Doing Your Thing With Disability: We Play Too

April 13th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

An old fashion television in black and white with an antenna that has purple tips.  The outline of the Television is in the color teal and the knobs of the TV are purple.  On the screen is the game, Pong. The puck is in the middle and on the right is a chalk figure of a blind person with a white cane playing against a chalk figure of a person in a wheelchair on the left.  Above the figures is the score of 8 to 1 and on top of the score is the word pong in between white thick lines.  Above the TV is the Reid MY MIND Logo and next to the logo the wording says “Doing your thing with Disability. Under the TV says We play too!
From all sorts of sports and activities to video games; people with disabilities find ways to not only play, but excel. In this latest episode [Accessibility Consultant Brandon Cole](http://BrandonCole dotnet/) joins me to talk about the various barriers, adaptations and finally, accessibility, being built into video games.

We’ll hear from players like Orlando Johnson. Once an avid sighted gamer who even owned his own arcade version of Mortal Kombat and now benefits from adaptations and access. Eron Zeno talks to us about his experience as a gamer with mobility disabilities. In each case, all of my guests continue to do their thing, specifically, video games, with their disability.

Listen

Resources

Jerry Lawson – Father of the video game cartridge

Transcript

Transcript

Show the transcript


– Sound of Pong

TR:
No! There’s nothing wrong with the audio.
You’re listening to the OG of video games, Pong *Pong noise* from Atari.

Growing up, whenever my mom would announce that she had to go to Sears or another department store with an electronics section, I’d get excited and ask to go with her.

When we’d get there, I’d make a B-line right to the electronics department and hope no one else was already planted in front of the television playing Pong.

— Space Invaders sounds

That later turned into going to a local Five & Dime store called “Lamstons,” which had two or three arcade games in the corner of the store. Space Invaders… that was my ish!

I thought nothing could ever beat getting Space Invaders at home when we finally got our Atari system.

-introduction from Duke Nukem

Years later as an adult, I played games on my computer, Duke Nukem. At least, until that awful day.

Following one of my marathon sessions, I stood up after playing for maybe about two hours and nearly collapsed. The room was spinning and I was nauseous.

I figured I overdid it. I stopped playing for a few days and the same thing happened the next time, only sooner. I tried changing the perspective from a first person view to something else. It just wasn’t fun!

A few years later, I thought I’d try again, this time with a Playstation. Grand Theft Auto, Madden. It was good for a while, but ultimately, I didn’t have a choice, I just wasn’t able to play. Gaming was literally making me sick.

I believe the reason was monocular vision and the lack of depth perception.

Ironically, today, after becoming Blind, I have more opportunity to actually play video games.

— “Let them play!” (The phrase continues as more join in) Sample from The Bad News Bears

For years now, the call for developers to make their games accessible to disabled gamers has grown louder.

There’s been lots of things happening!

Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio y’all! I’m Thomas Reid. As we continue with our theme, Doing Your Thing With Disability, we’re talking about gaming, because we play too!

–“Time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of gum!” Duke Nukem

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Brandon:
Video games are life! I’m a pretty hardcore gamer these days.

The idea to me, that my past self had was, “how can you play video games, you’re blind?” is really kind of based on the same philosophy that some sighted people who don’t understand blind gamers have.

“How can blind people play games?” I didn’t understand it. Because I didn’t realize that audio was such a big part of games, such an important part of games that you could use that, to learn patterns and to learn what things meant and to figure out how to play a game.

TR:

This is Brandon Cole, an award winning Accessibility Consultant

Brandon:

He/him. I have black hair. I am six feet tall, exactly. Just an awesome looking dude.

TR:

Well, we have something in common.

Brandon:
I was born with a type of cancer called Retinoblastoma. Totally blind. From the age of two months.

TR:

His introduction to video games began with his older brother.

Brandon:

He was like, hey, Brandon.

–Mario Bros coin collecting and upgrading sounds

You want to go play some Mario Brothers on our Super Nintendo. And at the time, little six year old me was like, what, how? That’s a video game, which means I can’t play it because I can’t see the video.

That was past me. I used to not think the way I do now.

We begin to play and before you know it, I’m breaking bricks, and collecting coins and extra lives and saving princesses and defeating bosses. And it’s amazing and I’m feeling this great sense of accomplishment!

And the game ends. Yes. Somehow I beat the entire game in one shot!

TR:

Then?

Brandon:

My loving brother handed me the unplugged second player controller while he played the entire game, the entire game.

I mean, what do you even say to that?

TR in Conversation with Brandon:
That’s an older brother.

TR:

Of course, he felt crushed. He thought he was somehow in the gameplay, just like his older brother.

But all wasn’t lost. The experience made him realize something.

Brandon:

I did learn that I could follow sound effect patterns.

I decided that I would one day, beat a game without his help.

From then on, I just started trying games and seeing what I could learn about games and seeing what I could do. Eventually I did it! And the first game I beat without my brother’s help, was the original Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo.

And I never looked back since.

TR in conversation with Brandon:

There you go. Older siblings.

Brandon:

Take that!

Brandon:

Once I started gaming, I never stopped, I just kept trying different games.

I tried a lot of games that I couldn’t play. Sometimes I just flopped completely, depending on how complex the game was. But like, there were plenty of games where I would start to play the game and I would start to figure out some of the things that might help me get through some part of the game.

TR:

Take the game Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation One as an example.

-– Metal Gear Solid music plays

Brandon:

That game is a stealth game, where you’re not supposed to be seen, you’re supposed to hide all the time. So it’s not easy if you’re blind, because you can’t see the guards , but you can hear them and they have very audible footsteps. You can hide from the guards based on where your location is versus where their location is.

TR:

Brandon’s step Dad couldn’t get past a certain level during the game.

Brandon:

It’s a room that is filled with infrared lasers. And if you break any of these laser beams that are going all across the room, up and down, at different intervals, the doors slam shut. The room is flooded with gas and you die and there’s nothing you can do about it.

TR:

So step Dad let Brandon figure it out.

Brandon:

I spent maybe two hours working that room, failing over and over and over again. But little by little, figuring out the amount of steps to take before I had to stop to wait for the beam to move again. Then when I had to crawl when I had to walk to get past the lower beams or higher beams. I trialed and errored my way through that entire room and made it to the other side eventually without breaking any of the laser beams.

Technically, it wasn’t an accessible game. It’s just that I managed to figure out a way through that part.

TR:

Failing over and over again, but continuing to work at it. Crawling, walking to get past laser beams. Trial and error to make it to the other side?

Qualities many disabled people seem to have in abundance.

This isn’t just about gaming, we’re talking about the real skills behind leveling up in life.

But honestly, we shouldn’t have to do all that. We just want to play too, right?

Let’s take a look at the inaccessibility faced by disabled gamers and some of the creative adaptations they find in order to be in the game. Let’s start with blind and low vision gamers.

Orlando:

My name is Orlando Johnson, I am an African American male approximately 46 years of age, bald, I have a beard.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Shout out to the black bald beard gang. Let’s go.

Orlando:

Let’s get it!

TR:

Again, I have something in common with my guest.

Orlando:

And also love spending time with my family and my grandchildren. Every time I get to spend time with them is a joyous moment for me.

TR:

Ok, for the record, having something in common with the host isn’t part of the criteria I employ when selecting guests.

In this case, I was really just looking for the perspective of someone who once enjoyed the games visually.

–Music Begins, an 8 bit game melody that morphs into a Hip Hop beat.

Orlando:

Let me take you back to Christmas back in the 80s. I got my first Atari 800 video game console.
That first year my brother and I that Christmas morning, we played Donkey Kong all morning. Space Invaders. That started the love of the games right there.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:
In terms of the Atari, let me just test your knowledge for a second, brother. How do you repair a cartridge? How do you fix a cartridge?

Orlando:

First thing you do is take it out and blow on it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

There you go! He knows what he’s talking about!

Orlando:

A matter of fact, I have an interesting little anecdote about cartridges. And it’s about a gentleman named Jerry Lawson – an African American engineer who helped design and engineer those video game cartridges.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Talk about it!

Orlando:

I would like to expose more people to that knowledge of this gentleman. I’ll send the link to who this gentleman was and what he accomplished in the video game industry.

TR:

Check out this episode’s blog post for that link over on ReidMyMind.com.

Orlando:

I’ve just continued to evolve with the gaming industry. Back in 2001, I purchased a full size Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine and I kept that thing for over 10 years. And played it all the time. I loved it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

That is so cool!

TR:

I think it’s fair to say he really enjoyed and invested in his gaming.

Orlando:

April of 2015, I experienced a lot of migraines and didn’t know what was causing them. After my wife and I got back from our honeymoon, we just got married the year before. I wound up going to the hospital two weeks after the honeymoon. My brain swelled up and it crushed my optic nerves. And that was it for me for sight.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

What did that mean to you, when you could no longer play that Mortal Kombat?

Orlando:
You want to be a part of the community of your friends, everybody else is doing things. And when you’re not a part of that community, you feel isolated. And that isolation can drive you crazy. That’s one of the things that I needed to change. I’m like, I got to explore different ways for me to play games. It’s not just that I can’t play games, I have to find a way that I can get back into playing games.

TR:

And that’s exactly what this former Las Vegas bouncer has been doing.

Orlando:

Technology was always my jam.

After I was done with bouncing, I went over and started working in the telecommunications industry, and I worked for Sprint for about eight years.

Then the smartphones took over. I went to work for Apple for a little bit. Six months into the job at Apple, I went blind.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Did you know about voiceover at the time?

Orlando:
No, I didn’t. Not when I lost my sight. A week or two in the hospital, I had a second generation iPad. My wife, she did a little research and said “hey, you should check out this thing called VoiceOver.

And that was the first time I heard of it or heard anything about it. And I figured since I knew how to use an iPad as a sighted person, Voiceover thing shouldn’t be that difficult. Well, when you’re first starting out, it is difficult.

TR:

Orlando not only learned the technology, but later shared that knowledge as an Access Technology instructor. His advice for anyone getting back into gaming after any degree of blindness? Learn your technology!

Orlando:

I had to master that first before I can start playing a video game. On a computer, if you don’t know how to insert a drive and copy a file from somewhere or unzip something, you’re not going to play the game that you want to play.

TR:

No matter the platform you choose to play on, computer, console like an XBox or PlayStation, smart phone, inaccessibility is there.

Brandon:

There’s things like navigating the games menus. And it’s a challenge we overcame in the past by just memorizing the menus.

TR:

But even first reading the menu requires some work.

Orlando:

In my journey in playing games, one of the workarounds I found is, anybody thats aware of, apps that help blind people see things like Seeing AI or Super Sense.

One of the things that I used to do was load up that app on my tablet. And I would stand my tablet in front of the monitor. And I would listen to the OCR coming out of the app, so I can make the choices on the screen for the game that I’m trying to play.

Brandon:

I use NVDA. Since I stream games, I have a capture card. Even if the game was a console game, I can still send the game’s video feed to my PC, because I have a capture card anyway.
I will then scan that image with NVDA as OCR and read the text from there.

I even play entire games that way, there’s a visual novel called The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. It has a little bit of voice acting, but not much voice acting. It’s almost all text. But it’s literally OCR that allows us to play it, because we can read the text with it, and it reads out pretty well.

TR:

Gamers with low vision used magnifiers to enlarge on screen text. Today there are more games including zoom mode, text enlargement, contrast modes and multiple color blind modes tested by people with varying color blindness. More games are being shipped with menu narration making that process accessible to those who are Blind or have low vision.

Brandon:

The biggest challenge I’d say these days, though, is navigation of the game itself. The game world itself.

The thing about video games is they’ve been a growing industry for years and years and years. When I say growing, I mean, everything about games has grown, the production value has grown, and the size of the game worlds have grown significantly.

Games these days have huge open worlds filled with buildings and giant areas you can explore and find new quests and new things. Thats a big challenge these days.

Games aren’t simple anymore. Games used to be easy to work around in a lot of cases back in the day, because there wasn’t much to them. Nowadays, it’s a much bigger task to try to find workarounds like that.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about folks who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Brandon:

The actual spoken dialogue is a huge part of games these days. Because story and narrative have become so much more important these days than they used to be in video games. Games are telling very, very deep stories now.

TR:

Complex narratives and the sound design that is useful to Blind players, can help Deaf and Hard of Hearing players by incorporating both subtitles and captions.

Brandon:

Subtitles would be like, character dialogue, speaker names followed by what they said. Whereas captions would be everything else.

More and more games are starting to support this nowadays. You will have a caption that appears. Like, “wooden floorboard creeks.” And it will have an arrow that points to the location of that sound. Where that sound took place in relation to you, the character.

That arrow pointing down? You’re like, oh, god, there’s something behind me.

You have to do it right. You have to fill the appropriate screen space with it, because you don’t want to block anything else on screen while you’re captioning things.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about language? I’m assuming most of these games are in English,?

Brandon:

Sure, a lot of these games are in English, but many of them have alternate language choices as well.

A little bit of a shout out.

So the Last of Us Two, and you’ll hear me do this a lot because I really loved the work that we did on that game. The Last of Us Two is available in 14 different languages.

So when we worked on that game, we decided that any language the game was available in for people to play in general, then the text to speech narration that the game has should also be available in that language. So I’m happy to announce Last of Us Two is available for the Blind in 14 different languages, because narration is supported on every language that the game is supported on.

Boom!

–Jazzy hip hop music begins to play

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about mobility? What about folks with mobility related disabilities?

Brandon:
As games have become more complex, so have their controls.

You have controllers these days that have 12, 13 buttons on them. Those who have mobility issues can’t always press every single one of those buttons when there’s something they need to do with those buttons.

Eron:
My name is Eron Zeno. He/him. I’m a light skinned black man. A bit on the larger side, a bit hefty.

–laughs

I rock a Mohawk 24/7.

I am missing my right arm completely. And the left is more of a nub. I have the upper part of my left arm, I’m missing my forearm, and my wrist and elbow are connected. I only have one finger. A fun fact, through X rays and examinations, it has been deemed by my physicians my middle finger actually.

TR in conversation with Eron:

–Laughing

Nice!

TR:

Eron is also a wheelchair user.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Why don’t you tell me a little bit about when you first sort of got into gaming?

Eron:
I was born in August. When I was brought home, it was very close to Christmas. We were all sitting around and opening presents and everything. And one of my brothers got a Super Nintendo. And I was actually in his lap and he was trying to put the controller under my feet to get me to play. I was too young to realize what was going on. But that was my first introduction. Through some happenstance, I actually wound up inheriting that Super Nintendo and that was my first console.

TR:

Coincidence? Or is there something to be said about gaming and the opportunities it presents to bond with family?

I’m sure there are other benefits.

For Eron, as a child doctors suggested removing the nub on his left side in order to fit him with a prosthetic arm. Yet one doctor specifically had alternative views.

Eron:

He suggested a lot of children actually grow up using both the nub and their feet to a better availability than having no arms at all. So he suggested instead of trying to coax a surgery around that, it would be better to one, get me used to my finger, and then also promote the usage of my feet. And I mean really promote.

So anything you would give your child normally like a rattle or toy or anything like that. He said, give it to his feet. Make his feet known as his compatibility to the world.

One of the things that was suggested by the doctor was video games, they built hand eye coordination very quickly.

TR:

If game controllers were made specifically for hands, there has to be lots of challenges adapting them for use with feet.

Eron:
When I first started with the SNEZ controller, there’s a D pad and two buttons, that’s easy. It’s straightforward.

My second console was another hand me down, I had an N64 drom my uncle.

Now, that controller has the worst background.

–Laughs

Just the convoluted layout that makes no sense. And for a person with hands complaining, giving it to a person with no hands, only maybe 30% of the controller was usable for me.

I made my way around that. And years went by, I got into the GameCube, and the PlayStation 2. And I actually stopped using consoles around the Xbox.

TR:

Eron realized there were lots of games he just couldn’t play. Some involved using a controller with a trigger.

Eron:

I managed. I liked video games, but I was just kind of disappointed at how far it was moving from my capabilities.

That’s actually when I started getting into PC gaming.

TR:

At first, he found games that didn’t require complicated controllers.

Eron:

My first introduction to PC gaming was actually RuneScape. There’s not a lot of controllers required. It’s right click and left click. That’s it.

Years later, I actually found out that you could download programs to your computer that allow you to rebind keyboard controllers, mice even.

My first introduction to that was actually a program called X pattern. I actually found that at the end of its life cycle. And that allows you to implement key bindings on a controller. And most people they’re like, “Well, why aren’t you just using the controller on a computer?”

Well, most developers don’t allow for rebinding the controls. And the controller is actually really easy interface for me to use on my feet. The keyboard you can imagine, a little painful.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

So what is your setup?

Eron:

I change out a lot due to certain games or setups or things I need, but by default, I have a controller front and center on the floor right in front my office chair. I do sit at a desk.

My keyboard is plugged into my computer but led down below the desk on the floor, next to the controller. I use my right foot to type and only my right foot. It’s a pain to use both feet.
You gotta balance on your butt and hover.

I use both feet for my controller, but what if I need to type.

