Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

Young Gifted Black & Disabled: Supporting Our Sisters

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

On a brown tweed and tan background is the  text, REID MY MIND RADIO in bold capital letters. Underneath reads Young Gifted Black and Disabled: Supporting our Sisters.   Under the wording on the left is Lisa Bryant: A dark-skinned woman with shoulder length highlighted locs sitting outside on steps. She is wearing dark lipstick and her smile is closed. In a slightly tilted pose, one hand rests underneath her chin while the other is atop her crossed legs. She is wearing a blue and wine collared paisley collared shirt with beige slacks. On the right is Heather Watkins: A smiling light-skinned Black woman, hair in a bun atop her head, blue button earrings, makeup with red lipstick. She is wearing a olive-colored blazer and blue and white patterned blouse with a long necklace of various blue-colored pendants

As we close out the 2022 season of #YGBD, I’m passing the mic to my sisters!

Boston based Disability Advocate Heather Watkins and Lisa Bryant, a Philadelphia freelance journalist join me to discuss just some of the challenges affecting disabled Black women.
We’re talking career, relationships, parenting, healthcare and more.

Plus, don’t forget to check out the ACB Audio Description Awards Gala hosted by yours truly along with one of our RMM Radio sisters, Nefertiti Matos Olivares.

While this is the official last episode of 2022, be sure to subscribe or follow Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts. You never know when I might get in the mood to drop a special holiday episode.



Show the transcript

TR: 00:00
Greetings, family, and welcome back to the podcast. That’s right, I got candy in my mouth. Should I take it out? Or should I just do the whole podcast like this? (Mumbles unintelligibly… ) You know? I’m not recording am I?

— Tape rewinds
— Music begins: Snare hits increasing in volume into a smooth R&B instrumental…

Welcome back to the podcast featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability in general. My name is Thomas Reid, I’m your host and producer. We’ve reached the last episode of the YGBD 2022 Season, you know, that’s Young, Gifted, Black, and Disabled. Some people ask me, Thomas, why Young Gifted Black and Disabled? My first reaction? Why not? Then I’m like, Nah, that’s not polite. Am I lying.

Now, if you just caught what I threw down and responded, either in your mind or out loud, “No, you’re quite right,” you and I share something that has nothing to do with blindness. However, that thing we share could also make our experience of blindness different from others. In this particular case, my reference was to an early rap song by Doug E Fresh called “The Show”. Just one of many Hip Hop references you will find in the history of this podcast. While Hip Hop isn’t necessarily an identity, one can make a good argument for being one. I personally will always identify as being hip hop. Black is definitely an identity. That intersection between Black and disabled has its own unique experiences that need to be discussed, even for the sole purpose of centering the experience of Black disabled people in the disability conversation. That’s of real value to me.

Then there are the additional levels of identity. Last year. We closed out YGBD discussing masculinity. We went places I didn’t know we were going, but I’m glad we did.

— Music stops

So this year… (repeats in an echo effect)

— DJ scratch
— Music begins: Snare hits increasing in volume into a smooth R&B track.
R&B crooner sings, “Ladies… Beautiful Ladies!”…
– “Ladies” Lee Field and the Expressions

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music


allow me to introduce you first to Boston based advocate, Heather Watkins…

Heather: 02:20
I self identify as a Black disabled woman, born with a form of Muscular Dystrophy, who didn’t always use mobility aids like I do now. I’ve been using them for the past 15 years including a cane and on occasion a manual wheelchair and also a ventilator to assist compromised respiratory muscles. I am a mother, blogger, author and I serve on a handful of disability related boards and projects including as a former chairperson for the Boston Mayor’s Commission, for Persons with Disabilities Advisory Board, the Disability Policy Consortium, the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities and Open Door Arts. My pronouns are she her hers.

TR: 03:06
Also joining me today co host of the white stick Connect podcast from Philadelphia, PA, Lisa Bryant

Lisa: 03:12
I’m a Black female, dark skin with locs. And I’m currently a freelance journalist. And I’ve written for few local platforms but also looking to expand my reach, looking at some national opportunities. I was just recently appointed to the board of the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation

TR: 03:35
Two Black women with different disabilities, each bringing a unique experience of disability.

Lisa: 03:41
In terms of identifying my disability, I struggle with using the white cane but I’ve had to do that a little more of late. I went most of my life without having any difficulty. I was still driving. Then along came 2011 things took a turn and I had to stop driving and adjust to being legally blind.

— Music begins: A piano melody leads into a slow, dramatic groove.

TR: 03:59
If I asked you what does it mean to be a woman? Perhaps you have a list of things that come to mind. Maybe you even strike up with images that represent that. What does it mean to be a Black woman? What comes to mind now?

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
I want to start here with what did you learn about being a Black woman as a child? What were the lessons that you were getting, whether they be from adults in your life, even from the media, like what was sort of the things that you were learning about being a Black woman, Heather you want to start it off?

Heather: 04:30
I grew up in the city of Boston, we lived in a section called Dorchester, which is one of the predominantly Black areas. Roxbury Dorchester Mattapan.

It was definitely a matriarch. My grandmother lived on the second floor. Aunties lived on the third floor. There was always family around. I was surrounded by strong women and bringing that up from the Greenwood Mississippi. All that wisdom sort of poured into me from my grandmother having grown up in the Jim Crow south. She laughed and joked, but she did not play. We didn’t have everything afforded to us. You kind of get inventive? I learned, if it’s not there, we’ll figure it out

TR: 05:11
pretty valuable skill, especially necessary as a disabled woman

Heather: 05:15
in terms of disability an being a Black disabled woman, Across the media landscape, I didn’t see that reflected back in ways that I found meaningful. Flip through beauty magazines, I didn’t see Black disabled women openly identified that way. That message was like, Where are we? Why is that hidden? What I didn’t see in the media I saw within my family.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Lisa, same question.

