Episode 187 – Unstoppable Mom, Teacher, and Advocate with Kristin Smedley

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As you will hear in this episode, Kristin Smedley grew up and lived her first thirty years or so as a list-maker and planner. She literally planned everything and she was successful at it. Well, she was until literally one day everything changed. In January 2000 she gave birth to her first son, Michael. When he was eight months old she asked a nurse friend/Michael’s babysitter about the fact that Michael’s eyes seemed not to be focused when he was lying on his back. After examinations, she got the news that Michael was blind. All the plans she had for herself and him “crashed to the floor”.
We get to hear Kristin’s story with not one blind son, but a second one, Mitch who was born two years later. Kristin will tell you that she refused to adopt the attitude that these two blind kids could not grow up and do anything. She will tell us how both sons played baseball in grammar school. You will hear how Kristin’s incredible positive attitude about blindness helped her family discover and learn that blindness does not hold people back.
About the Guest:
Kristin Smedley is Co-Founder and CEO of the only patient organization in the world for people living with the blindness her two sons are affected by, CRB1 LCA/RP. The Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation has raised over 4 million dollars and achieved a National Rare Eye Disease Awareness Day.  That legislation, H.R. #625, was the first in US history to be submitted in Braille and it advocates for better resources for blind and visually impaired Americans.

Kristin partnered with Spark Therapeutics to help achieve the first ever FDA approved gene therapy to treat an inherited retinal disease in the United States. She has done a TEDx Talk in New York City to change perceptions of blindness and she partnered with Comcast media to spread awareness of the inclusive X1 product.

Kristin is author of the bestselling book Thriving Blind: Stories of Real People Succeeding Without Sight and a new children’s book, What I Can Be Is Up To Me.

Kristin co-founded ThrivingBlindAcademy.org to solve the employment, literacy, and financial crisis in the blind community.  She is Co-Creator of the short film, The Great Equalizer, that addresses the unemployment crisis of the blind.
Ways to connect with Kristin:
Linked In https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinsmedley/
Twitter https://twitter.com/KristinSmedley
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thrivingblind
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kristinsmedley/
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
Well, hi, welcome once again to unstoppable mindset. I’m really looking forward to our guest today Kristin Smedley because she has two sons who are blind, I’m not prejudiced or anything like that, of course, but nevertheless, yeah. Nevertheless, she’s got some interesting stories to tell. And she has been involved in doing a variety of things, including influencing Washington dealing with forming organizations, and we’re gonna get into all that. So I will not talk anymore. But Kristen, let’s just start with you. Welcome to unstoppable mindset. Oh,
Kristin Smedley ** 01:55
thanks so much for having me. I’m I’m a big fan of yours. And I’m happy to be here and chat. Well,
Michael Hingson ** 02:03
thanks for for coming on. Well, tell us a little bit about you first, Gordon growing up the early Christian Christian as it were.
Kristin Smedley ** 02:14
The early Christian all those years ago, law I O in
Michael Hingson ** 02:18
a galaxy far far away.
Kristin Smedley ** 02:21
I am a born and raised Philly girl. I have my fillies hat on for those that are watching this on video. And I was one of those kids, Michael that I went for a lot of stuff I had success. In almost every area of my life. I was raised by parents in I’m learning as an adult that I was raised in unconditional love. And I believe I’ve said it a lot that I believe that’s what sets us up with a foundation to thrive. So I had a good support system to get out there and try stuff and go after dreams and, and I was sports school. I mean, you name it. I had a great time with it. But I will above I will admit that above all things I was a I was a planner, you know, and a list maker and a check it off the list, kind of person. So I really liked making plans, achieving them celebrating and going on to the next thing. I’ve I’ve played soccer my whole life. I still play actually, I’m going to be 52 And just last year, I perfected my left foot kick. So I figure you know, I’m a quick study, right.
Michael Hingson ** 03:38
But But you weren’t invited to New Zealand for the World Cup this year. Hmm.
