description being written by a third party is now including a new vision. One that to my knowledge doesn’t include any real consultation with the Director.

There are certain scenes that are designed and purposely shot in a specific way to evoke an emotion, convey some sort of meaning.

With the limitations currently in place in creating an Audio description track for a movie, most notably making use of the silent time in between the dialog, things are going to get left out. The choices made by the AD production companies may not be the same as those of the Director.

Are we really limited to just the hour and a half or two hours from the movie’s start to end?

I’ve attended live plays which begin the description early.

Blind users were invited to the theater 45 minutes to an hour earlier than the general audience. This gave us time in some instances to explore the stage and set, costumers and even become familiar with the voices of the different actors.

Currently, Audio Description doesn’t begin until the movie starts. It seems like a track could be created and either streamed prior to the movie and even be made available for listening before arriving to the theater. In the case of Black Panther a more comprehensive description of the country could have been written including their technology and more without spoiling the movie.

It could also help to have some audio streaming through the device to assure its working before the movie begins. All too often when going to a movie with my wife, as the movie began I would realize there was no description coming through the headphones. My wife would run out of the theater to find a manager in order to get it fixed.

Going back to my comparison with access to technology, from an advocacy perspective many of us have written directly to developers of software, websites and apps. At the very least, these individuals become informed about the need for access. I often wonder if director’s, screen writers, producers and others in the early Pre production phase are aware of Audio Description.

In 2016 I had the opportunity to speak with Peter Middleton, one of the directors of a film featured on Reid My Mind Radio; Notes on Blindness. The film which is sort of a documentary with reenactments of actual events lip synced to the recordings of real audio captured by Theologian, John Hull using a cassette recorder. Mr. Hull kept very detailed recordings of his experience and thoughts as his vision faded beginning in 1983

There were multiple versions of the film released including one with Audio Description and the other with what they referred to as enhanced audio. This was an experiment of sorts that used additional dialog and more audio as queues to help viewers who are blind have a more inclusive experience of the film without the need for Audio Description or negatively impacting the experience for sighted viewers.

Creative people when facing a challenge step up and figure out ways to best communicate their vision.

From everything I’ve read and watched online about Ryan Coogler, the Director of Black Panther, I think he would have been the best person to write or at least lead the process of creating AD for the movie. He was involved in every aspect of this movie from choosing an African dialect from the South African region to use as the language spoken in the fictional country of Wakanda to the look and feel of their technical innovations.

Should consumers of AD be pushing for a change in where the description takes place in the movie life-cycle?

Should AD companies be teaming up with writers in an earlier phase along the production timeline?

Should movie writers strive to include more descriptive dialog that enables a blind movie goer to independently enjoy the movie?

Could directors and others like sound designers take blind movie goers into consideration and use a combination of all their tools to better improve the movie experience?

Could consumers have more control of their AD by using apps like Actiview (also profiled on Reid My Mind Radio) – helping to eliminate the problems of uninformed theater workers who are now responsible for making sure they give out and properly configure the right device.

I’m hoping those in the Audio Description field in combination with blind consumers, are thinking about these things that I believe will greatly improve the Audio Description experience.

I’m very appreciative of the improvements made to enable access across all media. I was a pretty big movie watcher before losing my sight and I really enjoy continuing this as part of my life. It helps maintain relationships, start new ones through conversations around a shared experience and if it’s a good movie, it allows for new thoughts or even escape and just good entertainment. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

On the subject of thought provoking content or entertainment, you should subscribe to this podcast hopefully for at least one of those things.

It’s easy to do using any podcast app. We’re on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio and you can always head over to ReidMyMind.com that’s R E I D, where you can listen, read the transcript and access episode resources.

I’m T.Reid and I thank you for listening!

Peace!

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Reid My Mind Radio – The Blind Temptations

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

EVERY NOW AND THEN I SHARE some of THE THINGS THAT CROSS MY MIND.

In this episode , I’m pointing out the fact that things that should help  us can be the same things that do more than distract us from our goals!

TRANSCRIPT

Show the transcript


TR:
The title of this episode, “The Blind Temptations”, may have you thinking I am announcing my new idea of
touring with four other gentlemen who are blind and singing the classics, like My Girl, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Just My Imagination.

Notice I didn’t include Ain’t too Proud to Beg in that song list.

Maybe you now have images of the famous Motown group doing their dance routines either while holding white canes or guide dogs.