On my desk, I do have a mouse that I use with my aforementioned nub. I can’t use the mouse buttons, but what I do is I have a setup where it’s a bunch of zip ties and cat collars essentially. And I MacGyvered a harness that I can attach to my hand and move the mouse around.

My mouse actually failed on me a few days ago. There’s something with these new braided cable wires and they give out way too easily. But I’m using an art tablet right now as a mouse. Same setup, a bunch of cat collars and zip ties.

–Both Thomas and Eron laugh

I make it work, though.

TR:

Like MacGyver, finding off the shelf supplies and just rigging things together. It just works for him.

Eron:

You’ve seen tablet holders? It’s like an arm you can adjust in your car or on your bed rest or whatever. You can have it hold your tablet up to your chest. I have one of those kind of coiled up into a stand that I hold a cutting board on. And it’s at an angle just so I can reach it.

Because I don’t have full arm length. I can’t even reach my desk from sitting up straight. So I have this like brought right up to my chest. I have that for mouse movement and stuff.

TR:

Although Eron moved away from consoles when it seemed it surpassed his capabilities. today he finds himself playing again.

Eron:

One thing I found out is that you can buy adapters that can enable you to use other controllers on the console, as well as mice and keyboards.

I bought a switch a while back. I love the thing.

I’ve been using an adapter to play shooters and Legend of Zelda and all that stuff. And it’s really nice to be able to use a mouse to aim instead of fiddling with the joysticks.

There’s still no controller bindings. I’m talking about third party controllers. If you buy a pro controller meant for the Switch, you can actually rebind the bindings on a Nintendo Switch controller.

I have one. But for sizing reasons, I can’t use the whole thing with my feet.

Brandon:

The accessibility conversation has been happening, and things like button remapping now exist.
Some games even go so far as to have a one touch option. It’s more difficult than you might think. But it is fantastic when it happens.

We have accessories now like the Xbox adaptive controller, which allows mobility, disabled folks to basically attach whatever switches they want to use, or their controller, they can attach it to that controller, and configure buttons however they like, based on whatever switches they have.

Eron:

It’s this giant disc jockey looking table. It’s got like two giant soft pads on it that look like records.
But they’re actually just giant buttons. They figured you have a large surface to hit, you don’t have to be necessarily that accurate with your buttons.

If you plug in a controller, it actually only lets you use half the controller. They expect you to be so disabled, you cant use a full controller. Which made no sense, it’s like if this is for adaptability, everybody’s got a different thing they can do. Why not enable it so that you can split up something or you can use the whole something? Instead of assuming everybody is bound to “oh, I can only use this specific apparatus.”

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Are you in touch with any other gaming companies? Do you ever reach out?

Eron:

The few times that I have, I’ve gotten kind of copy pasted responses. So I don’t really bother. I find my own solutions at this point.

TR:

Some other challenges include what’s known as quick time events. These require holding down or rapid tapping of buttons.

Game developers are slowly becoming more inclusive when thinking about game play.

Implementing skip puzzle options, for example, in order to help those with cognitive disabilities who may need a bit of assistance advancing to the next level of game play. Time pressure for some can be really difficult as well.

Brandon:

They’ll be in a situation where they have three seconds to make an important game decision that will affect the game story.

When you’re in the middle of a game story, and you become attached to the characters and you really care about what happens to them and then you have to make this life or death decision. “Okay, this person lives and this person dies.”

If you’ve grown to care about them, that’s intense pressure to put on someone.

Some games these days have the ability to either extend timers like that or remove them entirely. That’s great. That’s a really, really good move.

TR:

Okay, Not a gamer? Perhaps you felt the pressure when using an automated phone system and trying to quickly enter your date of birth before the time expires. How many times have you just wanted to throw your phone? Come on, I know it’s not just me.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Are there any considerations for folks with monocular vision today?

Brandon:

I don’t know anything specifically for monocular vision.

There is the ability these days to remove screen shake from games, so a lot of games have special effects. You do this really big hit and the screen shakes to make you feel like it was a big hit. You can turn that off nowadays.

Games use an effect called motion blur. So if things are moving very quickly, they will kind of blur as if they’re moving fast to kind of give you that illusion of speed. Some people can’t handle the motion blur either. And so these days, you can either dull that or turn it off.

Some people get headaches afterwhile if they see those effects or some people get sick to their stomach, or they see too much screen shake.

TR:

Headaches, nausea, not the result you want when trying to relieve a bit of stress or having a good time while playing video games. But that’s not life threatening.

Brandon:
These days, there is actually a required warning in video games when something in a game could spark a seizure.

This recently came into controversy because of a game called Cyberpunk 2077, which didn’t very clearly outline this, and did have a sequence that actually did cause people to have seizures. Their outline was buried in their license agreement, you know, the thing that no one ever reads?

That’s where they put their warning, instead of putting it in the front and center of the game when you first load it up which is usually what is required.

When you load up a game, if there is something that could cause a seizure, there should be a warning right away. And most games that have these things will do that.

Although I will say in the case of cyberpunk, because of all the backlash, they actually patched the sequence itself. The video in question where that lighting sequence was shown that caused those seizures actually changed it to be a different pattern of light that didn’t cause seizures.

TR:

Would you be surprised if I told you there’s a segment of the population that is just straight hatin’ on adaptations.

Brandon:

Some people complain about accessibility features, saying that they make games too easy and blah, blah, blah, blah, and they’re cheating and whatever.

It’s not that people like to use them as cheat codes, although some do that too, I’m sure. But people tend to complain about them, because they feel that it’s dulling the game itself.
My response to that is, it’s better to allow people to actually play the game and experience it than to worry so much about how hard the game is.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

It’s not really impacting them, though, right? They don’t have to use it.

Brandon:

Right, right. That’s what I don’t understand.

Especially with single player games. If a game isn’t multiplayer, then what does it matter to you what other people do to complete the game? It doesn’t matter.

TR:

That goes beyond gaming, doesn’t it? Some people don’t want to consider that they themselves may have an advantage or a privilege. Working senses, dexterity, financial means to afford the equipment, games, time to play. These overly competitive types of dudes have no desire to be in the same class as a disabled player.

But who has time for them?

Fortunately, companies like Microsoft recognize that we game too! They’re making sure that we’re included from the start or out the box.

Orlando:

With the XBox Series S it’s one of the newer generation consoles that were hard to find for a while, but I managed to get myself one. The setup of that, I watched videos of Brandon Cole and other people on YouTube, they were discussing, the unboxing experience. When they said it has Braille on the thing, so you know where to plug things in at. I was impressed just with that level of accessibility.

I set it up all by myself. And it was so easy to set up because everything talked to me. There’s a QR code on the screen and you just aim your phone at the QR code to set up your account login. And it was just super simple.

TR:

And he tried a lot of platforms.

Orlando:

I’ve done everything from retro gaming on a Raspberry Pi. Gaming on my MacBook, gaming on a PlayStation four, Xbox console, Apple TV, I’ve tried to do all of it.

I’ve got it set up to the point right now where I don’t have it hooked up to a computer or a monitor. I played my Xbox console through the Xbox app. I’ve paired a controller to my phone or tablet. And then I log into the app and I remotely access my console through the app.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Why?

Orlando:

Well one, I can go anywhere around the house. I can go to the backyard and play videogames if I wanted to.

It opens up that freedom of just movement. I don’t need to be bound to a television now. I’ve learned to embrace the audio side of things where you can just go sit down at dinner and you have your controller and some headphones, you’re still playing your game and everybody else is doing their thing.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Now that’s not appropriate during family time. Come on!

TR:

It is cool though!

Notice what actually is happening here. He not only accepted the tools he has to game with, but he continues to seek out ways to really make it work for him.

It sounds like maybe a metaphor about adjusting to disability?

Hmm? I mean, we’re talking about more than fun and games here!

As if video games could provide some other benefits.

Brandon:

There’s an app, called Microsoft landscape. It actually takes your Google Maps idea and projects that in 3D audio around you. You can have a real life beacon that you set that plays in 3D audio, while you wear headphones. And you literally follow that beacon, like the same way you would in a video game that will take you to your actual destination.

TR:

There’s games to help make exercise fun.

Rather than forcing yourself to get on your treadmill, why not gamify that experience by playing a game that transports you to the Zombie Apocalypse.

–Sounds of shooting and dialouge from Zombies Run plays in the background.

Brandon:
There’s a game called Zombies Run. Its a game that has a story.

It’s literally a game about you running. Your character is called a runner. And runners are the ones that are dispatched out to get supplies for the base.

You’re running. The better you do at the running. You won’t get eaten by zombies for one thing, but the other thing is…

TR:

You’re working out. Getting that heart pumping for real and increasing those endorphins!

Brandon:

The same effect getting an achievement on Xbox or a trophy on Playstation has on people just getting a little reward spike.

TR:

The gaming industry has changed a lot since Pong, huh!

As accessibility continues to become part of the game, it’s important to recognize future technologies. Virtual Reality for example.

Eron:

It’s not really off the ground yet. There’s some things that are cool, some things that are like, eh that’s not really working right now.

If anybody’s familiar with the Half Life series. We got the first one, the second one was great. And then the third one comes out. And it’s a VR game.

What’s the problem with that? Well, the first and second ones were first person shooters, you got a mouse, you got a keyboard, or you’re on a controller, you can manage that. You can rebind controls to make it suit your needs.

A VR setup, besides the headset in the immersion and all that. You have two controllers.
There’s no way to interface the controllers. You have to use the two motion controls. And those are purely for hands. There is no foot or nub or stumped interface. It’s just you got hands or you don’t.

TR:

That all too familiar feeling that accompanies any sort of technology. Access gained rarely feels permanent.

Eron:

A lot of my friends actually jumped into VR, and they’re like, “oh, man, you gotta check out like, VR chat, new half life, this MMO or that?” And I’m like, how?

“Bro you could put the headset on and let your wife play?”

wha… What?!

TR in converswation with Brandon:

Why do they always go there?

TR:

Newsflash y’all, family members are not personal assistants.

As if they’re just sitting around waiting to play a game for you, describe the latest picture that the sender could have easily described.

Eron raised some other good points about the financial cost to access for those with mobility disabilities. Adapters have a real cost to them that not everyone can afford. Would you want to pay more for an accessible game?

But there are other reasons to be excited.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about the process of creating? Do you know about the accessibility of that? Do we have some blind folks who are actually developing games?

Brandon:

We do have blind game developers out there. Primarily those developers are working on audio games.

I will say that there are some advances coming to blind game development in the form of at least one engine that is made for the blind to develop games, although this engine is geared towards role playing games specifically. But there is an engine called Sable that’s coming out. Hopefully, in the next couple of years.

And that engine is literally designed so that blind people can create their own custom made RPGs, role playing games.

TR:

That’s what I’m talking about! Not only do we game too, but we make as well.

Ok, Reid My Mind Radio family, I know some of y’all are TVI’s or teachers of the visually impaired. Please, make sure you put this information into the brains of your students. I want to play a game in the not so distant future, that is truly FUBU – for us by us!

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about, in-game audio description? Is that something we can look forward to?

Brandon:

I think it’s fair to say that the future is bright for video games and audio description. I think people will be surprised at the level of quality you’re going to get when that happens.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The developer has to be involved in that.

Brandon:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah heavily.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The audio quality right there has just been raised, you know, exponentially because they’re gonna care.

Brandon:

Oh yeah, they are, for sure are.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Yeah, so that’s fantastic.

Brandon:

The future is very bright. I cant say much more, I wish I could. But oh man, are things coming up that are going to blow peoples’ minds.

TR:

In the meantime, you can check out Brandon doing the narration for several video game trailers.

Brandon:

For a game called Rainbow Six extraction, I did the Audio Description narration for most of those.

TR:

I’m really thinking about getting back into gaming. I’ve played some audio games on my IPhone. I’m wondering if it’s time to try some titles on the PC or maybe even get an XBox.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out if it’s really going to feel as entertaining as it once was?

Orlando:

I would say that it depends on the person and the level of enjoyment that they’re looking for. Yes, there will be those frustrations.

If somebody’s brand new to something, they don’t know, there’s always a learning curve. If you’re somebody that likes to learn new things, accept the challenge of trying to play a video game, because that’s going to be the ultimate learning curve right there.

You have to learn, where does the character need to go, because if I think I’m moving forward, it might be going on a spiral staircase, or something like that. Whereas I’m thinking north, south, east, west, on my controller, I can get around, but visually, the interpretation may be something different.

The frustration part is part of the learning, I feel.

You got to learn where to balance those things out to balance out the frustration levels, where it’s not as frustrating for you.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

It doesn’t sound like we’re just talking about gaming any more, man.

Orlando:

I don’t want to be left out of things, I want to be involved. For me, the way I apply it is, if I want to eat something, and I know what I want to eat, and I’ve got the ingredients, I can put it together.

But do I need to get other assistants to put it together? No.

Or do I need to deal with the frustration of maybe burning myself or hurting myself while I’m trying to do it?

In the end, the result should be better than the experience. You got to go through it to get to it.

It’s something I applied to everything that I do in my life.

TR:

Being included means welcoming people with disabilities into all aspects of the industry. From development, gameplay, marketing and more. And being recognized for our contributions.

Brandon:

The Last of Us Two is officially the world record holding, most awarded video game of all time, in terms of general awards. Some of the awards that it won are accessibility related which I, happen to be, a ginormous part of.

When the PlayStation five came out. In 2020. I was given, by Sony, a special award PlayStation five, with an inscription on a perspex case that they have sent.

Perspex, it’s kind of like a combination of like plastic and glass.

The inscription was essentially thanking me for teaching PlayStation that play is not just about what we see, it’s more about what we hear, about what we feel.

I consider that one of my greatest accomplishments. And I consider that of an award of its own from PlayStation itself to make something that’s just for me.

And by the way that message was in Braille on the perspex case.

TR:

That’s, Brandon Cole AKA

Brandon:

SuperBlindMan on Twitch , YouTube and Twitter and even PlayStation Network.

If you want to add me as a Hearthstone friend, you can do that too. When I was making that account, I didn’t realize there was a character limit.

So on Battlenet I’m SuperBlindMa.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

SuperBlindMa?! M A?

–Laughs….

Brandon:

Yes, yes. M A.

Brandon:

SuperBlindMa#1859 is my Battlenet tech tag.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

And they could battle you to a game or something. Right?

Brandon:

They sure can.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

If they want to lose!

Brandon:
You can find the blog at Brandon Cole.net. If you want the blind perspective on accessible gaming, that’s where you find it.

The podcast is at breakdownwalls.net/podcast If you want an easly link to that.

Break Down Walls is a movement that I started with my fiance. The idea is to break down the barriers between sighted and non sighted and disabled and non disabled gamers and human beings. Basically just make us all one.

TR:

Orlando!

Orlando:

Peachy Zatoichi on Twitter, my email address is PeachyZatoichi@gmail.com.
That is spelled; P E A C H Y Z, as in zebra, A T, as in Tom, O I C H I @gmail.com

Tr in conversation with Orlando:

And that was a Japanese Blind swordsman, right?

Orlando:

That’s exactly right!

TR:

And of course Eron.

Eron:

My twitch is X A N O D I A @ twitch.tv

It’s mostly just me gaming, talking to people. That’s about it. But yeah, it does turn into a rant occasionally.

–Laughs

TR:

Now, in order to be a player, you have to be in the game. These gentlemen are true players and they’re all official…

-Airhorn

…members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Eron:

Dude I’ve got to say, I checked out an episode the other day, loving it.

TR:

It’s not just about the opportunity to play that I’m happy to see. It’s about the change in mindset that’s taking place.

Game developers are slowly creating inclusive spaces where everyone is welcomed. The truly successful ones are seeking input from the community to figure how we can play with our disability.

Accepting people where they are, allowing them to work with what they have and enabling anyone to be in the game. Because yeah,We Play Too!

If you want to be sure you can play all new episodes of Reid My Mind Radio, all you have to do is subscribe wherever you get podcasts.

We have transcripts and more over on ReidMyMind.com

You don’t need a cheat code to level up, just remember, it’s R to the E I D
— (“D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!
Audio: Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

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Doing Your Thing With Disability: Adriana Mallozzi – Not Impossible

March 23rd, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

Adriana Mallozzi, seated in a power wheelchair wearing a head band and a black shirt with the words "Not Impossible" in white across the chest. Her head is tilted to the right as she smiles at the camera.

Ever since her first experience with Technology, Adriana Mallozzi knew it was the key to her independence.

Empathy along with advocacy and leadership skills are the right components qualifying her to start Puffin Innovations. An Assistive Technology company – creating hands free access to consumer electronics for individuals with limited mobility in their upper extremities.

Literally, Adriana is creating the technology enabling more people to do their thing with their disability!

Plus hear who won the February Reid My Mind Radio Instagram Giveaway!

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Show some love for the podcast with an Official Reid My Mind Radio t-shirt, hoodie, coffee mug or more.

We have theme specific merch:
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Resources

Puffin Innovations
The 15 Percent Club on Club House

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
Greetings Family! Welcome back to the second episode of the first season of 2022, Doing Your Thing with Disability.

— Music begins – A drum solo that loops, stops DJ scratch into a cymbal crash.

