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Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s the Living Blindfully podcast living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.
On the show this week: It’s 10 months in and ACB is still no closer to being on Mastodon, how easy is it to use Face ID, making screen recordings on your iPhone with VoiceOver speech, and Sammy Sweet Spirit encourages sighted people to look at it this way.
It’s good to be back with you once again.
I’ve got to say. The only downside of having the Blind Grilling Experience advertising on the podcast at the moment is that before I even start, I’m ravenous! All that does sound delicious. And actually, it’s a fun podcast to listen to because you can learn all sorts of things.
You can learn on this podcast, though, that since this is episode 247, I can tell you that there is, yet again, no North American area code 247. It’s up for grabs. It’s available.
However, the country code for 247 is very interesting. It’s the country code for Ascension Island. Now, the population of Ascension Island fluctuates a little bit, but it averages out at about, Get this 800 people. 800 people with their own country code. I don’t know whether their numbering plan has only 4 digits because you wouldn’t want 3 digits because the population could expand and people could have more than one phone. But 4-digit numbers in Ascension Island may well be possible.
If you are one of the 800 people living on Ascension Island and you’re listening to this podcast, we bid you welcome. I’d like to know more about Ascension Island and what you are doing there.
But all that said, when I think 247, I think what many radio buffs in Britain and around the world probably think about, (which is that 247 metres was the initial frequency for BBC Radio 1), which is actually coming up to its anniversary because it went to air at the end of September 1967, after the Marine Offences Act forced all but one of the offshore radio stations in Britain off the air.
And if you’ve been listening to the MushroomFM rockumentary series of late, we’ve been doing a series on the fascinating topic of offshore radio stations. So they got the BBC light program frequency of 247 metres and turned it into Radio 1 on the 30th of September, 1967. And a lot of the offshore personalities, the good ones anyway, found their way on to BBC Radio 1.
Now, when I hear about frequencies expressed in metres, it’s not something that I’m familiar with. I’ve always grown up with kilohertz.
So I did the conversion. And apparently, 247 metres, the original frequency for BBC Radio 1, equates to 1214 kilohertz. And that’s a pretty random frequency, isn’t it? 1214 on the AM dial, the initial frequency for BBC Radio 1.
A reminder that we do have a special episode 248 in store for you. It’ll be coming out quite soon after the Apple event which happens this Tuesday, US time. That’s the 12th of September, at 10 AM Pacific, 1 PM Eastern Time.
This is the one where we get the iPhone 15 and the Apple Watch Series 9. There’s a suggestion there’s going to be an Apple Watch Ultra 2. And who knows what other goodies Santa Tim and his Apple elves are going to be offering us for just a small fee? Although there’s also some suggestions that the fee for the iPhone Pro models this year may not be as small as it once was. We’ll be making sense of it.
We’ll have Heidi Taylor here describing some of the things that weren’t discussed in the sound track. We’ve got Mike Feir and Judy Dixon providing some analysis. You can be sure I’ll be chiming in as well because I won’t be able to help myself. That will be available right after the Apple event to our plus subscribers.
If you’re not a plus subscriber yet, you can subscribe for just 1 New Zealand dollar a month. If you can spare a bit more, if you think it’s worth a bit more, I appreciate that too because it helps keep the transcribers transcribing, the editors editing, and all those good things.
And yes, at the current exchange rate, 1 New Zealand dollar is still worth about only 59 American cents. So even if you were to pay 10 New Zealand dollars a month, that’s only $5.90 for at least, 8 hours of content a month. I mean, dude!
Thank you very much to all our subscribers who continue to subscribe. We really appreciate that. And of course, if you’re not a plus subscriber, we’re on a 72 hour delay for episodes before they go public, to give our plus subscribers some value. So you’ll be able to hear the Apple event episode absolutely free 72 hours after our plus subscribers get it.
And speaking of iOS 17,
Caller: Hello, everyone from the Living Blindfully podcast. This is Claudia. I am calling to respond to the email that I previously sent.
Unfortunately, the bug with the batteries widget in iOS 17 still is persisting.
However, the Braille display bugs have been fixed. So that is great. I’m very glad to know that those bugs are fixed.
With the batteries widget, it still has these weird images that were not there before. And it says like battery small cap image, bolt image. I don’t know. They’re just weird random images.
I’ve actually sent Apple feedback about this on several occasions, including an audio demonstration of this bug. And to this day, it has not been fixed.
So not sure if anybody else has any other ideas about how to get this bug reported, because it is a bit frustrating trying to navigate the batteries widget. And furthermore, it doesn’t even tell you if your device is charging like it used to. So any suggestions will be helpful.
Jonathan: Good to hear from you, Claudia. Thank you very much for calling into the listener line.
This is one that I can’t replicate. But there are so many variables with widgets.
So with the battery widget that I have, I have it just in the widget screen, not actually on my home screen. But I flick right from page one of apps, and I just have it there, and it’s working as it always has for me there.
So it’s just a standard widget. And I know that there are varying sizes of widget. So if you’ve got one on your home screen, it could be the size that’s influencing this. It could be any number of factors.
When I got your message, I thought, I wonder if your describe images feature has been turned on and that’s affecting it. But that certainly doesn’t change anything for me. My describe images was set to off. But even when I turn that setting on again, it did seem to work just the same way as it did before.
So if anyone else is seeing this, let us know.
In terms of reporting it to Apple, it sounds like you’ve done all the right things, even going to the trouble of making a screen recording or an audio recording. So it’s just going to join the queue, I would have to say.
It may influence it if more people are experiencing it and report it. But I’m not sure about that.
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Let’s return to the topic of the Lyft driver who has recommended, in 2 videos now (the second of which was supposed to be an apology but was really just a doubling down), that Lyft drivers, and by definition ride share drivers in general who find that they’re about to transport a service animal because they’re driving past to pick up the job, and then they see somebody standing out there with a service dog, should just drive on by. And when they’re at a safe distance, cancel the trip.
Now obviously, this breaks laws all over the place.
I did provide a link in the show notes to the first video when I first raised this. Some people don’t read the show notes.
And Tracy Sun is writing in from Kentucky to say:
“I thought the listeners would be interested in knowing the YouTube channel where these somewhat offensive videos are found. Do a search on YouTube for ride share RealTalk. RealTalk is one word.
I noticed he attempted to make some kind of clarification video in regards to statements from a previous video. But shortly after, in the same video, returns to his point of view, saying that the ride share drivers have the choice on whether to cancel the trip if the rider has a service animal.
After the clarification video, he had a 2-hour live video” Oh my goodness! Mercy, mercy! [laughs] “speaking of more of the same, back and forth chatter.
I thought the listeners might be interested in hearing this for themselves. We could say it is more disgusting instead of interesting.”
Indeed it is, Tracy.
And what’s also disgusting, as well as interesting, is Lyft’s lack of response. As I mentioned last week, I contacted Lyft’s media team, and I got an auto response from them right away because it’s automatic, right? And they said, “We realize you’re probably on deadline, so we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.” That was a week ago at the time of recording. And I’ve not heard another thing, which indicates to me that they are not going to respond.
And I want to recap the questions that I asked Lyft because I think they’re absolutely fair and reasonable questions. I made the point in my email, which was very respectful, that I understood they may not want to come on the podcast for an interview, but a statement that I could read to you, so that we could get some assurance that Lyft was on to this in some way, would be great at the very minimum.
Not a thing back. So let me recap those questions that I asked Lyft last week.
First, does Lyft know about this video?
Second, does Lyft agree that this does not convey a positive image of the company to disabled people?
Third, will Lyft make contact with YouTube and urge them to take these videos down due to the reputational damage to Lyft and presumably, misrepresentation of Lyft policy? And that is another point, of course, that YouTube still has the videos up.
Fourth, will Lyft seek to identify and de-platform the driver if they’re not doing so already?
Fifth, does Lyft make it clear to drivers in training material that driving past a service animal user also constitutes refusal? And if not, will training material be updated to make that clearer?
And sixth, what measures does Lyft currently have in place to seek to eliminate service animal discrimination?
Perfectly reasonable questions. Very unfortunate, and perhaps telling, that the media team has chosen not to respond at all.
Advertisement: Mastodon is the social network where the Living Blindfully community is most active. Join us there for conversation about the most recent episode, and items of news to help you live your best life with blindness or low vision.
When I played that little sweep in episode 244 of the podcast, I followed up with some comments about Mastodon, about some improvements to Mona.
Since then, there’s been yet another excellent release of the Mona app, which we covered comprehensively in episode 227. If you’re looking for a tutorial on Mastodon in general, and Mona in particular, it’s free, it’s out there, it’s in episode 227.
And then I talked about how extraordinary I found it that there are some organizations who aren’t on Mastodon that should be. One of which, of course, is ACB the American Council of the Blind. And I pointed out that back in 1999, when we were pioneers in internet radio and this was an emerging thing and we were doing things that really hadn’t been done very often before in terms of trying to get a global group of blind broadcasters together to start this radio station, it was cutting edge and it was nimble. Nimbleness is really important in technology.
Harold Wilson, he was the British Prime Minister a couple of times. He made the comment that a week is a long time in politics. Everybody says that now.
Well, 10 months is a long time in technology, a very long time.
So now we’ve made it to double digits, folks. It’s 10 months ago now that Elon Musk fired Twitter’s accessibility team. Soon thereafter, he started to curtail the application programming interface that meant that most of the apps that blind people used to use for the artist formerly known as Twitter have now ceased to be. They were deprecated. They were forced off the platform, despite being super accessible and providing a great service.
One thing I didn’t mention in Episode 244 that I think is important to emphasize is the sense of loss that many people have felt because of this. Particularly during the lockdown period of the COVID pandemic, Twitter was one way that people got together and provided companionship and a little bit of support to each other.
There were other tools, too, of course. Zoom was the star of the pandemic.
But the community that built around Twitter during that time was something quite special. And for people who perhaps have limited access to public transportation, or limited access to funds to get out and about, or who find companionship with people who are a long way away, the demise of so many accessible Twitter options and the dismantling of that network as a result was jarring. It was upsetting. It was disruptive.
For those who are well-connected to technology, it didn’t take too long for some of us to leap onto Mastodon. And as usual, what happens is that early adopters pave the way. They perhaps produce tutorials in our community. That’s kind of customary. And eventually, what you see is if it’s any good, you start to get a bit of critical mass. And at least where the connected blind community is concerned, I think the critical mass of people on Mastodon is much higher than it is, say, as a portion of the sighted population.