Lisa: 05:41
My family images were very strong women. But I definitely remember as a very young girl, being more influenced by media and even classmates, when I was growing up, dark skin was not necessarily appreciated. We were teased about being dark. I didn’t like being teased. I was an only child, my imagination sometimes got very creative. I had an imaginary friend and she was exactly opposite of me. She was lighter skin, long, long hair. That was just what I did. And that was just how I imagined. I guess the way I sort of internalized that I just accepted that as No, that’s kind of the way it is. I don’t know that I remember even having meaningful conversations with my parents about that. I think I probably just kind of tuck that away. Later on. I thought, wow, how about that kind of self hate.

TR: 06:44
I really admire and appreciate Lisa for being so honest, and sharing that with us. It’s hard being vulnerable, that something only really strong people can do. That hate doesn’t start from inside us. It’s just another tool of white supremacy. A systematic approach to establishing power, by convincing Black people in others of color to feel inferior. It’s anti-Blackness at its finest.

Internalizing negative beliefs. That’s not just about race or color.

Lisa: 07:12
Fast forward to becoming legally blind, like Heather said, When did you see, on the cover of a magazine, someone very proudly, in a wheelchair, or proudly using a white cane?

I had absolutely no one else to relate to until becoming a member of the local NFB chapter. And even those that I did see some of the elderly people like in my church who vision was failing, I was so much younger, and I still had usable vision. So that was just a whole different world, the age I think, alone being like the big kind of barrier. So then it’s becoming a matter of, well, let’s see how we can fake this without making this announcement about my disability. It’s funny how much you just kind of internalize and live through things, and accepted as normal, even though it’s really not.

— Music ends.

TR: 08:13
Actually, I think these reactions are quite normal. I don’t think anyone wants to feel less than, unfortunately, what has been normalized is the idea that beauty is one thing. Disabled anything means inferior.

We can keep on with other things like age, gender…

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
I’m wondering whether your experience with disability, how did it impact the definition of Black womanhood? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Heather: 08:38
Sure. I think it definitely evolved. So when we talked about disability, what back then we would say, quote unquote, handicapped, your handicap, but your healthy. So it was spoken about like that. The exposure that I got, regarding disability at that time was through MDA camps, Muscular Dystrophy Association camps, and like clinics. But still, I wasn’t seeing all the Black disabled kids. I saw maybe one during summer camps.

TR: 09:09
Every summer for about a week, Heather, as a child would stay at these camps for children with muscular dystrophy in the New England area, a chance to get away from the city environment.

Heather: 09:18
It was just like one, or maybe another person who was of color, or certainly only like one Black kid. And the messaging there too, was like, I have to go outside of my community to see other kids with visible disabilities. It was hard to really connect and have that kind of support system where you can connect with other kids in peers, who are disabled to talk about your life experience, but also to talk about frustrations because that’s important to getting tips and resources. Those weren’t things I discovered until much later in advocacy circles, so important in terms of building your own self awareness and even sharpening your advocacy skills.

As a child Heather never really had the chance to form any sort of relationships with other Black disabled children.

This reminds me of the time in 2020 when clubhouse was new, and the 15 Percent Club was rockin. We hosted an event to discuss Black disability experiences. There had to be 30 people or more predominantly Black. Read my mind radio alum and CO producer of the first YGBD episode, AJ Murray famously remarked that it was his first time being in the presence of that many Black disabled people. There were several others who acknowledged it being their first time as well.

Lisa: 10:40
I had a similar experience when I went to a national convention. So this was 2019. I knew of other Black people in the Federation who were blind, but I had never been in the same circle with them. That was the first time and it was like, wow, I went a long time without really having anyone else who got me not just being female, not just being Black, but being visually impaired female or Black, or at least two of the three. It was a long, long, long, long time.

Heather: 11:15
What if we were exposed to cultural icons in grade school, who had disabilities? How that might have shaped and impacted our awareness? I’m talking about like Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman, Brad Lomax Sojourner Truth, all of them had disabilities, and it also impacted their life, how they govern their lives. Imagine learning that at such a young age or even being newly disabled, how that would shape your awareness and your concept of disability.
We get so many messages that downplay or erase disability because people generally assume that it’s synonymous with negativity. It has a much wider lens, it’s actually very comprehensive.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 12:01
Heather’s describing what we mean when we talk about disability isn’t what you think it is.

Consider how disability is talked about. Often from the perspective of a diagnosis. It’s used as a metaphor, often to indicate negativity:

— Music begins, melodic, dramatic strings…
TR in a mimicking over dramatic voice
“, she was blind to what was going on around her.”
TR in a “Financial commentator” voice
“That will cripple the economy.”

Heather: 12:20
Who would I be, without having a disability and the evolutions and the twists and the turns and all of the folks that I’ve met in advocacy circles, especially diverse advocacy circles, who really has been a mirror for me, in validating that and raising that ceiling, where I was often capping my own potential.

So I often like to say I’m a woman in need of care, a caregiver and a community builder, all at once. But if you redact any part of that bio, then you reduce my community contribution, and visibility. It impacts every aspect of your lived experience in determining key quality of life areas. housing, health care, education, employment, how you live, how you shop, dine, socialize,

— Music fades out.
— Sounds of a woman walking down busy city street.

TR: 13:15
let’s get into these lived experiences, beginning with relationships.

Lisa: 13:19
I was walking down the street with my cane, and I just kind of had an image of myself. And I just had a thought, Well, I wonder what attention I don’t get now because of this cane.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 13:33
So you walking down the street looking cute. You got the white cane? I don’t know what your status is dating, married, not sure of your status. But how has it affected that part of your life?