If so, well you’re stupid!.
[Laughs]

No I’m just kidding! you’re probably just silly!

I’m not really talking about those Temptations.

Before I get into that…
[Audio: temptations…. hold up!]
[Audio: rmmradio Theme]

TR:
The Temptations I am referring to are scary to me.

That’s not something I would ever expect to hear myself say out loud and especially here on my podcast, but  it’s true!

Temptations lure a person away from staying on track.

They offer temporary  distraction, a fantasy for something that most likely cannot be attained.

For those going through vision loss or any significant life change; these distractions can be much more tempting.

Think of those who experience sudden job elimination that requires a whole new approach to employment while in mid-career.

Confidence levels are down. Self-identities are challenged.

In such examples, many distractions are accepted in our society or at least they’re understood

Think of the classic I just got fired story.

It’s usually the guy working at the factory for years.  He shows up at the bar after getting the news. He gets a drink on the house first and then his buddies begin buying rounds.

go ahead, get your drink on, you deserve it. the poor guy!

When it comes to adjusting to blindness, there’s a lowering of the bar that takes place. People expect less from the person experiencing the loss. . More than often, it’s those outside of the immediate family. Some times that could include those inside the personal circle or family and friends.

And then let’s not forget that much of the misunderstanding about blindness and what that means for a person could be inside the individual experiencing the loss. They may now limit themselves. Their expectations are impacted and often that means becoming satisfied with less.

“Well, you can’t work so you will now stay home and listen to your radio all day.”

I felt temptations early on after my own loss. When I realized it, it shook me up.

I was in my mid-thirties. I wouldn’t say I was on my way to becoming CEO or even Manager, but I was growing in my career and
reaching some personal and career goals.

My first reaction to vision loss was to push through.

My sight was basically already gone and I had a surgery  scheduled for the end of January, that I knew would leave me permanently blind. Yet, I thought in my mind that I would be back at work by the end of February at the latest.

I find that so funny now!

I didn’t think  about the new things I would have to learn. I didn’t think about issues of accessibility because I simply wasn’t aware of them at that time. My focus was just on continuing where I left off. I didn’t really give that much thought into how would I do things or
even if those things I used to do would still matter to me.

Soon after the temptations began doing the things they do…

[Audio: Temptations, “The Way You Do The Things You Do”]

The first seems almost common today; addiction.

This has always been a fear of mine. ! I have addictive tendencies.
Yes, right now to things like chocolate… I go through binge periods.

I’m not making fun of addiction in any way. I know today addiction to pain killers is looked at quite differently from
let’s say how addictions were viewed when crack was the drug of choice! The substance, shouldn’t matter nor should who the addicts are but that’s another episode topic.

I was given Percoset for the pain following my surgery. I found myself taking them nightly. I soon began noticing a smell after I would ingest the pill.
It didn’t stink nor did it smell good. There was a sweetness to the smell, but
not like candy, cake or chocolate!
Thank goodness because I would be somewhere fiending right now!

It was different.

I began noticing the smell during the day when I didn’t take  the pill. I wasn’t anywhere near the pill.
I’d start thinking about taking the pill and the way it lulled me to sleep. That numb feeling of no pain, worries or problems that seemed of any immediate importance. I soon realized I was taking the pill without even any pain.
it was more about the habit of taking it and the way it carried me away to sleep at night.

It picked me up and placed me on a bed of clouds and off to sleep I went.

When I smelled the scent of the pills during the day I started thinking about  how I now had a pass. Taking the pills to  help relieve me of the nonphysical pain seemed almost acceptable. I began creating  what seemed like reasons that would permit the behavior…

“Well, I’m not working now, I’m alone in the house today.”

“The doctors gave me the pills, I have to use them.”

These were just mental excuses. I was  arguing with myself internally as to why I should take a pill even though I had no physical pain.

“who’s gonna know?”
That was it!  I flushed the rest of the pills and that was the last time I took them.

Temptations come in all forms!

During my first few months of adjusting, I would spend the early part of the day before noon, watching a lot of standup comedy on comedy central.

Stand up is great! It’s mostly accessible as it is usually vocal performances.
It was helpful, it took me out of my own head and made me laugh. That energy release helped me feel a bit more positive.

During that time my television options were limited. I didn’t have much in the way of audio description for television or movies. I didn’t enjoy the movie watching experience unless
I was watching something familiar and
I’m not really the type who likes re-watching a lot  of things.

