Episode 184 – Unstoppable Writer and Seeker with Andrew Leland

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As I have always told our guests, our time together is a conversation, not an interview. This was never truer than with our guest this time, Andrew Leland. Andrew grew up with what most people would call a pretty normal childhood. However, as he discovered he was encountering night blindness that gradually grew worse. Back in the 1980s and early 90s, he was not getting much support for determining what was happening with his eyes. He did his own research and decided that he was experiencing retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that first affects peripheral vision and eventually leads to total blindness. I won’t spend time discussing Andrew’s journey toward how finally doctors verified his personal diagnosis.
Andrew was and is an incredible researcher and thinker. He comes by it naturally. In addition, he is quite a writer and has had material published by The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s Quarterly, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among other outlets. He comes by his talents honestly through family members who have been screenwriters and playwrights. Example? His grandfather was Marvin Neal Simon, better known to all of us as Neal Simon.
This year Andrew’s first book was published. It is entitled, The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight. I urge you to get and read it.
Our conversation goes into detail about blindness in so many different ways. I am sure you will find that your own views of blindness will probably change as you hear our discussion. Andrew has already agreed to come on again so we can continue our discussions. I hope you enjoy our time together.
About the Guest:
Andrew Leland’s first book is The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight. His_ writing has appeared in _The New York Times MagazineThe New YorkerMcSweeney’s Quarterly, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among other outlets. From 2013-2019, he hosted and produced The Organist, an arts and culture podcast, for KCRW; he has also produced pieces for Radiolab and 99 Percent Invisible. He has been an editor at The Believer since 2003. He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife and son.
Ways to connect with Andrew:
Website: https://www.andrewleland.org/
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
accessiBe Links
https://www.linkedin.com/company/accessibe/mycompany/ https://www.facebook.com/accessibe/
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Transcription Notes
 Michael Hingson ** 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i  capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson ** 01:21
Welcome to another episode of unstoppable mindset where inclusion diversity in the unexpected meet. And we’re gonna get to have a little bit of all of that today. I get to interview someone who I’ve talked to a couple of times and met a couple of months ago for the first time, I think the first time at a meeting, Andrew Leland is the author of the country of the blind. And he will tell us about that. And we will have lots of fun things to talk about. I am sure he’s been a podcaster. He’s an author. Needless to say, he’s written things. And I don’t know what else we’ll see what other kinds of secrets we can uncover. Fair warning, right. So Andrew, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Andrew Leland ** 02:01
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I’m happy to be here.
Michael Hingson ** 02:04
Well, I really appreciate you coming. Why don’t you start by telling us a little about kind of the early Andrew growing up in some of that kind of stuff? Oh, sure. A lot of times go in a galaxy far, far away. Yeah. Right.
Andrew Leland ** 02:18
planet called the Los Angeles. I was born in LA. Yeah. And my parents moved to New York pretty quickly. And they split when I was two. So for most of my childhood, I was kind of bouncing in between, I live with my mom. But then I would go visit my dad on holidays. And my mom moved around a lot. So we were in New York, just outside the city. And then we moved to Toronto for two years, and then back to New York, and then to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then to California, Southern California. So I lived a lot of places. And that was all before college. And yeah, what can I tell you about young Andrew, I, you know, I always was interested in writing and reading. And I come from a family of writers. My mom is a screenwriter, my grandfather was a playwright. My aunt is a novelist. And so and my dad, you know, remember when I was a kid, he had a column for videography magazine, and has always been super interested in digital technology, you know, from the earliest days of desktop publishing. And he worked for, like early days of USA Network, you know, so like this kind of shared interest that I inherited from my parents of, you know, creativity and media, I guess was one way you could put it, you know, storytelling and sort of like playing around with electronic media. And, you know, I grew up I was born in 1980. So by the time I was an adolescent, the internet was just starting to reach its tendrils into our lives. And I remember my dad bought me a modem. And when I was like, I don’t know 14 or something. And I was definitely one of the first kids in my class to have a modem and you know, messing around on message boards and stuff. So that was very influential for me. You know, when it was around that time that I started to notice that I had night blindness, and I kind of diagnosed myself with retinitis pigmentosa on that early web, you know, before the days of WebMD or anything like that, but it just there didn’t seem to be a lot of causes for adolescent night blindness. And so I kind of figured it out and then sort of just compartmentalized it like kick that information to the side somewhere dusty corner of my brain and just went about my life and then it wasn’t until later my teenage years I’d already done a year in college I think in Ohio where I said you know what, this is getting a little more intrusive and then I’ve that my mom finally booked me an appointment at a at a real deal, you know, medical retinal Research Center and at UCLA. And then, you know, an actual retinal specialist said, Yep, you’ve got retina is pigmentosa. You’ll you Will, you know, maintain decent vision into middle age and then it’ll fall off a cliff. Once again, I just carried that information around for, you know, the next 20 years or so. And I’m 4040 How old am I? Mike? 22 years old? Right? Well, I actually I’m a December baby. So we gotta go, Okay, you got a couple of months to go a 42 year old medicine me. You know, and at this point in my life, you know, I had the, you know, I read about all this in the book, but I have a feeling that, like that part of his diagnosis way back when is coming true, you know, and I feel like, okay, it’s all finally happening, and like, it’s happening more quickly, but then my current doctor is kind of careful to reassure me that that’s not actually happening. And that RP, you know, their understanding of it has evolved since then. And there’s like, you know, different genetic profiles, and that, in fact, maybe I might have some residual useful vision for many years to come. But one of the things that I really wrestled with, both in the book and just in my life is the question of, you know, how much to claim to that site and how useful that site really is. And, and, and trying to figure out what, what it means to be blind, if I’m blind, you know, certainly legally blind, you know, I’ve half got about five or six degrees of, of central vision. You know, and so, so, so my so So, I’ve left your question behind at this point. But I wrote, I wrote this book, in some ways to answer that question of, like, where I, where I fit into this world of blindness? And am I an outsider, or am I an insider? like at what point do I get to be part of the club and all those really tricky questions that were really bothering me as a person, I got to kind of explore in the form of a book.
Michael Hingson ** 06:52
The interesting thing about what you said in the book, however, concerning Are you an outsider or an insider, Am I blind? Or am I not? is, of course a question that everyone wrestles with. And I personally like the Jernigan definition, have you ever read his article, a definition of blindness?
Andrew Leland ** 07:11
Oh, maybe tell me what he says. So what he says
Michael Hingson ** 07:15
is that you should consider yourself blind from a functional standpoint, when your eyesight decreases to the point where you have to use alternatives to vision to be able to perform tasks. Now, having said that, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use the residual vision that you have. But what you should do is learn blindness techniques, and learn to psychologically accept that from a blindness standpoint, or from a from a functional standpoint, you are blind, but you do also have eyesight, then there’s no reason not to use that. But you still can consider yourself a blind person, because you are using alternatives to eyesight in order to function and do things.