Lisa: 13:45
I have not been actively dating. So I’m not on any kind of dating website or anything like that. There’s certain places where I’m very familiar with my surroundings, and I may not have it right out. The sort of compliments or whatever I make it. I don’t think I had the cane.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 14:05
So they try to holla when you don’t have the cane?

Lisa: 14:08

Sometimes I hear people say, well, blindness doesn’t define you. I know what they mean by that sentiment in terms of, they don’t want it to define you in a negative way. But at the end of the day, it is a part of you. It’s just as much a part of you as anything else about you your name your hair color. So let’s not sort of suppress that. There’s got to be a way to embrace it, put it out there, but in a way that just lets you know, people know like, this is who Lisa is, in fact, it’s an integral part of me because it does define my world. I navigate my world as a visually impaired Black woman. People probably see the ladder first.

Then there’s the cane.

TR: 14:49
The cane we know serves multiple purposes. First, an aid to orientation and mobility.

Lisa: 14:57
It’s just as much for me and my safety. but it’s also an identifier. It’s a way of saying to the world, you may think I see you, but I may not. Or I may only see you til you’re right up on me. I need to accept that it may sort of reduce some dating opportunities. But then, at the end of the day, are those really people I’d want to date anyway. Maybe one day, it’ll actually attract the right guy.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 15:25
Heather, what do you think

Heather: 15:27
I was so ambivalent, for a while to use a cane 15 years ago, because I was thinking I was quote, unquote, giving in to my disability, it’s gonna make me appear weak and old. Then it dawned on me that this is a mobility a that is quite liberating. It’s helping me get from point A to point B, giving the nod that yeah, I’m in charge of my life here. I’m not sitting idly by, I’m actually moving and grooving. Those are the kinds of epiphanies and internal dialogue that I had to have, in rooting out that internalized ableism. So much of our gaze comes from a non disabled viewpoint. You’re not even conscious of it until you are and then you’re like, oh, wow, I’m comparing myself to all the non disabled peers and counterparts. And it’s just so self injurious.

TR: 16:23
It’s not only canes and adaptive equipment we use in public.

Heather: 16:27
I especially felt that when I started using the ventilator, and it looks like scuba gear. And I’m like, how sexy is that? Because it feels like a robo breather. I’m like, what partner’s gonna see that as sexy. I had to really think about all of those kinds of things in terms of dating and being attractive to the opposite sex and what that means for me, in terms of acceptance, it goes back to not having those kinds of images across the media landscape where the storylines are informed by disability, from a comprehensive viewpoint, where the person is a love interest, maybe they’re running a business, maybe they are parents, maybe they’re out and about moving around in the world, making really critical decisions. We are starting to see more of those images now. And the first thing I think of is on Queen Sugar. It’s informed by Ava DuVernay because she has lupus. And so Aunt Vy has lupus and is a matriarch, she’s married. She’s a business owner, community builder. When you have those kinds of storylines, mirrored in that meaningful way, you can best believe those get absorbed by people. And then we have new ideas and people can conceptualize disability in a much grander way. I’m thankful for shows like that. Echoing all of those thoughts and the ideas of what beauty is. Sex, sexuality, pleasure, kink? How often do we hear that all juggled in the same sentence with disability? There are quite a few Disabled Parents, including myself. And guess what, those kids, you know, were conceived the old fashioned way.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Not immaculate conception!

TR, Heather & Lisa chuckle!

So we exist.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 18:22
So let’s go there.

— Music begins: A slow vibrato synth, leads to snare hand claps and a driving confident Hip Hop beat

You said that being disabled really has informed your parenting? Talk to me about that?

Heather: 18:29
Sure. I had to leave my job due to progression of disability. And that was probably when my daughter was like around nine or 10. I was so nervous about the fact that what does this mean for me? What’s the next step? So I really had to contemplate the trajectory of my life. It was doubly scary for me because I had these little eyes watching you, right? And they absorb everything around them had to get real clear. Take that internal deep dive and figure out, what would you like to do next. And I said to myself, you know, you need to provide a blueprint, an example for how it would be for your daughter, and not that she needs to be at home, but be more empowered to make her own decisions and choices. I just moved very slowly and methodically. I started thinking about what I was passionate about. I was thinking about disability advocacy. I ended up taking a class that the State offers. It’s called the Massachusetts office on disabilities, Cam training class, Community Access Monitor. Little steps I was taking to figure out where I wanted to go next and how I wanted to impact the world. I didn’t just want to instruct her. I want to give you an example. What to do when how to be a person that contributes to your own community. Disability impacted my parenting by being more mindful and intentional about all of my life’s choices.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 20:03
How old is she today?

She’s 28.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Okay, what’s the impact on her life?

Heather: 20:08
She is a very strong willed empowered out and proud member of the LGBTQ community, her seeing her mother be involved in, in advocacy circles. It made her more open to just being herself in a very big and loud, authentic way.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 20:30
There’s sort of like an “outness”, about disability.


TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
I dig it!

What about the impact disability has on a person’s career?

Lisa: 20:38
That is a very important question. And in my case, it’s just starting to turn around. Before my vision became more complicated. And before I even knew all of the resources, assistive technology, I was a senior development officer at a local nonprofit and doing very well in that. But it just got harder and harder to see my work got harder to see on the computer, I couldn’t drive at night. And some of these one on one donor opportunities would be in the evening outside of the city, which meant small streets, maybe dimly lit, and I just couldn’t do that. I actually ended up mutually separating from that position. And it was a long time before I could really figure out okay, what can I do?

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 21:34
I have this thing about that question. What can I do? I mean, I know a specific,

Lisa: 21:39
What can I do on a computer? What could I do where I wouldn’t have to drive and I could just get easily to places on public transportation?

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 21:45
It’s very practical. But there’s a larger question.