So why am I raising this again just 3 episodes after I raised it last time? Well, it’s because I was contacted by a couple of listeners who were actually quite upset by a meeting of the American Council of the Blind’s Board of Publications.
I’m interested in what happens around the world on the blindness scene. Even if I wasn’t doing this podcast, I’d still be interested because I find this interesting. But I must confess, I don’t normally listen to, or read the minutes of Board of Publications meetings.
For those who aren’t familiar with the way ACB works, when ACB was founded in 1961, it was founded because of concerns by those who created the organization that NFB (the National Federation of the Blind) had become autocratic.
As a result of that, there were certain safeguards built into the constitution of the new organization when it was founded. One was term limits. You cannot have a president of ACB who can go on and on. They can only serve 3 consecutive terms.
Another safeguard they put in place was separation between the publications that ACB creates and the leadership, the board of directors. And that stems from the view that during the height of what some blind Americans used to call, and maybe still do call the Civil War period between the 2 factions within the federation before ACB was founded, there was a hijacking of publications by the federation leadership to stifle debate.
Never again, said the founders of the new ACB organization. We will create this board of publications so that there is some separation.
Quite a lot of them have died off now. But it was fascinating to talk to some of these people in the 90s and the 2000s about that period. (It really was.), and get the different perspectives.
Anyway, I’m only telling you this because you may not be as interested in all of this as I am, and you may not understand why ACB has a board of publications and what it does.
Now, my understanding is there’s been increasing frustration and actually, embarrassment among some that this organization that was once seen as so technologically innovative has dragged the chain to the extent that we’re now 10 months after the great Twitter exodus and the great Twitter implosion, and there’s no ACB presence on Mastodon, at least at a national level, to be found.
So there has been some discussion on ACB internal channels like email lists, as I understand it. I don’t subscribe to those, either. So I wasn’t aware of any of that discussion until I was made aware that the board of publications of the American Council of the Blind had a regularly scheduled meeting on the 5th of September, at which ACB’s presence on Mastodon was on the agenda because there has been so much discussion about it.
Now, you can listen to this in its entirety. And if you’re interested in this, particularly if you are a member of the American Council of the Blind, this is your organization, then I encourage you to grab that. And it is to ACB’s great credit that they make these things available so publicly.
The board of publications is a public meeting. People can attend it on Zoom. and if you can’t attend it on Zoom, you can download it as a podcast. They also publish their minutes online. That is absolutely epic transparency, and well done for that.
So I was just sitting here, not on the Group W bench, I have to say. I was sitting here minding my own business, when my Mastodon and other channels kind of got a bit busy with people feeling quite upset about the way that the board of publications meeting had gone, and this is the only reason why I know about it.
If you want to hear this in its entirety for yourself, you can search for ACB Business in your favorite podcast app. You can subscribe to that podcast if you want, so that you can download what is, at the time that I’m putting this podcast together, the latest item in the feed, which is the board of publications meeting from the 5th of September.
The discussion really starts to get going when Jeff Bishop provides some practical solutions for getting ACB on Mastodon sooner rather than later. Many of us will know Jeff very well because he’s served the blind community so well in numerous professional and personal capacities.
For those who don’t know Jeff, he’s highly tech savvy, he understands where the blind community is at, his fingers on the pulse, he engages with the blind community where other blind people are, he knows what he’s talking about, he’s a respected voice, and he should be listened to. And he did have some practical solutions.
Then the virtual floor (because this is a Zoom meeting), gets handed over to ACB’s president, Deb Cook Lewis for some comments. And since it’s safe to infer that this podcast, and by extension I, have been referenced in this piece, (I don’t know whether other podcasts have been talking about this or not.), I celebrate natural justice and exercise my right of reply.
Her comments start in the most extraordinary way.
Deb Cook Lewis: “I’m not here for a debate, frankly. This is ridiculous.
Secondly, I will make a couple comments though.”
Jonathan: And those couple of comments then lasted 10 and a half minutes of continuous talking. So clearly, the president was not there for a debate, but actually, to lecture those who were on the call.
But the message was that ACB is not opposed to being on Mastodon, that it probably will get there eventually, in due time. It’s like the agencies who used to say, you know, “Blind people have to be patient.” [laughs] “You vociferous blind people making all this noise, you don’t understand what’s going on.”, which is an extraordinary stance to take for a membership organisation. There were all sorts of comments about personnel changing, comm staff being in transition.
But look. The Twitter exodus and the demise of Twitter apps began 10 months ago. 10 months ago.
As somebody who has had a bit to do with ACB, I’m well aware that one of the tensions or the tussles (and I think it’s sometimes a healthy constitutional tension) relates to the demarcation between what’s the Board of Publications’ responsibility, and what is the Board of Directors responsibility. And the president of ACB put a stake absolutely in the ground on this one regarding Mastodon.
Deb Cook Lewis: The decision to ultimately do it or not do it does not rest with the Board of Publications. It rests with (It will, in this case.), rest with the Board of Directors based on the recommendations of our IT working group and our public awareness steering committee, which currently is frankly on hiatus and has to be brought back. So right now, it would come pretty much from the IT working group, of which Jeff is part. So at that point, we can do that.
But we’re not going to be taking it on, that I can see, until we have some of those things in place. And then as part of that, we certainly can.
If we decide to add a new social media, And if it’s not just a case of flipping a switch, If it does actually have an impact on workload to change it, or major decision-making to change it, If it’s really easy, we don’t have to take that to the Board. I mean, if it’s sort of no impact on staff, or no impact on finances, or no impact on anything, then I think we’re pretty, It’s understandable that we will, and assumed that anything that’s good for the people is good to do.
If it does require more consideration, then it will come to the Board of Directors because it’s part of our IT infrastructure.
The BOP is responsible for content related to any of this stuff, and to oversee content. So if you don’t like what we put on Mastodon, you should come and talk to the BOP. Come talk to the rest of us first. But ultimately, the BOP would be where we would come on that, and in policies about what can be put, and those kinds of things often come from the BOP.
But the piece of this that will ultimately happen would be at the Board level.
But we’re really not ready to take it to the Board to make that decision until we overcome the barriers that we currently have.
Jonathan: And just to recap, those barriers appear to be a change of comms personnel, and also, tools that ACB is using not supporting Mastodon directly.
And Jeff did address this in his opening remarks, where he suggested that volunteers could be used in the interim to at least, fly the ACB flag on Mastodon where so many engaged blind people have moved.
So I want to explain how easy it would be to do what Jeff is suggesting in the interim, and have a temporary Mastodon presence so ACB doesn’t look as out of touch and left behind as it currently looks.
- ACB calls for volunteers who are vetted carefully for their competency to liaise with whoever is in the ACB comms coordinator role to receive the comms that are being sent to other channels, pending some sort of permanent solution sometime down the track.
- A roster is set up so that everybody knows who is on duty at any time, so they can monitor those channels and post to Mastodon.
- With those infrastructural issues in place, you do the final bit of infrastructure, which is to set up an account on Mastodon.
And even if ACB isn’t willing at this stage to invest in its own Mastodon instance, they could, as I said in episode 244, pick any existing Mastodon instance to be on. It could, for example, be ACB@Mastodon.social. It could literally be that simple. 1, 2, 3, and the embarrassment would be over. It is not rocket science.
And I think one of the problems that seems to exist here (and you see this in politics a lot) that people in decision-making capacities often don’t understand today’s social media landscape.
So what we have is some people who care very deeply about ACB getting increasingly frustrated and embarrassed, and some of them come to me and they say, “You should amplify this on Living Blindfully.”
Because on Living Blindfully, we talk about the issues that are out there in the blind community, particularly the connected blind community, because this is a podcast, and you’ve got to be connected to hear the podcast, so we do. The discussion that I initiated about this in episode 244 was a direct result of people who were talking both on and off Mastodon with increasing frustration about the procrastination.
You can go and listen to the president of ACB talking continuously for 10 and a half minutes, and you will hear the online equivalent of the dog ate my homework. It is a litany of excuses for inaction over something that actually began 10 whole months ago.
And what do people do when they’re digging in on a completely unjustifiable position that is upsetting a lot of people? You shoot the messenger. Classic stuff.
Deb Cook Lewis: We have never said no. What we have said is, and I think would strongly continue to say, is that all things in their due time.
So you know, I know there’s some pressure from podcasters outside the organization and that sort of thing that ACB doesn’t care, and ACB this, and ACB that.
But it’d be great if they actually asked us about that. But it’s more fun to do what they do, so I think that’ll continue.
Jonathan: Oh, you betcha. It sure will continue.
Now, let’s get some facts on the table. Because that little piece there was riddled with innuendo and it wasn’t clear which podcasts were being referred to, I can’t be sure that Living Blindfully is the only one being pinged.
But certainly, we are a prominent podcast, and it is something that we have been talking about. We’ve been championing Mastodon.
So I’m only replying based on what we have done. I’m obviously not accountable for, or responsible for, what other podcasters may have said and done.
But as I mentioned in episode 244, I contacted people that I know in ACB before the convention. If you don’t want to listen to me ramble, you can check the transcript for episode 244 where I made this clear that I talked to people before the ACB convention. Those people I spoke with said, “Yes, we agree, it really has to be done. It’s kind of getting a little bit bad that it hasn’t been already.” And my hope, as I said in episode 244, was that it would be done during the convention.
Now, we have had some discussion on Mastodon about this.
Have I contacted the president of the American Council of the Blind for some sort of right of reply? No, I have not. But anybody is entitled to exercise that. I would gladly give it to them.
They can email opinion@LivingBlindfully.com. God knows how many times I give this address in the podcast.
They can also call the listener line: 864-606-6736. The number’s even in the United States. So on most phone plans, it’s a free call for Americans to make.
And when an organization has been criticized for something, and somebody with authority in that organization contacts the podcast requesting a right of reply, they always get one. That is something that listeners to this podcast over the last 4 years know is the case.
Now, you would think that the president of an advocacy organization would be not backward in coming forward if they wanted to exercise a right of reply.
It was not clear to me until listening to this board of publications meeting that actually, the board of publications is not responsible, in the president’s view, for whether ACB gets on Mastodon, and how it goes about getting on Mastodon.