Andrew Leland ** 08:00
Yeah, no, I have heard that from the NFB I didn’t realize its source was Jernigan. But I really aspire to live my life that way. You know, I think it’s, there are some days when it’s easier than others. But, you know, I’m here, learning, you know, practicing Braille, using my white cane every day, you know, like learning jaws and trying to try to keep my screen reader on my phone as much as possible. And it’s funny how it becomes almost like a moral mind game that I play with myself where I’m like, okay, like, Wow, it’s so much easier to use my phone with a screen reader. Like, why don’t I just leave it on all the time, but then inevitably, I get to like a inaccessible website, or like, I’m trying to write and write a text message. And I’m like, Oh, am I really going to like use the rotor to like, go back up, you know, to these words, and so then I turn it back off, and then I leave it off. And I’m just like, constantly messing with my own head and this way, and I’ve heard from, from folks with ARPI, who are more blind than I am, who have less vision. And there is the sense that like, one relief of even though it’s, you know, incontrovertibly, incontrovertibly inconvenient to have less vision, right? Like there’s there’s certain affordances that vision gives you that shouldn’t make life easier. But But one thing that I’ve heard from these folks is that, you know, that kind of constant obsessing and agonizing over like, how much vision do I have? How much vision am I going to have tomorrow? How am I going to do this, with this much vision versus that much vision? Like when that goes away? It is a bit of a relief I’ve heard.
Michael Hingson ** 09:28
Yeah, I mean, if it ultimately comes down to you can obsess over it, you can stress about it. What can I do if I lose this extra vision or not? Is is a question but the other side of it is why assume that just because you lose vision, you can’t do X or Y. And that’s the thing that I think so many people tend to not really deal with. I believe that we have totally an inconsistent and wrong definition of disability. Anyway, I believe that everyone on the planet has a disability. And for most people, the disability is like dependents. And my case from then my way from making that is look at what Thomas Edison did in 1878. He invented the electric light bulb, which allowed people to have light on demand. So they could function in the dark, because they couldn’t really function in the dark until they had light on demand, or unless they had a burning stick or something that gave us light. But the reality is, they still had a disability. And no matter how much today we offer light on demand, and light on demand is a fine thing. No, no problem with it. But recognize that still, without that light on demand, if a if a power failure happens or something and the lights go out, sighted people are at least in a world of hurt until they get another source for light on demand. Mm hmm. I was I was invited to actually Kelly and Ryan’s Oscar after party to be in the audience this year. So we went to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which is fun. I used to go there for NFB of California conventions, a great hotel, man. So we got there about three o’clock on Thursday, on Saturday afternoon, and it was my niece and nephew and I and we were all there. And we just dropped our luggage off. And we’re going downstairs when suddenly I heard screaming, and I asked my niece, what’s going on. And she said, there’s been a power failure in and around the hotel. And I’d love to try to spread the rumor that it was all Jimmy Kimmel trying to get attention. But no one’s bought that. But but the but the point is that suddenly people didn’t know what to do. And I said, doesn’t seem like a problem to me. And you know, it’s all a matter of perspective. But we really have to get to this idea that it doesn’t matter whether you can see or not. And you pointed out very well, in your book that blindness is not nearly so much the issue psychologically, as is our attitude about blindness? Absolutely.
Andrew Leland ** 11:58
Yeah, I remember I interviewed Mark Riccobono, the current president of the National Federation of the Blind, and he made a very similar point, when we were talking about the nature of accommodations, which is something that I still I’m thinking a lot about is I think it’s a very tricky idea. And a very important idea, which I think your your your idea of light dependency gets at, you know, in America, Bono’s point was, you know, look, we have the the BR headquarters here in Baltimore, and we pay a pretty hefty electricity bill, to keep the lights on every month, and that, you know, the blind folks who work there, it’s not for them, right? It’s for all the sighted people who come and visit or work at the at the center. And in some ways, that’s a reasonable accommodation, that the NFB is making for the sighted people that they want to be inclusive of right. And so that just even that idea of like, what is a reasonable accommodation? I think you’re right, that we think of it as like the poor, unfortunate disabled people who need to be brought back to some kind of norm that’s at the center. And there’s the kind of reframing that you’re doing when you talk about light dependency or that Riccobono is doing when he talks about, you know, his electricity bill, you know, it kind of gives the lie to puts the lie to that, that idea that, that the norm takes precedence. And the reality is that, you know, that we all need accommodations, like you say, and so what’s reasonable, is really based on what, what humans deserve, which is which is to be included, and to be, you know, to have access equal access, that
Michael Hingson ** 13:38
ought to be the norm. Jacobus timbre wrote a speech called the pros and cons of preferential treatment that was then paired down to a shorter article called a preference for equality. And I haven’t, I’ve been trying to find it, it’s at the NFB center, but it isn’t as readily available as I would like to see it. And he talks about what equality is, and he said, equality isn’t that you do things exactly the same way it is that you have access and with whatever way you need to the same information. So you can’t just say, Okay, well, here’s a printed textbook, blind persons that’s equal under the law, it’s not. And he talks about the fact that we all really should be seeking equality and looking for what will give people an equal opportunity in the world. And that’s really the issue that we so often just don’t face, like we should. The fact of the matter is, it’s a part of the cost of business, in general to provide electricity and lights. It’s a part of the cost of business to provide for companies a coffee machine, although it’s usually a touchscreen machine, but it’s there. It’s a cost of doing business to provide desks and computers with monitors and so on. But no one views provide Seeing a screen reader as part of the cost of business and nobody views providing a refreshable Braille display or other tools that might give me an equal opportunity to be a part of society, we don’t view those as part of the cost of doing business, which we should, because that’s what inclusion is really all about. You know, we don’t, we don’t deal with the fact or sometimes we do that some people are a whole lot shorter than others. And so we provide ladders or step stools, or whatever. But we don’t provide cost of doing business concepts to a lot of the tools that say, I might need or you might need. Yeah,
Andrew Leland ** 15:37
yeah, it’s one thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is, is really even just the challenge of understanding what those accommodations are. Because, you know, I think I think, practically speaking in the world, you know, you’ll, you’ll call up a blind person and say, What do you need, you know, like, we’re trying to make this art exhibit or this, you know, business or this, you know, HR software accessible, what do you need, you know, and that one blind person might be like, well, I use NVDA, you know, or that one blind person might be low vision, right. And they might be like, I use a screen magnifier. And it’s so difficult to understand, like, what the accommodations are, that would be, that would be adequate to cover, like a reasonable sample. And so just like, it’s just so much more complicated than it originally seems, you know, when you have a really well meaning person saying, like, we really value diversity, equity and inclusion and accessibility. And but then like, the distance between that well meeting gesture, and then actually pulling off something that’s fully accessible to a wide swath of the whatever the users are, is just, it’s just unfair, quickly, huge. So that’s something that I’m thinking about a lot lately is like how to how do you approach that problem?