Kristin Smedley ** 03:42
Weird, right. And I was just looking at the at the pay rate of the top 10 Women’s players and and I wasn’t on there and I’m nowhere near that pay rate. So what’s that about? Yeah, really. I’ve been playing longer than them.
Michael Hingson ** 03:53
So they’re I don’t know how to count for something.
Kristin Smedley ** 03:56
But yeah, I was very I was competitive and and love sports. And you know, being a Philly person. I don’t know many people in our town that aren’t Philly sports people. But I had a good time. I have four brothers, it was a crazy house. Very big family, lots of cousins. And, you know, just a typical, typical kind of kid growing up with dreams to be a teacher achieved all of that. And nothing, nothing really nothing really derailed plans at all until it did. Well.
Michael Hingson ** 04:33
And then it wasn’t so much derailed. But it also goes to show that sometimes plans need to change. So along the way you you got a husband or whatever and, and did all that sort of stuff. I assume
Kristin Smedley ** 04:46
I did all the things that that everybody did. Right. And I mean, back then it was I mean like I said I’m going to be 52 Back then there wasn’t a whole lot of of options. that that girls like me grew up with as as careers. My family was like there was absolutely no way that there was a future in soccer or sports for women back then. But I was I knew I was going to be a teacher from the time I was five years old. I am one of those bizarre people that just knew it from when I was very young. I would I would set up my my four brothers. In my dad’s workshop at the back of our basement. He had this chalkboard and I would bring home the extra handouts from teachers at school and I would I would have my know why my brothers sat and did that. With me. I’d hand stuff out and I have them writing on the board.
Michael Hingson ** 05:40
They tolerated you.
Kristin Smedley ** 05:42
They sure did tolerate that’s a great word, because they’re still doing that.
Michael Hingson ** 05:46
I’m just gonna ask you if they still do that. They still tolerate
Kristin Smedley ** 05:49
me. They don’t sit and let me hit him. They don’t sell them handouts anymore lectures
Michael Hingson ** 05:52
anymore. Yeah, well, what so what did you teach? When you when you grew up and started teaching?
Kristin Smedley ** 05:58
I was an elementary school teacher.
Michael Hingson ** 06:01
Yes, it was my wife. I
Kristin Smedley ** 06:03
loved it. I just my whole life. I wanted to do that. And then when I was in the classroom, oh, boy, did I have a good time with that?
Michael Hingson ** 06:15
What? What grade did you want to teach? Or what grade did you find? Was your favorite grade?
Kristin Smedley ** 06:21
Well, that’s it Sure. I will say first. And third, I never would have thought when I was when I was planning to be a teacher. I thought second grade was where it was that like that was where I really wanted to land. And I remember student teaching first grade, and I the first week. I remember coming coming back to the house, I lived in with a bunch of my friends at college. And they were like, they thought I had caught like a massive flu or something that I was exhausted my exhausted five days with first graders. And I said, I remember saying to my roommates, you even have to include in your directions not to eat the paste. To be very specific with first graders, but I love the fact that that first graders, just they kind of believe what you tell them. You know, they haven’t really formed their their own individual personality. Some of them have, but most of them are along for a really fun ride, you know, third grade, though, they start developing their own personalities and the things that they they know that they want to do. But you’re still cool. Third graders still think that teachers are cool. Fourth grade, they start to go maybe not. So I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay in the cool zone. My
Michael Hingson ** 07:42
wife loves third grade, she thought that that was the best grade to teach. Definitely the earlier grades. But she loved third grade the best because as you said, kids started to develop a personality, but you could affect it. You could teach them they would listen. But when you got beyond that, especially when you got to sixth and seventh grade, much less high school, of course, that got to be a real challenge. Oh,
Kristin Smedley ** 08:06
yeah. Oh, yeah. I have one of my best friends. We actually met at college orientation. She’s taught middle school science for her whole career. And I’m like, Man, are we different? I couldn’t I could not. I wouldn’t accomplish anything with middle schoolers, but first and third grade. I’m your girl. That was a good time. I
Michael Hingson ** 08:28
suppose the idea of middle school science, though, is if you do interesting experiments, and you do things that they don’t expect that is because they haven’t really learned about a lot of that stuff. You can sort of keep their interest.