And that may well be challengeable. I mean, there may be consensus within ACB about that being the case because it’s about IT infrastructure.
But it’s potentially possible for this to be contested as well. And that’s a debate that may well be live. And I did hear some reference in the call to there being debate about whether this rests with the board of publications or not.
As for being outside the organization, absolutely guilty as charged. We do try to reflect the concerns of listeners who contact us, and there has been increasing concern about ACB’s procrastination on this subject.
But I would make this point. Sure, I’m outside the organization. But I also am very proud of what I was able to contribute to it at a time when we had people like Paul Edwards, Brian Charlson, and a number of other people, Chris Gray actually as well, who were good at identifying a tech trend and making sure that ACB was perceived to be cutting edge.
So in that sense, I’m a little bit more than a dispassionate chronicler of events on this particular one because it makes me sad. Now, whether I’m sad about this or not matters not a jot, not a jot.
But I tell you what should matter to ACB leadership. It’s the people they are alienating who are inside the organization, and who potentially may choose not to be inside it if this goes on much longer. And it’s the messages that I get.
I will not name people because I don’t have permission to. They were not sent in the context of, “Please publish this on the podcast.”
But I can tell you, hand on heart. I have received messages from people who say, “I am a longstanding member of ACB, and I’m angry, and I’m ashamed, and I’m getting disillusioned.” Any president of a consumer organization worth their salt should take that kind of feedback seriously.
And I tell you. By continuing to prevaricate on this issue, ACB is totally misreading the room.
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This is such a cool game.
Mike Bullis is on the move, he’s already moved. And he says:
“I’m looking for an audible stud finder for some work I need to do around the house here.
I know there are several around, but I don’t know which ones will necessarily work after I buy them. Some of them have LED screens, and all kinds of things that don’t work well.
I wonder if you could maybe ask your listeners if anyone knows of an audible stud finder that is usable by blind folks.”
Oh boy! This sounds way beyond my DIY skills, which are basically zilch. Can anyone help Mike out?
Be in touch. opinion@LivingBlindfully.com, or you can call us on 864-60-Mosen, 864-606-6736.
Steve Nutt is writing in from the UK. He says:
I hope you’re horribly healthy as I am at the moment.”
Thank you, Steve. I’m very healthy at the moment, I’m delighted to say. Long may it last.
There was a time where I would never have thought I could get to this age and feel as good as I do (probably better than I did in my 20s, in fact). It’s a marvellous thing.
“I heard this week’s pod”, (which was actually episode 245, that’s what he’s talking about), “in which a listener contacted you asking where she could go to get small tech problems fixed, or to work one-on-one, including training.
We at Computer Room Services can do this very thing. The way I work is if I can’t fix it, you don’t pay. Simple as that.
People can contact us with any tech problem, big or small.
Our charging structure is £30 per hour, with a minimum charge of £7.50, in case the job only takes me 15 minutes or less.
I didn’t mean this to be an advert. But the question was asked, so I thought I’d answer it.
I use RIM to remote in if the solution needs it, and can fix most Windows problems. I’m not hot on Apple Mac, but anything Windows, Android, or iOS, I’m pretty much up with those.
Please feel free to give out this email address: steve@CompRoom.co.uk.” that’s email@example.com.
“Time differences shouldn’t be a problem, if an appointment can be made in advance.
Anyway, I hope this helps, and do keep up the excellent work.”
Thank you very much, Steve.
I can vouch for Steve. He’s been around a very long time, has Steve, a very very long time, and he does know his stuff. What do they say in the UK? He knows his onions. Knows his onions.
And of course, as they also say in the UK, (thanks to Steve Wynwood), while you see a chance, take it. And that’s what Steve did.
Brandt Steinkamp is writing in and says:
I trust you are doing well.”
Super well. Thank you, Brandt. Hope you are as well.
“I know I have not been in contact. I fully blame Castro for not syncing my episodes.”
Yeah. I’m afraid I’ve given up on Castro, Brandt. It pains me to say it, but it’s just not what it was.
“I have discovered something rather marvellous recently. At the gym where I train, we have access to 3 WattBike trainers.” (That’s W-A-T-T-B-I-K-E trainers).
“Now, what makes these special is:
- You can use the bike with an Apple Watch running WatchOS 10 as a Bluetooth-powered cadence and speed sensor. To do this, you will have to be running iOS 17 on your iPhone as well.
- the WatBbike Hub app happens to be accessible enough to get the job done. However, it’s not perfect, by any means.
I am very well aware that there are other bikes as well that can be used in the same fashion. For example, those made by Techno Gym.”
Oh. I know about Techno Gym, Brandt because they make our treadmill, and I’m a big fan of our Techno Gym treadmill.
He says, “I have not tested any of the smart trainers out there. Those are devices you use with a standard bike. But I assume, hopefully, many of those can be used in a similar fashion.
As you can see above, I have fallen down the rabbit hole of public beta testing again. I always say never again. Then suddenly, kablammo!” (That’s an interesting word.), “I’m finding myself running the public beta again. This is something that really needs intervention.
If you were reading this before the 2023 Rugby World Cup, good luck to you and the team you support. The same for all your listeners. Obviously, the Springboks, or as we’d say, Dybok for me. If you need to have that pronounced, just ask 1 in 10 folks over there in New Zealand if they are Afrikaans, [laughs] South African anyway. This is why we call New Zealand a South African colony.
Voice message: Hello, Jonathan!
I listened to your review on Drafts, and did learn quite a bit. But I wanted to expound a little bit on my favorite action in Drafts and how I use it, and that is the List in Reminders action. Now, I did go in there and tell it to discard the text once I have run the action.
I use this to keep track of my paratransit times, which is not as easy as it sounds when they say, “Oh, we’ll get you at [6:51].” They’ll give you an oddball time. And then, your window is half an hour after that. It’s important that I have them accurately written somewhere easy to get to.
When I’m doing Braille Screen Input, I do hashtag trips. The hash symbol in UEB, by the way, is 4-5-6 T-H (4-5-6 dots 1-4-5-6) or the number sign flipped upside down.
Now, there was a bug in the Hable where 4-5-6 T-H was writing the British pound symbol, and dot 4 L was writing the hash symbol, and those are reversed.
I don’t know if that has been corrected. I need to write to them. I think that they thought they’d fixed it, and that was the way it was supposed to be. But that’s very much not the way it’s supposed to be. [laughs]
But anyway, what I also discovered about List in Reminders is that if you keep the title of the list the same, if you need to add more trips later (in my case) and you rerun the action, the new items will be added to the end of the list, which is not what I was expecting. So that’s cool.
I have also purchased a Sonos Roam, and am enjoying that.
One tip I would provide is that if you’re wanting to power the unit completely down, realizing that it’s going to take, you know, 15 seconds or so to come back. But to power it all the way down, you press and hold power for 5 seconds, and you’ll get, like 3 tones, and the last tone will be kind of a bassier, descending tone. And that’s how you’d know it’s off.
What I also do is to find out whether it’s turned on or not, I hold that power button again for about 5 seconds. And then, you can check the status by using the button that turns the mics on and off, and you’ll get sounds to tell you, oh, okay, it’s on now.
Of course, if you load the Sonos app, it will tell you whether it’s connected as well, but that’s the quick and dirty way to find out what’s going on. But the setup was pretty much exactly the way that you showed, and the app is easy to use.
And I’m discovering that there’s a lot of services on there that I’ve never heard of, or just things I wasn’t expecting to see, like Audible, and AccuRadio and stuff like that.
So anyway, thanks for all of what you do.
Jonathan: It’s interesting that you bring AccuRadio up, Shawn, because it’s not one that I hear about very often. And I discovered AccuRadio through Sonos. I’d never heard of it until I got Sonos, and I really like it.
So if people haven’t tried this, the iOS app is very accessible. So even if you don’t have a Sonos, you should search for AccuRadio in the App Store and give this a try.
They have lots of channels there, and they’re really good. They have a few that I go to sleep to, actually. There’s a thing called the Star Channel. There’s another one, I think, called Classical Relaxation. So they have quite a few, and they just have a wide range of genres.
Very good during the holiday season as well. They have all sorts of holiday channels there. [laughs]
So AccuRadio. It gets a notable mention.
Voice message: Hi, Jonathan. This is Vaughan from Australia. Lovely show. Congratulations on the podcast!
2 quick questions.
I don’t use a passcode on my iPhone. A password, rather. I’ve got a 4-digit PIN, but I only have to put it in once every 24 hours, which means when I swipe up from the bottom of my iPhone 13 Pro, I can access everything without having to put in passwords and the like.
But I know most people are using Face ID.
How do you find it? Is it quick? Does it slow your productivity down? And at those times like if you’re laying in bed and it’s dark and it’s the middle of the night and you just reach over to switch on a podcast because you’ve woken up at 2 in the morning, is that easy? Or do you have to then put in key combinations, etc., to get your phone to wake back up? Or does Face ID just work whether it’s dark or not if it’s set up?
The other thing I was going to ask you when changing to the new iPhone, a lot of the time, if you do the over-the-air backups, you have to re-enter all your banking passwords. And I’m dreadful with those things. I never remember them. I end up having to reset them and it just causes all kinds of grief.
Is there any way of backing up your data and transferring it to the new iPhone where it carries over your sensitive passwords as well?
Thanks, Jonathan. Appreciate your help.
Jonathan: Well, it does sound like a new iPhone might be in your future, Vaughan. And why not, with all the USB-C and stuff that’s coming in it?
First of all, I don’t want to sound like an alarmist, but what you’ve got going on there is an incredible security risk because if someone was to snatch your phone out of your hand, (and sadly, we do hear of stories where this has happened to blind people), I guess this is one of those areas where we are a bit at risk. If we’re using our phone out in public and some disreputable reprobate takes the phone away from you, well, they’ve got full access to everything on your device at that point. That could lead to just so many issues for you in terms of identity theft, compromised accounts, and goodness knows what else. So there is an issue there.
But in terms of the specific answer to your question, I personally have never had a problem with Face ID. Some people have an issue setting it up in the first instance.
Way back when the iPhone 10 came out, I actually did a podcast where I demonstrated getting to know Face ID. We didn’t really edit that. Face ID was new for everybody.
We had Heidi in the studio, and she came up with this analogy.