Michael Hingson ** 16:46
Well, and I think, though, the at least as far as I can tell, I think about it a lot, as well, as I think any of us should. The fact is that one solution doesn’t fit everyone, I’m sure that there are people, although I’m sure it’s a minority, but there are people who don’t like fluorescent lights as well as incandescent lights, and neither of them like other kinds of lighting as compared to whatever. And then you have people epilepsy, epilepsy who can’t deal as well, with blinking lights are blinking elements on a webpage, there’s there isn’t ever going to be least as near as I can tell, one size that truly fits all, until we all become perfect in our bodies. And that’s got a ways to go. So the reality is, I don’t think there is one solution that fits everyone. And I think that you, you pointed it out, the best thing to do is to keep an open mind and say, Yeah, I want to hire a person who’s qualified. And if that person is blind, I’ll do it. And I will ask them what they need. You know, an example I could give you is, was it three years ago, I guess, four years ago, now actually, I was called by someone up in Canada, who is a lawyer who went to work for a college. And we were talking about IRA, artificial intelligent, remote assistance, a IRA, you know about IRA, you wrote about it. And she said, you know, a lot of the discovery and a lot of the documentation that I need to use is not accessible through even OCR to be overly accurate, because there will be deep degradations and print and so and so I can’t rely on that. And certainly, Adobe’s OCR isn’t necessarily going to deal with all the things that I need. So I’d like to use IRA is that a reasonable accommodation? And I said, sure it is, if that’s what you need in order to be able to have access to the information, then it should be provided. Now the laws are a little different up there. But nevertheless, she went to the college and made the case and they gave her iris so she could read on demand all day, any document that she needed, and she was able to do her job. And not everyone necessarily needs to do that. And hear in probably some quarters, maybe there are other accommodations that people could use instead of using IRA. But still, Ira opened up a VISTA for her and gave her access to being able to do a job and I think that we really need to recognize that one solution doesn’t fit everything. And the best way to address it is to ask somebody, what do you need in order to do your job, and we will provide it or work it out. And here in the US, of course, given although they try to renege on it so much, but given the definition of what rehabilitation is supposed to do, they’re supposed to be able to and help make people employable. They should be providing a lot of these tools and sometimes getting counselors to do that. Just like pulling teeth, I’m sure you know about that. Yeah,
Andrew Leland ** 20:02
I do. I do. I mean, it’s interesting because I think in the face of that complexity of saying, like, Okay, we like interviewed a dozen blind people, and we like have this we know, our website is it’s compatible with all the screen readers. And, you know, this event, like, you know, let’s say you’re doing an event, and the website is compatible with every screen reader, and it’s got dynamic types. So the low vision users are happy, you know, and then the event starts and you’re like, oh, wait, we forgot about the existence of deafblind people, and there’s no cart, or captioners. Here. And, you know, and then the question for me another another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is like, how do you respond to that, you know, like, what is the? What is the response? And even just like on a kind of, like, a social level, like, is it scathing indictment, like you, you terrible people, you know, you have you have like, you don’t care about deaf blind people. And so I hereby cancel you, and I’m going to, like, tweet about how terrible you are? Or is there like a more benign approach, but then you don’t get what you need. And like, sort of, and I think, I think a lot of this is a function of my having grown up without a disability, really, you know, I mean, like, growing up, my I went through my, my full education, without ever having to ask for an accommodation, you know, maybe I had to sit a little closer to the board a little bit. But you know, nothing, nothing like what I’m dealing with now. And I think as a result, I am just now starting to wrap my head around, like, how when self advocates and what styles are most effective. And I think that’s another really important piece of this conversation, because it’s easy, I think, to walk into, you know, cafe x, or, you know, I just did it the other day, yesterday, last night, I saw this really cool looking new magazine about radio, which was an interest of mine, like great for radio producers. And it was print only, you know, and I wrote like, Hey, how can I get an accessible copy of this cool look in new magazine? And they’re like, Oh, actually, we’re, we’re putting our resources all it were kind of a shoestring operation, all our resources are going into the print edition right now. You know, and then, so then I had a question before me, right? Like, do I say, like, Hey, everybody, like, we must not rest until you agitate for these people to make their accessible thing, or I just sort of wrote a friendly note. And I was like, there’s a lot of like, blind radio makers out there who might find your stuff interesting. And I like, affectionately urge you to make this accessible. And then, you know, their hearts seems to be in the right place. And they seem to be working on making it happen. So I don’t know what’s your what’s your thinking about that? Like how to respond to those situations.
Michael Hingson ** 22:34
So my belief is whether we like it or not, every one of us needs to be a teacher. And the fact is to deal with with what you just said, let’s take the radio magazine, which magazine is it by the way? Oh, I
Andrew Leland ** 22:51
didn’t want to call them out by name. Oh, I’m
Michael Hingson ** 22:52
sorry. I was asking for my own curiosity, being very interested in radio myself. So we
Andrew Leland ** 22:57
give them some good and bad press simultaneously. It’s called good tape. Okay, it’s brand new. And at the moment, it’s as of this recording, it’s print only. And,
Michael Hingson ** 23:06
and tape is on the way up a good tape. No, that’s okay. Anyway, but no, the reason I asked it was mainly out of curiosity. But look, you you kind of answered the question, their heart is in the right place. And it is probably true that they never thought of it. I don’t know. But probably, yeah, they didn’t think of it. I’ve seen other magazines like diversity magazine several years ago, I talked with them about the fact that their online version is totally inaccessible. And they have a print version. But none of its accessible. And I haven’t seen it change yet, even though we’ve talked about it. And so they can talk about diversity all they want, and they talk a lot about disabilities, but they don’t deal with it. I think that it comes down to what’s the organization willing to do I’ve, I’ve dealt with a number of organizations that never thought about making a digital presence, accessible or having some sort of alternative way of people getting to the magazine, and I don’t expect everybody to produce the magazine and Braille. And nowadays, you don’t need to produce a braille version, but you need to produce an accessible version. And if people are willing to work toward that, I don’t think that we should grind them into the ground at all if their hearts in the right place. And I can appreciate how this magazine started with print, which is natural. Yeah, but one of the things that you can do when others can do is to help them see maybe how easy it is to create a version that other people can can use for example, I don’t know how they produce their magazine, but I will bet you virtual Anything that it starts with some sort of an electronic copy. If it does that, then they could certainly make that electronic copy a version that would be usable and accessible to the end. And then they could still provide it through a subscription process, there’s no reason to give it away if they’re not giving it away to other people, but they could still make it available. And I also think something else, which is, as you point out in the book, and the country of the blind, so often, things that are done for us, will help other people as well. So great tape is wonderful. But how is a person with dyslexia going to be able to read it? Yeah, so it isn’t just blind people who could benefit from having a more accessible version of it. And probably, it would be worth exploring, even discussing with him about finding places to get funding to help make that happen. But if somebody’s got their heart in the right place, then I think by all means, we shouldn’t bless them. We should be teachers, and we should help them because they won’t know how to do that stuff.