Kristin Smedley ** 08:43
Yeah, you know what, that’s a that’s a really good point. Because Stacy has kept it, she think makes things incredibly interesting. And I’m like, Oh, my goodness, she I’ve there’s been times we’ve been sitting in and hanging out drinking wine, and she’ll start showing me this, this PowerPoint of like, scientific stuff. And I’m like, and she’s so into it. I’m thinking, okay, now I get it. I know why. No, I think kids were into it for all those years. Yeah.
Michael Hingson ** 09:11
But she’s got the knack of being able to make it interesting for the kids. And of course, that’s the issue. Right. Right. Right. And you’re still teaching third grade in as you said, the cool zone. So that helps a lot. But you know, I, I know what you’re saying. I remember. Oh, gosh, now it’s been about 18 years ago, I was doing a talk in San Francisco. And I went to the school it was an elementary school K through six and the whole the whole school was there was an assembly and the teacher said Now look, you can’t talk more than 15 minutes they will not sit and listen to you. Now we’re sitting there going, just wait So of course, I come out with my guide, dog Roselle. If that isn’t going to keep kids interested, give me a break. So like about 40 minutes after we started talking all about dogs and I talked a little bit about the World Trade Center, of course. But it was mostly what the dog did and how guide dogs work. And they all sat there and rapt attention. Then I finally opened the door to questions. And as I tell people, there’s no question that anyone can ask me today that’s off limits, because this third grade kid gets up a guy, right, a boy. And his question was, how do blind people have six? Oh, my God. And so, you know, no questions off limits? Well, I’m not dumb. I just said the same way everybody else does. And if you want to know more, you go ask your parents. You know, I’m not an idiot. But but you know, there’s no question off limits. I’ve remembered that story ever since. But then the teachers came up afterwards. And they said, We don’t know how you did it. And I said, it’s the dog. And it’s talking about the dog. And even the sixth graders were all interested. And, of course, everybody wanted to come and talk to the dog. So after it was over, I said at the end that if anybody wants to come up and visit with the puppy dog, they are welcome to do that. I knew Roselle very well. Roselle was one of those dogs who had discovered the scientific principle of maximum petting area, she would lay down on the floor and stretch out every appendage as far as she could to get as many people petting her at one time as and she loved it sweet. And, and all of my guide dogs have been that way. They and I wouldn’t want it any other way. You know, the harness was off, and they just all love it. And the teachers kept an eye on things, but still, everyone got to come up and spend some time with Rosella. And she thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread too, but you know. But yeah, third graders, my wife always loved third graders and, and we’ve talked about it a lot. My teaching was at the high school level, I got a secondary teaching credential ended up going into other jobs. But I have my secondary teaching credential and, and taught, and I’ve actually had kids from my classes come up to me like 10 years later, and say, Do you remember me? And the voices of well, of course, all change. And I don’t know, well, like one guy. I’m Marty, I was an eighth grader in your algebra one class in high school. And I remember coming into class and talking with you and solving problems with you. And Marty was actually, one day asked me a question, and I didn’t know the answer. I just didn’t happen to remember it. And I said, I’ll go find out the answer, but I don’t know it. And then the next day, I came in with the answer, but Marty did as well. And I said, alright, you come up and write it on the board. My master teacher said, That was incredibly smart, you did the best thing you could do, because these kids will know if you’re blowing smoke. The fact that you said that you didn’t know, scored you so many points. And that’s really true. And it’s I think is true today, and anything that we do, rather than bluffing your way through. It’s better to be honest. I
Kristin Smedley ** 13:23
totally agree. And kids can, they can definitely. They can definitely tell. So every time Oh, yeah. No
Michael Hingson ** 13:33
doubt about it every single time they can tell those things. Well, so you taught and how long did you teach? A
Kristin Smedley ** 13:41
few years. And then I at the time I was married, we moved to Chicago. And that was after an extremely challenging third grade year was a great group of kids. But one of the remember at the end of that year, saying if I could survive that year, I can survive anything. I never should have said that out loud, because then all kinds of things happened. But I ended up going which was pretty cool. I want to take a break from the classroom for a little bit and was working with the Department of Ed and this is how old I am now that was back when we would go in and teach teachers and principals how to use technology in the classroom.