My name is Thomas Reid, host and producer of Reid My Mind Radio, the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

I’m excited to bring you today’s episode so I’m not going to say much in this introduction.
However, I know you’re going to dig what we’re about to get into so I’d like to encourage you right now to just go ahead and follow or subscribe to the podcast.
Seriously, what are you waiting for! Whatever app you’re using to listen right now, there’s something that says, follow or perhaps subscribe.
Hit that to make sure you don’t miss an episode.

I’ll take it from there!
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

Adriana:
Hi, I’m Adriana Mallozzi, founder and CEO of Puffin Innovations, we are creating hands free access to consumer electronics for individuals with limited mobility in their upper extremities. My pronouns are she and her. I am a Caucasian woman with a round face, ear length dark hair, and wearing a black T shirt with the words not impossible written across the chest in white and I am in a power wheelchair

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Why did you wear that shirt today?

Adriana:
It really represents I think my attitude with regards to what I want to do in life.

I’ve never been the type of person to take no for an answer. I’m realistic. I’m not a surgeon because I can’t use my hands.

It just really resonates with me and my attitude. And what it means to be a proud, disabled person showing that nothing can really stop you from doing whatever it is you want to do.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Can you just summarize your experience with disability?

Adriana:
Sure. During the birthing process, I stopped breathing. So the lack of oxygen caused brain damage, hence, I have cerebral palsy. I’m a spastic quad and I use a power wheelchair.

CP varies so much. It manifests in so many different ways that you would never know from one person to another, that they have the same diagnosis.

TR:

The diagnosis is what it is, but the person is who they were in their past, who they are in the moment and who they become in the future.
In each of those periods of time, there are things that impact a persons way of thinking.
Two things stand out about Adriana’s past that influence her belief of what is possible.

Adriana:

I am a child of immigrants. So I grew up going to Italy, to visit family, I still have first cousins there. Growing up, we would go spend the summers to see my grandparents. So travel was a big part of my life.

TR:

Adriana’s mom worked as a real estate agent and travel agent.

Adriana:

Just because it gave her the flexibility, she needed having a young family, especially for me as a child with a disability. She’d always be running around, having to take me to PT or OT or whatever.

She would win a trip for to, and then she would add my sister and I and we get to travel.

We went on cruises, and we got to go to Bermuda.

— Sound of an airplane taking off.
— Music begins – melodic horns slowly blow as a woman vocalist sings “higher” leading into a kick dram and a mid-tempo hip hop beat.

So I think it was just very inherent, it was in our blood. Traveling is just something that we love. My sister has made it into a job where she gets to travel around the world and experience a different culture

TR:

That’s her little sister, Mikaela. Professional dancer and four time EMMY Award winning host of her own travel show, Bare feet with Mickela Mallozzi.

I guess traveling without shoes is dangerous. (I don’t think that’s what’s she’s doing.)

Traveling as a power wheel chair user comes with some specific challenges.

Adriana:

When I travel, especially overseas, I don’t bring my power chair, just because it’s not as accessible in other countries. And it’s just easier to have a manual chair, when most of the countries are not wheelchair accessible, especially my own family’s home, my grandparents, its hundreds of years old, it belonged to my great, great grandparents and you know, it’s just not accessible. So I would travel with my manual chair, and when I’m in my chair, I literally can’t do anything myself.

TR:

Contrast this with her first experience taking her power chair overseas.

Adriana:

Also, the first time I flew overseas without a family member, I brought my PCA and I had to figure out all the logistics on my own.

That was the first time that I had ever done that in my life and it was amazing.

They really put a lot of thought into design with accessibility in mind.

You know how here, the elevator buttons are all literally at the door. If you use a wheelchair, you really can’t reach those buttons by the door because your foot rests are in the way and you can’t get close enough. Well, in Germany, all the buttons are on the side, on the wall. So you can easily reach them.
They also have not only a button to call the elevator at the door itself, but they also have free standing posts. So you can angle your chair in any direction and hit it however you can hit it. They did the same thing with automatic door openers, as well. And so I was so independent in there that I literally dreamt about being back there when I got back home.

TR:

Aware of the problems that power chair travelers experience, Adriana had a plan.

Adriana:

We bring a big roll of that wrap. How they wrap pallets? you know that plastic.

As soon as I get out of my chair, we put anything that are external to the seat of my chair, we put it in the seat of my chair, and then literally wrap my chair.

And so that has worked.

TR:

On the way to Germany at least.

On the return trip, as soon as they finished wrapping the chair,
Adriana and her PCA were told to unwrap because the chair needed to be tested.

It was taken but no one would speak with Adriana or her PCA.
Nervous about missing their flight and subsequent connection, they finally learned of the problem.

Adriana:

They’re like, Yeah, your chair tested positive for explosive.

We had to wait for the police to come. And then they were like, You need to take the battery. I was like, you can’t take the battery out, you don’t take the battery out.

They literally tried to tear out the battery. Like Luckily, they couldn’t figure out how to open anything. But they had snapped pieces. So there were broken pieces in the seat of my chair because it was like they were clawing to get to the internal electronics of my chair. I think it would have been worse if it wasn’t wrapped.

TR:

The dream of independence for people with disabilities often includes some nightmares.

Adriana:

They put my chair on the lift from the gait of the plane to load it down below.

and a person who was loading bags, he was literally throwing in like chucking things on top of my chair. And I was having a heart attack. I could see it through the window and I’m like, oh my god. We definitely took pictures and videos and my chair was a little broke like it wasn’t working properly and you know these chairs are 500 pounds so it’s not like it’s easy to push it.

TR:
joy and pain of traveling as a disabled person!

— Music Ends

The second influential component effecting Adriana’s belief of what is possible? Early exposure to technology.

Technology>
Adriana:

I began, PT and OT, or physical therapy and occupational therapy for those that don’t know what PT and OT stands for. at a really young age, I was diagnosed shortly after I turned a year old around 12 months or so. And soon after, we were sent to Easter Seals.

It was my OT who introduced me to a piece of technology that allowed me to use the computer, for the first time to do anything for the first time independently.

This was back in about83 or 84. I was about maybe seven, eight years old.

All I did was type, I type my name, and maybe some numbers. But just being able to do that, and be able to do something by myself for the very first time ever in my life.
It really hit me at that moment. I was like, wow, technology is going to be the key to my independence. Technology will be the way I will be able to do everything I ever wanted to be able to do.

TR:

And then there’s the DIY, Do it yourself attitude.
Adriana:

my father was in construction, he was a carpenter. I would always see him build. I think I got that problem solving. sort of mentality. Most people with disabilities, we have to adapt on the fly all the time. We have to figure out ways of doing things that the average person does not. And we always have to be at least two to three steps ahead. There has to be a Plan B, C, D, in case, X Y and Z goes wrong.

TR:

And when they go wrong, understanding the need to advocate for yourself.

Adriana:

My parents really had to struggle financially to get me what I needed, like the basic things that insurance considered luxuries like a bathing chair.

I can’t sit up by myself. So until I got that chair, I had to lay at the bottom of the tub. And I would be really creative and like, Yeah, I’m cool. toys like, I left pillows or floaties, or whatever, just to make me comfortable. So I wasn’t banging against the sides of the tub or hurting myself on the tub?

Of course, insurance? To be able to bathe safely and comfortably was a luxury.

My power chair I got when I was about eight years old. Me being able to be independent and move on my own was a luxury, according to the insurance company. So luckily, I think part of it was covered.

They just had to find ways to provide to get what I needed. And I’m really grateful that I had parents that did that.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Is that still, the situation with insurance with they treat those things like, luxury?

Adriana:
there are places still in the United States where people have to still fight for it. And yes, they still consider a luxury. But I’m lucky to be in the state of Massachusetts, and have the benefits and have not had to struggle as much as an adult in a different state to get the equipment that I need, but there are people in this country that that still have to fight, but still get subpar equipment, simply because insurance won’t cover the actual equipment that would be more suitable for that person.

I just don’t understand how people can be okay with that. I don’t understand how people that work in the insurance companies can have policies that allow that to happen. These are human beings and to treat human beings in that way, I just don’t understand.

— Music begins, a funky electronic dance track with lots of digital processing sounds and a funky groove.

TR:

The more you know how much it benefit’s a person, the more difficult it is to accept that it happens.

Adriana:

when I was older, let’s say my mid 20s was the first time that I had technology that I was able to turn on the lights to change channel on the TV, to open my door to my apartment. That was huge.

For the average person, it just sounds so basic. And these things excited me and I was so lucky. And I was in my mid-20s. And that was the first time I was able to do any of that by myself.

TR:

It doesn’t sound basic to me.
Adriana and I met as a result of inaccessibility.
It was December 2020 and I was trying to make sense of the social audio app Club House.
I accidentally hit a button that started up a room.
Honestly I freaked out, I had no idea who was going to join.
While searching how to quickly close the room someone popped in.
Shout out to Daniel from Singapore. We got to talking and then Adriana came into the room.

Adriana:
I joined clubhouse December of 2020, when everyone was locked down.

Initially, I was just checking out all the tech rooms and getting a feel for what was on there.
TR:

December 2020 was still considered early in Club House time.
There were a fair number of people using the app even though officially it was in Beta.
There was a lot of everything, good conversations to scammers, and definitely inaccessibility.

While in a room with some discussion taking place about disability Adriana didn’t like what she was hearing.

Adriana:

Special needs, and differently abled and Handi capable and all those god awful euphemisms instead of the actual word disability. And we’re like, Okay, this has to stop. Let’s do a room about disability and about language. And that’s how it started.

TR:

That room led to the creation of a club.

Adriana:
I was trying to come up with something clever, for a club name.

I read, 15% of the world’s population has a disability. And I was like, Oh, my God, we’re going to call it the 15. Then it sounds really exclusive. And cool, it’s Wow. And people will be like, Oh, what is this 15%, right, like, I want to be part of the 15.

TR:

There were some really great conversations throughout the rooms, from those hosted by the club to those from other members.

We as a club along with some cool allies (shout out to Glenn with two n’s) played a big role in advocating for improved access to that app,
making certain to voice concerns from the perspective of all users with disabilities.
Literally, all we wanted was to be included in the conversation.

Music ends.
TR:

Hey y’all, I’m cutting into the flow of the episode.
It’s time to announce the winner of the
February Socially ReidSponsible Instagram Giveaway.

Last time,
I told y’all about Annie.
A friend of the family who wanted to come on board and
help manage the Reid My Mind Radio Facebook and Instagram pages.
Last time Annie was under the weather…
while I knew the sun would come out…
I was hoping to get her on the podcast and ask…
Annie are you ok? Are you ok. Are you ok Annie!

Ok, I’ll stop before Annie decides to get her gun…

The winner of the February Reid My Mind Radio Instagram giveaway is…

Congratulations @Malic_acid,
Enjoy your very own Reid My Mind Radio
coffee or tea mug.

Now back to the episode…

Music ends with a bouncing base…

TR in Conversation with Adriana :

What was your first experience with having to advocate for yourself?

Adriana:
I liked pushing boundaries. But I was also very shy. Growing up, my teachers didn’t even know I could speak because I was so shy.

I started opening up more when I was in middle school and high school.

It was freshman English, and I had to write a paper. I decided to write about how, as someone with a disability, who took all honors classes, I had a one to one aid to help me turn pages or write notes for me who didn’t understand English.

TR:

Adriana literally would have to spell out things she wanted the assistant to write.
Meanwhile, the teacher is moving on with the rest of the class.
Could you imagine how frustrating that would be for a 14 year old?

She decided to write about it.

Adriana:

I knew once the essay was handed in, and I would go down the halls, I knew all the teachers knew, I knew the administrators. did and they were all talking about and I think that was my first like, official. My self-advocating for myself.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
What lessons did you take away from that?

Adriana:
It felt good, actually, to cause a ruckus.

It was really obvious that they underestimated me. Even though I was in honors courses. I think it was really clear that because I was shy, because I never really spoke loudly or did anything like that all of a sudden, I wrote this paper. They had an insight to what was really going on inside my mind and how I was really feeling about the situation.

TR:

After being assigned a new aide, she knew her words could make a difference.

In her senior year in high school, Adriana wanted to work on the year book.
She knew she could, everything was computerized at this point.
But she was told she couldn’t.

Adriana:

Because it’s on the third floor and the elevator doesn’t go there. After four years of being in high school, I had no idea that there was even another floor that I had no access to.

Someone that I knew that was on the school paper, decided to interview me about it. A year or so later, they fix that.

TR:
Years later, Adriana found herself working as the editor of a newsletter at the Massachusetts rehabilitation commission.

Adriana:
it was called the consumers voice. Up until when I took it over, it was mostly just a regurgitation of what was on the DOJ website and not really the voice of the people.

I said, we’re changing that.

Music begins –
They allowed me to assemble a group of individuals who were involved or who were consumers of Voc Rehab. And people were also allowed to submit their own stories if they wanted to share an experience, both negative or positive.

TR:
At least that was what she thought.
It wasn’t until one consumer sent in a not so nice letter about their experience that tested the policy.
It landed her on a call with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services defending the consumer.

Adriana:

I said, Excuse me, but this is called the consumers voice. It is a factual story. No one is being called out by name in this story.

We went back and forth a little bit, and it got published.

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Why was the idea of having the voice of the consumer being heard? Why was that so important to you?

Adriana:
It would be an injustice, if it was called the consumers voice and not having no voice of those people in that publication. It was wrong. It was so wrong on so many levels when you didn’t actually broadcast those voices and those stories and so it was really important to me to be true to what the name stood for.

TR:

In her job at a Day Rehab Center in charge of coordinating wheel chair evaluations, She found herself often advocating on behalf of others.
Sometimes that just means informing people of the process and their rights.

Adriana:
So most people don’t know this. But when you’re wheelchair shopping, it is your right, to test drive multiple chairs, it’s just like buying a car.
You spend most of your time in this thing. And it needs to be right for you.

TR:

Advocating on behalf of another person can be tricky.
Especially when you sometimes share medical professionals.
Like the time an OT didn’t provide a consumer with the chance to test multiple chairs.

Adriana:

So I knew this person, both professionally as well as someone who had helped me in the past to get equipment. And so I called her and said, hey, you know, I really think that he should buy this other kind of chair. I think he would benefit from it.

And she says,

— Music ends.

Well, you know, I didn’t think He needed to try anything, because he has a cognitive disability. And I was thinking at that moment, God, you are so lucky that his mother did not just hear you say that. And you’re also so lucky that I could not reach through this phone and rattle you.

TR:

I’m a big fan of this part of Adriana’s personality!
But fortunately for all involved, she has a really good head on her shoulders.

Adriana:

We spoke for a while and convinced her that we should have another wheel chair eval. We did it at the clinic not on site.

TR:

Mind you, this wasn’t in an official capacity. She took off to attend the eval in order to make sure this person received the appropriate service.

Adriana:

Prior to using this chair, he would crash into things all the time.

In this chair, he drove like a pro. It was also a standing chair. So he was able to stand and read, his mom was in tears. And it was just the most amazing and I was so happy that he was able to get what he actually needed and what best suited him. And then the OT came over after and apologized to me afterwards.

— A bit of silence…

“I’ve always been that type of person where I want to try to figure out how to make things better. How to make things easier for other people, not just myself.” – Adriana

TR in Conversation with Adriana :
Let’s go to another form of your advocacy. It’s what I think is sort of your natural interest in technology, combined with your empathy for others. I see all of that combined to make the beginning of Puffin innovations.

Adriana:

I’ve always been the type of person to have ideas and want to improve upon existing tech. And right after I graduated college I was sending out two different kinds of resumes. One was the typical resume that you would send to a company. And then I had a resume called assistive tech resume. And I would list all the things that I was experienced in using and New England. And I would apply to all these companies that I had used their equipment and I looked up to and it was a dream of mine, to work for a company.

TR:

Adriana had no entrepreneurial ambitions.
She just wanted to work for an Assistive Technology company that was serving people with disabilities.
That was until she receive word about an event.
]

Adriana:

MIT was looking for people living with disabilities, who had an idea, a solution to a problem that they themselves are experiencing. I was like, oh my god, this is like a dream come true. I get to go to a hackathon. At that point, I had never been.

I was just on cloud nine because I was like, oh my god, I have this opportunity to go to MIT, hang out with all these geeky people and geek out together and just be around all day. So I submitted my solution, it didn’t have a name, but it was the Puffin.

TR:

She along with about 15 other applicants were selected to participate in the hackathon.

Prior to the event, a dinner was held to give the co designers, that is the MIT coders and those with the ideas a chance to meet and connect with one another.

Adriana:

It’s kind of like speed dating.

The students will go around and meet each of the designers, and find more out about what it is that you want to do. This group of students came to me and they never left.

Literally, they had laptops, we were looking at parts, like we were already figuring out what we needed to make this happen.

TR:

Each team had an opportunity to request parts and technology prior to the hackathon.

Adriana:

Luckily, there was this person who he is now a puffin advisor, he had this big chest of parts. And if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have been able to build it at all. because we didn’t get any of the parts that we had ordered.