Andrew Leland ** 26:10
Ya know, I love that answer to be a teacher. And I think there was I think there was a teacher Lee vibe in my, in my response to them, you know, like, this is a thing that is actually important and useful. And you ought to really seriously consider doing it. You know, I mean, I think if you think about the how people act in the classroom, you know, it’s those kinds of teachers who, you know, who, who correct you, but they correct you in a way that makes you want to follow their correction, instead of just ruining your day and making you feel like you’re a terrible person. But it’s interesting, because if you, you know, I mean, part of a lot of this is the function of the internet. You know, I see a lot of disabled people out there calling out people for doing things and accessibly. And, you know, I feel I’m really split about this, because I really empathize with the frustration that that one feels like, there’s an amazing film called, I didn’t see you there by a filmmaker named Reed Davenport, who’s a wheelchair user. And the film is really just, like, he kind of he mounts a camera to his wheelchair, and a lot of it is like, he almost like turns his wheelchair into a dolly. And there’s these these, like, wonderful, like tracking shots of Oakland, where he lived at the time. And there’s this there’s this incredible scene where it’s really just his daily life, like, you know, and it’s very similar to the experience of a blind person, like, he’ll just be on a street corner hanging out, you know, in somebody’s, like, the light screen, you know, like, what do you what are you trying to do, man, and he’s like, I’m just here waiting for my car, my ride, you know, like, leave me alone. You don’t need to intervene. But there’s this incredible scene where there are some workers in his building are like, in the sort of just sort of unclear like they’re working. And there’s an extension cord, completely blocking the path, the visible entrance to his apartment, and he can’t get into his house. And he’s just this, like, the, the depth of his anger is so visceral in that moment. You know, and he yells at them, and they’re like, oh, sorry, you know, they kind of don’t care, you know, but they like, they’re like, just give us a second. And he’s like, I don’t have a second, like, I need to get into my house. Now. You know, he just has no patience for them. And it’s understandable, right? Like, imagine you’re trying to get home. And as a matter of course, regularly every week, there’s something that’s preventing you. And then and then and then you see him when he finally gets back into his apartment. He’s just like, screaming and rage. And it’s, you know, so that rage I think, is entirely earned. You know, like, I don’t I don’t think that one one should have to mute one’s rage and how and be a kindly teacher in that moment. Right. But, so So yeah, so So I kind of see it both ways. Like, there are moments for the rage. And then I guess there are moments for the mortar teacher like because obviously, like the stakes of me, getting access to good tape magazine are very different than the stakes for read like getting into his apartment. Right?
Michael Hingson ** 28:53
Well, yes and no, it’s still access. But the other part about it is the next time, that group of people in whatever they’re doing to repair or whatever, if they do the same thing, then they clearly haven’t learned. Whereas if they go, Oh, we got to make sure we don’t block an entrance. Yeah, then they’ve learned a lesson and so I can understand the rage. I felt it many times myself, and we all have and, and it’s understandable. But ultimately, hopefully, we can come down. And depending on how much time there is to do it, go pick out and say, Look, do you see what the problem is here? Yeah. And please, anytime don’t block an entrance or raise it way up or do something because a person in a wheelchair can’t get in. And that’s a problem. I so my wife always was in a wheelchair, and we were married for two years she passed last November. Just the bye He didn’t keep up with the spirit is what I tell people is really true. But I remember we were places like Disneyland. And people would just jump over her foot rests, how rude, you know, and other things like that. But we, we faced a lot of it. And we faced it from the double whammy of one person being in a wheelchair and one person being blind. One day, we went to a restaurant. And we walked in, and we were standing at the counter and the hostess behind the counter was just staring at us. And finally, Karen said to me, well, the hostess is here, I don’t think she knows who to talk to, you know, because I’m not making necessarily eye contact, and Karen is down below, in in a wheelchair. And so fine. I said, maybe if she would just ask us if we would like to sit down, it would be okay. And you know, it was friendly, and it broke the ice and then it went, went from there. But unfortunately, we, we, we bring up children and we bring up people not recognizing the whole concept of inclusion. And we we really don’t teach people how to have the conversation. And I think that that’s the real big issue. We don’t get drawn into the conversation, which is why diversity is a problem because it doesn’t include disabilities.
Andrew Leland ** 31:16
Mm hmm. Yeah. I mean, that seems to be changing. You know, I mean, you have you know, you have a lot more experience in this realm than I do. But But But haven’t you felt like a real cultural shift over the last, you know, 2030 years about disability being more front of mind in that conversation?
Michael Hingson ** 31:36
I think it’s, it’s shifted some. The unemployment rate among employable blind people, though, for example, hasn’t changed a lot. A lot of things regarding blindness hasn’t really, or haven’t really changed a lot. And we still have to fight for things like the National Federation of the Blind finally took the American Bar Association, all the way to the Supreme Court, because they wouldn’t allow people to use their technology to take the LSAT. Yeah, lawyers of all people and you know, so things like that. There’s, there’s so many ways that it continues to happen. And I realized we’re a low incidence disability. But still, I think, I think the best way to really equate it. You mentioned in Goldstein in the book, Dan, who I saw, I think, is a great lawyer spoke to the NFB in 2008. And one of the things he talked about was Henry, mayor’s book all on fire. And it’s about William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist and he was looking for allies. And he heard about these, these two, I think, two ladies, the Grimm case, sisters who were women’s suffragettes, and they and he said, Look, we should get them involved. And people said, no, they’re dealing with women’s things. We’re dealing with abolition, it’s two different things. And Garrison said, No, it’s all the same thing. And we’ve got to get people to recognize that it really is all the same thing. The you mentioned, well, you mentioned Fred Schroeder and the American Association of Persons with Disabilities at various points in the book. And in 1997. Fred, when he was RSA Commissioner, went to speak to the AAPD talking about the fact that we should be mandating Braille be taught in schools to all blind and low vision kids. And the way he tells me the story, they said, Well, that’s a blindness issue. That’s not our issue, because most of those people weren’t blind. And that’s unfortunate, because the reality is, it’s all the same thing.