Michael Hingson ** 14:26
You’re probably a lot of them will still need that but I hear you
Kristin Smedley ** 14:28
oh yeah, we actually organized big educational conferences and and it’s funny how my life has gone because I said I always I had planned to be a teacher always wanted to be a teacher stayed in the teaching profession. But then as I watch everything that unfolded like those, planning those conferences and working with teams that were were in house and remote like it’s all the things I’m doing now. All of those experiences gave me gave me experience As in being able to do the stuff I do now. So I always say to people, you know, when when, you know, when when you seem to have a roadblock, or are taking a different path for a little while, or maybe making a right turn where you thought you’re going straight pay attention, because because every experience gives you tools for stuff that’s coming later. Yeah,
Michael Hingson ** 15:20
and the, I think most successful people are the ones who realize that, and who can actually trace back and remember when they learned those tools and what they learned, I know that I believe our lives are really comprised of all the choices that we make. And all too often we forget the choices we make. And I think it’s important. And I worked very hard at remembering what led me to where I am. And it doesn’t mean that it was bad. Even if it didn’t turn out the way I expected to. There’s still things you’ll learn along the way. Yeah,
Kristin Smedley ** 15:56
you know, I’ll even take that a step further and say, I’m realizing now like, like, literally, within the past seven, eight months, when, when a sidestep or something or setback happens, I now pay attention in the moments of new things that I need to learn new perspectives that I need to have my eyes open to, like, instead of waiting until later, like I always did. Now I’m actually on the one of my friends, Chip Baker says, grow through your go through. So when you’re going through something, what is what are all the growth opportunities that you can have your eyes open to and I’m telling you, it makes it makes it not that it takes struggle away or stress away, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier.
Michael Hingson ** 16:43
It does. Because everything that you do is a learning experience, no matter whether you think you learned something or not. You did. And, and just we don’t pay nearly as much attention to that, which is not not really the way it ought to be. I love that go through your growth. grow through your go through. Yeah, tongue twister, but still. Well, so you’ve referred to it a whole bunch of times. So things sort of started to make you deviate and you had sudden unexpected changes. Tell us about some of that, if you would. Yeah,
Kristin Smedley ** 17:21
you know, I was at a point in my life where the Christian in the year 2000, I can tell you that Christian of 2023, I’m not sure that they would be friends. Because Christian back then had. I mean, like I said, I had planned, I had planned to be a teacher, I plan to be successful, I plan to get married everything I accomplished everything I had, you know, gotten the degree landed the job, married the guy at the got the big house, bought the brand new SUV. And, and my final not necessarily final dream, but my biggest dream of all was finally coming to fruition to fruition. And that was becoming a mom. And I have to tell you, Michael, I had an incredible Mom, I have I have a wonderful role model for mom and my grandmother, her mom was wonderful. And I was surrounded by a lot of people that were really good moms. And I of course, being competitive, couldn’t wait to be a mom and do even better, right? Like I was even going to be even better than all of them. And, you know, most people they find out they’re pregnant, and they’re like, I just want a healthy baby. Right? And then and that’s what I did. And then by when you’re me by like month eight, it’s Oh, is he going to be a pitcher for the Phillies or quarterback for the Eagles? Right? And is he? You know, will college really go to and and you know, you’re envisioning all of the things. And when he was born, he was Michael was born in January of 2000. And on our street. Now, if you remember back then it was y2k was happening. And this was January, like we survived the computers, right. But there was I didn’t even realize it at the time. There were so many people trying to have a y2k baby. So, on my street in January, there was like, eight people had babies within eight days of each other. It was crazy. Crazy. So everyone was in the hoopla of new babies and and, you