Lisa: 21:48
I remember the day when I thought, what do I want to do? I want to do something a little more creative. During the pandemic, I went to school for journalism. This has just birthed , well, maybe rebirth, something altogether new in me. I just think that that writing bug was there for a long time. But just dormant.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 22:10
Journalism was a real interest of leases in her college years.

Lisa: 22:14
I just kind of tabled it all those years ago. Although I really did love journalism. I didn’t like the career paths that were available then. So I just went in all kinds of different directions. Now. I can work remotely, I can do human interest stories. I don’t have to cover murders and fires and burglaries. There’s so much more out there. I can cover the nonprofit sector I can write about in justices. I absolutely love it. And I love that I can do something that’s mentally challenging. Sometimes it’s nerve wracking, but I get to talk to people the same way I did when I was in development, because that’s all about cultivating relationships, you have to know how to communicate to all different types of people. So I think I’ve found my fit. However, I have yet economically to be at that level.

— From ABC News broadcast: 23:07
Today marks the day, the average Black woman working full time must work into 2021 to catch up with what an average white non Hispanic man earned in 2020.
Let me Repeat that. Today, August 3, 214 days into the year is when an average Black woman worker will have to catch up to her white male counterparts. 2020 pay. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women are paid 63 cents for every dollar made by white men across industries.

— Music ends


Lisa: 23:39
I’m much more fulfilled than I had been in a long time since 2011, when I was declared legally blind.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 23:47
I’m just curious, do you see that as an opportunity that was presented by disability?

Lisa: 23:54
I guess the disability has kind of opened that because it’s allowed me to do it on my terms. I could do it from my computer and I could use 12 time magnification if I need to. And nobody has to know you know, I could have my screen reader on nobody has to know. So yeah, yeah, I suppose it has.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 24:16
Okay, good. Good.

Heather: 24:18
How many similarities? Wow, I’m a Mass Comm major. My daughter was very young when I graduated. So I was going to go to school full time, be a mother full time, but I couldn’t, you know, add on the internship part of it. So when I left college, I started working for a health insurance company. It wasn’t until years later that I got involved in writing and blogging and doing freelance work like that. Disability definitely impacted that sort of rebirth and rebranding you were talking about being online and using the internet. Hasn’t that been such a great equalizer in that way for so many disabled persons? I’m not only talking about obviously a parent, but not a parent in chronic illness, folks who, for one reason or another may not be able to get to a brick and mortar location for being online, they have access to remote work or flexible hours and balancing work life.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 25:15
Meanwhile, there are real benefits for hiring and retaining disabled employees.

Heather: 25:20
So many of us have higher sensitivity levels. Have adaptive and analytical skills, logistical skills like nobody’s business, we know workarounds, contingency plans, so many of us are out of the box thinkers. I tell people all the time, you want disabled folks in your employ, in your planning committees, event committees, your communities, your corporations, because there’s a lens and a lived experience that you’re not tapping into that that asset to your organization.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 25:53
Do you see any sort of examples that say, okay, yeah, I see some of this taking place now?

Heather: 25:58
The pandemic, really put that into overdrive, right? So many people were saying, Oh, no, we can’t accommodate you in this way, for remote work and being able to access even entertainment and theater, then all of a sudden, voila, overnight. Everyone has access. So it wasn’t a question of why it couldn’t be done. It just couldn’t be done for y’all!

TR: 26:21
One of several things revealed during the pandemic is the inequity in health care,

Lisa: 26:26
I was thinking of an Article I just wrote on Black women in breast cancer, the death rate is much, much higher for Black women. Nationally, it’s close to 40%, which is ridiculous. So there’s that in general disparity of health care for Black women. But then you add this other layer of having a disability. Now I am in the two worlds.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 26:53
That second world, if you will, is this ability.

Heather: 26:56
It’s been 32 years, since the Americans with Disabilities Act signing, we’re still having to advocate so much for the smallest of rights, it really is daunting and exhausting. nearly 62 million in this country identify as having some form of disability, one out of four people 25% of the population, nearly 1 billion globally, it’s a sleeping giant of a demographic that needs a much better marketing plan.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 27:28
So when someone who is blind, for example, walks into a medical establishment,

Lisa: 27:32
I generally am carrying my white cane. And it’s amazing to me how they’ll see the white cane and still give me a clipboard. People just don’t get it. They only know this is what I do. I’m the receptionist, this is what I do. You come in you tell me your name, I give you a clipboard. Look, I can’t fill out your little iPad. I know it’s cute. And it’s like the way to go here. But that’s not going to work for me. And there have been times when they’ve been helpful. And there have been times when I’ve been dismissed. Some of the same challenges can be addressed if there were more sensitivity and people to help. Because it’s not only vision, it’s not only physical, their language barriers, there’s not being tech savvy,

Heather: 28:19
lack of cultural competence regarding disability, gender, and race, especially when you have providers who are not very knowledgeable about disability, but also, maybe the hospital or healthcare setting is not outfitted for receiving you in a very physical and literal way. Maybe the doorways aren’t wide enough, maybe you can’t access the bathroom because it’s inaccessible. Or if you’re someone like myself, who had difficulty getting on the exam table, because you needed a hydraulic one. And so you had to forego your GYN exam, because you couldn’t access the table that resulted in me filing a complaint with the patient advocacy department. So the next time my follow up visit, that hydraulic exam table was there because along with that complaint form, I included a copy of the part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That said I had a right to accessible medical care.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 29:16
So you have to advocate just for you to go to the doctor and give them money.

Heather: 29:22
Had to do it more than once to a different providers office. You’re not always believed, so many stories of pain management, managing the variety of disabilities, whether they’re a parent, not a parent or include chronic illness, we should all have the right to have medically accessible care that is done with culturally competent providers.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 29:43
That’s medical providers that are not only familiar with the differences, but also value them. That’s reflected in process policy and services.