Andrew Leland ** 33:41
Yeah, no, that’s something, uh, Dan Goldstein was a really important person for me to meet very early on in the process of writing the book, because I mean, just because he’s, he’s brilliant. And yeah, such a long history of, of arguing in a very, you know, legalistic, which is to say, very precise, and, you know, method, methodical way. A lot of these questions about what constitutes a reasonable accommodation, you know, as in like, his, his, the lawsuits that he’s brought on behalf of the NFB have really broken ground have been incredibly important. So he’s, he was a wonderful resource for me. You know, one of the things that he and I talked about, I remember at the beginning, and then, you know, I had lunch with him earlier this week, you know, we still are talking about it. And it’s exactly that that question of, you know, the thing that the thing that really dogged me as I pursued, writing this book, and one of the kinds of questions that hung over it was this question of identity. And, you know, like, the sense that like the NFB argues that blindness is not what defines you. And yet, there it is, in their name, the National Federation of the Blind by and like, Where does where does this identity fit? And, you know, and I think that when you talk about other identities like Like the African American civil rights movement, or, you know, you mentioned the suffragette movement, you know, the feminist movement. You know, and it’s interesting to compare these other identity based civil rights movements, and the organized by movement and the disability rights movement. And think about the parallels, but then there’s also I think, disconnects as well. And so that was one of the things that I was it was really, really challenging for me to, to write about, but I think it’s a really important question. And one that’s, that’s really evolving right now. You know, one of the things that I discovered was that, you know, in addition to the sort of blind or disability rights movement, that’s very much modeled on the civil rights model of like, you know, my the first time I went to the NFB convention in 2018, you know, the banquet speech that Mark Riccobono gave was all about the speech of women and the women in the Federation, you know, which, which someone told me afterwards like, this is all new territory for the NFB, like, you know, they don’t, there, there hasn’t traditionally been this sort of emphasis on, including other identities, you know, and I found that was, I found that interesting, but then also, I was so struck by a line in that speech, where Riccobono said, you know, the fact that they were women is not as important as the fact that they were blind people fighting for, you know, whatever was like the liberation of blindness. And, you know, so it’s, there’s still always this emphasis on blindness as, like, the most important organizing characteristic of somebody is a part of that movement. And it makes total sense, right, it’s the National Federation of the Blind, and they’re fighting that 70% unemployment rate. And, you know, I think by their lights, you don’t get there by you know, taking your eyes off the prize in some ways. And, and so I was really struck by some of these other groups that I encountered, particularly in 2020, when a lot of the sort of identity right questions came to the fore with the murder of George Floyd, right. You know, and then I was attending, you know, because it was 2020 it was that the convention was online, and I you know, I read it, this is all in the book, I, I went to the LGBT queue meet up, and which, which is also like a shockingly recent development at the NFB, you know, there’s this notorious story where President Maher, you know, ostentatiously tears up a card, at a at an NFB convention where there are LGBT. NFB is trying to organize and have an LGBTQ meet up and he sort of ostentatiously tears it up as soon as he reads what’s on the card. You know, a lot of still raw pain among NF beers who I talked to about that incident, anyway, like that this this LGBTQ meetup, you know, there’s, there’s a speaker who’s not part of the NFB named justice, shorter, who works in DC, she’s, she’s blind, you know, and she’s part of what is called the, you know, the Disability Justice Movement, which is very much about decentering whiteness, from the disability rights struggle and centering, black, queer, you know, people of color, who are also disabled, and and in some ways, I’ve found the NFB struggling to, to connect with with that model. You know, I talked to a Neil Lewis, who’s the highest ranking black member of the NFV, you know, and he wrote this really fascinating Braille monitor article in the wake of, of George Floyd’s death, where he’s sort of really explicitly trying to reconcile, like Black Lives Matter movement with live the life you want, you know, with with NFB slogans, and it’s, it’s a tough thing to do, he has a tough job and trying to do that, because because of the thing, you know, that that I’m saying about Riccobono, right, it’s like he is blind is the most important characteristic, or where do these other qualities fit? So it’s a very contemporary argument. And it’s one that I think the the organized blind movement is still very actively wrestling with.
Michael Hingson ** 39:02
I think it’s a real tough thing. I think that blindness shouldn’t be what defines me, but it’s part of what defines me, and it shouldn’t be that way. It is one of the characteristics that I happen to have, which is why I prefer that we start recognizing that disability doesn’t mean lack of ability. Disability is a characteristic that manifests itself in different ways to people and in our case, blindness as part of that. For Women. Women is being a woman as part of it for men being a man as part of it for being short or tall, or black or whatever. Those are all part of what defines us. I do think that the National Federation of the Blind was an organization that evolved because, as I said earlier, we’re not being included in the conversation and I think that for the Federation and blindness is the most important thing and ought to be the most important thing. And I think that we need to be very careful as an organization about that. Because if we get too bogged down in every other kind of characteristic that defines people, and move away too much from dealing with blindness, we will weaken what the message and the goals of the National Federation of the Blind are. But we do need to recognize that blindness isn’t the only game in town, like eyesight isn’t the only game in town. But for us, blindness is the main game in town, because it’s what we deal with as an organization. Well,
Andrew Leland ** 40:40
how do you reconcile that with the idea that you were talking about before with with, you know, with the argument that like, you know, with the historical example of, you know, it’s the same fight the suffragettes and like it because it doesn’t that kind of, isn’t that kind of contradicting that idea that like, having the intersection of identities, you know, and these movements all being linked by some kind of grand or systemic oppression, you know, so it is it is relevant? Well,
Michael Hingson ** 41:06
it is, yeah, and I’m not saying it any way that it’s not relevant. What I am saying, though, is the case of the Grimm case, sisters, he wanted their support and support of other supportive other people, Garrison did in terms of dealing with abolition, which was appropriate, their main focus was women’s suffrage, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be involved in and recognize that we all are facing discrimination, and that we can start shaping more of our messages to be more inclusive. And that’s the thing that that I don’t think is happening nearly as much as it ought to. The fact is that, it doesn’t mean that blind people shouldn’t be concerned about or dealing with LGBTQ or color, or gender or whatever. Yeah. But our main common binding characteristic is that we’re all blind men. So for us, as an organization, that should be what we mostly focus on. It also doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be aware of and advocate for and fight for other things as well. But as an organization, collectively, the goal really needs to be dealing with blindness, because if you dilute it too much, then you’re not dealing with blindness. And the problem with blindness as being a low incidence disability, that’s all too easy to make happen. Right?