know, the hospital stays and we would all be we weren’t necessarily outside in Chicago in January, but we’d be in each other’s Kitchens talking about all the things and that book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting we knew every line of every page and, and all that stuff and talked about everything. And then I started noticing something about Michael was different from the other kids and I had gone back to work and had him a friend of mine who’s a nurse was babysitting him every day. And I said to her Is it weird that When, when you lay him down on his back, his eyes swirl around and disappear. And she said, yeah, it is weird. You need to have that checked out. And after a few weeks of of no answers, and lots and lots and lots of tests, we finally flew home to Philly, and got an appointment with a specialist at Children’s Hospital Philadelphia. And that’s where that’s where I heard a sentence that I had not planned for. And that’s when he said to me, Kristen, your son is blind. And, you know, the planner in me that was not in the plans like valedictorian, summa cum laude, you know, professional athlete, those were the plans. And in that moment, I gotta tell you this, this, I can say it now I was embarrassed about this for years, but since my kids are successful, and I, I turned out, okay, I can tell you my first question to that doctor was like, I was trying to consider how blind I didn’t understand blindness, right. And I said, Willie, play baseball. Can you imagine that? That doctor probably tells that story at parties all the time. at conferences with other ophthalmologist right was the dumbest question you ever heard? Yeah, I was. I said, Well, we play baseball. I was trying to get it in my mind. I just had an absolutely zero knowledge of blindness. And the doctor, of course, said no, he’s not going to play baseball. And it was like everything. Willie drive. Now, will you go to school? Probably Probably not a regular school, all the things. And I said, Oh, my gosh, well, what is he going to do? And the doctor said, I have no idea but good luck. Now, oh, that was nice. Right? You know, and I, I’m like, Well, that was 23 years ago when that happened. But it’s still happening. Doctors are still saying, Yeah, I don’t know what to tell you. I have one of my friends that has choroideremia. He says, doctors are saying, Go home go blind. We got nothing for you. So we can get into that later. But well, we can because
Michael Hingson ** 22:00
it’s absolutely worth doing. Doctors still believe that if they can’t save your eyesight, they’re failures. ophthalmology, schools don’t teach the eyesight really isn’t the only game in town, which doesn’t mean you don’t try to save eyesight. But eyesight is not the only game in town. And we don’t deal with that nearly enough.
Kristin Smedley ** 22:18
Yeah, yeah, that was I’ve, I’ve often talked with, with folks about the fact that you know that there’s that first do no harm for doctors. And I think it is, it is more than harmful to not send a family on their way with some kind of resources or, or one resource. that’s ultimately why I ended up writing my first book, I’m like, if no one’s handing over, if there’s no resource to hand them, we’re going to make a resource to hand over. But yeah, that’s where I started. And I was actually just talking with somebody yesterday about this concept in terms of parenting, I believe now, when I heard those words, and you know, heard good luck, I literally crashed to the floor and all of my dreams had crashed to the floor. And I had no education, knowledge experience with blindness. I will say, I think the greatest thing that happened to me in my life, was that all of my dreams for my kids crash to the floor. Because when I’m noticing even even myself, I do have a sighted daughter also. With kids, I’m I’m seeing our biggest struggles, their biggest struggles and stress come from, they’re walking away around with carrying the weight of their own dreams and ambition. But they also have ours on top of them and I one of the greatest things that ever happened to me and my kids was that everything that I had planned for them was eliminated because I didn’t think it was possible and I had to I had to literally just I said to the boys I’m gonna I’m gonna get you what you need and follow your lead because I have no idea where this is going. Thank God thank God it wasn’t there wasn’t anything that I had intended for them that they went after at because that would have been such a limited life when I looked back on their on their where they’re at now. So
Michael Hingson ** 24:17
what caused Michaels blindness.