Heather: 29:52
When I was younger, I was only considering apparent disability and our families. How many of us have died At heart disease, I have died from complications of diabetes. My father, he ended up dying of kidney disease. I took care of him for the last 11 years of his life in our home, just an interdependent relationship, because he’s helping me physically. And I’m helping manage his entire health care, all while raising a daughter. And then also having my nephew come into my home through a DCF kinship placement, Department of Children Family Services placement as a older teenager who had intellectual disabilities.

So many of us live interdependent lives. And when juggling so many responsibilities, we are practicing those kinds of advocacy skills in real time. That’s the real commentary for a lot of Black disabled women.

TR: 30:47
All you have to do is follow disabled Black women on social media. And you’ll know that we’re just touching the surface of the many challenges they encounter on a daily basis. And yet, they see hope.

Lisa: 30:59
The small things can mean a lot. I have had to say that I’m visually impaired I use assistive technology. I’ve got well, how can we accommodate? Do you need us to send you things in some other file? I went through a seven month long Fellows Program for journalists, and they were absolutely wonderful. Like they just insisted that like, look, we don’t want this to stress you out. It’s not as off putting, as it used to be.

I said earlier, I had to leave my job. Because they just didn’t know what to do with me. It’s really changing for the better. I mean, you have media platforms that are exclusively devoted to people with disabilities. Are we there? Absolutely not. But there is hope.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:

Heather: 31:45
I love it when I’m able to connect with more Black women with disabilities, whether it’s a parent non apparent or includes chronic illness, if their parents, whether they’re into the creative arts, I love being able to connect with them and just learn more about their lived experience and how that evolved over time. Because I always feel like I learned every day, that helps me, in my own self awareness, become a better advocate

— Music begins: A melodic synth piano opens to a inspiring mid temp heavy kick Hip Hop beat.

TR: 32:15
today, passing those lessons on to others.

Heather: 32:19
It wasn’t until I got heavily involved with repeat exposure that I began to deliver how vast and wide that disability is, there comes a culture of political movement, history constituency, there wasn’t an indictment. It’s an identity marker. And even the word itself, disability, the di s prefix is not only not an option, but has a Latin and Greek derivative, meaning dual into so hence another way of doing and being in the world, and so much easier to adopt that first person language and say, Black disabled woman. This is why there will be no ambiguity in that meaning, because I’m not shying away from any of those things. You know who I am is the amalgamation of all my choices. And that doesn’t mean that I’m glossing over any frustrating aspects of disability because for sure, they are there to give a full bodied expression in meaning of what it means to live with a disability to have a disability or to be disabled. It is a very comprehensive, layered experience.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 33:33
Full bodied expression. That’s what I’m talking about. Can you handle all of this greatness? Now I need you all to check out and support our sisters. That’s my fellow Libra. The new addition to the Reid My Mind Radio family from Boston. You see how I did that? New Edition, Boston.
— “Cool it Now” New Edition

Heather: 33:56
My website’s So that’s like my condition and my personal mantra.

Facebook, Twitter and IG.

at h Watkins nine to seven.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 34:10
You can find Philly’s finest Lisa Bryant on Twitter and LinkedIn.


TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Appreciate y’all for coming here and sharing your experiences. And you know, that makes you official, members of the Reid My Mind Radio family. So salute y’all, I appreciate you.

Lisa: 34:28
Thank you, Thomas. This is great.

TR: 34:31
Big shout out to all our sisters out there doing your thing. In fact, that’s how we began 2022 doing your thing with disability. We then had to flip the script on audio description. You know how we do it. And by the way, don’t forget to check out this year’s ACB Audio Description Awards Gala, hosted by yours truly. This year. I’m happy to say I have a co-host one of our Reid my Mind Radio family sisters and alumni, Nefertiti Matos Olivares, who is also providing audio description. We had some fun filming and I hope you all check it out. No spoilers. It drops on November 29 2022 On Pluto TV and of course the site for times and official information.

So this is the last episode of The Year y’all but I feel like spreading some holiday cheer this year. So make sure to keep a watch out for a special episode. The best way to do that is to make sure you subscribe or follow wherever you get podcast. And we have transcripts and more at

All you got to do is remember it’s R to the E I… D!

Sample: “D and that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick
NS be in a place to be
like my last name!

— Reid My Mind Radio Outro


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Joe Strechay: When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
A picture of Joe Strechay with his cane in hand, standing in conversation on the set of See.

Image Courtesy of Apple

An RMM Radio O.G (Original Guest) is back! Joe Strechay, former Director of the Bureau Blindness & Visual Services of Pennsylvania and Blindness Consultant tells us all about his work on the new series See from Apple TV Plus. Yes, he found himself hanging out with See cast members like stars Jason Momoa and the legendary Alfre Woodard, but the job required some real sacrifices.

Jason Momoa as Baba Voss stares out past the camera. His eyes are white, face is scarred. See from Apple TV Plus

Image Courtesy of Apple

We dive in to see exactly how the events from his past lead him to being the right man for the job. Let’s just say he has a particular set of skills!

But his adjustment to blindness wasn’t all glitter.




Show the transcript


What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Welcome bac to the podcast.

First time here? Cool. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Thomas Reid host and producer of this podcast. This is the place to be if you want to hear from compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness or disability in general. They all share one thing in common; their dope!

Not because they’re doing anything magical. No, their human. In fact, many of them have been where you may find yourself right now.

If you’re uncomfortable with those words, blind, disability, that’s ok for now. But take a listen to how comfortable my guests are with these words at their current place in their life journey.

Your journey will be different, but you’re definitely on one. And the R double M Radio family and I are here for you.

I think there’s only one way to bring on this one; lights, camera, action!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

Scene from See…


This is a scene from the premiere episode of the new series called See available on Apple TV Plus.

Audio: Scene includes Audio Description Narration


yes, there’s audio description.