I still get people contacting me saying, “I struggled with Face ID. And then, somebody pointed me to the podcast you did with Heidi, and Heidi’s methodology just worked for me. And thank you, Heidi.”
Yes, indeed. Thank you, Heidi!
So her technique is you treat your nose as the hand of a clock. And when you’re setting up Face ID, you turn your nose in a clockwise direction like it’s going round the clock. And that does work very well for setting it up. It may take a bit of getting used to in terms of the distance from the phone. But once you’ve got Face ID set up, it does learn over time.
When you first start to use it, there will be two things going on.
One is if you don’t use the front-facing camera very much or you’re just not good with cameras, it may take a while to understand just how far back you have to be from the front-facing camera for Face ID to work. But you’ll get there.
And the other thing that’s happening is that Face ID is learning over time. So if it gets an error and then it authenticates, it kind of says, okay, I need to learn a bit more about this face. And it seems to do that.
What I can say is that Face ID works for me 100% of the time in an indoor environment. Occasionally, if I need to unlock my iPhone, say to call an Uber and I’m waiting outside somewhere and it’s a bright, sunny day, I do occasionally have issues authenticating with Face ID in that scenario. And if it gets bad enough, I just enter my passcode.
As for the all too familiar thing for many blind people waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to run your podcast app, I have had no issue at all using Face ID in that setting. If you’re lying flat in bed on your back, you just point the front facing camera at your face. So you would have the phone facing downwards. So the front facing camera is looking at your face while you are horizontal, and it will just unlock. And I have no difficulty doing that now.
It may take a bit of getting used to, but you absolutely can get used to it, to the point that it is an absolutely smooth experience a lot of the time.
It does make me a bit sad that some people go for the iPhone SE, which is an underpowered phone, and it’s got some battery life issues and all sorts of limitations, not because they prefer the form factor which is a perfectly valid choice, but people have made them afraid of Face ID. And I think the next iPhone SE is probably going to have Face ID, so we can’t keep going on like this, you know. [laughs] It’s absolutely possible to get used to.
The other thing I would say is that there are so many benefits in blind people just becoming comfortable with using our cameras for all sorts of things. Be My AI, for example the service that Be My Eyes is offering in conjunction with ChatGPT is just opening so many things up to us. So we should become familiar with the powerful cameras that are on our devices, and get to know them, and embrace them.
So I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty at all, Vaughan, after a week or two of just playing with it and getting used to it.
Regarding your second question, this is the reason why I still always back up using a full encrypted backup using iTunes.
For those who have a Mac, obviously iTunes has gone now, but you can still do a full encrypted backup onto your Mac.
Now, I’m not saying that it will remember every password. In the last couple of years, I have seen a steady increase in apps where for whatever reason, they’re going to make you authenticate again by entering a password on a new device. But it does remember a lot more than an iCloud backup does.
It sounds also like you might benefit from using a good password manager.
1Password is still my favorite. I stuck with it through the tough times because they had a radical rewrite with 1Password 8, and it got a little bit inaccessible for a while there. They have sorted that out. I think they’re a good company, AgileBit who make 1Password. They are committed to accessibility. They sorted it out. They listened to feedback.
And certainly, on my iPhone and on my Windows machines, 1Password is fantastic. And it does mean that you can have a unique password for all the services that you use. 1Password is well integrated in iOS, thanks to some APIs that Apple have made available. And using biometric authentication, i.e. Face ID, it’s really easy to log into apps.
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Here’s another handy little contribution from Michael Babcock.
Michael: On a podcast, I heard one of the hosts mention the fact that he makes a recording of applications that might not be accessible.
Now, there is a way to do this on Android. I don’t have an Android device handy to show this to you. But I want to show you on the iPhone how you can record your iPhone screen and get your voice in there, so you can talk to developers directly and let them see what you’re encountering on your iPhone.
Number 1, I am using an iPhone 12, which means I don’t have a home button. So figure it out. If you don’t know how to navigate your phone, consider should you be sending feedback to app developers? [laughs] And number 2, I am on iOS 17, so you may hear things that don’t sound exactly the same. The process and procedures, though, are exactly this.
Now, the problem to be solved today is we want to let app developers hear what a VoiceOver user would hear if they were to use their iPhone.
The gotcha with VoiceOver and app developers is some app developers don’t know how to use VoiceOver, so they’re not going to go try to use it. And having a recording might help them.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to add the screen recording feature to the control center. I’ll show you how to access the control center. And then, we’ll also show you how to do a recording because there’s one step you got to take if you want to include your voice.
So we’ll start by tapping,
Michael: And we’ll go in there.
Michael: By default, the screen recording functionality is not in your control center. So in settings, we want to locate
VoiceOver: Control center button.
Michael: It’s directly below the general option.
VoiceOver: Swipe down from the top right edge to open control center.
Michael: That’s how you can open control center. I don’t get that to consistently work. How I actually do it is touch the status bar, and then flick up on my screen with 3 fingers.
So this screen is going to show you a list of the controls that are in your control center at the top. But if we use three fingers and flick up,
VoiceOver: Rows 8 to 26 of 28.
Michael: You can hear that we’ve went to the next group of elements we can add.
VoiceOver: Insert screen recording.
Michael: So I located screen recording, and there’s a button next to it that says insert screen recording. If we double tap this,
VoiceOver: Insert quick note.
Michael: It then changes to insert quick note, which I don’t want to insert right now.
I can use 3 fingers to flick down. And voiceover didn’t give me any feedback when I flick down, but what we’re going to do is touch towards the bottom middle of the screen.
VoiceOver: Remove ping my watch.
Michael: And that’s a feature I think that’s only for iOS 17 ping my watch. But if we flick to the right now,
VoiceOver: Remove screen recording.
Michael: There’s remove screen recording. Well, what you want to do is find the screen recording, and that tells you that it’s there.
Now if I flick to the right,
VoiceOver: Reorder remove screen recording button, draggable. Double tap and hold, wait for the sound, then drag to rearrange.
Michael: And I want to do just that because I want this to be towards the top of my opportunity, so I’m going to double tap, hold, and then slide my finger up. And listen to the feedback that VoiceOver gives me.
VoiceOver: Move, move, move, move, move above flashlight.
Michael: And then I’ll lift my finger up.
VoiceOver: Included controls, heading.
Michael: Note that when I double tap and held, I did feel a gentle vibration or haptic. And that’s when I knew I could just slide my finger up the screen vertically.
So now, let’s go to the home screen.
Michael: And if I touch in the top right corner, slide my finger down,
VoiceOver: ITK. 3 of 3 wifi bars. Status bar item. Control center. Airplane mode, switch button off. Double tap and hold to show more controls, double tap to toggle setting.
Michael: That seems like it actually worked. If you can’t get that to work though, 3-finger flick up from the status bar, once you put focus there.
Now about halfway up the screen on the left side,
VoiceOver: Screen recording button.
Michael: I found screen recording button. You may not have that there. So find the controls about halfway on the screen, and flick through them until you find screen recording. And then you can go reorganize that in your control center in settings, if you’re interested.
Now, here’s the important part. I’m going to flick down. Don’t double tap, but flick down,
VoiceOver: Open controls.
Michael: and there’s an option to open controls. If I double tap now,
VoiceOver: Selected. Photos button.
Michael: It brings me to, probably not one of my favorite iOS UI interfaces. But if I touch at the bottom of the screen, about the middle of the screen,
VoiceOver: Microphone off button.
Michael: I find microphone off button. If I double tap that,
VoiceOver: Microphone on.
Michael: And then I flick to the left,
VoiceOver: Start recording button.
Michael: When I double tap,
VoiceOver: Stop, recording. 3, 2, 1.
Michael: VoiceOver gave you a countdown that it interrupted itself with. And now, it is recording.
So I’m going to go and use my home swipe button, or action.
VoiceOver: Selected screen recording button.
Michael: I had to do it twice because the first time actually brought me back to control center.
And now, I can hear
VoiceOver: Dock. Safari. Messages, 163 unread messages.
Michael: I should read those one of these days.
Anyways, now I’m going to go ahead and stop screen recording by touching the left side of the status bar and you’ll hear
VoiceOver: Screen recording in progress. [12:09] PM button.
Michael: So that’s how you know that screen recording is in progress. If I double tap,
VoiceOver: Alert: Screen recording.
Michael: This brings me to an alert that I can flick through.
VoiceOver: Stop screen recording? Cancel button. Stop button.
Michael: And I’ll double tap on stop.
VoiceOver: [12:09] PM. Status bar item.
Michael: Now, it’s only the time in the top left corner.
And if I find photos, I can double tap on that. I typically then locate the
VoiceOver: Albums tab. 3 of 4.
Michael: And I’ll double tap on that, and then find
VoiceOver: Recents. 1340 photos. recents. See all button. Recents. 1340 photos. A black background with nothing on it.
Michael: So I’ll double tap on that.
VoiceOver: Video. Time: [12:09] PM.
Michael: I can double tap on that.
VoiceOver: Recents. Back button.
Michael: And then, you’re in a standard video watch screen.
VoiceOver: Video. Play video button.
Michael: You can locate the play video button.
Video: And now it is recording. So I’m going to go and use my home swipe button. Well, action. Selected screen recording, button.
Michael: And a 2-finger double tap. And then, you can locate the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. You may need to double tap if all it says is video.
The share button is located in the bottom left-hand corner. You can then copy that to your clipboard, paste it into an email, or share it as a email directly with the developer.
Voice message: Hi Jonathan, and everybody! This is Kathryn Gegil recording you a message from lovely Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Want to comment on both the use of my favorite cane, and my experience with Be My AI.
So we’ll start with Be My AI. My experience has been mixed, shall we say.
I am totally blind, and one of the things that I was really hoping that Be My AI could do is to identify the buttons on appliances. And maybe even, if it was really smart someday, somehow connect with the instruction manual of said appliance and tell me how to program a certain thing.
What I’ve noticed is that I seem to get a lot of hallucinations of Be My AI making up buttons that aren’t there, or even making up configurations of buttons that aren’t there.
So for example, on my LG washer that I asked it several times to describe for me, upon different pictures I took, it gave me different descriptions of button layout, vertical versus horizontal. And I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t entirely the picture’s fault.
The best it got to was describing the buttons, I think fairly accurately, except it added one. It has 11 buttons on it. They’re all tactile. And Be My AI told me that it had 12. So I’m not sure which the 12th one was.