The students were amazing, because they really listened to what I had to say. I think that’s what made our team so successful. We were willing, and able to take each other things, and put that together, and put it in a way that works. We never dismissed anyone’s idea or anything.

We ended up making a working version, I think that’s why we won first place.

We got so much press. We were even in the New York Times, which was amazing.

TR:

Already motivated to get this product out to others who wanted more independence,
Adriana began receiving emails from people around the world asking that very question.
She was thinking about patents and funding while the student’s went on to complete their course work.

Adriana:

A good friend of mine who happened to be writing her thesis. She was getting an MBA back in 2016. And she was writing a thesis on hackathons.

She said, you had a successful hackathon, so I want to interview you.
When we were done, she was like, Well, what’s stopping you from doing that from making it into a real thing.

That was really her and I taking the time to just look up applications, learn what was out there and then apply to all these funding opportunities.

TR:

The idea that began after receiving an email in 2015 started to look more like it was turning into a real business.

Adriana:

It just all fell into place in 2017. And we got a $200,000 grant from the VA. It was April Fool’s Day. I kept looking at the email. I’m just like, This is real, right?
It was just surreal, like the most surreal experience, because we’ve never done anything like this before.

It really worked out because then we got into mass challenge. And that really propelled us forward because we didn’t have space, we didn’t have anywhere to go to work on this.

TR:
The Mass Challenge is a business accelerator program in Massachusetts.
In addition to funding and networking opportunities, they provide access to production space and other resources including equipment and people.

Adriana:

The people that would walk in and out of there were just people in the high tech industry that you would never otherwise ever meet in your life. And it was just an amazing experience. We also, as a result, something that happens here in Boston called inbound, that HubSpot runs. And we happen to have been part of that challenge. We got free tickets to HubSpot, HubSpot, or to endow and that year Michelle Obama was the keynote speaker. We got to go and it was just the most amazing thing ever.

TR:

Just when things are going really well, (Pandemic! )Covid 19.
Unlike other tech companies that were able to thrive during the pandemic, Puffin is a little different.

Adriana:
It’s a physical product.

* testing this here *
Our device is actually a mouth operated wireless input device. It’s just a fancy way of saying it acts as a mouse. So for people like myself, who can’t use their hands, they could pair our device with any Bluetooth enabled devices, so like your computer, or your cell phone, or your tablet, and then have full access to that device.

I know several people who don’t even have mobile devices, especially back when I started. That’s because they physically can’t interact with the touchscreen. That is why this was so important.

We also have an app that goes with the product, but it interacts with the device.

It’s really a hard thing to get parts that are not from overseas. And that’s where a lot of our components are coming from. We were down for a good supply chain. But now we’re ramping back up again.

TR:

Helping to build up some of that momentum is winning the ServiceNow digital workforce challenge along with acceptance into the Verizon for good Accelerator program.
Adriana:

Which is super exciting, because you get to work with these tech experts, from Verizon.

A big part of our device is the portability, the connectivity of it, wireless. And so having this opportunity to work with a communication giant, like Verizon, and leader in wireless technology, which then we will be able to incorporate in our device is going to be pretty amazing and really bring it to the next level.

TR:

Adriana says Similar products on the market haven’t seem much in the way of innovation because there’s little competition.

Adriana:

they have no reason to actually change it. So we’re changing it!

TR:

By incorporating artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Adriana:

I wanted this device to recognize, hey, this person is having a little more difficulty in doing this or that, or is struggling with moving in certain ways. So let me adjust the sensitivity, or let me adjust the pressure that is needed to go in this direction, but not in this direction.

TR:

By the end of the program with Verizon,
Adriana would like Puffin to have a product ready for sale in a beta phase in order to generate user feedback.

By the way, the name Puffin is like a shout out to the bird of the same name.
The devices mouth piece resembled the bird’s beak.
That beak you can say, is a form of assistive technology.
It enables them to carry food to their baby back at the nest.

Doing her thing with disability, is what separates Puffin from other solutions.
Adriana not only understands the value for herself, but seems just as excited for what that access brings to others.

Adriana:

I don’t know what I do Without accessing my cell phone. I can control everything with my phone, now. I can control the TV, I can control the lights with my phone, I can do my banking, I can do my shopping, I can read a book, right? I can, whatever, make phone calls, etc. You can literally do everything with a mobile device. So for people with disabilities, if you have access to your mobile device, you literally have access to the world. And that’s what’s really important to us. It’s giving people that opportunity to have access to things that they otherwise would not have access to.

TR in Conversation with Adriana:
Ok, How do I say this? Because of all the things that you do, your willingness to share, and help others the way you do your thing with disability. You Adriana Mallozzi are an official member of the Reid my Mind Radio family welcome to the family, Adriana.

Adriana:
Thank you! I’m honored to be a member.
TR in Conversation with Adriana:

So how can people learn more about the Puffin, about you? All of that.

Adriana:
So you can find more about Puffin at Puffininno.com So that’s Puffin like the bird and inno.com. Or @Puffininno on all social media platform. That is our handle. If you are on Club House come and join the 15% Club.

For me it’s just AdrianaMallozzi is my handle on on all social media platforms.

TR:
I started to give credit to the lack of access within the early version of the Club House app for my chance to meet and get to know Adriana.

It’s like giving credit to inaccessibility, poor treatment and service for the strong advocacy,
problem solving or management skills you’ll find among people with disabilities.

No! I’m not crediting the negative.

The energy we each give off works to bring people in and out of our lives.

Adriana and I were both on the Club House app, simultaneously trying to figure some of the same things out.
In fact, some of the same access issues that impact her were impacting me as a Voice Over user.
It wasn’t disability specific.
Perhaps that’s something I needed to hear.
I may have been seeking that without even knowing.

Maybe you listening here today needed to hear the words on Adriana’s shirt; “Not Impossible”. That’s really an energy that I personally want for anyone listening, the energy I want for myself.

Yes, we can dream big.
I just want to hear more from those achieving without having to compromise any part of themselves.

I’m tired of conversations about overcoming CP, blindness or disability in general.
I’m here when you want to talk about society overcoming it’s need to put up barriers,
it’s inaccessible websites and technology or
unwillingness to hire, give opportunities to or in any way include the disabled community.

I’m here for conversation with people like Adriana who want to talk about pursuing goals, making dope enabling technology.

I’m here when you want to talk about Doing Your Thing With Disability!

And you know where to find me right?
That’s wherever you get podcasts. If you’re on Facebook and Instagram, that’s @ReidMyMindRadio on Twitter @tsreid.
Or slide on over to ReidMyMind.com and you can find transcripts for our episodes.
Just make sure you remember, that’s R to the E I D!

— Sample (“D!”) And that’s me in the place too be! Slick Rick

Adriana:

Like his last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Doing Your Thing With Disability: Marguerite Woods – Here I Am

March 9th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

A full body shot of marguerite Woods smiling brightly while waiting for a fresh protein drink order.  She is seated sideways on a black & Silver upholstered chaise lounge with her right elbow slightly leaning towards the rolled back of the lounge. Marguerite is dressed in white slacks and a black blouse with white panels along the yolk and sleeves, black sunshades, beaded mecklace, large  silver hoop earrings & bangle accessorizing her outfit and bald head.  Behind & off to her right side is, a small blonde wood bookcase with a painting of Bob Marley on the wall above.
Can I kick it? (Yes you can!)

Welcome to the kick off episode for the first season of 2022; Doing Your Thing with Disability!

In this series, we’re not talking about overcoming blindness, getting passed our disability, no, we’re going to hear from some awesome people who do the things they love to do and they’re doing it with their disability. That’s a whole different energy.

We begin with a Reid My Mind Radio alumni, Marguerite Woods, who’s all about energy. She was last on the podcast during the 2021 Flipping the Script on Audio Description season.

I just knew during that first conversation, I had to have her back on to discuss more of her experiences as an advocate, philosophy as it pertains to blindness and disability. Plus I wanted to hear more about her trip to India and all that meant to her.

In this episode we get into self-reflection, a kinder gentler advocacy, love of self and skin bleaching? You’re going to have to listen in…

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

— Theme from Welcome back Kotter
— A hip hop drum loop…

Greetings, Reid My Mind Radio Family.

— from song, “Welcome Back!”

I feel like I’m home. Well, I am.

You know what I mean right?

That familiar place where you’re comfortable, your needs are being met and you feel loved and appreciated. That’s what I want you to feel when you rock with Reid My Mind Radio!

Let’s start this off right!
Can I kick it?

— “Yes you can”

Can I kick it?

— “Yes you can”

I’m excited to kick off this first season. If you caught the Black History Month bonus episode, you already know, this season is called Doing Your Thing with Disability. Now I know some of y’all may say that a bit differently as in Doing’ Your Thang with Disability! You should know, that indeed is the feeling behind the season. I chose not to formally name it that way because not everyone gets that energy right when saying it. If you do appreciate and respect that vibe, by all means feel free. If you do not or if you question whether you’re qualified to do so, well, don’t it’s cool, say it phonetically. Doing your thing with disability.

What I hope to deliver during this season are 4 episodes with varying examples of people pursuing different goals in their lives for a variety of reasons. We’re touching on Accessibility, entrepreneurship, music expression, self-discovery and more.

I encourage you to listen between the words.
(Filtered Voice:) Is that a thing?
Sort of like reading between the lines?

Throughout each episode, the energy is not about getting passed or overcoming, nah, that’s what they talk about over there…

The way we get down, right here, we’re doing it with disability – and to me that’s something to celebrate.

— Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
This first season of Reid My Mind Radio in 2022 is all about doing your thing with disability. And I want to know, what does that mean to you?

Marguerite:
Wow. It to me, it means being my authentic self. And disability is just a part of my shell. And it’s a part of the filter that I’m experiencing this physical life through. And so I can’t escape that. So it’s a part of who I am. It’s just not all of who I am.

— Music begins, a mid tempo smooth jazzy Hip Hop beat.

TR:

Who she is? Well, this is Marguerite Woods.

Marguerite:

I am a woman, a black woman with many interests, and mainly, I am having an experience as a spiritual being in my humanity, and so the roles that come up for me are absolutely a mom, family member friend, a community person.

She, her are my pronouns. And I have on a suit jacket, I think it’s black and white, I have one little flower under it with little fringe around the top yoke.

I normally wear earrings, because I like them, I’m a little artsy, and they usually feel really creative to me. And I have on, dark shades.

I am black. I am bald. I am beautiful. And I am bold.

TR:

It’s been a while now that I’ve been incorporating image descriptions as part of the podcast.
I know there are some who may wonder why, it is a podcast after all.
A big part of that is identity for me. I want you to know as much about the people I’m presenting here on the podcast.
Truth is, sighted folks still get the opportunity to access this information via a nonvisual medium, because podcasts require an image to accompany the audio file.

But there’s more than identity in what we hear in an image description.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Your outfit today, is there any particular reason that you wore what you wore?

Marguerite:
I decided deliberately to wear what I’m wearing. It feels comfortable. I think it looks good. And we talked about possibly video at the end. I wanted to project a certain image. I wanted to feel a certain way while doing the video. I feel very feminine. My outfit helps me to feel like that.

And the earrings are just an added touch that I really like, because I’m bald, I think that it highlights my frame.

TR:

Being intentional, goes beyond her wardrobe choices. Marguerite is thoughtful with her words. It’s one of the things that really stands out when first meeting her. It’s evident in the way she approaches each of the questions posed to her. Like…

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

How do you identify with disability?

Marguerite 04:

Wow Thomas, that’s a loaded question, how do I identify with disabilities?
It’s been a progression of things and when where I am today is because of that progression.

So I don’t want this to sound flat or linear. I arrived here.
I’ve been toying with how do I talk about what we’ve been calling disabilities. And as I think about them my blindness and and others with a variety of different things. What I keep coming up with is this whole idea of diversity. We have diverse abilities.

my relationship is that whatever I’m dealing with, and in my case, it’s blindness, it’s given me an opportunity to explore the life that I’m living from a very different perspective, than I started out exploring life. living life, because I think of each of us as an explorer, or pioneer in our particular part of life.

TR:

That exploration can take her to foreign places, but much of it is within herself. In fact, she sees it as selfish.

Marguerite:

Everything that I experience, think about relate to is totally through my filters. And that in itself is selfish. But not in the way that I grew up thinking about the word selfish.

There’s no way to relate to life and be neutral, because I’m relating to it through my filters. And every other person is as well. And the best I can do with that is expand my filters, and expand the understanding, from having experiences with other folks.
TR:

If you prefer your ideas presented in a more concrete form, Marguerite offers a bit of a disability toolkit.

Marguerite:

in a practical way, the way I relate to disabilities is understanding that each one of us has to have an ideal of what we’d like to be able to do, where we find ourselves how we’d like to be able to manage whatever it is we’re trying to move through. And so, philosophy, some skills, some technology and some techniques, and absolutely some guidance in any way that you can find it to help you better do what it is you’re trying to do.

TR:

One of those skills that Marguerite has built over the years is advocacy. It goes back to her childhood growing up in Baltimore City, the area Marguerite describes as being designated for African Americans.

Marguerite:
There was a lot of feelings of just being done wrong, not being treated well. There was an energy of distrust, anger. But in the middle of all of that, I enjoyed the connection with family members and community members. And this sense of looking out for each other, a desire to move forward in a positive way, enjoying whatever life had to offer. And I felt that the elders in my community, were very interested in assuring that their children, and the younger people in the community were able to enjoy the things they felt they had not been able to.

— Music ends

And so the whole advocacy around that felt noble and it felt right to me.

TR:

That relationship with the community equipped Marguerite with a strong solid foundation.

Marguerite:

I grew up through the elementary and high school years, with all black teachers in the black community. And I could feel the desire for them to give us their best. And they wanted us to be sent into a world with our best doing our best.

I ended up in senior high school going to a predominantly white school on the other side of town. I deliberately chose that because I wanted to know what it felt like to have that experience. I was curious and interested,

When I did get to that senior high school, I felt like I was very well equipped, even though I began to hear stories that said we were marginalized, and that we were lacking.

TR:

Stories meant to weaken that foundation or penetrate her spirit.

Advocacy became more than a way to impact her community, it helped her realize things about herself.

Marguerite:

For me advocacy was about fighting for the underdog. And so it felt aggressive. And I thought it was very necessary and that there was a certain way that you had to go about it in order to gain the results that you were asking for.

It didn’t feel good in my spirit.

That anger and their venom and using it to ask for what you wanted. While it seemed to be effective, it was not a good space for me.

TR:

Over time, Marguerite came to realize that in the way she and
so many of us view advocacy, trained her to only consider what
was not working.

Marguerite:

it started to make sense to me that if that’s what you’re pointing out all the time, that’s all you’re setting yourself up to see. And so when things are coming, that are, what you do want, how will you recognize if all you’re focused on are the things that don’t work?

Sometimes the things that I’m wanting to experience, they reveal themselves in small ways.

The more that I’m open to understanding and realizing those smaller things, the momentum can pick up, but if I don’t recognize it, then how will I be able to enjoy it becoming larger in my space, in my experience for myself and for my community.

TR:

Yet only focusing on the things you want or those things that feel good can prove to be quite unfulfilling.

Marguerite:

I’ve got to own how I feel, and accept that as where I am. And recognize that I want to be in a space, that feels a lot better. But that causes me to have to identify, what is it that I’m asking for? And I’m telling you that that’s not been the easiest thing to do. Because even when I’m talking to people that I asked, What do you want, we even talk about what we want in the negative. I know most people can easily tell you what we don’t want, but ask them what they do want. It’s a very different conversation. And so that was not just a conversation for others. That was a conversation for myself, as well.

— Music begins, piano keys leading into a mid tempo smooth bouncy Hip Hop beat.

TR:

This really seems about knowing yourself. And there’s some real value in that.

Marguerite:

I’m getting to the space in the place where I have an opinion, I have a thought and it’s authentic.

You have a thought and an opinion and it is yours, no matter what I think about it, it is yours.

I do have the right to my opinions and my thoughts. And I want to be respected. So if I’m going to respect myself, I’ve got to respect you. Even if I don’t agree with you. I’ve got to respect that you have it. But that does not stop me from asking for what I want. That’s how you see it. And you can be very right. And I’m not telling you that you’re wrong. But I’m asking for what I want and what I need, which is a very different space.

I need to articulate and be really clear about what I’m asking for. So I have to keep asking, and keep defining and keep gaining the clarity.

I’m not recommending this as a way for anybody to go, I’m just merely trying to tell you what’s happening with me.

TR:

She really is on an exploration.

Her advocacy continues to have practical applications.
As the president of the At Large Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in Maryland, she’s ready when necessary to respond to issues of particular concern to her community.

Marguerite:
We discovered that the state of Maryland was planning to discontinue bus transportation from Baltimore City. To the surrounding counties, for the most part, and they quietly were holding community meetings.

I was thinking about my community that I actually live in not just the blind community, but the community of Baltimore City, which is being affected. And I knew about a group that I been in connection with for many years, I would go there and talk to them.

TR:

The organization is called BDS healthy aging networks. Marguerite built a relationship with them over the years where she along with a group of members from her chapter would speak to the organization as a way to allow people to see into the community.