Here’s the synopsis from the opening scene

Audio Describer: Following the outbreak of a deadly virus in the 21st Century, the Earth’s human population was reduced to less than 2 million humans who survived all emerged Blind. Now centuries later the idea of vision exists only as a myth. To even speak of it is considered heresy.


Well RMM Radio you should be proud because in a six, well three, degrees of separation sort of way you are each connected to this new series. No, not because you yourself may be blind, but because one of our family members are let’s say, associated with the production of the show.


I’m Joe Strechay, I’m a Blindness Consultant for Apple TV Plus’s See, which is a streaming television show. And I’m also a Blindness Consultant out in the world outside of that working with organizations around blindness.


That’s right, our brother is back! He’s and O.G. in the R double M R Family.

Audio: Air horn

I couldn’t let 2019 end without discussing See and the role Joe played in its production. And even more in tune with this podcast is looking at his life path and how embracing his blindness helped his journey.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Why don’t you catch up the family, because you’re part of the Reid My Mind Radio family big time!



My favorite podcast around blindness! You heard that, favorite one!

Audio: Joe singing “Radio”

Last time you heard from me I was the Director of Blindness & Visual Services for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, overseeing the services for people who are Blind or Low Vision. I’d been working in the entertainment field part time over the last years.


That includes working with writers of the shows like Royal Pains, The OA on Netflix and of course Marvel’s Daredevil.

Audio: Clip from Daredevil episode.

While working as the Director of BBVS Joe was presented with an opportunity.


Apple TV Plus’s See Production in their infancy days reached out to me to see about working on the show. I had an interview first with the creator of the show Steven Knight and Jenno Topping who’s the president of Chernin Entertainment one of the studios involved. I think one of the Executive Producers involved was on the line as well. And then I had to do a Skype interview with Francis Lawrence who’s an Executive producer and the Director for episodes one through three. Once I cleared Francis I was able to land the position. We kind of talked about it and I talked to the production staff and it sounded like it was full time. And I’m like I’m going to have to leave my place of employment.


His responsibilities first began with part time work. Consulting on scripts and exchanging ideas via a secured platform and conference calls in the evenings.

A day or two after his final day at the Bureau

I flew to British Columbia to officially start my full time job.


So what exactly does a Blindness Consultant do in the making of a series like See?
Audio: available on Apple TV Plus.

There’s the pre-production work like reviewing scripts and providing input…


We prep’ d for almost two months in person. We worked with a movement director like a choreographer type person and a team of choreographers.

I have lists of these little aspects of blindness that most people don’t know about. You’ll see more and more of that in the scripts I would say four through eight and maybe most people won’t notice them, but they’re in there.

Walking through some of the set pieces and saying oh, I think I would do this. Meeting with the set dressing department who puts out the objects that are set out in the space. Where I would put stuff, how I organize things.

Ideas for props. Even the weight of the props. How they might use that prop. Kind of help create the world with this amazing creative team.


A world, Joe points out is not of blindness.


It’s a Science fiction world probably somewhere between now and 100 or 200 years from now somewhere in there, a viral apocalypse happens. Kills off the majority of the population of earth. There are just a few million people left on earth and then those individuals emerge blind. Our show takes place centuries after that where civilizations have built out different environments.

It’s not a world of blindness, it’s a world of See really.


Definitely not a real world and therefore not a true depiction of how Blind people live. But representation matters. You know, sometimes you just have to take a stand!


There were definitely times. We did a lot of exploration around these people and making them different, each group different. Even differentiating the posture of people for their environment and like how they do things. There were times when I was yeh, I don’t think we’re gonna do that!.


Yet the science fiction format is known for exploring social and cultural issues.


Our show battles with Ableism purposely at times.


Specifically, exploring, what happens when a set of twins are born with the ability to see in a world where everyone is blind


What people with vision might think versus people who are Blind. In a world where everyone else is Blind. Seeing that battle, seeing where people who are Blind are better at some things and people with vision are less than. I love that aspect. Everyone has different skills.


Multiple members of the cast are actually Blind or Low Vision. Again, representation matters.


One of the things I was really proud of in our background and some of our actors had other disabilities. We have background who are Deaf or Hard of hearing, a gentleman with Cerebral Palsy, all kinds of different disabilities. Our show embraces that. We want to make sure people have opportunities. These were talented interesting people that we could include in our show. There are people with other disabilities that you’ll never know that are within the show and even behind the scenes in production. It’s not because of their disability, it’s because they’re talented individuals.


As the majority of See’s characters are Blind, Joe is working closely with each. This includes the show’s lead, Jason Momoa.

Audio: Scene from see featuring Baba Voss played by Jason Momoa.


He’s super nice. He has a big heart and he brings so much consideration, energy, enthusiasm ideas. I’ve never met someone so creative. He sees things in the scenes. Most actors they see their role and their part in the scene, but he sees the whole scene at many times like where other actors are and what kind of story you can show with the angle. He’s directed.


Directed, co-wrote and starred in Road to Paloma a 2014 Drama thriller.

Also starring in the series is the 4 time Emmy Award Winning Alfre Woodard.

Audio: Scene from See featuring Paris, played by Alfre Woodard.


She taught me so much and continues to. Brings so much to our show and just as a person is an amazing friend as well.

That’s the thing I didn’t just make professional relationships it’s like so much bonding. We spent like six weeks at least in remote areas if not like 10.


That’s Joe with the cast of See

Audio: available on Apple TV Plus.


So Nesta Cooper, Archie (Madekwe), Mojean Aria, Hera Hilmar and all of them became my friends.

We spent time in an isolated area in British Columbia which is in Vancouver Island. There was a pub at our hotel and pretty much was the only place you could eat or drink! We’d have like an hour and forty five minute ride to set and back each day, so long days. You’d go to the pub and hangout.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Now you’re there full time so you’re living there while you’re working. Were you the only Blind person there?