But on the plus side, it was able to describe a birthday card to me. And I thought that was a great use for Be My AI because it wasn’t something that I felt comfortable tying up a sighted volunteer’s time for, just to describe a little birthday card. But I really enjoyed hearing the description of the card, and it matched up with what I could tell tactually. It was actually an auditory card that made funny noises when you opened it. So it was a really really good experience.
And then today, I was going to the grocery store. And when I was standing out front waiting for them to bring out my online order, I had it take a picture of these really pretty flowers that were next to me. I wanted to know what kind of flowers they were. And I don’t know if it was accurate, but it gave a nice description of them. So that was pretty cool.
So I guess I would say for me at least, it’s been helpful, but not for things that are super super important, more for things that are just gee whiz general of interest. But I will keep experimenting with it.
As far as the question of favorite cane, I’m a recent switch from a guide dog user to a cane user, at least for the time being. I retired my wonderful dog from Seeing Eye, miles, in May, and have really enjoyed the freedom of just being able to come and go when and where I want without worrying about carrying food or water with me, or feeding and relief schedules. And I fly a lot for work and personally, so it’s just easier right now without one.
Probably will get another dog at some point. But for now, I’m an enthusiastic cane user.
I was looking for a cane that was very light because I’m a big walker. I love to walk. I walk pretty much anywhere I can go, and I live in a neighborhood that’s very walkable.
I found a great cane the Ambutech Slimline cane. It says on the website that it’s a light duty cane.
I do not use it in a light duty way, I promise, but it has held up well so far. I’ve had it for about 3 months.
I use what’s called a flex tip on it. It looks like a fat mushroom type of shape, and it’s not a rolling tip. I didn’t want to do a rolling tip because I didn’t want to add excess weight. It is a very light tip, and I think it does just as good of a job, if not better, than the marshmallow tip for not getting stuck in cracks in the sidewalk.
The only problem that I would say about the Slimline cane is that the grip that comes with it is nothing. It’s very skinny. And I would say for anyone with medium to large hands, having a little bit of a bigger grip is going to be helpful.
So I actually bought a golf club grip, and put it on the cane. And taken a little bit of fiddling to get it to stay in place correctly, but I think I’ve got a really good system.
And so if you’re someone who is looking for that lightweight type of cane that hopefully doesn’t stick too much in things, I would recommend the Slimline. You can get either folding or straight.
Have a great day, everybody.
Jonathan: Well, you too, Kathryn.
And by the sounds of it, I should wish you a belated happy birthday.
I had a really good Be My AI experience, which I should report.
I went out to dinner for Father’s Day (which has just happened in this part of the world) with 3 of my 4 children, and some significant others. It was a great evening.
I took a picture of the menu, which was waiting for me at my place at the table, and it was the closest thing to a computer reading a menu the way I would like a sighted person to read it that I have experienced. It summarized the dishes on the menu. It just told me, here’s what they are. And it actually gave them to me in a nice numbered list.
And then, I was able to say, for example, tell me about the crispy salmon. And it would tell me about that in greater detail, or how it was cooked and what it came with. And I could say, for example, how is the chicken dish prepared? And it would be able to tell me it was pan fried. Absolutely brilliant experience!
I agree, it does sometimes hallucinate. We heard that in action when I did the big demonstration of it some episodes ago. But wow! It really is quite extraordinary technology, and quite a leap forward.
Interesting too, Kathryn, that you’ve happily gone to a cane for a wee while because I think it’s in next week’s show, we will get to a contribution from a listener who is thinking about getting a guide dog and wants to know about what it takes to care for a guide dog, and precisely what people think the mobility benefits of a guide dog are.
Now, as we know, Bonnie used to work for the Seeing Eye, and she’s a very passionate guide dog user. So I’m going to bring her down to the studio to talk about these things next week.
But if people want to talk about this, then by all means, get your contributions in, and we’ll include yours as well in terms of what it takes to care for a guide dog. It is a big responsibility. And what value you believe guide dogs add to your life?
Voiceover: Has something on the show got you thinking? Share those thoughts with the rest of the Living Blindfully community.
Send us an email. You can include an audio attachment recorded on your computer or smartphone so we can hear your voice, or you can write it down. The address is opinion@LivingBlindfully.com. That’s opinion@LivingBlindfully.com.
Or phone our listener line in the USA: 864-60-Mosen. That’s 864-606-6736.
Let your voice be heard.
This podcast has created a place where blind people can talk openly about the issues that matter to us. But we know that one of the biggest problems we face is other people’s misconceptions about blindness. So trying to change those perceptions is important.
Among other things, Sammy Sweet Spirit is a musician, life coach, and writer. She wrote a book about blindness in general, and her story in particular. It’s called Look at it This Way. It is a chatty, informative, and at times, very open, almost raw look at blindness.
And she joins me now. Hi, Sammy. Good to talk to you.
Sammy: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Jonathan: How did you come to write this book, and why did you decide to write it?
Sammy: Well, so just as to kind of let people know the whole title, it’s called Look at it This Way, The Blind Leading the Sighted. And everyone kind of gets a kick out of that.
Sammy: But why I decided to do it? Well, I was frustrated. I had, you know, personal things I was dealing with as well as,
I was trying to find a job at the time, and I had my phone stolen on a train. That was kind of a big thing that happened.
And so first, I thought about making a YouTube channel. I kind of want to bring some awareness and education to the sighted community or people who can see, because there’s a lot of misconceptions going around. They don’t know, because it’s not talked about on a mainstream level, what we do on a daily basis. And I also knew that the root thought was, you’re different from me. So I can’t relate to you. And so I wanted to try and change that.
So I decided the YouTube thing was going to be a little bit difficult because making videos and making them presentable and all of that. So I said, maybe I should just write a book.
So literally, I woke up one day and said okay, I’m going to do it. It was President’s Day of 2020, and I just started writing. And then, it turned into months, and then years.
But then, I had help along the way. I hired an editor.
And then, I was really fortunate enough to work with Neale Donald Walsch, who is pretty popular in his field of work. I just wrote to him and said hey, I’m working on this manuscript. And he called me the next day and said I really like what you’re doing. I want to help you. And I was like, whoa! [laughs] I was pretty shocked. So then he kind of became like another editor.
And then, yeah. So all in all, it took about 2 years to write it. And yeah, I just wrote it to make the misconceptions a little bit more clear so people don’t jump to conclusions on blindness and what it means, and how we do things.
Jonathan: It’s a really interesting read, and also quite a light read in some ways. I found it was like a one-way conversation, you know, which is a very nice style.
And when I read it, I kind of thought, man, I don’t think I’ve ever had it quite this bad, in terms of some of the questions that you felt you had to address.
Jonathan: But then I thought, well, maybe, in fact, I have. I’m at the stage in my life now, with the kind of positions that I hold and the circles that I move in where people just don’t ask me those questions anymore.
I was reminded for the first time in a long time of an incident where I would regularly catch the same train home in the evening. And sometimes, my then girlfriend who I was living with would be there to pick me up. And people would say oh, there’s your friend waiting for you on the platform. And that was consistent. They didn’t think that a blind person could possibly have a girlfriend, particularly a very attractive, young sighted girlfriend.
So people do have these misconceptions. And some of those questions, in particular, the FAQ chapter, you know, you get right into it there. [laughs]
Sammy: Yeah, yeah. I mean, people even think that your spouse is your caretaker.
Sammy: Yeah, that chapter was very important. And I was really thankful because after I wrote it, I had spoken to the blind community and some of my friends. And I said what questions do you want in here? And all the ones that they said, I had included. So I’m like, good. Okay, I’m doing my job.
And there was some ones that were kind of a little graphic. But someone had said, and I included their statement, that people really think that we can’t take care of ourselves, that we can’t dress ourselves, that we can’t take our own medicine, or feed ourselves. And so if they really think those things, we have to let it all out and include stuff that may not be as popular to say.
Jonathan: You attract people’s attention right away with the story that you’ve already referred to about being on a BART train in San Francisco, and the train pulls up at the station, and you’re sitting there grooving along, listening to your music because this isn’t your stop, and somebody grabs the phone off you, tears out the wired earpods, and runs off with the phone.
What really angered me about that story, I mean apart from the actual crime itself, was the response that you got from law enforcement. And actually, this is a topic that we’ve discussed on the podcast before about the lackluster support that blind people sometimes, not always but sometimes, get from law enforcement.
Can you talk us through that, and what happened when you tried to get the police to support you in retrieving the phone that you’d actually located, so you knew where it was?
Sammy: I had the Find My Phone app, and that’s how they knew where it was. But I’ll start from the end and work my way back.
So the end of this is they never got in touch with me. I never found out what happened.
They had a video of the suspect, a clear video because they knew it was a juvenile, a minor.
But they basically told me, because he’s a minor, we have to protect him. So we can’t just like release the video to people to try and get his name or anything like that.
And I’m like, well, but a crime was committed, though.
And so I never found out what happened. I got a new phone, and got that up and running.
But yeah, it was a pretty traumatic experience. I was on the news. And that was one of the stories that they focused on was the fact that the police weren’t really responsive. They asked me for a description of the suspect. And I was like oh, sorry, I can’t help you there. And trying to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing.
But it’s a part of what I’m trying to do, you know, figure out the root thought of things, and also kind of go in and say Okay, so this person stole my phone and it’s a crime. But what’s going on with him? You know what I mean? So it was a very traumatic experience, but also a learning experience for me.
Jonathan: What sort of annoyed me about that whole story is I can understand that if the police genuinely didn’t have any evidence because no one saw the individual, no one could describe them, and you’re blind and you can’t, I can understand that they reach a dead end.
But in fact, that’s not what the case was here. They had video evidence, anyway.
Jonathan: But even if they didn’t have video evidence, you were able to locate the precise house at which the phone was located. And I’m sitting here scratching my head thinking, why didn’t they just swoop on the house, take your phone back for you, and give it back to you?
Sammy: Well, it wasn’t. We don’t know that it was a house, but we do know that it was somewhere in San Francisco, which it was weird because it got stolen in Oakland.
And so when they were able to look at it, it was saying San Francisco. And I’m like, well, how did they get there that quickly? It was probably maybe about, I don’t know, half an hour later, or maybe 20.
Jonathan: So maybe another BART train, because you could do that.