Marguerite:

I knew that they had gone virtual, I got in touch with the woman who runs it, Betsy Simon, and told her what I’d like to do. So she invited me to the call to share with the partners that met with her and the partners were different community agencies, city and state agencies, as well as community organizations and community leaders. And ask them to participate in the testimonies as well.

Well, I’m not exactly sure what happened. But that idea of dropping the bus service was discontinued.

TR:

There’s real power in organizing with those who share a mutual interest.

Marguerite continued attending the meetings of the network – which extends out to many different agencies and organizations. Their main mandate is advocating for older adults in the city.
They recently showed their ability to organize and get things done after the city made a failed attempt to help vaccinate older adults for Covid 19.

Marguerite:

One of the ladies in our group had been writing directly to the CVS is in the Walgreens saying, Look, we in Baltimore City want vaccinations and our officials are not helping us. Can you help us get vaccinated? So they were ignoring her letters and Walgreens somehow had these extra vaccinations, like 850 of them. They went to the Baltimore City Health Department and said, Listen, we’ve got these vaccinations. We can show up on Saturday with the pharmacists. You get the people.

This was on a Tuesday, the Health Department told them no, there’s no way we can do that. It’s not enough time.

They remembered the woman in our group who had been writing to them. They did shout it out to her. And she got in touch with Betsy Simon. And she sent a call out to everybody on her list. Can we do this? And so we said, yes.

TR:

With Some quick planning and putting people into action, they got it done.

Marguerite:

Advocacy, asking for what you want. And that’s what that woman did. She kept asking for what she wanted, in the midst of them saying, No, we can’t. And the health department did not help us, they said that they couldn’t do it. And after we did it, it showed that we could.

TR:

She continues showing up to Zoom calls. Reminding organizations to make sure their materials and information is getting to the low vision and blind community. She’s actually seeing progress in this area.

Again, the advocacy work teaches her things about herself and how that can benefit others.

Marguerite:

I think that the key for me is to take what I’ve been able to get in terms of training, philosophy and skills and so forth. And just come right back into my community and be a person in the community teaching from my example.

— Music Ends

If it helps the blind community, it’s helping the rest of the community as well. Those things are created and envisioned by the blind. And so we are contributors to what the society is and what it can become.

Music begins, a bouncy upbeat Hip Hop track.

TR:

Are you socially Reidsponsible?

— Sample from Blades of Glory:
“I don’t even know what that means.
No one knows what it means. But it’s provocative.”

TR:

It’s true, no one knows what it means, not even me, I just think it sounds cool!

Cool, like the Reid My Mind Radio Giveaway happening right now on Twitter.

We started in January on Facebook. Then moved to Instagram and during the month of March we’re focusing on the final platform, Twitter.
All you have to do to be entered into the drawing is like and retweet any of the posts I tweet out related to the Reid My Mind Radio Giveaway during the month of March.
So go on over and follow @tsreid and again, like and retweet any of the posts related to the giveaway.

Our social media manager, Annie, will gather all the names at the end of the month and we will draw a winner, which we’ll announce in April.

During the next episode in March, we’ll announce the winner of the Instagram contest.

Make sure you follow ReidMyMindRadio on Facebook and Instagram

Oh, wait, that’s being socially Reidsponsible!

Now, let’s get back to the episode!

— Music ends with a bouncing base drum echoing into silence.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
So during your first time on the podcast, you suddenly and quite nonchalantly dropped this thing about spending some time in India?

Can you share the story of how that came about? And what you actually did in India?

Marguerite:
I went to something in Baltimore called Blind industries and services in Maryland, which is a training facility for adults and older adults who want to gain skills and be able to manage blindness.

When I finished there, the director at the time sent me an email and in the subject, it said, only two days left.

TR:
She actually discovered and read the email the next day.

That’s when she found out she had one day left to apply to the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs. It’s in Trivandrum, which is in the southernmost part of India.

Marguerite:

I got these thrill bumps all over me when I was reading it. It just filled me up.

You had to have it in, I think that day. I’m amazed at myself that I was able to do all that and I was able to submit it. And you know, they sent back and asked for some more information, I sent it to them.

And later on, they sent me a letter and told me that I was accepted and I was going to get a full scholarship to come there.

— Music begins, a dramatic introduction that feels like an eastern vibe that opens to a rhythmic electronic dance track.

TR:

Marguerite didn’t tell anyone about applying to the program.
That is until she received her acceptance letter.
p
Coincidentally, that good news arrived near her birthday. So when her family asked what she wanted to do, she was prepared.

Marguerite:

I want to go to an Indian restaurant.

When we sat down, we were talking and eating. And When they got to wishing me a happy birthday, I told them that I wanted to share something with them and told them that I would be going to India, and they were all shocked. They were like, Who are you going with? Who are these people? Bla bla bla.

Mind you, I’m totally blind at that point. I’m going alone , I don’t know the people, whether they met them online. And so they were like, oh, no, this, this, you’re not doing that. And they had all these what ifs, and no, they were really afraid for me. But something that I learned a while back and was able to practice is when you get an idea about something that you want to do, and, and you’re trusting that it feels good inside of you. That is not the time to share it. Because you’ve heard of dream killers. And they don’t even mean to be they were very good intentioned, but they will kill your dream before it gets off the ground.

TR:

Many of us have fallen victim to or have been a Dream Killer.

Perhaps one or two bodies.

Maybe you know some real serial killers. You know, those who just throw daggers at anyone with an idea or a plan to step out and try something new.

Chances are, they don’t mean to discourage. It’s more about a fear or lack of information on they’re part.

The point is, we need to protect our dreams, like they’re our babies.

Marguerite:

You can’t share it when it’s in it’s infancy, you got to let it mature. And so that’s what I did. And when it felt solid in me, and I’d worked out my own kinks about it and realize I had no fear and no reservations. So when they came with all that they had, it didn’t sway me because I had already worked it through, and I was solid and how I felt and so I let them go through what they needed to, as I continue to get myself prepared to go.

TR:

She received the news in July and left for India in January.

Marguerite:

I stayed there for a year came back in December. It was quite an experience.

I got to work with NGO’s, Non-Government Organizations. They’re sort of like our charitable organizations.

We worked with gay and lesbian organization.

In India, as you might imagine being a, quote unquote, third world country.
homosexuality is not something that is readily accepted.

With all of the challenges that we have here in the United States, the magnitude of it there is beyond the scope of what we can expect. It’s so dangerous. But these people are so adamant about being able to live their lives out loud, that they’re risking their lives for even just saying that they belong to an organization like that.

TR:

Wherever you go in the world, marginalized groups exist. The language and faces may appear to be different but underneath it all things look familiar.

Marguerite:
In India, lots of people wanted to bleach their skin.
— Music ends with a crescendo cymbal crash

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
For the folks who haven’t seen, they may not necessarily know that the complexion of Indians are black.
I mean, some of them might not. Right?

Marguerite:
Yes. Yes, yes. Yes. And some of them are very dark in their complexion, and they want to be they want to be white. They want to be fair skin, it’s important to them, and so they do bleaching creams. I’ve heard of people who families would make these potions, so when the woman was pregnant, she would drink these potions that would help to ensure that her child would be fair when it was born.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Oh, my goodness. Drinking it? Man, woof!

TR:

To get a sense of how much of an issue this is, Marguerite shares some description of a commercial on Indian television.

Marguerite:

It was a woman in a park, she’s walking with her boyfriend. She was darker complexion. And he was fair. And he sees a, another girl in the park. And she’s fair skinned. And so he drops the arm of his darker skin girlfriend. And he dances off with this fair skinned girlfriend. The darker girl is hurt and upset.
So she gets this cream, and she uses it for a prescribed period of time. And he sees her again, and she’s fair skinned now.
So he drops the other person, and now they’re happily ever after.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
This was a commercial?

Marguerite:
Yeah.
TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

On regular TV?

Marguerite 46:21

Yeah, yeah.

The idea was to go and fight against the companies that were making creams. And my thing was, well, before you can fight against the company that’s making the creams. I think we need to educate the people, let’s start with the children, because they were doing it with kids as well. And they were doing it with the boys as well as the girls. And so we went into the schools, and we were talking to them about melanin and for the schools that we went to none of them knew about melanin.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Do you want to break that down a little bit? It’s well, just power of melanin.

Marguerite 47:21
Melanin is such a protective coating and that a lot of things can’t even happen without a melanin protection.

I remember, way back when I was much younger, hearing and reading about first the spaceships using the idea of melanin as a protective coating on some of their vessels.

Even here in this United States, even though we have it, there’s not a whole lot of talk about melanin and how powerful it is, and how wonderful it is.

TR:

You can tell people about Melanin, about a rich history where people who look like them weren’t colonized, robbed of their resources, but ultimately, it’s about self-love.

Marguerite:

My idea. And the group that I worked with, we felt like, it was just as important for individuals to decide that they wanted to embrace who they are, right where they are, and fall in love with that before, you can start telling a company not to sell bleaching creams.
Until people are educated and can find a way to feel good about themselves. It to me is a moot point. I don’t think you can do one without the other.

TR:

This problem isn’t at all unique to India. It was a bigger thing here in the states, several islands in the Caribbean including Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

( FILTERED VOICE:) White supremacy is a hell of a drug!

— Music begins, an inspiring ambient track that grows as it progresses.

Marguerite:
We’re not supposed to be the same. And because one group is one way and another group is a different way, does not at all indicate that you are better than or less than the next group, although we use that as our vehicle to control and manipulate and because it has worked so well. It continues to happen that way. But we can’t just throw our hands up, we have to I think, continue to help people understand that it’s okay to embrace yourself where you are.

TR:

Embracing yourself as in the color of your skin whether you’re in India, Africa, the Caribbean or here in the states. The texture of your hair, your sexuality and yes your disability.

It’s what makes adjusting to disability so challenging for many. You may not even realize how you felt about disability and that can then impact how you feel about yourself.

Marguerite:

When I became blind, I realized that I had some very negative thoughts and feelings about blind individuals that I did not realize I had. I realized that when I saw a blind person, I felt something that I didn’t bother to identify. But what I did recognize was that I was glad it was not me. And that was with any disability, or anything that wasn’t held up as a beautiful thing, by the society norms, and that even meant, the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, all of that was a part of it. And those were feelings that were held inside in secret, depending on what company I was in. And so blindness exposed me not just to the blindness, but to the other beliefs that I was holding. And what I also discovered was that I could not really know what I was holding on to, unless I had an experience that brought it out. Because I tended to think that I was who I wanted to be not able to see who I actually was being.

As an adult, I had to find my way to that. I remember having to make a decision, a literal decision, that I wanted to live as a person with blindness. It was very different from living as a person with low vision. Total blindness was a totally different experience for me! And so I had to make a decision for me!

TR:

You know this isn’t about which level of visual acuity is more challenging, right?
it’s not a competition between disabilities, in fact, it has less to do with any external factor at all.

Not confronting the question was the source of anxiety.

Marguerite:

I just remember saying to myself, I have got to make a decision about how I want to be because
the anxiety was because I did not want to be blind. But I’m blind.

I really did know that the question for me to answer was, do you want to live as a blind person, and I realized I had not made up my mind, which also contributed to the panic attacks that I was having. I was scared to know what I really thought.

that was a very traumatic time for me. And I went through that solo, because I couldn’t talk to anybody about it. And I had tried to find a counselor at one point, but I couldn’t find counselors that knew blindness from the experience. And so I didn’t trust them enough to share that.

I had done enough spiritual practices during my life, that I use the tools that I gained. And I made a decision that I did want to live. So here I am.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

Here you are! (Chuckles)

Marguerite:

Here I am… Yes…. (chuckles)

— Music ends into momentary silence

— Music begins, a lively up beat R & B drum opening to a happy groove.

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:

That’s right, that’s right!

Marguerite:

Yeh! (Reflectively says) Here I am!

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Marguerite, because of all the things you do, to advocate, coming on a podcast to share and help others, doing your thing with disability. You Ms. Marguerite are an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

You was already official but I don’t know, should I make more levels of officiality?
The two share in a silly laugh.

TR:

I truly respect and appreciate Marguerite for her honesty and sharing her wisdom and insight that I just know, will be of real value to many.

In fact, check out how generous she wanted to be when I asked her to share contact information.

Marguerite:

So you can call me you can call my mobile number which is 443-271-1668

TR in Conversation with Marguerite:
Marguerite! This is on the internet. Are you sure you want to put your number out there? Laughing…

Marguerite:
Oh no, no, I guess I don’t, I guess I don’t…

They can go to the NFB page NFBMD.org.

TR:
Orr go ahead and email her and tell her how much you appreciate her valuable perspective!
Marguerite:

MWoods719 at Gmail.

TR:

I don’t think there’s anyone I’d rather have kicked off this season with more than Ms. Marguerite Woods.

Did you listen between the words?

(Filtered Voice:) Dude, I really don’t think that’s a term.

She shared valuable ideas. Some were very practical like;
suggesting we create our toolkit to manage aspects of our lives.

And others were more philosophical like;
– exploring life through blindness and other identities…
– Choosing to think about and speak in terms of what we want.

That to me is so Powerful and honestly feels important for me where I am in my life right now.
You know, let me put that into practice right now.
I want you to share this episode with at least one other person. And let them know they can follow or subscribe to the podcast, just as you did, to make sure they don’t miss any episodes.
I want you to tell them, they can do that wherever they get podcasts.
Let them know they can find transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com.
And of course, make sure they know , that’s R to the E I D…
— (D! And that’s me in the place to be!, Slick Rick)

Marguerite:

Like his last name!

TR in conversation with Marguerite:
Ouu! I like that!
(The two laugh)

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

If Williams Met Woodard – A Black History Mash Up

February 9th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

Picture Discription: Total of 6 sections.  The top picture is of Mr. Isaac Woodard standing next to the bus with the sheriff and one of his men confronting him with the words If Williams met Woodard a black History Mash up in white letters at the bottom of the picture.  In the second-row left side is a picture of Robert & Mable Williams with a pistol in their hands. Next to that picture is Mr. Woodard in his uniform with dark glasses.  On the third row is Robert & Mable Williams dress up. In the Middle is the Reid My Mind Logo and the last picture in that row is of Mr. Woodard with his closed and puffy eyelids. Courtesy M.Reid

Dropping a bonus episode, right on time for Black History Month.

While I love programming that features the Black experience, it doesn’t always leave me feeling uplifted. Sometimes it stirs me to imagine alternative outcomes. Endings where we can honestly say, we won that! A win, in my mind is sadly, way too simple. Can we just live our lives without the interference and violence? Is that too much to ask for.

Check out this Black History Mash Up where I take two real world individuals from history; Isaac Woodard & Robert Williams and imagine if they met on one specific day.

Plus help me congratulate our first Social Media Give Away winner…

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family. A very happy 2022 to you and yours. My name is Thomas Reid, I’m the host and producer of this podcast which brings you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.
As I mentioned in the final episode of 2021, the plan for 2022, is to return some time in the first quarter.
Well, I still have another month. The official start of the first season will be the second Tuesday of March. March 8th!

However, as I also said, I thought there was a chance that I’d add an episode or two to the feed that doesn’t necessarily fall into the seasonal theme. I’ll share more on the themes for this year later, but for now I want to focus on this month – February, Black History Month.

— Music begins, …African drums

Over the years, I recall discussions questioning whether we need Black History Month. The argument was that Black History should just be a part of the curriculum. I agree, it should be, but it’s pretty obvious today that some want to fight against that.

— Music ends.

— Montage of CRT news
A series of different voices:
“Critical Race Theory, critical race theory, critical race theory”

A woman:

“There are thousands of parents all over the US of all races, who have been speaking out against CRT and rightfully so. These are my babies, not yours. If you are embarrassed or ashamed of your skin color. That’s your issue, not mine nor my children.”

Man:

“We do not want our children to be taught that America is systemically racist.”

Reporter:

“Republican politicians have been hyping critical race theory as a threat to the impressionable minds of America’s children.”

Ted Cruz:

“Critical Race Theory says every white person is a racist, critical race theory says America’s fundamentally racist irredeemably racist,”

Reporter:

“critical race theory is an academic framework that says racial inequality is perpetuated by the racism embedded in America’s laws, not by individual bigotry.”

Teacher:

“critical race theory is not being taught in schools. It is a theory. It is a lens by which to view history and the way that law and race kind of overlaps and connects in society. Can it influence the way that some teachers teach? Yeah, but that’s a good thing, right? Because race, and racism is literally the building blocks of this country. So how can you not talk about it?”

— Music begins, African drums.
TR:

Now more than ever, Black History Month seems even more important, especially if we’re key on seeing Black in the future.

February has always been the time of year, unlike any other, where I’d have access to programming, most often on PBS, that focuses on the Black experience.

It’s the independent producers who bring stories about the lesser known activists, stories of insurrection that offer a different perspective. Stories that challenge what we get from the mainstream productions. Often, that’s the white washing of history, corporate coopting or propaganda to convince the country that we’re making racial progress.