Andrew Leland ** 42:35
Yeah. Yeah, it’s interesting. Yeah, it’s interesting, just thinking about that question of dilution versus strengthening, you know, because I think I think if you ask somebody in the Disability Justice Movement, the dilution happens precisely, with an overemphasis on a single disability, right, and then you lose these like broader coalition’s that you can build to, you know, I think I think it comes down to maybe like the way that you are our analysts analyzing the structures of oppression, right, like, right, what is it that’s creating that 70% unemployment? Is it something specifically about blindness? Or is it like a broader ableist structure that is connected to a broader racist structure? You know, that’s connected to a broader misogynist structure? You know, and I think if you start thinking in those structural terms, then like, coalition building makes a lot more sense, because it’s like, I mean, you know, I don’t know what kind of political affiliation or what but political orientation to take with us, you know, but certainly the Disability Justice Movement is pretty radically to the left, right. And I think traditionally, the NFB, for instance, has had a lot more socially conservative members and leaders. And so it’s, you know, that reconciliation feels almost impossibly vast to to think of like an organization like the NFB taking the kind of like, abolitionist stance that a lot of these disability justice groups take to say, like, actually, capitalism is the problem, right. So yeah, so I mean, the thought experiment only goes so far, like, what like a Disability Justice oriented NFP would look like. But you know, that I think there are young members, you know, and I do think it’s a generational thing too. Like, I think there are NF beers in their 20s and 30s, who are really wrestling with those questions right now. And I’m really interested to see what they come up with.
Michael Hingson ** 44:29
I think that the biggest value that the NFB brings overall, and I’ve actually heard this from some ACB people as well, is that the ENFP has a consistent philosophy about what blindness is and what blindness is. And and that is probably the most important thing that the NFP needs to ensure that it that it doesn’t lose. But I think that the whole and the NFP used to be totally As coalition building that goes back to Jernigan and Mauer, although Mauer started to change some of that, and I think it will evolve. But you know, the NFB. And blind people in general have another issue that you sort of brought up in the book, you talk about people who are deaf and hard of hearing, that they form into communities and that they, they have a culture. And we don’t see nearly as much of that in the blindness world. And so as a result, we still have blind people or sighted people referring to us and and not ever being called out as blind or visually impaired. But you don’t find in the deaf community that people are talking about deaf or hearing impaired, you’re liable to be shot. It’s deaf or hard of hearing. And yeah, the reality is, it ought to be blind or low vision, because visually impaired is ridiculous on several levels visually, we’re not different and impaired. What that’s that’s a horrible thing to say. But as a as an as a group. I was going to use community, but I but I guess the community isn’t, as well formed to deal with it yet. We’re not there. And so all too often, we talk about or hear about visually impaired or visual impairment. And that continues to promote the problem that we’re trying to eliminate. Mm
Andrew Leland ** 46:22
hmm. Yeah. Yeah, that question of blank community is fascinating. And yeah. And I do think that I mean, you know, from my reading the book, I certainly have found blank community. But, you know, if I really think about it, if I’m really being honest, I think it’s more that I’ve met, it’s, you know, my work on the book has given me access to really cool blind people that I have gotten to become friends with, you know, that feels different than, like, welcome to this club, where we meet, you know, on Tuesdays and have our cool like, blind, you know, paragliding meetups, you know, not that not that people aren’t doing that, like, then they’re a really, you know, I would like to get more if I lived in a more urban center, I’m sure it would be involved in like, you know, the blind running club or whatever, willing to hang out with blind people more regularly, but it doesn’t feel like a big community in that way. And it’s interesting to think about why. You know, I think one big reason is that it’s not, it’s not familial, in the same way, you know, Andrew Solomon wrote a really interesting book called far from the tree that gets at this where, you know, like, the when, when, when a child has a different identity than a parent, like, you know, deaf children of hearing adults, you know, there doesn’t, there isn’t a culture that builds up around that, you know, and it’s really like these big deaf families that you have with inherited forms of deafness, or, you know, and then schools for the deaf, that, you know, and with deaf culture in particular, you know, really what we’re talking about is language, you know, in sign language, right, creates a whole rich culture around it. Whereas, with hearing blind people, you know, they’re more isolated, they’re not necessarily automatically you have to, you have to really work to find the other blind people, you know, with, with travel being difficult, it’s a lot easier to just like, Get get to the public library to meet up in the first place, and so on. So, yeah, it feels a lot more fractured. And so I think you do see groups more like the NFB or the ACB, who are organizing around political action, rather than, you know, like a culture of folks hanging out going to a movie with open audio description, although, I will say that the weeks that I spent at the Colorado Center for the Blind, you know, which is, you know, you can think of it as like a, you know, it’s a training center, but in some ways, it’s like an intentional blind community do right where you’re like, that’s like a blind commune or something. I mean, that is just a beautiful experience, that it’s not for everyone in terms of their their training method. But if it is for you, like, wow, like for just such a powerful experience to be in a community, because that is a real community. And it nothing will radically change your sense of what it means to be blind and what it means to be in a black community than then living for a while at a place like that. It was a really transformative experience for me.
Michael Hingson ** 49:11
Do you think that especially as the younger generations are evolving and coming up, that we may see more of a development of a community in the blindness in the blindness world? Or do you think that the other forces are just going to keep that from happening? Well,
Andrew Leland ** 49:30
you know, one of the things that I discovered in writing the book was that, you know, and this is sort of contradicting what I just said, because there there is a blind community. And, you know, I read in the book like, at first I thought that blind techies were another subculture of blindness, like blind birders are blind skateboarders, right. But then the more I looked into it, the more I realized that like being a techie is actually like a kind of a basic feature of being a blind person in the world. You know, and I don’t hear if it’s 2023 or 1823, you know, because if you think about the problem of blindness, which is access to information, by and large, you know, you basically have to become a self styled information technologist, right? To, to get what you need, whether it’s the newspaper, or textbooks or signs, road signs, or whatever else. So. So I do and I do think that like, you know, when my dad was living in the Bay Area in the 90s, you know, when I would go visit him, you know, he was a techie, a sighted techie. And, you know, he would always be part of like, the Berkeley Macintosh user group, just be like, these nerds emailing each other, or, you know, I don’t even know if email was around, it was like, late 80s. You know, but people who have like the Mac 512, KS, and they would, they would connect with each other about like, Well, how did you deal with this problem? And like, what kind of serial port blah, blah, blah? And that’s a community, right? I mean, those people hang out, they get rise together. And if there’s anything like a blind community, it’s the blind techie community, you know, and I like to tell the story about Jonathan mosun. I’m sure you’ve encountered him in your trailer. I know Jonathan. Yeah. You know, so I, when I discovered his podcast, which is now called Living blind, fully blind, fully, yeah. Yeah. I, I was like, oh, okay, here are the conversations I’ve been looking for, because he will very regularly cover the kind of like social identity questions that I’m interested in, like, you know, is Braille like, is the only way for a blind person to have true literacy through Braille? Or is using a screen reader literacy, you know? Or like, is there such a thing as blind pride? And if so, what is it? I was like? These are the kinds of questions I was asking. And so I was so delighted to find it. But then in order to, in order to get to those conversations, you have to sit through like 20 minutes of like, one password on Windows 11 stopped working when I upgraded from Windows 10 to Windows 11. And so like, what, you know, if you what Jaws command, can I use in and I was like, why is this? Why is there like 20 minutes of Jaws chat in between these, like, really interesting philosophical conversations. And eventually, I realized, like, oh, because that’s like, what this community needs and what it’s interested in. And so in some ways, like the real blind community is like the user group, which I think is actually a beautiful thing. Yeah.