Sammy: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So they knew that it was somewhere in San Francisco. I don’t know if they had a precise location. They didn’t tell me.
But like I said, eventually, they had a video. They saw where he got on and they saw where he got off. And it’s like, Okay. Well, why not? Let’s move forward with it. And they never did.
Jonathan: You do talk quite a bit in your book about your spiritual connections. And you refer to a number of authors, including Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle.
I have to say that The Power of Now in particular completely changed my life quite a few years ago. And I think I’ve told the story on the podcast of how I came to know about The Power of Now. It was a really surreal experience. [laughs]
So how does all of that help you, or did it help you to cope with a crime like that? Because when you have something happen to you like that, it makes you realize that blind people sometimes can be very vulnerable. Did you learn to forgive the offender and to trust again?
Sammy: I did. It took a little while. I didn’t really leave the house much for a little bit after that. I didn’t want to take another BART train. I would avoid it and take Ubers or things like that.
But eventually, I did take the train again, and sat down in the very same seat that I was in.
And the thing that really helped me was yeah, these spiritual authors, especially Byron Katie and Neale Donald Walsch.
Neale said something, I think a clip on YouTube actually talks about a phone getting stolen, and how to kind of deal with that.
And I don’t remember exactly how I worded it, but I mentioned in the book something about what hurts this person so bad that they feel that they need to take the phone? And it kind of got me out of myself and what I was feeling because I was a mess. I was like snapping at people and like, I just, I was so, I was trying to deal with what happened and crying all the time, and just trying to grasp it. And so that’s what kind of pulled me out of it is just thinking like, I wonder what could have hurt him so bad, or what he’s dealing with in his life.
And that’s what I think is so needed right now in the world, is connection to each other to get through things, you know, because life is hard. And I feel like if we find ways to connect to each other, it makes it easier to cope.
Jonathan: And then, of course, there’s the view that blindness effectively should immunize you against a crime.
And you got the reaction, well, who on earth would steal from a blind person? [laughs]
Jonathan: But it also did exhibit that many people are very kind. And there was a GoFundMe set up and that was quite generously contributed to.
Jonathan: So you were exposed in short order to a wide range of human emotions and behaviors with that.
Sammy: Yeah, it was from one extreme to the other. One extreme, oh, she didn’t see that coming.
And then the other extreme of you know what? I want to help this person and give some money so she can take Ubers for a little while. That’s what we ended up using the GoFundMe for. And it raised about $4,000, and I couldn’t believe it.
It was, you know, just that people really cared. Like they, as soon as the news story hit, people were contacting my family and I want to get her a phone. I want to help. And that’s also what got me through it was that love really does outweigh hurt, you know.
Jonathan: Some of the things that you talk about really resonate with this audience, I think.
And we’ve had a talk on this show about blindisms.
Sammy: [laughs] Yeah.
Jonathan: And for those not familiar with that term, these are little mannerisms.
Actually, I was looking for a name for this podcast, because Living Blindfully is quite a recent name. We rebranded a few months ago. And one of the things that I thought of calling it was Blind People Rock. Blind people rock, dude.
Jonathan: Living Blindfully is better.
But rocking is a blindism. Eye-poking. You mentioned jumping up and down.
And when we’ve discussed this on the podcast, the general view that’s been expressed, not a unanimous view, I think, but the general view is that look, we live in a mainstream world. If we’re going to be expected to hold down a job and be taken seriously, all those sorts of things, we just have to stop that behavior.
You seem to be suggesting a different cause, and encouraging sighted people to accept blindisms in public life. Is that realistic?
Sammy: Well, that’s actually a really good question. So my thought is, look, if we want sighted people to accept us and understand us, it’s even going to be with things that Because I mean, let’s just be honest. Blind people judge other blind people and their blindisms.
Jonathan: Oh, sure.
Sammy: It’s easy. It’s easy to judge. And it’s not as easy to understand why that might be happening. And so I think that it’s easy to jump to judgment rather than understanding.
So I think it goes both ways, sighted and blind. And so, I mean, it goes all ways.
The blindisms are a tough thing to accept because you’re right. If we are expected to hold down a job and be productive members of society and we’re doing all these kookie things that don’t really make sense,
But it’s a tough thing. It’s also a tough thing on all sides to understand why something may be happening.
Even with the jumping up and down thing, one of my friends was doing that. And his mom was like, you know, it has to do with brain and the fact that there’s a part of his brain that isn’t working. And it’s a way to get that part of the brain stimulated.
And I thought that was fascinating. It kind of made the ew feeling go away. Like oh, he’s doing this. That’s really weird. It kind of changed it from that to, huh! Okay. Well, I can understand that.
Jonathan: Yeah. I’m interested in whether there’s science behind that, or whether it’s just an excuse sometimes that we hear from professionals. I really don’t know either way.
Sammy: It could be. It could be an excuse. But it made me kind of wonder and think, rather than judge and go, this person’s weird because we get that enough, you know. We get that enough in life. We don’t get taken seriously as blind people. I’m just going to be honest about that.
And that’s why I wrote the book. Because maybe if I can help shed some light on some things that don’t make sense to people, then maybe, we can get approached and talk to, and we can approach and talk back, you know, and have a real conversation.
Jonathan: Yeah. It’s all about how accepting a society is of someone regardless of what they do, and who they are, and to what extent are we all expected to conform, I suppose.
Sammy: Right. And that’s to each individual person how they want to handle that. Some people are against society and I’m going to march to the beat of my own drum. And some people are like well, I maybe will march to the beat of my own drum about this. But then maybe this other situation, I’ll, you know, kind of do what society does.
Jonathan: Yeah. And by and large, we seem to be a lot more accepting of that diversity now, aren’t we? You know, there are pockets that are not, of course. But in general, it seems to me like we’re all a bit more live and let live than we used to be.
Sammy: Right, right. I think so, too.
Now, you also mentioned something that is a recurring theme.
I get a lot of books about blindness pitched to me in this podcast, and there’s a real series of them at the moment. And all of them have one common point that they make, and that is that blind people are often perceived as having superpowers amazing hearing, senses of touch and that kind of thing, or we’re just completely and utterly incompetent and not capable of anything.
And what I detect from your book is this recurring theme: Look, blind people are just people who happen not to be able to see, and that we have a wide range of abilities, hang-ups, and attributes essentially, that are true with sighted people.
Sammy: So how I described it in the book was we’re either perceived as having superpowers, or that we’re mentally challenged. There’s nothing in between.
And it’s interesting that you say that you’ve been seeing that a lot with other books. I’m glad that’s being talked about because I kind of felt like nobody was saying it. So I’m glad that you’ve seen that.
But so, yeah. I mean, if we’re inspiring, we’re inspiring because human beings are inspiring. We can find inspiring traits and characteristics about just about anyone that we come in contact with.
We can’t hear better than you. That’s a common question that people ask. It’s that we use it in a different way than you may. And so, yeah, we don’t have superpowers.
And then the other extreme is that we can’t hold a conversation, that we don’t know about the things in the world that you know about because we can’t see them. And so they associate seeing with knowledge.
Sammy: It’s interesting. It’s very interesting to me. And that’s why I wanted to include it because it’s like, that’s fascinating, that seeing has to do with knowledge. And I mean, I get why because when you see something, you’re getting information. But there’s other ways to get information about things.
So like I said in the introduction of the book, I explain to children when they first meet me and they’re like, they kind of feel like, who is this weird person who’s not really looking at me, making eye contact?
But I tell them my eyes are broken, and they get it immediately.
Sammy: They’re like, oh, okay. That’s okay. Got it. That’s it? Okay. And then, they just talk to me like nothing.
Adult society has a hard time with that. They don’t talk to us like oh, they just can’t see. Okay, cool. Now we can talk. That’s why I wanted to include that.
Jonathan: I went to a function and had a conversation with a 3-year-old. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had in my life have been with 3-year-olds.
Sammy: I know. [laughs]
Jonathan: And we were talking away about 3-year-old things, and things that he was into.
And then, he stopped. He stopped talking and he sat there for a few seconds.
And then, he said, your eyes are silly. [laughs] So pretty summed it up, you know.
Sammy: Yeah, yeah. Silly eyes.
Jonathan: I couldn’t work out where you sit on a subject which we talk about a bit. It really gets people going in either direction. And this is the whole ableist language thing.
I’m very much on one side of the spectrum, which is that because blind people are so often absent from what I call the key change agent positions, you know, in politics, around the board table, in the media, that we have allowed very derogatory terms about blindness to seep into the public discourse, and that just makes the problem worse. You know, people talk about being blind to the consequences of something, equating blindness with ignorance or stupidity, and on and on it goes.
Jonathan: Do you think that language is harmful? And if you do, how do we stop it?
Sammy: So I see why you were kind of confused about my stance because on one hand, it is harmful, because when you, like, you know, like in songs, how could I be so blind?
Jonathan: Yes. yeah.
Sammy: Like, how could I not know? No, you didn’t know, you know?
And, you know, people using words like being really careful, too. That’s the other extreme.
Sammy: They’re really careful about, They feel like we can’t say I watched that movie the other day, and it makes them feel weird.
I think it can be more harmful than not, because they’re very blanketed statements.
I’m kind of a deep thinker, so I kind of dig into it and kind of like, pick everything apart, and that’s kind of why it kind of appeared like I was on both sides.
But I like to pick things apart and understand people’s thought processes. But yeah, like the whole, how could I be so blind? Yeah, I think that is, that can be harmful.
Jonathan: Yeah. I mean, even earlier this week here in New Zealand, we had a story in our news where a politician described another politician as being willfully blind on an issue. So they’re equating blindness with lack of knowledge, or lack of ability.
Sammy: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jonathan: And it’s not just blindness, of course. Pleas to politicians can fall on deaf ears. You can have crippling house prices.
And then on the other end of the spectrum, of course, what happens is that people perceive blind as such a negative word because of all of that usage, that they won’t use it to describe us.
Jonathan: And you see people tiptoeing around the word blind.
Jonathan: They talk about unsighted and visually challenged, and God knows what else.
Sammy: Yeah yeah yeah.
Jonathan: And so they’ve actually hijacked a characteristic that belongs to us.
Sammy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that was another thing I said too, is that we’re blind, that’s just what it is. Like we don’t have to sugar coat it.