We’re shown scenes from the Civil Rights movement where police are releasing dogs and using water hoses, so called riots and destruction of Black communities. That was back then we’re told. Black people are encouraged to keep our eyes on the prize, focus on our strength, determination, resilience, courage. There’s very little conversation about the generational trauma. Little discussion about the responsibility of white people to reconcile and own up to the crimes against humanity.

I’ve come to realize that I have to be aware of the content I consume. There’s way too many things that leave me wondering; when will there be a story where we win? A story where we can just live our lives without worrying about discrimination, racism, murder.

A true optimist will say, our existence today, our survival, the fact that our creativity and art and more leads the world is an example of a win. sometimes I just need more.

Today, I’ll bring you that. It’s a Black history mash up where I borrow from two real world figures from the past. Merging a bit of fact with fiction in order to give you an example of that kind of win I’m talking about. It’s probably way more simple than some think.
Y’all with me? Let’s go fam!
— Music ends.
— Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

— Sounds of nature outdoors…, tilling the land
-Music begins, – old blues singer and guitar …
“”Yes I rolled and I rolled and I cried all night long
“Yes I rolled and I rolled and I cried all night long”

TR:
Meet Uncle Zeke
He was born in South Carolina, but grew up in Goldsboro, North Carolina. His father was a sharecropper. I hate that name. It implies there was some form of cooperation happening when there really wasn’t. The way it worked, the landowner or the former enslavers, offered a part of their land to be farmed by the share cropper. The land owner would provide other things as well including housing, tools, seed, or working animals. Things like food and other supplies were exchanged on credit.

— Music fades out

\The share cropper would pay the owner a share of the crop at the end of the season, typically one-half to two-thirds. If there was any cash left over, the cropper kept it—but if his share came to less than what he owed, he remained in debt. Knowing the share cropper could do little to refute any disagreements, the practice kept share croppers bound to the land owners. Slavery without the chains.

Diabolical!

There wasn’t much in the way of educational opportunities for Uncle Zeke. School for him stopped at 11 and he began working the fields full time.

In 1942, at 23 years old, Uncle Zeke saw a chance to improve his future. He \enlisted in the Army.

— Sounds ofmultiple bomber planes . while a newscaster speaks:
Men like these are not to be stopped. No individual no evasive words or deeds. No group action or selfish interests will be allowed to impede their growing strength, effectiveness and safety. While it is they are sacrificing every advantage of civilian life, they who hold the torch of freedom causes.

TR:

Serving as a longshoreman, Uncle Zeke earned a battle star for unloading ships under enemy fire in New Guinea. He was promoted to sergeant.

After being honorably discharged from the service in 1946
Uncle Zeke headed back home to North Carolina.
While traveling via Greyhound, at a rest stop just outside Augusta, Zeke asked the bus driver if there was time for him to use a restroom.
The driver cursed at him and the two got into an argument.
“Boy, get back in your seat”

Not that it should make a difference, but Uncle Zeke was traveling in his United States Army uniform. He spent 4 years fighting to protect democracy around the world. At least, that’s the propaganda often repeated.

“Talk to me like I am talking to you,” Uncle Zeke insisted. “I am a man just like you.”

The encounter ended without any incident.

However, unknown to Uncle Zeke, at the next stop, in the small South Carolina town of Batesburg, the driver called on the local police. The driver claimed Uncle Zeke was being disorderly.

Uncle Zeke was ordered off the bus by the town’s sheriff.

— Bus door opens and sounds of a outdoors in a small unactive town.

TR:

The sheriff and his men began surrounding Zeke who glimpsed a familiar face in his peripheral. He then heard a voice that immediately gave him a sense of comfort.

“You boys are going to want to leave that man, that soldier alone.”

Uncle Zeke didn’t take his eyes off the sheriff. He watched as the cops and the sheriff turned their attention to that booming voice. It was his friend and fellow veteran, Big Rob.

— Music begins with a base drop. An onimous base heavy Hip Hop beat.

Discharged just a few months earlier, Robert Williams, a childhood friend of Zeke, wanted to assure his old friend made it home safely.

His own encounter lead him to understand that what he and many other Black soldiers thought their lives would be like upon returning home as decorated veterans , was wishful thinking.

Arriving back home in North Carolina after a long bus ride, Big Rob, stopped into a convenient store to get something to drink. As he enters the store, his greeting felt familiar.

What you want boy?

Boy, he thought I don’t think he’s talking to me. Quickly looking around the store noticing the two were alone, Rob just went about his business of gathering the few things he wanted to purchase. He walked up to the counter, nodded at the white clerk and paid. He even told the clerk to keep the change. I’m just happy to be back home he said.

As he exited the store, the clerk timidly told Rob to remember he’s back home now.

Rob was fully aware that the only reason there wasn’t an incident, is the clerk was by himself. If there’d been another white person in that store with him, things would have been different.

Soon after, Rob quickly learned of thousands of Black veterans who were beaten and or lynched. Something so many thought wouldn’t happen to them after serving in the country’s military.

When he heard his old friend Zeke was coming home, he wanted to surprise him. At least that’s what he told Zeke. Truth is he always worried about his friend. Zeke was never the type to not say what was on his mind. He knew Zeke could handle himself in a fair fight, but Black men don’t get fair fights with white men in Jim Crow’s south.

“You heard me Sheriff, let that man be and we’ll be out of your town”

“We?” The Sherriff chuckled. This boy is staying here and if you do leave here, I don’t see anyone else with you.

— Someone whistling!

It came from behind him. A car with 4 black soldiers each holding shot guns pointed in the sheriffs direction. This was followed by more whistles all in different locations. The sheriff immediately realized Rob wasn’t alone. The police were surrounded by 20 plus armed Black men, all veterans in uniform.

Ever since his experience and learning about what was happening to his returning brothers, Big Rob decided to put together his own welcoming committee. Zeke never got word that Rob was going to meet him in Georgia and they missed each other by only a few minutes. Rob decided to follow the bus and realized there was a problem when he saw the driver exit and saw the police arrive on the scene.

The team, known as the Black Armed Guard, always alert and trained for this sort of thing, went into formation.

We don’t want no problems Sherriff. We just want to take our brother there and make sure he makes it home to his family. I’m sure you know what that feels like. Wanting to make it home safely?”

The Sherriff slowly looks around. That’s when he notices the driver of the car about 20 feet to the side of Big Rob. Mable, Big Rob’s wife was expertly pointing her rifle at the Sheriff.

He knows he’s out numbered. And these soldiers won’t hesitate to use their weapons. Defeat plastered all over his face, the Sheriff looks at Uncle Zeke and motions for him to go.

Zeke calmly walks over to Rob who nods toward another long gun at his side. Zeke picks it up and the two slowly back up and get into the car. All the while, Mable keeps her gun pointed at the Sheriff. It’s only when the two are safely in the car with their guns pointed at the sheriff that Mable starts the engine after checking her hair in the rear view mirror.

— Music ends and car starts.

Now please don’t attempt to follow us, we’re headed out of your town. I travel with more than you see in front of you so don’t try anything. We just want everyone to make it home safely tonight. And I do mean everyone.

With that said, Mable, Big Rob, Uncle Zeke and the rest of the brothers caravan out of town without incident.

— 1940’s car driving out of town.

That’s a win.

While some of the details in this story are true, unfortunately it never actually went this way.

More on what really happened, after this!

— Old jazzy sounding commercial with woman singing… “Who listens to radio?”
Music begins, a bouncy upbeat Hip Hop track.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Are you socially Reidsponsible?
y– Sample from Blades of Glory:
“I don’t even know what that means.
No one knows what it means. But it’s provocative.”

TR:
A great way to stay informed and help spread the word about Reid My Mind Radio; social media! Reid My Mind Radio is on Facebook and Instagram at Reid My Mind Radio. We’re in the midst of a social media giveaway. It began in January on Facebook. All you had to do was to like the post announcing the giveaway, and you’d be automatically entered. Some of you didn’t fully follow the directions and like the page, instead of just liking the post, but that’s cool. I appreciate you liking the page. We decided to include everyone who liked the page plus those who liked the post in this giveaway. And now we’re gonna announce the winner for January’s Facebook giveaway. To help me out I’m going to ask Marlett to come in and help.

(Thomas yells out) Marlett, Marlett! can you come and help? Let’s do the giveaway.
Marlett off in the distance: “Huh!”

TR:
I told her we were going to do the giveaway.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Hello. Can you help me with the giveaway?

Marlett:
Yes.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Alright, so ladies and gentlemen, we’re here with Marlett. Marlett say hi to the people.

Marlett:
Hello.

(Audio coming from Marlatt’s phone)

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
What is that?

Marlett:

Sorry!… Giggles…

TR in Conversation with Marlett:

The person responsible for our social media is Annie. She’s a friend of the family who decided she wanted to help Reid My Mind Radio get a little bit more exposure. I appreciate that Annie.
But any can be here today. She’s little under the weather. It’s raining right now but Annie, the sun will come out tomorrow. (Cracks up at his own joke) Sorry, she probably heard that all her life. I hope it wasn’t a hard knock life. (Laughs again)

Okay, the winner of this year’s Facebook giveaway, will get…

Marlett:

You’re gonna get a Reid My Mind Radio mug.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
So here we go. You ready to shake it up? And the winner is?

Marlett:

Justin Romac.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:

Hey! Okay, cool. Justin Romac.
We will be getting in contact with you to get your address and send you your very own Reid My Mind Radio, mug, coffee mug.
But you could put whatever you want in that; coffee, tea. adult beverages water pens, you know people put pens in mugs, put it someplace where people could see it. If you have an office, put it in your office. If you, if you’re either… Do you have something?

Marlett:
No!

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Thank you for supporting Reid My Mind Radio.

Marlett:
Thank you.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:

So the next giveaway will be on what social media platform?

Marlett:
Instagram. And so all people would have to do is to follow, like, share and comment on it.

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Alright, yeah, you got some work to do.

Marlett:
All they have to do is say hello. Hi!

TR in Conversation with Marlett:
Yeah, that’s true. That could be a comment. So what we want you to do is do what she just said. And you have until February 28. And then again, we’ll reveal the winner in March and then in March The giveaway will be on Twitter. Thank you Marlett. Bye!
I’ll probably edit all of that out.
Marlett leaves giggling… fades out.

You can find Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get your podcast. That’s the perfect place to follow or subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.
Tell your friends to do the same. Let them also know that we have transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com.
Just make sure you tell them that’s R, to the E I D…

— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick)

TR:
Like my last name.

Now back to the episode

TR:

Uncle Zeke, not my uncle, is Isaac Woodard. He and Big Rob, Robert Williams, while they both grew up in North Carolina, to my knowledge didn’t know one another.

Robert F. Williams was drafted into the Marines in 1944 and served a year and a half. When he returned home he joined the local chapter of the NAACP and soon became president.
His chapter worked to integrate the public library. After that success, in 1957 Williams also led efforts to integrate the public swimming pools.

The NAACP members organized peaceful demonstrations, but those in opposition fired guns at them.

In a town of about 12, 000 people it was estimated that 7500 belonged to the Klan.

That’s the Ku Klux Klan, not the Wu-Tang!

Williams started a local rifle club which was a chapter of the NRA he called the Black Armed Guard. It consisted of at least 60 former soldiers along with several women including his wife Mable.

Williams and the Black Armed Guard defended the home of a local Black doctor who was targeted by the Klan. Effectively chasing the Klan away and forcing a city ordinance banning the Klan from the town.

As he writes in his book, Negroes with Guns about the racists who inflict violence on Black people.
>They are most vicious and violent when they can practice violence with impunity.”
“It has always been an accepted right of Americans, as the history of our Western states proves, that where the law is unable, or unwilling, to enforce order, the citizens can, and must act in self-defense against lawless violence.”

— Music begins, a melancholy piano and ambience track.

Isaac Woodard was greeted at that stop in Batesburg (now Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Big Rob or any other person who would see Isaac as a brother or even as another human being.

It was Sherriff Lynwood Shull. He was there to arrest Woodard,
beat him with a blackjack and gouge his eyes with it. Mr. Woodard, making his way home from serving this country laid in the Batesburg jail overnight, without medical treatment. Totally Blind, he was taken again, still in uniform, to the city court, where he was fined for drunk and disorderly conduct.

When he did eventually get to a VA hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, doctors determined there was nothing to be done to restore his vision.

It’s said his story which actor and filmmaker Orson Welles shared on his ABC radio show Orson Welles Commentaries, helped move the Justice Department to call for action.

When it comes to violence perpetrated against Black people, let the record show that the systematic response reveals that’s just not for everyone.

It only took the jury 30 minutes of deliberation to find the Sherriff not guilty on all charges. Meanwhile, he admitted that he had blinded Uncle Zeke or rather Mr. Woodard.
It’s said, upon hearing the verdict, the courtroom broke into applause.

That’s a room full of people who could never see Isaac Woodard as a man, a veteran who served his country to protect their freedom. I guess they’d never see him as their uncle. Not even a human being?

I could have met Mr. Woodard. We lived in the same town.

After the trial, he traveled with his two sisters to re-unite with his family who moved north as part of that great migration of Black southerners seeking opportunity in the north.
They moved to New York City, specifically the Bronx.

Isaac Woodard died at 73 years old in the VA Administration hospital in the Bronx on September 23, 1992.
My Dad was in and out of the VA hospital in the Bronx for years beginning in 1989 and during his time with Parkinson’s.

Isaac Woodard was buried with military honors at the Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, New York.

Buried with honor?

In this country, Black leaders, those who confront injustice and fight for freedom are hated while they’re alive and among us. After they’re death, they’re celebrated, honored and often quoted by those who hated them.

This past MLK Day, we watched as the same politicians who actively work to eliminate voter rights and support the home grown terrorist who tried to take the capital, simultaneously honor Dr. King.

— Martin Luther King Jr.
“Unknown Speaker 00:00
It didn’t costs a nation, one penny to guarantee the right to vote. And a lot of people really supported us in Alabama and Mississippi and all across the south. Because they were really against something not because they were for genuine equality for the black man. They looked at Bo Khan and saw how he was beating us and how brutal he was. And they were really outraged. They looked at Jim Clark and Selma, and they were outraged about it. And so they took a stand for decency. But it was never really a stand for genuine equality for the black man. TS Elliot has said on one occasion that there is no greater Harrison than to do the right thing for the wrong reason. A lot of people were doing the right thing, but they were doing it for the wrong reasons. And now when we demand that people do the right thing, for the right reason, they began making excuses and giving all kinds of rationalizations. Now the time has come for genuine equality to come to all beings born of God.”

TR:

Y’all should really keep his name out your mouth and be true to who you are.

Diabolical!

I’m sure half way through this episode, some who may listen to this will wonder; what in the world does this have to do with blindness or disability? Then they’ll find out Uncle Zeke too was Blind. He too was disabled.

Isaac Woodard could have been a member of the ACB or NFB. Another member of the local chapter of the XYZ organization. perhaps someone who joined a monthly support group meeting?

Would they have known who he was or what was done to him? Would they have spoken to him? Is his experience a blindness related issue that warrants their organization’s attention?

Black history month is an opportunity to reconcile with the past. A time to begin the process of figuring out how to do better. A time to celebrate the rich history of Black people that didn’t start with slavery. It started way before that. Before any other people’s history. That’s not in any way a flex or some statement of superiority. It’s a fact.

My Black history mash up isn’t as much of a re-write of history, but rather a draft of the future. It doesn’t have to end with physical violence. Everyone makes it home safely to just live their lives. That shouldn’t be much to ask for, should it?

— Music begins, a bright uplifting Hip Hop track.creschendo

Here’s another win for the Reid My Mind Radio family…

Three seasons of Reid My Mind Radio planned for 2022. I’ve lined up some awesome guests and I’m talking to some more for later in the year.
We’re starting with what I always believe is the core of this podcast; the stories of compelling people impacted by blindness and disability.

Season 1 this year is called Doing Your Thing with Disability.

Yeh, that’s heavy emphasis on the with!
When I wake up, I’m Blind.
When I’m working on this podcast, I’m Blind…
When folks enjoy and appreciate the result of that work I’m still Blind.
Everything I do, I do it Blind! Or, with my disability.
I’m not overcoming it, I’m not getting around or over it… It’s here with me all day and night.

This first season, you’ll get some dope examples of people just doing their thing… with disability!

Season 2, We’re going to re-up on the flip! We’re lining up some the episodes to expand on these conversations about AD. You know what it is;
Flipping the Script on Audio Description, because it’s about more than entertainment.

Season 3 we got YGBD
That’s Young Gifted Black & Disabled.
And yes, there’s some fire here headed your way to close out the year.

Between seasons, I want to either try some ideas out or share some opinions. That’s why I hope you follow and subscribe to the podcast, it’s the best way to make sure you don’t miss out.

I’m excited for 2022 and that’s one thing that I hope is infectious. If so, can you help me spread it! There’s a lot of people who I think can benefit from what we have. I believe it! I’ve been told this from many of y’all. It’s the power of people. It’s more about their stories than anything else.

— Music ends.

I just make blindness and disability sound funky!

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled – Unmasking Masculinity

December 29th, 2021  / Author: T.Reid

On a dark and light orange background with water droplets, lays a white mask with the right eye whole cut out down to the nose. Starting on the outline of the nose is the word "Unmasking" in caps and below that is the word "Masculinity".