I think about the access we now have to Netflix and
other options for audio described movies and television.
that could have played into my adjustment.
I could have chosen to spend my time mindlessly watching television or movies all day.

I can hear the excuses in my head now!

“What else am I supposed to do?”

“Watching and analyzing shows or movies gives me some insight into humanity and maybe even my own situation.”

“I’ll watch the movie while I fold the laundry.”

Right now, with shows like Black Mirror on Netflix? I might accept having that bar lowered. Sitting around playing with my iPhone and watching Netflix all day sounds pretty good!

“Don’t do it!”

It’s not just Netflix!

There’s the internet and technology in general too! You know these are real temptations!

At one point it looked like blind people would be barred  from participating in so much of this technology. However, rightfully  so, accessibility improvements are happening. Are they happening fast enough for everyone?
No, but they are happening and we have to acknowledge that.

Even console game makers are thinking inclusively and developing games
that will enable gamers with disabilities including blindness to participate.

I’m not mad at that or any of these “temptations.”

I guess I’m speaking especially to those adjusting to vision loss and who want to make a point of reaching their own goals with their new situation.

The more access we have to things that can improve our opportunities and daily lives the better. It just so happens that these things are potentially the same things that can tempt us into complacency and accepting less of ourselves.

In a way though, isn’t that what accessibility is all about?

Access not only to participate, but to make all of our decisions that affect our lives.

Like choosing to subscribe to this podcast! The show is short in duration! It won’t take you away from  anything. You can fit it in on a quick break or as you’re doing your daily activities; making or eating breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Brushing your teeth. Walking your dog. Whatever it is you do, doing it is better with Reid My Mind Radio!

Subscribe anywhere  you get podcasts.

Shout out to the person who left me a review on iTunes.

I hear that’s the way to help get other people to discover the show. If you can please give me a review as long as it’s good.

No seriously if you are a hater, feel free to hate, but everyone knows haters shouldn’t rate, just discriminate!

I’m good with that!

[Laughs]

Thanks for listening!
[Audio: RMMradio theme]
Peace!

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Reid My Mind Radio – Join the Coalition

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Leading into 2017, it’s apparent that finding common ground will be even more important than ever.

If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution , consider building coalitions. That building for me starts at home! Find out what I mean and then help me take action!

Now… what are you waiting for…
Subscribe to RMM Radio bit.ly/RMMRadioSubscribe

To listen now, hit the Play button below!

 

 

Resources

 

*No Totally Podcast, Ramp Your Voice Episode
*Ramp Your Voice
*Support the movement… Email ReidMyMindRadio

 

Transcript:

 

TReid:
I’ve been trying to figure out, what would be an appropriate topic for a year end episode of Reid My Mind Radio ?

A Bloopers reel?
A recap of my favorite episode?

Then I was inspired!

[RMMRadio Intro Music]

TReid:
A few years ago my daughters produced their own end of year show.
They chose to countdown their favorite songs of the year and talked about some of the more memorable news events according to what was then a 16 and 11 year old.
It was the first Rizzle Razzle Show!
It got about 3 to 4 times more listens than anything I put out at the time…

{Obviously slightly annoyed…} Whatever!

I loved listening to it myself. It was something they decided to do together – who could be upset with that.

So, I thought I would suggest Rizzle and Razzle once again return to the microphones for a year end wrap up show. However, this time, I thought they would invite a special guest… me, Daddy!

Sounds great right?

Since Riana or Rizzle was away in college I thought I would first approach Razzle., that’s my youngest daughter Raven

I thought Raven would definitely be up for including Daddy. She’s still here with me and we still get to spend a lot of great quality time together. She’ll love the idea.

Here’s how it all went down…

[Sound of Harp signaling going back in time…]

TReid:
Excited by the idea, I couldn’t wait for Razzle to get home from school. Our routine is when she arrives home, she comes into my office takes a seat on the couch and we talk. She shares the highlights of her day and I usually try to entertain her with silly jokes of some sort.

On this particular day, I decided I would go right into the idea…
After letting her in the front door of the house and getting my hello kiss Raven took her place on the couch in my office and I sat in my chair. With excitement I explained that I had this fabulous idea…

[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…]

[Audio sequence of both Raven and Riana saying No in various ways.]

TReid:
After several weeks, I’m finally able to speak about it without breaking down in tears.

I’m not mad at my wife’s daughters…
No seriously, those are my babies!
If it’s just supposed to be a Rizzle Razzle thing, that’s cool.
They just better not invite their mother on a show.