And I think why those kinds of comments are more harmful than they intended is because you’d be surprised at how many people actually have never spoken to a blind person, or had a conversation. And it surprised me because going through this process of writing the book, even Neale, my friend who helped me with this, he goes just so you know, you’re the first blind person I ever talked to. And he’s close to 80 years old. And it’s like, wow!
So I think people just don’t know, and so they just assume. And that’s why I’m trying to help kind of put it into that.
So maybe if people get to know a blind person and know that their characteristics, their strengths, their weaknesses and all of that, maybe they won’t be so easy to go to those places and say those terms.
Jonathan: You also don’t express too much love for poor old Daredevil, for example.
Jonathan: And I was left here thinking, so if sighted people can have superheroes, can’t we have them, too?
Sammy: Yes, we can. It’s not that I don’t love Daredevil. It’s that people have taken it and applied it to all blind people.
And that was the point I was trying to make. Daredevil is a superhero. He’s a comic book character. He’s cool. I love it.
And even like with Family Guy. I mentioned Family Guy is one of the examples. I love Family Guy. I’m a huge Family Guy fan. I make sure I keep up on all the episodes that come out, and I love Seth MacFarlane. I think he’s amazing, amazingly talented, and funny. And it’s just,
Jonathan: He’s a really good singer, too.
Sammy: Oh yeah, he really is.
Jonathan: Man, he’s got into that jazz genre, yeah.
Sammy: Yeah, yeah. I love him very much.
But that was another example that I used is they made a couple episodes, actually, about blindness. And one of them was just pure, And they were trying to be funny, but it’s not how we are. For those who don’t know, I used the example of, There was an episode where the Drunken Clan was on fire. And Peter somehow gets himself along with someone else to safety and didn’t know it. And they were like, you know, like he was approached by a Tom Tucker from the news and said, you know, how did you, you know, you saved this person from, you know, the Drunken Clan being on fire? He’s like, that fricking place was on fire? You know, like he didn’t know. And just cause he couldn’t see us, cause he was blind. Cause he went blind. It was a temporary blindness situation.
And, you know, to me that was just like, come on. Like we would know if a place was on fire. I’m sure all of us have learned as children what to do in fires. And it kind of sets people up to not think and to kind of be ignorant to what blindness really is.
But yeah, I still love the show, and Daredevil, too. Daredevil’s included.
Jonathan: I think actually, Daredevil might’ve been one of the first Netflix titles that got audio description, if I’m remembering correctly sometime ago.
Sammy: That doesn’t surprise me.
What do we do about the way that blind people are portrayed in these sorts of things? Because obviously, it perpetuates stereotypes.
Jonathan: It’s like blind people are not present often when these things are designed.
I think one recent exception, which I really applaud Apple for, is that when they put the series See together, which was one of the original titles on Apple TV Plus. My understanding is they did actually get some blind people in as consultants so that although it’s a very interesting premise, blindness was represented reasonably competently. But that doesn’t happen as much as it should.
Sammy: Well, and there’s another show too called In the Dark.
Jonathan: Oh, yes.
Sammy: And they also had some blind writers, which I really appreciate because they were able to represent blind people.
I mean, the main character in the show was just like everybody else getting in trouble, drugs, and drinking. It’s like we do the same things, you know. We’re people. Blindness does not protect us from that.
Sammy: I think what’s gonna help, and this may kind of sound like a duh answer or an easy answer. But just conversation, these types of conversations that we’re having right now, having people kind of get to know us more than just that blind girl or that blind guy. And I think that will really kind of lessen these stereotypes.
And like I said, understanding. To me, understanding replaces judgment. If I judge something, that’s usually a first reaction.
And then when I sit down and really think about it and try and understand it, the judgment goes away, at least for me. So I wanna try and help people in that way.
Jonathan: I keep meaning to watch that In the Dark series because people keep talking to me about that, and I haven’t yet.
There was also one a few years ago called Growing Up Fisher, which I didn’t complete, either. And it was only on for one season, but it was about a blind guy who was a lawyer. And that was interesting as well.
It’s such an eclectic book because I mean, you cover a wide range of things. Some of them about yourself, and some of them about the system.
One of the things that you devoted a chapter to is the Social Security system in the United States, and you specifically focus on SSI. You were mentioning, and this is something that as a non-American, I wasn’t fully aware of, that really there hasn’t been any significant revamp of SSI since 1974.
Sammy: Correct. That’s why I did it.
What was funny, when I started writing that chapter, I was angry. I was angry about that SSI is considered a Supplemental Security Income.
There’s nothing to supplement. For a lot of people, it’s their sole income.
And it’s not very much money. At the time, I was living in California, and California, they do pay a little bit more in California than most states. But that’s because the cost of living in California is much higher. And so nobody really can, I mean, it wasn’t designed for people to “get ahead”.
But they couldn’t, even if they wanted to. And so I was angry about that.
And then in the middle of writing the book, I actually got a job with Social Security, which is kind of ironic.
Sammy: But it really kind of helped me see that my thought still stands, that I think we need some fresh eyes and fresh ideas about this.
But also, Social Security isn’t the enemy. It’s considered a needs-based income, and so that’s why there’s so many restrictions. At least it’s there for people. But I still think that there needs to be some changes.
So having the job, it helps me see that people are kind of fed up with Social Security, even the people who aren’t on SSI, who are either on disability or retirement. Like everyone’s just kind of unhappy.
And there’s a lot to still unpack, but I’m not as angry anymore as I was when I first started writing it. [laughs]
But yeah. I still think that there needs to be some fresh eyes and new ideas around it.
Jonathan: Right, because it has been inflation-adjusted, of course, and that’s locked in.
What else would you like to see change?
Sammy: Well, there was multiple things I included in those couple of chapters that are all connected, at least for me.
So you have the high rent costs.
And you also have the fact that it’s really difficult for blind people to get jobs. Now, it’s difficult for anyone to get a job nowadays. But I mean, I’m just speaking from my personal experience and others that I know of.
I would walk into interviews and immediately be asked, wait. How can you do this job? And it goes back to the root thought that society has. Oh, this person’s different. They can’t, they’re not gonna be able to do this job like everyone else.
And the answer to that is, we may need some “reasonable accommodations” to do the job, but we still can do the job.
I worked for Social Security for almost 3 years. It was pretty rough. There was still some accessibility issues and things.
But I had a job, and I got to see what it was like to be in that world and be a contributing member of society, not just somebody on SSI.
And so I think they’re all connected. And I think it all comes back to thought of we’re different. And so that’s why I wrote the book.
Jonathan: My contention is that there are quite definable, calculable costs associated with blindness. That means that even when somebody has employment, their discretionary income is depleted for the privilege of being blind. And a lot of those costs are non-negotiable. Some of them are, I guess, negotiable.
But you refer to some of the things like proximity to public transport is seen as an amenity that makes the property more attractive. So the rent or the mortgage is going to be higher.
Sometimes, there are technology costs, various things like that. And to me, a fair society would take those costs into account and help to compensate for those, regardless of what you’re earning.
Sammy: Right. But unfortunately, that’s not happening. I mean, not just blind people, but a lot of people are really struggling right now. And to me, it’s like why can’t we talk about these things? Why can’t we come up with something where everyone can win? Why does it have to be us versus them?
And you could argue that well, people work harder to get the things that they have. And that may be.
But also, unfortunately, when you walk into a room, you’re automatically assumed about.
And this isn’t just a blind thing. I mean, I talked about it later on in the book when it came to the social issues of our time right now.
We aren’t really given a shot a lot of times. And not a lot of people have the strength to fight that, to push through that and keep going.
And I mean, that would be the advice that I would give is it’s gonna be rough. But if you believe in it enough, you gotta keep going. And some people just struggle with that.
Jonathan: Yeah. It is a shame that we can’t have those deeper philosophical discussions about what settings should be in existence in a society to allow people to contribute to their maximum potential. But the climate just doesn’t exist for that sort of discussion right now.
Sammy: Yeah, it doesn’t. And I think it also comes back to,
I mean, I’m always about the deeper thought, the root thought, or a deeper meaning behind things. And I think one of the deeper meanings is we’re conditioned to not feel worthy. We gotta get the better house, the better car, the better girl, the better guy, the better job.
And so because of that, we don’t really stop to, I mean, this may sound simple, but love ourselves, and love the people around us. And that’s what I’m here to help.
I’m a big believer in Byron Katie, as you mentioned, and that was one of her main things that she talks about is it’s not about what happens to us, it’s about our thought about it.
And it’s just so needed right now to remind the world that you are love. The people and things that you love in your life, you are that as well.
And that was something that I took a transcript from the track on my album called Back to You, Back to Love. And that was something that I really felt needed to be included.
Jonathan: I was in Toastmasters a few years ago, and we had a conversation about this very thing. And one of the discussions that we had was, is it easy for people to say those things from a position of privilege? I mean, if you are a Ukrainian facing bombardment from Russia, and you’ve seen your friends die, your way of life decimated, you know, it’s not so easy to say that it’s not about what’s happening to you, it’s about how you think about it.
Sammy: Oh, sure. Yeah, it’s not always easy.
But if we really sit down with ourselves, I mean, because this is a personal thing. I would never go to a Ukrainian and say, look, you know, if you just change your thought [laughs]
But it’s a very personal thing that only you can work with yourself on. And I’ve heard of some remarkable stories where people were in war and war on the outside, but they didn’t feel the war on the inside. It’s amazing what your mind can do.
Jonathan: Well, one of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read in my life, and you may well have read it too, given your interests, is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. If you haven’t read that, I can’t recommend it enough.
It’s about a guy who invented a particular school of psychological thinking, who was actually a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. He was Jewish. And it’s a profoundly extraordinary, life-changing read. So to you and to the audience, I highly recommend Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s a very very tough read, but it’s quite inspiring in the same way.
You talk a bit about your own personal journey, and I want to segue onto that a bit.
You have a chapter where you seek to make a distinction between sheltered versus unsheltered blind people. I was reading it and I thought, well, given what I’ve read in the preceding chapters, I wonder where you fit. And just as I was forming that thought, you actually answered the question for me.
Where do you think you fit in terms of your family’s treatment of you growing up, and what impact that’s had on your own journey?
Sammy: I have characteristics of both, being sheltered and unsheltered, so I can understand it all.
When I grew up, my parents (and they’re very open about this), their thought was well, it’s easier for us to do it rather than to teach her how. And so it was very hard.