Only one way to conclude this first season of Young Gifted Black & Disabled. The original YGBD brothers;
Headshot of AJ Murray Co-producer, AJ Murray
D'arcee Charington - a dark skinned black man with blonde dreads and a black grey coat smiling at the camera. D’arcee Charington Neal
are back!

Our O.G’s join me to take the mask off masculinity and see what’s behind it race, sexuality, gender norms, the patriarchy and of course disability.

We considered releasing this as two separate episodes, but settled for one. Coming in at slightly over 43 minutes, longer than your average RMM Radio episode, we hope it sparks some conversation.

Content/Trigger Warning
This episode does contain adult language, references to sex and traumatic situations. Please be advised.

Reid My Mind Radio will return in the first quarter of 2022! Until then, please be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app, to assure you don’t miss an episode.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.

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Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Music begins, a cymbal crash launches a calm ambient melody which leads to a smooth Hip Hop beat.

Siri:

Ready to send it?

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
Yes.

Siri:

Ok, sent!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Aaight, cool!

You don’t know about Black Siri?

D’arcee:

… No!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Aaight, hold on, let me have Siri say something.

Hey Siri, what time is it?

Siri:

2:09 PM.

D’arcee:

Stop! (Extended so Pronounced, Stoooooop!)

(Thomas, D’arcee and AJ all laugh…)

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

That’s the blackest it’s gonna get, but that’s Black Siri.

D’arcee:

Oh…. I’m dead….

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

If you go into the Siri settings, it’s Voice 3.

D’arcee:

I’m about to change that shit right now! Woo hoo!
TR:
! that really is a thing y’all!
Apple added some additional voices for Siri.
And voice 3 is a Black Man.
That reaction you heard is common.
At least in my experience specifically among those who are Black.
The laughter, was excitement.
Maybe you’re thinking, why would a Black Siri voice matter?
Well, Black voices matter!
Secondly, , please go back to an earlier episode in this series featuring Lateef McCleod for a much more detailed explanation.

Simply put, voices matter, representation matters.
If it doesn’t to you perhaps you’ve always been represented.

If this is your first time here and you’re not familiar with my voice, I’m Thomas Reid, producer and host of this podcast.

You’re just in time for the final episode in the YGBD series or
Young Gifted Black & Disabled.
This all began with an episode I co-produced last year with
Mr. Ajani Jerod AKA AJ! ;
— Sample AJ from “AJ Scratch” Kurtis Blow

A Reid My Mind Radio family member and alumni.

And it seemed right to team up again to close the series.

Since that last production in 2020, AJ caught me up on some of his personal and career highlights in 2021.

Among several positive highlights in his acting career, AJ has a role in a film released this year, Best Summer ever, which garnered a fair amount of attention.

He’s working in a new position that gives him a chance to really flex his creative muscles and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.
And join me in congratulating AJ as a new homeowner!

TR:

Having a job or even better, a career,
providing shelter and safety for one’s family;
in the minds of men, these are a few things impacting how we define masculinity.

Before we get into it, I need to let you know,
we talk about some things that may not be appropriate for young listeners and possibly triggering for others including sexual content and trauma.
The conversation covers a range of emotions. Yeh, real men have those!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 04:07
So let’s jump into it then, man. So you good AJ?

AJ:

Yeah, I’m good.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 04:07

We’ve all been here before. So we just gonna kind of keep it pushing. So brief intro. name, image description, D’arcee, do you wanna kick it off?

D’arcee:

Sure. So, my name is DRC Cherington Neil, I am a dark skin black man with purple dreads and a shaved head in various shades of purple. And I am currently sitting at my desk in my apartment, and I’m wearing a gray t shirt that says love is equal.

TR in conversation with AJ and D’arcee:

Professor Purple!

TR:
He’s an ABD Doctoral student, meaning all but dissertation or he’s almost done!

We could have went with a royal theme for this episode as AJ wore a purple shirt.

I figured it made sense to go with Black. Nahmean!

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

so DRC, how do you sort of qualify masculinity?

D’arcee:
There you go starting with the life altering. I mean, if you had asked me that, like 10 years ago, I think my answer would be wildly different. Because I think, people, the answer to that question is literally dependent upon their own experiences. And I think so much of that experience is tied to age.

If you ask a 16 year old what’s masculinity, they gonna get you this bullshit answer about cars and sports and girls.

all sports ball is the same to me. I will say I don’t care about no cars, but my electric BMW begs to differ..

I honestly believe that being a queer person informs this more than being a straight person, y’all can tell me I’m wrong. But as a man who loves other men, it radically redefines your understanding of what it is to be masculine.

TR:

Woh! I can just imagine the reaction of some people to that statement. But I think if you’re going to explore the definition of masculinity then you have to be open minded and hear people out. No matter where it comes from.

D’arcee:
it’s like that whole phrase, we say, in the community, masc for masc, it’s the word masculine, M A S C.

It’s a toxic ass phrase, that basically means traditional masculinity need only apply.

People, expertly weaponize this phrase of masculinity, to mean “traditional” six pack, square jaw, scruff, kind of masculinity.
What you’re talking about is the flavor of masculinity. All forms of masculinity are value. And that includes trans masculinity too!
Folks want to try to come for me on my DMs I said what I said.

TR:
D’arcee can handle himself. But this is my house and I feel accountable and protective of my family. So be advised, you come for him you coming for me.

Too much? I’m trying to be a better man, my daughters help point out my toxic masculinity.

I hope that didn’t come across violent, but if you have issues that’s your problem. No need to share them.

AJ:

I guess when I think about masculinity, I think of strength in terms of not only physically or spiritually, being able to hold it down and always be accountable and always there to always ever serve.

If I can get into some stereotypes, when I think of masculinity, of course, I think of ego, being braggadocious. Being athletic, not having a job.

TR:

Well, AJ raised the issue of stereotypes, let’s just put them on the table.

AJ:

The negative stereotypes of black man is lazy. Good for nothing.
You get into the historical stereotypes like studs, Black man is in jail, or black men aren’t gonna take care of the kids.

D’arcee:

I think that people associate Black men with rage, gangs and violence.

A lot of people think of black men as being ultra conservative.
I don’t mean politically. Behaviorally, very inflexible. This is where black homophobia comes from.

A lot of it comes from black men. And the stereotype of inflexibility which, in turn gets translated into strength. In this weird, warped way.

There are some positive ones too. People think of black men as being stylish. They think of them as being very well dressed. But that comes with the side effect of they think of Black men as flashy.

AJ:

When you say that I think of that episode of Living Single, when Kyle, I think he was a mutual funds manager. This other brother really had issues with the twist of his hair. I thought that was a very good episode, because it shows the internal struggle
[between us and other black people.
]
Because it wasn’t the white bosses, it was the other brother on the team that told him to cut his hair.

D’arcee: 55:57

I’ve been in that situation. And it was extremely uncomfortable.

When I worked at the University of Maryland, I worked the front desk in the English department and the chair, this white woman she walked in. There were two black faculty standing in the doorway when she walked in.

It was the last day of school and I had just cut my hair.

I’ve had dreads for most of my adult life in various ways. And they had never really seen me without dreds , because that’s a years long process.
Oh, she said, you got your haircut? And I said, Yep, I did. And then she said, you look like a grown up now.

The black faculty in the door, were like, Oh, it’s a third rounder, she was like, what? Oh, come on, like, you guys know what I mean?

AJ: 57:07
Back in the day. I had longer hair. So I had braids, because I was trying to get my swag on and that way.

This one lady, she was a black woman. And she wasn’t necessarily talking to me, but I had heard the conversation and she was saying that her son also want to braid his hair. But she was like, I’m not gonna let him do that. She was talking about the gang Association and how, having hair like that was bad. And I don’t know if she didn’t notice, but I was like, I’m right in here. And I felt so sad. Because just because I have long hair, and I had these braids, but I’m a student. I’m respectful to you. I’m on the honor roll and I have braids, but you associated braids or longer hair with thuggery.

D’arcee: 58:24
You can’t be surprised you know, you invisible

TR:

That’s the thing, Black can make you invisible in many ways.

For example, shows like Friends or Seinfeld. They took place in New York City and there’s no interaction with Black people?

The way white store workers ignore Black people. I’m telling you, we even here, oh I didn’t see you.

If they do land eyes on you, sometimes it’s the stereotypes that are seen. So you’re followed in that store because they see a criminal.

Add disability and that introduces a new layer of stereotypes and invisibility that occurs within our own community as well.

AJ:
When I think of masculinity from societal speaking, maybe some stereotypes, I think, definitely non vulnerability, he can’t be vulnerable at all. You definitely can’t cry at all.

How many songs I heard…

— Audio quick mix of;
“- I Heard it through the grapevine”, Marvin Gaye;
“I know a man ain’t supposed to cry…”

“Tears of a Clown”, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles;
“Now if there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there trying to fool the public…”

“Ain’t to Proud to Beg”, Temptations;
“Now I heard a crying man, is half a man, with no sense of pride, If I have to cry…”

AJ:

I missed that meeting, because the brother cries all the time.

No sensitivity, you keep very serious things to yourself. He can’t show any weakness at all.

You kind of have to know everything and be the jack of all trades.

D’arcee:
Yeah, because Dude, don’t ask for help.

AJ:

If you have children, the males are definitely the disciplinarians.

D’arcee:
Is that true and black households? Because I would definitely not agree.

AJ:

Yeah, yeah. It was my mom, because my mother was the primary razor.

I just mean how many of y’all have heard? wait until your daddy gets home?

D’arcee:

I think that what you’re talking about is physical discipline because like my mother was not the person, my daddy did that

TR:

My mother occasionally used that line on me, but she was the physical disciplinarian while my Dad never raised a finger.

The threat meant I’d have to sit through a 45 minute lecture from my Dad. My sister and I would often debate whether we’d just prefer a beating.
And just in case you’re curious, when it comes to discipline, I ended up just like my Dad! And my girls not only appreciate it but I think they turned out great! Hash tag stop corporal punishment.

TR:

So far, we’ve been talking stereotypes about Black men.
But what does that look like in the real world when we add disability?

D’arcee:

This is exactly what my research is. I study like black culture, but what happens when you add disability to it?

When you talk about blackness disability together the association is so terrible. And it’s, it’s this right here. It’s the core of this right here, because people already associate negative things with blackness. And when you add disability on top of it, that just amplifies the feeling.

AJ:
I remember one time me and a partner who’s also disabled. We’re sitting outside because we got dropped off for the bus. So we were just hanging out, and it was on the sidewalk. This older lady is riding in her car. And she just gets out of her car and gives us hot wings. Hot wings and a Pepsi.

D’arcee:
AJ I completely understand what you’re talking about.
All of the work that I’m doing now it’s an amalgamation of all the experiences that I’ve had that are like this, because it just kept happening.
And I literally was like, why does this keep happening to me?

Obama was coming to our building. And I got really dressed up because they told us we had to. I was in the three piece suit.
[Says emphatically, while clapping his hand to stress the point.)

TR:

You know one of those days when you just sort of feel like, why did I even leave my house? For D’arcee, it began with the access bus driver’s back handed compliment, “You’re looking too sharp to be in that wheel chair. Really?

D’arcee:

I left work that day, went home, and went to the 7 Eleven. I wanted a gallon of milk and some honey nut cheerios, because that is the best cereal on planet Earth.

TR:

If you’re interested in sponsorship here on the podcast, please contact ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

D’arcee:

And grabbed a thing of White Castle burgers because they was calling my name.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
We gonna have to work on your diet, bro.

D’arcee:
this woman in front of me, she paid for her stuff. But she didn’t leave the store.

And she kept eyeballing me. And I was looking at her and she was looking at me and I was looking at her and she was looking at me.

I was like, right, so she didn’t want to get out the way.

I was trying to swipe my card and she moved my card out the way and just literally handed me a fistful of cash.

I didn’t know what to do. I’m in a three piece suit. Wearing my Fedora. My Houndstooth jacket, looking very DC policy.

I was like, Oh, thank you very much. But I’m good.

Then the door opens and this random man comes in. He’s like, Yo, did you pay for the man’s groceries?

So they had concocted this plan while I was going around the 7 Eleven picking up food. And I had been oblivious to all of it.

I swiped my card, got my groceries and left and didn’t say anything to her. And so she literally, she followed me outside. And then she was like, why don’t you take my money?

TR:

Charity, it’s often not for the so called recipient.
Once, someone accuse me of “blocking their blessing” because I refused their help.

I guess the real issue is often, how we’re perceived is ultimately out of our control.

D’arcee:

that was the reason I was talking about my suit. Because people literally don’t know how to conflate these two things together and everything to do with being a man.

AJ:

My mom actually knew an able bodied man, I think he was a comedian.
He got himself a wheelchair, and he would just sit downtown in the chair. His side hustle was he pretended to be disabled to earn cash. Chair

TR:
Ah yes, I’m reminded of the ol’ you’re faking your disability trope.

Another way we’re perceived by the public.

— Music begins, a thumping upbeat dance track.

D’arcee:

I will never forget. Oh, God, I was at a club.
I was there with my friend because she wanted to go.

I’m not big on clubs, but she dragged me there. It’s a dance club. fuck am I gonna do?

The club feels like it’s one of the worst places in the world. It’s a microcosm of every ableist fantasy on display at all times. If you not a ten, you’re not supposed to be in there. But like, people will bring you in there anyway, because they need entertainment.

TR:

Left alone while his friend goes off to dance with some guy,
D’arcee is approached by a woman.

D’arcee:

She was like, hey, and I was like, Yo, what’s up? And then she was like, she was like, Come on, let’s go to the dance floor.

TR:

D’arcee offers his hand, which she takes and pulls him in his wheelchair to the dance floor.

As they’re passing the bar, the bartender calls out to D’arcee.

Bartender:

Yo! Somebody paid for you to have this drink.

D’arcee:

Oh, wow, thanks. And I took the drink and got ready to drink it. And the girl was like, no. And she slapped a cup out my hand, knock the whole drink on the floor. And I was like, what.

She was like, I saw dudes put X in that. They just wanted to see how you would react.

That was issue number one, that people already knew that I was out of place in this location.

TR:

When they finally reach the dance floor, the woman is grabbing’ on D’arcee. Then she leans over and whispers in his ear.

D’arcee:

I want to make my boyfriend jealous.

Oh, wait, what? Wait.

her boyfriend was on the steps like mean muggin’ as fuck. And I was like nah, nah, nah, I’m not feeling this. And so I left her.

AAJ:
One time I was at this club and I wasn’t exactly in the exit but I was in that direction. So this lady it was a beautiful lady but this lady she’s headed out the club but she looks at me and stops before she leaves So she turns around, bends over and shakes it for me. I’m like, okay, which I’m not gonna lie. You know, I don’t know if this is wrong, but I appreciate it.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Ain’t nothing wrong with appreciating that.

D’arcee:

I mean, but also why though?

AJ:
I think she assumed, this is something he doesn’t get,.

I was at this other club. It was this man and his girlfriend or his wife and we were dancing.

He turns her around. and he’s slapping her butt, for me.

TR & D’arcee together in a questioning voice….
“Thank you?”

— Slow Transition moving to a more serious vibe

D’arcee:
you can bleep all of this out to remove it all. I don’t want to be rude. But I also want to be real on this because people deserve it.

In the queer community, people associate masculinity in sexuality, and it causes real problems for me, because I have been in a number of situations where I’ll be hooking up with a dude. And then he will assume, because it’s like, you know, I’m a man, and you’re a man that we came here to fuck. So like, that’s what we’re doing
. So the thing is you don’t even ask my permission.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to call it assault, because I don’t know where it falls on the gradient.

We haven’t had any kind of discussions about what we were gonna do. I had at least five dudes do this to me.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 1:34:58

Wow!

D’arcee:

If you decided to keep all that I know people gonna be listening, they’re gonna be like, wait like, is he talking about rape?

I’m talking about consent, consensual, you know, hookup, or, you know, relationships we met to get it in and half the time.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
I feel like sisters would be like, bro, we this is what we experience. And so is that I don’t want to do like a disservice. You understand? I’m saying, and I’m not trying to tell you what your experiences at all. But man if we flipped it…

— Reverse slow Transition.

— Music Begins, a bouncy up-tempo, high energy Hip Hop beat!

“Forgive me Sir, but there’s something I’d like to ask you.”
“Yes.”
“Well, I don’t know how to say this so I’d better say it in the shortest way.”

TR:

Hey did you know; Reid My Mind Radio, is on Facebook and Insta Gram. We’re going to do some things on these platforms so stay tuned. You can find us on both FB and IG @ReidMyMindRadio.

On Twitter I’m at tsreid

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Make sure you say that full statement including, T.Reid.

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— Sample: “Can you dig it!” “Warriors”

Anyway, go on over to ReidMyMind.com and hit that link that says Shop.

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Tell a friend to do the same. Let them also know that we have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com. Just make sure you tell them; That’s R to the E I D

“D” and that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick) Like my last name.