[Ooooh!]

Treid:
Right now with the climate in this world feeling even more divided, building coalitions, making relationships with others based on similarity seems like a real opportunity and a good idea.

Recently, I listened to a podcast featuring a conversation between an able bodied Asian American man and an African American woman with a disability. I thought it was a good conversation especially for those not familiar with disability and interested in learning more with the intention of becoming more aware.
These two apparently met online and have learned from one another and seem to be in the process of building an alliance in order to help reduce the levels of misinformation that are all too common when it comes to the so called minority groups.
They discussed some of the ways the misinformation impacts their lives and it was easy to see the similarities. Those were only understood after the information exchange. The differences are easy!

That podcast, by the way is called “No Totally” and you can find a link to it on the post for this episode on Reid My Mind.com.

Focusing on the things that make us different from others could be isolating.
Especially if you have enough differences…

Growing up as a African American man I have been through my share of racial experiences.
I’ve had many instances where white people have tried to intimidate, dominate and even inflict bodily harm.

As an African American with Puerto Rican heritage I have even experienced some very unkind remarks from African Americans and
unfortunately I’ve been witness to Latinos insulting African Americans.

And then, just when I thought I had it all worked out, my identity in check; comfortable and confident
in my caramel colored skin with a Tahino tint
I get a whole new category … PWD or person with a disability.
And boy, this one comes with a whole new set of do’s and don’ts and can’s and cannots. Or at least perceived cans and cannots!

So I begin to read about blindness, read about disability and become involved in blindness advocacy.

The majority of my peers involved in advocacy are white.
Furthermore, the majority of those in leadership are congenitally blind or blind since a very young age.

So my group can shrink even further…

If there’s one thing I adapted to naturally throughout my life, that’s being the only one!

The only or one of very few black kids in the class beginning in grammar school.
The only one who was Puerto Rican.
The only Puerto Rican who didn’t speak Spanish….

I spent years being the only black guy in the meeting, on the project team, in the car
returning from a meeting with colleagues as the car travels through the Bronx, past the neighborhood I grew up in only to have several of my white colleagues question their safety.

[Sound as though an inner thought…
“Let the car break down now and I’m leaving all your asses! I’m good”]

If I were driving I would have went off the main road and made them all nervous, just for the LOL’s!

The differences can go even further… I didn’t even touch on the cancer thing.

[Cheers Music and re-mix!]

TReid:
It’s natural for anyone to want to go to that place where everybody knows your name…

To some extent there’s a real level of comfort being around other people who are blind.

Hanging out with friends who are black gives me an opportunity to be me too.

put me in a room with the smells of Arroz con Gandules, pernil
(even though I don’t eat pork!)
Sounds of Salsa music and people talking Spanglish! for those not in the know that’s the combo of English and Spanish… and I feel at home!

But in any situation there’s always that chance to
feel separated. It could be anything…

Hanging out with friends or a work related setting and inevitably the conversation moves to the current sport season…
As a man, I’m expected to participate…
Get ready for a real disappointment yawl, I don’t follow sports like that!

[Sound of Shocked audience response]

I think our differences make us interesting.

the problem though are those who believe that something that separates us makes one superior to another.

As we end this year and enter 2017 with a thick feeling of division in the air
I’m going to continue to respect differences based on what I said earlier and focus on supporting and building with others in those areas in which we have shared interest.

There’s too many things we can accomplish for the good of all. With that said, those who feel the same, I’m asking you to send an email to reidmymindradio at gmail.com asking Rizzle Razzle to do a show with their Dad!

I’m just saying’ why don’t they want their father in the show…
I can do a good job…
I do this… (Fading out)
They use my equipment… (fading out)
Come on, I edit it and put it on my website… {fades out}

[close music]

Reid My Mind Radio – Are Blind Conferences Fantasy

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

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

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

Unicorn with Sunglasses

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

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

 

 

Transcript:

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

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

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

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

Even today some things really stand out from the experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of these surveys are as recent as August 2016.

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

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

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

Successfully living lives shouldn’t be considered amazing.

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

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

Reid My Mind Radio – Hey Stacey, This, Is Black History

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

With talk about Black History Month and the comments of Stacey Dash and anyone who believes serving an disenfranchised population is somehow racist… well I felt the need to share what’s on my mind and give my view of Black History Month.

 

Do you think you know where I fall in the argument? Only one way to find out… Hit Play!