When I was out of high school, I had to go to a living skills type program to learn cooking, cleaning, laundry, financial management, things like that. And I was able to take a lot out of that.
And there’s still some things to this day that I struggle with, like I’m not much of a cook. And it’s just I never got comfortable. And it’s something that I do plan to work through and to overcome because I think I can.
Jonathan: Better beats going hungry, right? [laughs]
Sammy: [laughs] Right. And especially, you know, I have health problems now. I have diabetes. And so you can’t be eating out all the time.
But from what I’ve seen from other blind people and parents of blind children and things is that there’s some people who have a really hard time socializing as far as, you know, the blind person. They’re very, very sheltered because of how they grew up. They were very protected. And of course, you know, you always want to protect your child. But they never learned how to kind of find their own self, and there are some people who have.
And it’s just, I can see myself in both situations because I grew up very sheltered. And then, I kind of decided I want to live my own life, make my own decisions, and be my own person.
And so I did really bold things like go to South Africa by myself. And people were really mad at me about that. [laughs]
But I had a great time. And I learned a new culture and got to see it first-hand, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
My family and friends, some of them still are mad at me about it. But I mean, it was something I felt like I had to do. And it takes a lot to make those bold choices.
So as far as sheltered and unsheltered, once again, it’s about having conversations. I would encourage parents of blind children to encourage your child to find out who they are, and to be who they are. Yes, protect and love your child. But let them experience things. Let them go places. Let them.
I took a lot of family trips as a kid, too. And I think that helped.
Jonathan: This is an important and quite complex subject because as you said earlier in the interview, there are many people who have never come across a blind person in their lives before.
Jonathan: And suddenly, they’re confronted with the fact that their child is blind, maybe because of ROP, or whatever happened in your case. Whatever the cause, they find themselves with a blind baby, and they may have no concept at all of what is it possible for a blind person to become. What will they do? Will they be dependent on me as a parent for the rest of their lives?
Sammy: Right, right.
Jonathan: And so much of this is the lack of the draw then in terms of who they connect with whether there are professionals who will fill them with psychobabble, or very capable professionals who know the truth about blindness, or mentoring from blind adult role models. So so much is the lack of the draw.
And then I think, another factor is the resilience of the child. There will be some people who respond to that mollycoddling by saying I’m not going to accept this. I’m my own person. I’m going to assert my worth, do my own thing, and be a bit of a rebel. And of course sometimes, that can create a lot of conflict.
But there are other people, just by virtue of their personality who become a bit downtrodden, and don’t respond at all and essentially, take on that mollycoddling. It’s a shame to see that because you see a high level of dependency, as a result, into adulthood.
Sammy: I would agree with you.
And I think I didn’t mention this in the book, but I do think there’s some psychological factors from blindness and being blind. Like I know quite a few people, myself included, who have dealt with attachment issues.
I had a friend tell me that she looked at a study once that said that premature babies, because they didn’t have that kind of bonding right away with their parents, or their mother, or because they couldn’t be held, For me, it was many months that I couldn’t be held and bonded with like that. So some of them will either get attached to people quite frequently, or go the other way and have a hard time getting attached to people. And for me, I would get attached to people very very quickly. I’m not a psychologist. [laughs] But I do think that there’s things that can be looked at from that perspective.
And even the blind people who I described as sheltered, it doesn’t mean bad. A lot of us will judge those types of people. Oh, they’re just sheltered. Don’t pay them any mind.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like anyone, they may not have figured things out yet. We can be loving and supportive as best we can. And we don’t have to hang out with all blind people.
Jonathan: And there’s an affinity there, though, isn’t it? With other blind people, too, because there’s a commonality of experience in many cases. And I think that’s one of the things that holds this podcast together, is that it’s a safe place where we can talk about our experiences.
If sighted people want to listen in, they’re very very welcome, and we thank them for it.
Sammy: Of course, of course.
Jonathan: But this is a safe place for us to just have those discussions. And we need that.
Just a couple of follow-ups.
And I want to be careful about belaboring this point. But I was sitting here reading this, feeling quite appalled on your behalf.
You talk about the South African trip. And you are a grown adult who is quite entitled to go anywhere she wants.
And yet, you had a situation where your family member withheld your passport from you, to the point that you had to obtain another passport. Because even though you were an adult, because you are blind, they felt they had the right to withhold your passport from you. And I was appalled by that.
Sammy: Yeah, yeah. I’m not a parent myself, so it’s really hard to speak on it from the parents’ experience.
But all I can say is my mom was very very scared. She was very scared. She didn’t really know where I was going. She only knew what she saw on TV, or what she’s heard.
It’s hard raising a child who just does what they want to do. And I got that from her. She’s a very headstrong strong-will, does what she wants to do, doesn’t take no for an answer type of person, and so am I.
And so I just tried to be as loving and understanding as I could. And I just told her, I said this is something I feel like I have to do.
I was in a relationship with someone who lived there in South Africa. And I wanted to see if it would work or not. I wasn’t planning on moving there or anything at the time. I was just trying to see what was up.
And it didn’t work out, the relationship. But I learned something about myself. I learned something about a new culture. That experience, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
And so I wasn’t going against my mom. She may think otherwise. [laughs] But it was me just trying to experience this thing. And so, yeah, I got a new passport, and it caused a lot of friction.
But it also kind of brought us closer too, nowadays because now, we’re a lot closer than we were back then.
Jonathan: Does she, in retrospect, agree that it was the wrong thing to do to withhold the passport from you that you were legally entitled to have?
Sammy: I don’t think so. I think she thinks she was doing the right thing because she didn’t want me to go. She was scared. She felt I was going to a dangerous place.
Jonathan: Yeah, and you got your phone stolen from you.
Sammy: And the funny thing is, the really ironic thing is, is when I went, my house was robbed when I went to South Africa.
And I said well, I was safer in South Africa because I would have been home when that happened. It was in the middle of the day. And everyone had left, and my house was robbed. It just goes to show you that everything happens for a reason.
But like I said, I love my mom. I don’t hold it against her. She was doing what she felt was right. And I was doing what I felt was right.
Jonathan: So you’ve covered a lot in the book. I read it in one sitting because it’s interesting. It covers a wide range of subjects. And when you think you’ve got the style of it figured out, you know, something completely new and random comes along. So it’s kind of a roller coaster ride, and it’s really interesting.
Jonathan: What kind of reaction have you had to it?
Sammy: A lot of positive. People have said it’s an easy read, which I’m glad. I didn’t want it to be I was afraid it would be too boring, educational, and not fun.
One person told me that I read your book and it just makes me want to be a better person and change some of the things that I’m doing in my own life. And that’s what it’s for. That’s why I did it. I always tell people it’s like part education and awareness about blindness, part memoir, and then, part self-development, you know, like self-growth type of thing. Because you really can’t lump it into one category.
So yeah, it’s been a lot of positive feedback. I’m really grateful, especially the questions and answers, the Q &As chapter. People really enjoy that. It’s fun.
Sammy: But yeah, I’m really really thankful that people have taken the time to read it.
One person told me yeah, when I go into the bathroom, I take a chapter. And I’m like oh well, I’m glad I can be your bathroom entertainment. [laughs] And they’re like no, it helps me focus. Okay. Well, hey, whatever works.
Jonathan: What accessible formats is it available in?
Sammy: Right now, it’s Kindle and it’s on Audible, Amazon.
Jonathan: Do you do the Audible narration?
Sammy: Yes. Yep. That was fun, too. That was cool to do.
Jonathan: And what was the process that you used to do the Audible narration?
Sammy: People ask me. This is so funny. I actually used a screen reader to read it, and just spoke what the screen reader said because I found I did it faster than reading it in Braille. It really is a skill to do that, by the way, to have a screen reader going, and you just saying what it’s saying. [laughs]
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. It absolutely is, yeah. But I’m glad to hear that you’ve done it.
I’ve gone right off Audible books, or audiobooks in general, and I’m not sure why that is. But I do like audiobooks where the memoire or biography of some kind, and the author is narrating because there’s something kind of personal about that, and I think this is one of those books where hearing your audio narration of it would be quite impactful.
Sammy: Yeah. I was really lucky too to have Neale do his part. And then, my friend, Geovan who wrote the poem, he read the poem for the audio version. He was also the voice of the question guy who was asking all the questions for the question and answer.
It was really cool, and I did it in my little home studio that I had. It was very time-consuming, but very fun because I wanted people who enjoy audiobooks to be able to enjoy it, so I’m glad it’s there.
Jonathan: And it’s not on Bookshare or Bard. Is that correct?
Sammy: Not that I know of. It’s on Apple Books as an audio, too, for iOS.
Sammy: But I don’t think it’s on Bard.
People have been asking me about it, and I’ve said well, if you know how to do that, let me know. [laughs] But people don’t seem to know, so yeah.
And you also do music, and you’re streaming on all the usual places Spotify, Apple Music, all those good places. And if people are feeling generous, they can also buy the album on iTunes.
Sammy: iTunes and Amazon, yeah. It’s called Something for Everyone, and my artist name is Sammy Sweet Spirit, like the author name.
And also, if you want free music, I have a bunch of music on my Youtube channel Sammy Sweet Spirit. And I also have a website: SammySweetSpirit.com as well.
Jonathan: Yeah, got to look after the branding.
Sammy: [laughs] Yeah.
Jonathan: I’ve really enjoyed this, and thank you for sharing the book with me and for having such a frank discussion. It is a thought-provoking read. And although I think blind people are not the primary audience, I think blind people will enjoy reading this, and perhaps just going aha! and identifying, and perhaps being challenged in some ways, too with the views that you’re expressing because you don’t hold back, and I think that’s a really good thing.
Jonathan: So thank you very much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate that.
Sammy: I really appreciate you having me. This has been fun, and I just thank you so much for allowing me to come on your platform.
Advertisement: Transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions, a global leader in accessible cloud technologies. On the web at PneumaSolutions.com. Thats P-N-E-U-M-A solutions dot com.
I am very much looking forward to being back with you for episode 248 and our Apple Event recap. It would be nice if they had managed to keep something really secret for once, wouldn’t it? Because it kind of feels like you know what you’re getting for Christmas before Christmas day at this point with all the leaks that come from supply chains, and that sort of malarky.
But it still will be interesting to have it all confirmed, so I look forward to your company then.
In the meantime, when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.
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