Michael Hingson ** 52:14
Well, it is definitely a part of it. And we do have to be information technologists, in a lot of ways. Have you met? And do you know, Curtis Chang,
Andrew Leland ** 52:23
I’ve met him very briefly at an NFB convention. So Curtis,
Michael Hingson ** 52:28
and I have known each other Gosh, since the 1970s. And we both are very deeply involved in a lot of things with technology. He worked in various aspects of assistive technology worked at the NFB center for a while and things like that, but he always talks about how blind people and and I’ve heard this and other presentations around the NFB, where blind people as Curtis would put it, have to muddle through and figure out websites. And, and the fact is, we do it, because there are so many that are inaccessible. I joined accessibe two years ago, two and a half years ago. And there are a lot of people that don’t like the artificial, intelligent process that accessibe uses. It works however, and people don’t really look far enough that we’re not, I think, being as visionary as we ought to be. We’re not doing what we did with Ray Kurzweil. And look, when the Kurzweil project started with the NFB Jernigan had to be dragged kicking and screaming into it, but Ray was so emphatic. And Jim Gasol at the Washington office, finally convinced kindred again to let him go see, raised machine, but the rules were that it didn’t matter what Ray would put on the machine to read it and had to read what Gasol brought up. Well, he brought it did and the relationship began, and it’s been going ever since and, and I worked, running the project and the sense on a day to day basis, I traveled I lived out of hotels and suitcases for 18 months as we put machines all over and then I went to work for Ray. And then I ended up having to go into sales selling not the reading machine, but the data entry machine, but I guess I kept to consistently see the vision that Ray was bringing, and I think he helped drag, in some ways the NFB as an organization, more into technology than it was willing to do before. Interesting.
Andrew Leland ** 54:27
Yeah, I heard a similar comment. The one thing I got wrong in the first edition of the book that I’m correcting for subsequent reprints, but I really bungled the description of the Opticon. And my friend, Robert Engel Britton, who’s a linguist at Rice University, who collects opera cones. I think he has got probably like a dozen of them in his house. You know, he helped me you know, because I didn’t have a chance to use one. Right he helped me get a better version of it. But he also sent me a quote, I think it was from Jernigan was similar thing where like, I think they were trying to get the public I’m included with, you know, voc rehab, so that that students could not voc rehab or whatever like so that students could get blind students could use them. And it was the same thing of like, you know, this newfangled gizmo is not going to help, you know, Braille is what kids need. So I do that, that’s all to say that that makes sense to me that resistance to technology, you know, and it’s like, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sort of conservative stance of like, we understand that what blind people need are is Braille and access to, you know, equal access. And don’t don’t try to give us any anything else. And you know, and I think, to be fair, like, even though the Opticon sounded like an incredibly useful tool, as is, of course, the Kurzweil Reading Machine and everything that followed from it. There. There is, you know, talking, I talked to Josh Meili, for the book, who’s who now works at Amazon, you know, he had this great story about his mentor, Bill, Gary, who, who would, who would basically get a phone call, like once a week from a well, very well meaning like retired sighted engineer, who would say like, oh, you know, what the blind need? It’s like the laser cane, right? Or the Yeah, it’s like, basically like a sippy cup for blind people like so that they don’t spill juice all over themselves. And, you know, and Gary would very patiently be like, Oh, actually, they don’t think that that would be helpful to do probably, yeah. Talk to a blind person first, maybe before you spend any more time trying to invent something that blind people don’t need. So I think that resistance to like newfangled technology, there’s a good reason for it. Well,
Michael Hingson ** 56:26
there is but the willingness to take the Opticon. Look, I think the fastest I ever heard of anybody reading with an optical was like 70 or 80 words a minute, and there are only a few people who did that. Yeah. You know, Candy Lynnville, the daughter of the engineer who invented it, could and Sue Mel Rose, who was someone I knew, was able to and a few people were but what the Opticon did do even if it was slow, yeah, it was it still gave you access to information that you otherwise didn’t get access to. And, and I had an optic on for a while. And the point was, you could learn to read and learn printed letters and learn to read them. It wasn’t fast. But you could still do it. Yeah. And so it, it did help. But it wasn’t going to be the panacea. I think that tele sensory systems wanted it to be you know, and then you talked about Harvey Lauer who also develop and was involved in developing the stereo toner, which was the audience since the audio version of the optic comm where everything was represented audio wise, and, and I spent a lot of time with Harvey Harvey at Heinz a long time ago. But the the fact is, I think the question is valid is listening, and so on literacy is literacy, like Braille. And I think there is a difference there is, are you illiterate, if you can’t read Braille, you point out the issues about grammar, the issues about spelling and so on. And I think that there is a valid reason for people learning Braille at the Colorado Center, they would tell you, for senior blind people, you may not learn much Braille, but you can learn enough to be able to take notes and things like that, or, or put labels on your, your soup cans, and so on. So it’s again, going to be different for different people. But we are in a society where Braille has been so de emphasized. And that’s the fault of the educational system for not urging and insisting that more people be able to use Braille. And that’s something that we do have to deal with. So I think there is a literacy problem when people don’t learn braille. But I also think that, again, there are a lot of things that Braille would be good for, but using audio makes it go faster. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn braille, though, right? Yeah,
Andrew Leland ** 58:51
no, it’s another I think it’s interesting. And it’s a related idea, this, this sense that technology, you know, this like, just sort of wave your hands and say the word technology as a sort of panacea, where I think, you know, it’s, it’s a tragic story where, where people will say, Oh, well, you know, little Johnny has, you know, some vision. So like, he could just use technology, like he doesn’t need Braille. And it’s fascinating to me, because I never really felt it. And maybe it’s because I encountered Braille at a point in my development as a blind person that I really was hungry for it. But, you know, people talk about Braille the way they talked about the white cane, like the white cane, I felt so much shame about using in public, and it’s such, it’s just so stigmatized, whereas Braille, I just always thought it was kind of cool. But you know, you hear it so much from parents where they it’s just like their heartbreak seeing their child reading with their fingers, which is, you know, and so as a result, they’re like, why don’t I just buy like a gigantic magnifier, that maybe in five years, you’re not gonna be able to use anyway, but like, at least you’re reading the same type of book that
Michael Hingson ** 59:56