Now back to the episode. ———-

AJ
I’m not trying to say because of my disability and your disability is different. But sometimes, I wonder, do you think, the things that you explore and are open about, do you think you would have those same opportunities, if your disability was more significant?

I’m a person that wants to be very sexual. I wonder, like, if I were a little more mobile, like you are, like a transformer, what I have an easier time getting down?
Do you think people perceive you as sexier versus more of a person with a more significant disability?

D’arcee:
Sure. I will say, first of all, that I recognize this is a question of privilege. And I most certainly do have that privilege.

The fact that you and I both have cerebral palsy, we both know that it manifests so differently in every person’s body.

TR:

We could replace CP in this part of the conversation with vision loss, hearing loss or just Go ahead and insert your favorite disability.

There are restrictions and privileges that come with any degree of disability
no matter where you fall on the spectrum.

But that’s not necessarily how it’s always viewed.

D’arcee:

They say wheelchair users sit on the top of the hierarchy of pretty. And by wheelchair users, they really mean like paraplegics and you know, people who look otherwise quote, unquote, normal, but in a wheelchair,. For all intents and purposes, you basically are normal, which is that it’s such a horrible, insidious way of talking about somebody’s body, but people are doing this.

TR:

It starts early.

D’arcee:

in middle school, we talked about sex constantly. Just being disabled didn’t preclude me from that conversation. But it did put it in a different light, because they were all like I’m doing X and X. And X was such girl, even if they weren’t just complete full of shit.

But at the same time, there’s this extra added layer of like, but at least they could. Whereas you know, you can’t.

AJ:

In school, a lot of people thought I was down and cool,
But when it came to the discussion of sex,
anytime I wanted to be included in the conversation, they were shocked, like, AJ?

Like, what am I a patron saint?

I’m a teenager just like you guys, right? I want to just like yell, but people were shocked is if it’s something I’m not supposed to do.

D’arceee:

I remember one of the worst days ever.
This dude Mike. He was Like, why do you have Aliyah on the front of your binder?

To the whole class he was like, huh, we all know that if you do jerk off it ain’t nothing but air. And everybody was laughing.

AJ, to your point, people think that it’s fine to do it at your expense because you’re disabled. And they literally are like, Well, you’re not going to have sex anyway. Who cares if you’re a man who wants to, you’re not going to do it. So you know, it really doesn’t matter. This is why they exclude you from conversations.

TR:

Occasionally, you get a sense of what the conversations are like when you’re not there.

D’arcee:

I was playing Xbox Live with a bunch of gay men. It was like 12 of us in this group.
We were talking about the club. I was like how difficult it is to be in the gay club.

This dude named Ben, who is in Portland, Oregon , said, I’m gonna say what nobody else wants to say.
Nobody wants you in there. You’re not welcome in there.
Honestly, I would throw myself off a bridge. Living your life is terrible. If I saw you in the club I might give you my number, but if I did, he said it would be with it when the lights are out where no one can see it.
I was so mortified. And I literally, and there was 12 people on this call, and nobody stood up for me. Nobody.

AJ: 1:52:38

I’m sorry that’s really upsetting to me. And I’m stopping myself from crying because they’re just disgusting.

But that’s what a lot of people think about disability. Disability is tragic, disability is ugly. Disability is seen as unmasculine.

There’s a lot of physical things that I can’t do. For instance, I’m an older sibling. But in a lot of ways, because I need so much help. I feel like my sisters are older than me.

I can’t be the big brother than I want to be.

my mom was a single mom, so sometimes I felt like I couldn’t necessarily help cleaning up. I mean, I certainly know now that you know, I have to change things and the way I look at work is different from when I was little, but it was hard.

TR:

Those adjusting to blindness or disability in general can truly benefit from reexamining things in our lives that affect how we view ourselves. Our career, family roles and responsibilities, the formidable loss of a driver’s license for example.

Reinventing ourselves isn’t exclusively a masculine trait, This conversation has me wondering, what is?

AJ:

I have male friends but my closest friends that I have are female, my strongest connections.
I noticed, I’ll be a church and like men would be talking and joking. And so when I would come around, for some reason, conversations would stop

D’arcee:

Disability is for many people the personification of a nightmare.

If I’m just gonna be 100 honest about it, I think that the bottom line is that most men feel uncomfortable. Because, men are not socialized to be caregivers. Men are not socialized to be emotional. Dealing with a person with a disability, you have to embody a level of empathy.

Men are socialized differently than women. Women are socialized to not seek their own pleasure. Men are.
TR:

We’re in a very new time today, men are encouraged to seek therapy. Expressing emotions and discussing feelings isn’t as frowned upon today. Yes, there are still a bunch of proud cavemen out there, but there’s been some real progress compared generations like my own, Generation X and those before me like Boomers.

AJ:

I’ve heard so many stories about men from that generation. I just feel bad. Yes, they were mean and harsh. But then also, could you imagine, like, the weight and the unpeacefulness, , the chaos that’s in your heart and brain because you have to carry this anger. If you are a black man, you had to deal with being belittled and berated as a black man being called boy.

it’s so it’s like, not you can express that anger, though. But the only way you’re going to is because of the mask would be we thought, you know, be either put my hands on my wife, or beat my children.

D’arcee:

look at these white people trying to tell me that like critical race theory, and like horrible and terrible, and
every single time like somebody tries to tell me that like slavery was a million years ago. It’s not that big a deal. I literally turn around and say my grandfather, my dad’s dad saw men hanging in trees in Alabama when he was six years old on his way to school. That is not the Civil War.

TR:

That socialization starts as a child.
How we as a society raise our children.

D’arcee:

I saw a tweet where somebody wrote, his four year old son came to him and said Daddy, I told the girl in elementary school that I liked her. And she said, she didn’t like me back. And he was like, What do I do? And he was crying. And the dad said, well, I think you know what to do.

The sun responded and said, Yeah, I know, try and try again. The dad said, No, that is not what you do. He said, she told you what the answer is, so you respect her wishes.

TR:

Wait, what?
Isn’t that what we’ve been taught?

AJ:

I think with men and I know myself sometimes there’s been a little bit confusion, because no doubt if a woman says no, that is true.

I hear stories all the time, even in terms of the Obamas, if you listen to their story, Mrs. Obama was like the boss, over a team or whatever. But remember that she did say, she didn’t say no. But then he was like, he was so doggone persistent.

When I say that, I’m not saying you just get a free pass, just to like, be aggressive. And don’t listen to the woman.

Persistence has shown, you do land a woman if you’re persistent.

D’arcee:

Women aren’t to be landed.

AJ:

I didn’t mean it like that.

D’arcee:

And I’m not talking about you specifically, in general men typically believe that it’s a conquest. If you want to talk about the route of masculinity it’s a conquest.

AJ:

That sort of takes the whole idea and the premise of the chase.

I even heard women say, it is the man’s job to chase. I don’t want to chase the man.

They want aggressive men. I’m not talking about rape or violation, but I’m just talking about the nuance.

D’arcee:

all of this comes down to the idea of what people think of as natural, which is, men pay for dates. Women get dressed up, women look good for the man. That’s your natural. And people are starting to undo all of that.

I honestly believe that if the internet was around in our parents, most of them would not be together.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

When I say natural, though, I’m going back even further. Go back to Hunter Gatherer.

D’arcee:

Yes, it’s primal.

Every time I hear that argument, I think, but that’s American. The argument behind that comes from Adam and Eve. And the question of subservience and the idea that man said in the beginning, that he was going to lord over Eve and that she is one of his ribs.

TR:

Perhaps the behaviors are learned.

D’arcee:

we have to teach boys about the patriarchy, we have to teach boys that the entire history of the world. And the way that it runs now is built upon the desires and the whims of men.

AJ:

I would just say we can open up masculinity, to include being vulnerable, we can open up masculinity, to include expressing your feelings.

D’arcee:

So we really do need to undo this whole argument from the beginning. And I’m not saying that like, that means that oh my god, gender norms fall by the wayside. But the whole points are bullshit to begin with.

TR:

Thinking about gender norms brings me back to some of the stereotypes we discussed earlier.

In fact, we get back to the issue raised by AJ.

AJ:

I have a lot of friends ,when it comes to like dating or actually, you know, getting down with somebody. It’s a no, and I’m wondering if now it could just be my fault. It had nothing to do with disability.

For instance, I really liked this person. I would call her because I know that she was getting off work, and on her way to the train.

One time when I called her I was like,

I’m calling you, because I know you just got off work. I just wanted to talk to you while you waiting on the train? She goes, Oh, isn’t that precious? And I’m like, precious.

AJ:

I saw Tiffany Haddish in a stand up.

She was like, I started sleeping with this dude, he had a disability. She said, Don’t sleep on disability because he was really working it. Something I just appreciate it so much, because there was nothing timid about them screwing. It was like we’re having sex and I’m slapping your booty. And I’m a disabled man. And at the end, she was like, disabled people want sex too.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:
So here’s what we got to start. You said slapping your booty change that shit to slap in that ass and let’s see what happens bro. We gonna start there.

AJ:

I happen to be friends and very close with women.

A lot of women, including my friends, had been violated. And so that’s always been in the back of my mind.

I think I’m so concerned that maybe I go to the extreme, because I’m always worried about being a gentleman and making sure that women are comfortable around me.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 2:39:04
that starting point for you is just like whoa.

That doesn’t even need to be in your mind in terms of being someone that’s gonna assault.

You have so much room to play with because you’re nowhere near that. but it has nothing to do with in terms of your level of confidence and what you put out.

D’arcee:

AJ, people don’t call me adorable. I don’t present myself that way.

If she said oh, how precious is because she misunderstood your intent. As a person who literally studies rhetoric, that’s the work of art. rhetoric. It’s intent.

Attractiveness, they say is only half about looks. The other half of it is actually psychological. Because I know that I have been very attracted to people that are not pretty. And what makes me attracted to them? Oh my god, I love their personality.

AJ:

one time, I met this girl and let’s just say she was very energetic towards men.

She was in my drama class. It came up in conversation that I never been kissed. Okay, so she said that she would do it.

And so weeks go by and my friend just checked in and like, you haven’t kissed AJ. And she was like, oh, I don’t want to corrupt him.

And I was like, I can be corrupted!
Somebody was saying people look at me as someone that’s very gentlemanly, very nice. But I’m not typically the person they want to get down with.

D’arcee:

Even if she did, that’s not the vibe that you want to begin with.

if you want people to take you more seriously, then you kind of have to present yourself in a space.
It’s not aggression, it’s assertiveness. And there’s a difference. I think men actually find that that line is very difficult. Because people assume that they’re being assertive when they’re actually being aggressive.
It’s a hard line to learn to know.

But I would say that when it works, it works really well.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show Sex Education. AJ?

AJ:

yeah, I need to get caught up …

D’arcee:

You need to get to Season Two. Because Season Two and season three. There’s a character in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy that they introduce, and he’s fantastic. And yeah, he talks about this.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

D’arcee, real quick, though, because you mentioned that character. Does he come to an understanding whatever it is?

D’arcee:

He does.

— Clip from “In Living Color” “The Adventures of Handi Man”

Boy in wheel chair:
“You saved the day. The physically challenged have been needing a hero and you’re it. Thank you Handi Man”

Handi Man:

“That’s ok son. And remember , never under estimate the powers of the handicapped”

TR in conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Has there ever been anyone or are there people out there who have sort of defined disabled masculinity or be a role model of sorts for that, coming up in life?

D’arcee:

Up until Game of Thrones, the answer to this would have been no.
Peter Dinklage changed that.

prior to Game of Thrones, he said, he told his agent don’t even bring me roles that feature little people. I’m not interested.

People frequently forget that he was a love interest in the show, Nip Tuck for a season and a half. He was a series regular. He was romancing the main character’s wife. And they were having a whole ass affair on the show. And it was juicy and scandalous.

I remember the husband and it was like, You’re cheating with him.

You want to talk about masculinity and the idea of like men, being in charge and taking charge. It’s Peter Dinklage and Game of Thrones.

He wields power and influence, in a way that most people in the show do not.

TR:

But Peter Dinklage isn’t Black

In a perfect world, that shouldn’t matter. And sorry to break this to you, we’re in a far from perfect world where race and the color of your skin matters in every aspect of life. Education, the justice system, health care and more. I didn’t create the system, I’m just seeing it for what it is.

AJ:

When I was younger and coming up, no, the only influences that I had in, in real life were able bodied men.

In terms of acting and my trajectory, I look at people like Darryl Chill. Darryl chills been holding it down. For a while. he was a stage regular, I think, for seven seasons on NCIS New Orleans. He also had his own sitcom. Here’s a brother, who’s doing his thing. And so I look up to him in terms of my career, but in my real life, to be honest, the examples of disability that I can honestly look to, in my real life that are disabled, are you Tom and D’arcee, because you’re holding it down and doing your thing.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Okay. And you know, I never know what’s gonna make the show but that part right there is definitely gonna make the show.

TR & D’arcee share a laugh.

AJ:

Seriously, brothers don’t get enough props.

Tom has been just like a brother to me. A mentor. He’s opened up a world to me. A world that I can have access to. I’m encountering things for the first time. His doors always open and in terms of you D’arcee, I mean, look at what you’re doing, like the jobs you have. You are disabled brother, getting your PhD.

Professor Purple.

I look up to the other influences like Leroy.

TR:

Once again, Leroy Moore.

That could be the drinking game of YGBD. Take a shot when you hear his name.

What are the implications of not seeing yourself represented in the media?

It can start with one’s own imagination.

D’arcee:

When I was a child I’ve always had like, way too much of an overactive imagination, if that’s not evident to people.

My brother and I, we used to do it as children, we called the Dreamland, we would just stare at the ceiling and makeup random movies

I used to have this persona in my head. When it was a man, it was always like this person who was non disabled.

I don’t do that anymore. Something clicked in my head when I was like, 27 or 28. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, this isn’t right.

AJ:

even when I would imagine being an actor, it’s like, it was somebody else though. Like it was a different person.

I just recently made a conscious effort anytime that I imagine. No, it’s actually me. And if I’m gonna imagine being in roles I actually put myself into. So even though it was my dream, it was always somebody else.

I never discussed this with anybody else. I was doing the same thing. But I felt weird to admit that.

D’arcee:

Thomas, do you think this is weird?

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 3:03:58
I don’t think this is weird. In fact, I think there’s a lot of stuff in terms of the idea of visualization. And these are the books that talk about this idea that the idea of moving yourself into someone else right that Kobe Bryant used to envision himself as the snake, the mambo.

A lot of athletes do this, like become that person. I kind of see that in what you’re talking about, I think is dope.

That’s a perfect way to sort of bring this to an end.

That’s what we need, you mentioned all this stuff in terms of the media and all of that, but like, you know, we do have some control. Making content, where we’re in those roles. Maybe at first it’s on a smaller level, but showing that, that this is wanted, that people would check this out. And people are interested in this.

D’arcee:

this making me feel like I need to make an Instagram just be like, Oh, not enough black wheelchair users.

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee: 3:05:21
Do it! Professor purple, B!

D’arcee:

I just want something to exist in the world. I just keep envisioning, because I remember what it felt like. I’m trying really hard not to cry, because I remember what it felt like, when I was 12. And how horrible. It just felt like you’re just totally by yourself all the time. You just feel so isolated. And I’m like, Oh my God, if somebody could get up on Instagram, and see a black wheelchair user, with some dope ass clothes, like, Oh my God, my life would change. My life would change because little kids can see it and be like, Oh my God, that’s me. I want that haircut. I want that sweater, with that haircut and those jeans. So I can go to school next week. And look, fly, and people can stop talking shit about me to some girl and be like, You know what, actually, though? He is cute.
AJ:

if you don’t see yourself in any other ways, besides the people that love you, you feel like you do not matter. And you don’t count. You feel invisible. You feel like you don’t count. Yeh!

TR:

Not only do you count and matter, but you’re beautiful, you’re Young, Gifted, Black & Disabled!

— Airhorn

Yeah. So that’s a good place to stop. I appreciate y’all so much.

TR:

A big shout out to my O G YGBD brothers, Co-Producer, AJ Murray;

AJ:

I’m on Twitter @GotNextAJ and Facebook and Instagram it’s AJ Murray.

Professor Purple himself, D’arcee Charington Neal;

D’arcee:

I’m on Twitter @DrChairington. Dr. And then Chair, C H A I R I N G T O N

TR in Conversation with AJ/D’arcee:

Instagram coming soon.

D’arcee:

I mean I’m on Instagram I just never use it.
@DRKaiyne

Bigup The 2021 YGBD crew, Blind Girl Magic herself, Jeanetta Price, brother Lateef McCleod, sister Alika, AKA the real Toni Hickman. Special shout out to Leroy Moore (drink!). It’s not a coincidence that your name comes up so often in these discussions. Salutes to you and all those who have and continue to let it be known, Black disabled people have been and continue to be out here doing our thing!

That’s it for 2021 y’all.
Let me know how you felt about the podcast this year. Do you like the format, did you notice anything you like or don’t. I’d love to know.
We will return in the first quarter of 2022. But make sure you’re subscribed because you never know, I may drop something in the feed.

Allow me to wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.
Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace & Love Fam!

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