Yeh, at first I was the representative of Blindness originally, working through the setup of the show in person. I was there for 9 months originally and then another month for re-shoots. I became part of the Blindness community in Vancouver in British Columbia. The community really invited me in. I started going to audio described theater in the area. There was an international Goal Ball tournament I went to. I went to this organization’s Blind Beginnings events. Met with CNIB, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Blind Sports Association of British Columbia and Canada. They were fantastic. Going to fundraisers for different groups and going to see the Blind Hockey team practice. They actually started becoming part of our background in our show.


Away from home for about 10 months, eventually Joe moved into an apartment after spending about three months in a hotel.


Right next door they had one of the best breakfast or lunch places . I met a couple of people out at this Ramen shop in the neighborhood who work there. I was eating Ramen and having a beer and we just started chatting. We became really good friends. Charlotte and Sebastian. My wife hung out with her too when we came in. I met so many people in the community. I was definitely in the community doing things. Going snow shoeing with friends.

[TR in conversation with JS:]


Ok, so I kind of want to move this to your career. And what you just talked about I think is probably an important aspect, especially from what I know about you. Networking, but really I don’t want to just call it networking because I feel like you’re a relationship guy. How important has that been in your career? Like that aspect of your personality.

You know throughout my career I moved up and down the East Coast to places where I didn’t know anyone at all.

I literally make an effort to go out places and sometimes it’s tiring you know, you worked all day, but that’s how you meet people. That’s how you become part of the community. That Ramen shop I went to a lot, I love that Ramen shop. they know me by name there(laughing). I also stick out, I have long hair, a beard and white cane so…

[TR in conversation with JS:]



But it has been important. I’m careful to ask people about what they do, their life, what they want to do. The same stuff we do in career counseling. That’s a great thing about blindness, I don’t judge a book by its cover. I just met someone and I talk to them . For the better or worse and typically for the better. Once in a while I get screamed at from some random person for no reason but you know everyone’s dealing with something.


Whether it’s moving to Florida for his Master’s degree or West Virginia where he ended up meeting his wife;


I meet people, I get to know them, maybe exchange information. If we click as friends or if I can help them I’m always willing to help people and connect people.

Yeh, I’m a relationship guy for sure!


Looking back, we can see signs of Joe’s interest and early preparation for a career in the entertainment industry.


I love television and movies. In high school I worked my four years at a video store, a VHS store.


For those too young to recall, A video store is like having a bunch of Netflix’s oh wait my bad, Apple TV Plus, in stores in every community. Rather than opening an app and making your selection, you’d have to leave your house and get to the store. You’d search the shelves for the movie that you wanted. If it’s there cool, take it to the front desk and pay to borrow that for a day. Now hurry home and watch it but don’t forget to bring it back the next day or you’ll have to pay additional fees.

Whew! Hooray for technology!


In college I never thought about working in film really, but I took a film and literature class. I enjoyed it.


His studies included the portrayal of minority characters as well as gender roles in film.

After receiving his Communications and Public Relations degree hhe went out into the world.

Worked in Public Relations right after school but I didn’t fall in love with the product side of it. I’m mission oriented I want to see things succeed.


Joe even came pretty close to landing the coveted job of a NBC Page.


I made it out of they said 10,000 or so. Six people on a panel interview with four people interviewing us. And it was like Valedictorian of Howard University, Valedictorian of another or a guy who worked on 20/20 already. Legally Blind since 19 and I had that opportunity to be part of that six.

I didn’t have all the skills I should have had to be successful at that point. I learned from it too.


Audio: I have a certain set of skills…Scene from “Taken”.

Joe’s particular set of skills include his Master’s degree in Orientation & Mobility.

But skills are only a part of what it takes.


When I had the opportunity to work with entertainment programs a little bit at American Foundation for the Blind and then more so with Netflix’s Marvel’s Daredevil which I did outside of my work at AFB. I had to complete all of my duties plus all my work so I was travelling all over the country, using New York City as my home base. There’s a lot of sacrifice.


Sacrifice is leaving a comfortable position and putting yourself out there for possible disappointment.


I’ve been offered other entertainment opportunities for movies. They want you to leave and be full time for like 2, 3 months at the most. To leave a full time position to go do that is a gamble. It was a big decision. My wife Jen and I discussed it and weighed the options. I sought advice from friends I worked with on other productions. When it came down to it, it just seemed like a unique opportunity. A game changer to impact the world but also they were committed to hiring actors that were Blind and Low Vision as well and wanted me to help with that. Making sure that there was accessibility and figuring out what that was. I never had that opportunity. I worked on other shows but it always just involved the portrayal of blindness, scripts some set advising and props s but this was a full time doing all that and so much more. We were figuring out what my role was as we went. It just kept expanding.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
How important was Apple? Was that a big factor in you making the decision to leave BBVS and go there?


It was a huge factor. When you throw the name Apple out in our community, the blindness community the disability community, it is like the gold standard.

Since 2009 and the third generation iPhone and even right before that with the Nano iPod where it had Voice Over embedded into it. It changed the game in accessibility. I have multiple Apple TV’s in my home, my Apple keyboard on the table here, Air Pods, iPhone 11 pro here and a iPod Touch over there so when Apple was connected to it I’m like this is going to be something!


When it comes to Joe’s real motivation, I think it’s pretty clear to see!


I’m very passionate about the portrayal of blindness in entertainment. I wrote an article about how disability is portrayed for AFB Access World years ago even before my time on Marvel’s Daredevil

Our show shows people as heroes, villains, good guys, bad guys, warriors, lovers. Things that you don’t typically see people who are Blind doing. Living their lives in a community cooking, building all kinds of things like that. That means something to me.


Did you catch that?

Audio: Rewinding Tape Deck

JS: “Things that you don’t see Blind people typically doing”

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Now you’re on set, working side by side with the Director? That’s pretty cool man! Explain that.