half hour or 45 minutes until you start getting headaches. Exactly. And that, you know, I worked on a proposal once. I was an evaluator for it. We were in a school in Chicago, and one of the teachers talked about Sally who could see and Johnny, who was totally blind, literally, it was Sally and Johnny. And she said, Sally gets to read print, Johnny has to read Braille. Sally couldn’t read print very fast. her eyesight wasn’t good. Yeah, she got to read print. And Johnny had to read Braille. Yeah, it’s the kind of thing that we we see all the time. And it’s so unfortunate. So yeah, I, I do understand a lot of the technology resistance. But again, people like Ray helped us vision a little differently. But unfortunately, getting that conversation to other people, outside of the NFB community, like teachers and so on, is so hard because so many people are looking at it from a science point of view and not recognizing it as it should be. The the NFB did a video that did it. Several, they have had a whole series of things regarding Braille. But they interviewed a number of people who had some residual vision, who were never allowed to learn to read Braille. And invariably, these people say how horrible it was that they didn’t get to learn to read Braille, they learned it later. And they’re, they’re reading slower than they really should. But they see the value of it. And it’s important that we hopefully work to change some of those conversations. Yeah,
Andrew Leland ** 1:01:33
I mean, it gets back to our earlier in our conversation about those norms, and then the sort of privilege that society puts on, on the center on the norm on, you know, and the damage that gets done when the ability of Sally to read print is over, emphasized to her to her detriment. And it’s an interesting, you know, there’s a really well known at least within the world of like, you know, people who study this stuff, a story about, you know, the first school for the blind in the US, which is now called Perkins, right? You know, where its founder, Samuel Gridley Howe visited, you know, the school for blind youth in Paris, the first school for the blind in the world, and, you know, where, where Louis Braille was a student and where the Braille system was developed. And, you know, he saw it flourishing, you know, in the, in the, in the UK and in Germany, and came back to the states and said, well, but actually, like, that’s this, like, strange code. And like, Wouldn’t it be better if we stuck with the original res print systems where, you know, and it’s very much the same impulse of like Sally using her magnifier, right, it’s like, I can look at that page of raised print, even though the blind people are saying, actually, like, it’s infinitely more difficult to read a page of fine print than it is to read a page of Braille. But like, there’s this universal design aspect to it, there’s a really interesting exhibition that you can find online called touch this page, that’s where I first encountered a lot of this history. But as a result, you know, and also, there’s sort of a financial aspect to it, you know, like, like how poured a lot of his own money and the money that he raised into promoting Boston line type the letter system that he developed, and as a result, you know, Braille was like 40 years late to come to the US compared to its flourishing in Europe. And it’s the same, it’s the sort of misguided universal design, it was something that I was thinking about in DC, where I met you, you know, where we were having this conversation about? mainstream classrooms with blind students in them, you know, we were at the, you know, the meeting that we were at was was talking about STEM education for blind kids, but like, in the context of a mainstream classroom, and it seems like there’s these two pads, right, like, there were these really fun conversations about oh, like, we could have like a Braille ready file, and they can download and print it on an embosser get a thermoform machine and like making this like, wild 3d thing that the blind student can have, like, you know, and then just thinking about the logistics of that of like, what embattled overworked, you know, mainstream fourth grade teacher in Bowling Green, Ohio, is going to like have access to a thermoformed machine is gonna, like be able to figure out how to, like get the BRF violent, you know, versus just like, why would if you made a curriculum that had tactile affordances that like was screen reader friendly. So all you needed was an iPad, to access it for a blind kid, you know, and so the universal design thing is real. But but there is a way that it can go kick and kind of, you know, there’s like a dark side to it to where it can swing in the other direction. Well, the other
Michael Hingson ** 1:04:38
thing is, if you have things in electronic format, there are organizations like Bookshare that also will do Braille on demand, which is helpful and Bookshare. has, has made it possible to have access to a lot of material that otherwise wasn’t available in a readable like a Braille readable form, but now they’re also doing more with producing audio stuff, but that’s okay. Okay. But I think that it is important that the Braille still be there and that we do need to teach blind kids Braille. And I’m using Jernigan definition of blind, because the fact of the matter is, people need to understand the rules around spelling and grammar and writing. I mean, you wouldn’t be the writer that you are, if you didn’t learn a lot of things.
Andrew Leland ** 1:05:27
Yeah, if I hadn’t spent a lifetime reading, I mean, that’s what it really comes down to.
Michael Hingson ** 1:05:30
That’s right. But But you’ve done good with the book. And, you know, we’re gonna have to stop because this has been going on. But can we? Can we pick this up and do this again? And do another one? Yeah, sure. That’d be great. Thank we should. But if people want to reach out to you, how do they do that? And how do they get cut the country of the blind,
my email addresses on my website, which is Andrew lelland.org. And my last name is spelled L E L A,N D So it’s Andrew leland.org. And you can find my email address there as well as links to recent stuff I’ve been publishing and links to the book. The book is if you are a blind reader, it’s on Bard. It’s on Bookshare. And also, just Yes, shout out to Bookshare. I could not have written this book without Bookshare the number of books that I didn’t have to scan, you know, I eventually bought a scanner for stuff that was accessible, but like, wow, that just just bless bless Bookshare forever. But yeah, it’s um, pardon Bookshare. It’s also, as you mentioned, I think I narrate the audio book myself, and it’s on Audible. You know, libro FM, or wherever fine audio books are downloaded. And also, of course, on the Kindle store, or you can buy a large print edition, or good old fashioned dead tree version, all that you know, in support your local indie bookseller, it’s on Amazon. But also, I really recommend if you’re buying a print version, a website called bookshop.org. That’s sort of like an indie Amazon alternative where you can just as easy to buy a couple of clicks, but then it supports you put in where you live. And it’s your local indie bookseller
Michael Hingson ** 1:07:07
store. Yeah, that is cool. Well, you know, and of course, if I were going to do a commercial, I tell people, please go out and continue to buy thunder dog, it’s out there. And, yeah, and it’s a lot of fun. But I want to thank you for being here, we will do this again. And we’ll set it up. Because this is just stimulating, interesting, and just, I hope helps people recognize the value of having the conversation. So this was really a lot of fun to do. Now,
Andrew Leland ** 1:07:34
it’s an honor to talk to you, you know, I just just the number of stories you have and the history that you’ve lived through with this stuff that I’ve been immersing myself in the last three years. It’s really fun. You know, I, I mentioned somebody and you’re like, oh, yeah, I remember like the first iteration of that 40 years before you even thought it you know, that’s so it’s really, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Well,
Michael Hingson ** 1:07:53
I want to thank you for listening out there. We really appreciate you doing it, please give us a five star rating wherever you’re listening to unstoppable mindset. If you’d like to reach out to me, you can do it by emailing me at Michael M i c h a e l h i at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com Or go to our podcast page www dot Michael hingson h i n g s o n for hingson.com/podcast. So please give us a five star rating love to hear your thoughts and your reviews. Feel free to email and keep us posted with your thoughts and your ideas. And I promise Andrew and I are going to do another one of these in the very near future. But for now, Andrew, I want to thank you once again for being here with us. All right, thank
Andrew Leland ** 1:08:36
you super fun.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:08:42
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.

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