We had been talking and meeting a little bit. I gave him some ideas and suggestions. He wanted to make sure the world brought some reality of blindness as well and there’s interesting ideas that most people wouldn’t notice. And he’s like I want you next to me at every shot! It was unreal. I learned so much from all the directors, Francis, Lucas and Steven and Fred and Sally and all these amazing directors. They’re all so different and preparing in different ways and how they manage the set and each shot is different. So I learned a lot about how they setup things and their process and how to give input.

As the season goes on there were scenes that have no individuals who are Blind in it that I have input on that made it into the show. It wasn’t just the blindness that I was helping with.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Are you interested in directing? (Laughs) You’re standing right next to the director man, like you’re already getting all this info.


You know I could see co-directing with someone.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Now I know you have your YouTube channel so is this your preparation for being in front of the camera? (Laughs…)
Are we going to see you in See? (Laughs…)


I had a cameo or two . It hit the editing room floor – some of the scenes got cut. And it wasn’t because of my work. Who knows maybe in season 2.


Do you hear that optimism? That belief in anything is possible? Don’t get it twisted, that’s a process. Joe wasn’t always feeling that way. Like when he was 19 and diagnosed legally blind.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

If you could go back to some of that initial reaction. What would you tell yourself, your 19 year old self now?


When I first lost my vision I went through depression and I got counseling. They helped me guide through and understand that blindness and disability is not to end my life or anything. It changes and it changed how I viewed life. I would say embrace all of it.

It would be introducing myself to successful people who are Blind or Low Vision. Go someplace and learn how to use a white cane and learn the skills of independence as a person who is Blind.

People are always going to tell you what you can and can’t do as a person with a disability as a person who is Blind. They like to say no or you can’t do this. Don’t let them say no. During our show most of the things that you see people who are Blind do, I did as well. To figure out or feel. Climbing cliffs, hiking through different areas all kinds of different things that you see , I’ve done.

My buddy Dan Shotz, the show runner will tell you like early on people were like uh, I don’t think he should be doing that. I’m like, are the characters who are Blind doing this, then I’m going to do it. They embraced it. Dan pushed it and really allowed me to put myself out there and show them how we can do things. And if I didn’t have the expertise you know Erik Weihenmayer sent videos about climbing that I shared with Jason Momoa. I reached out to people such as T.Reid, Thomas Reid to share about their life and that was shared with all of our casts and production. Every couple of weeks I shared videos about people who were successful who were Blind or Low Vision from various types of work, backgrounds, life experiences.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Hold on you’re telling me that Alfre Woodard saw that video?


Oh yeh, Alfre Woodard saw your video.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Alfre Woodard saw me? Laughs…


It’s true, it’s true. Yup!

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Ahh, that’s cool!

Joe Stretch! Dude I told you that I think your story in terms of your hustle and what you’re doing is just so cool and inspiring to folks and to me personally. I definitely salute you, what you’re doing and keep doing it Bro. You’re doing your thing! I’m happy for you.


Thank you brother. You know how I feel about you and your podcast.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Yes Sir… laughs…


Can I say it again?

[TR in conversation with JS:]
You can say it again!


My favorite podcast!

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Your what?


My favorite podcast around blindness is Reid My Mind… (Singing) Radio!

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Laughs…Yeh, there it is!





Audio: available on Apple TV Plus.

was released with 3 episodes and subsequent episodes dropping weekly.

Creating See as a premier show for the launch of their network (Apple TV Plus) could be viewed as a risky move.

First, Apple has such a positive reputation with the Blind community. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to risk offending or having negative press like what we saw earlier this year when the CW launched “In the Dark” and the NFB responded with #LetUsPlayUs.

Yes, it’s Sci-Fi but blindness is real. Anyone who understands the power of media knows that it does impact how people view others.

but it appears they made every attempt to get it right.
Apple’s influence on accessibility goes beyond their own products.
When a clear leader of design and innovation makes such an open commitment to access, well it’s clear that others follow suit.

Leading off the launch of their streaming service, Apple TV Plus,
With a show built around a world where
blindness is the norm,
in an actual world where the thought of being blind is so feared.
I don’t know, that to me sounds like Apple once again being bold and let’s hope setting some trends.

This episode sort of made me want to look at whether I’m challenging my comfort level, putting myself out there enough, taking risks. As
people adjusting to blindness, disability I think we should be doing that.

It doesn’t have to be climbing mountains and what not. Those days are done for me. My back just hurts thinking about it. But there are definitely other ways. Who’s with me!

Joe’s experience is a great example of what’s possible.

I know there are some who hear Joe’s story and say he’s lucky. Well, I’ll agree with you. If you’re working with the same definition of luck. That’s when preparation meets opportunity. Because that’s when things happen.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
The coolest thing about watching the first episode was that right when it’s over and then ran the credits and I hear my man,
Audio: “Associate producer, Joe Strechay”, Audio Describer from See.

Dude I’m on the treadmill and I’m like yeh Joe, yeh! Laughs!


You can check out See (Available on Apple TV Plus) right now. Just open that TV app and you can get right on it. You can even get the first episode for free.

You can check out Joe on YouTube, his channel is called Joe Strechay. And he’s also on Twitter and Instagram under that same name.
That’s S T R E C H A Y!

I think this is a perfect way to officially close out the 2019 season.

I may drop an extra holiday episode, but you know there’s only one way to make sure you get that… Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or where ever you like to get yours.

The podcast will be back in 2020 in time to help make things clear for anyone adjusting to blindness.

In the meantime please help spread the word. I hate to think of another young 19 year old who doesn’t get that help and have the same opportunities to reach their potential

Feel free to reach out and say hello. I love hearing from listeners.

We have the comments section on the blog,
The email;
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro



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