Kristin Smedley ** 24:21
So we will find out later that the umbrella disease it’s a it’s an early retinitis pigmentosa it’s Leber’s congenital amaurosis, and we didn’t find I didn’t find out until oh nine that it’s the CRB one gene causing it. Okay. Yeah. So and with with each pregnancy now for all the math minds out there you’ll love this part and everyone else just hang in there because I don’t talk about math all that long. I do have lip gloss on so I don’t do math and statistics when I wear lip gloss. It’s a rule that I have, but To the with CRB one LCA, there’s a 25% chance with each pregnancy that the child will be affected. Now, optimistic Kristin, which people have said that my my memoir could be titled delirious optimist, heard 25% chance and stop listening. So I was like, well, I already you know, one in four babies, I already had one. So we’re good, you know. And then I remember one of the specialists was like no Christian with each pregnancy. So it took it took me a while to get my head around how I was going to raise Michael. But I have to say ultimately, and and I believe the statistics are still that most LCA families there’s I think 30 genes now identified in LCA. But most LCA families, once they have that baby, the LCA child, they don’t have any after that. Because most people don’t want to hear a second diagnosis or don’t want to experience a second diagnosis. I was quite optimistic. But when I was really weighing all of it, to be honest, I thought, I started interviewing people, I’m a little bit of a nerd like that, like, I want to have as much information as I possibly can. And I talk to everybody that I possibly can. And I went and talked to people that I knew that were only children, because I couldn’t get my mind. I couldn’t get my head around blindness, but I could not get my head around an only child. And heard pros and cons of it and everything. And I thought ultimately, I would have a harder time raising a child that was a single child, then raising a child that couldn’t see I figured I could figure out blindness much faster and better than I could figure out how to have a an only child. It just I guess it was just, you know, I was what 28 At that time and, and my experience had just been a big family was all I knew. And gosh, we I mean, it was crazy. But boy, did we have a heck of a lot of fun with cousins and everything. So you know, ultimately, I just I was like, let’s let’s go for it. And I was like, come on, what are the chances really? Like, I’m always in that 75% camp. I’m always on the better end of statistics, right? Oh, my goodness. And then and then. A family member always says with a very cynical tone that we hit the lottery twice, because Mitchell was diagnosed with CRB one LCA also. But I will say that I do say we hit the lottery. Three times, all three of my kids are extraordinary human beings. And I can’t even imagine if if it was if I had an only child, I mean, I love Michael. He’s great. But the dynamics of what all three of them have brought to my world are just incredible. And they’re all different. Oh, boy, are they all different? The one retina specialist in Boston said after a day of testing, he goes Chris to any experience the boys for the day. He said they are different down to their retinas. Even the retinas aren’t the same all.
Michael Hingson ** 28:19
So now we measure a difference by our retinas. Okay, and works. You know, but going back to what we talked about earlier, the whole issue of how the medical profession deals with it. It is so frustrating. I mean, you, you read the underdog. I read that years ago. Yeah. So you, you read my story. And the doctors told my parents that they should just send me to a home because no child who is blind could ever amount to anything. And my parents said no. And we we went from there, I don’t know, never really talked about their fears. But I think if I had asked my parents tell me about your fears, they would have said no, we just assumed you would grow up to do whatever you chose to do. I think the fears were, were there in one way or another. But they just felt that. So all right, you’re blind. We’ll deal with it. And they were risk takers by any standard. But I don’t even think they would classify themselves as risk takers. They were very unusual in the way they approached it, but they did. And the fact is that I got to grow up and do the things I wanted to do. And I always wanted to teach, but I ever ended up actually doing teaching in the classroom past student teaching. But I learned along the way that when I was confronted with a situation where I would either lose a job or go from doing scientific human factor studies into sales and chose to, as I love to say lower my standards and go from side It’s the sales that in reality, UI though, in reality sales is if you do it, right, more teaching than anything else in the world, it’s all about teaching. And it’s all about helping people understand. But it’s also because of that, about listening. And it’s, it’s important to do all of that. But the fact is that blind kids have as much opportunity to grow, or should have as much opportunity to grow and be whatever they choose, as anyone else. And part of the burden that we face is the prejudice that everyone has about blindness.
Kristin Smedley ** 30:39
You know what that that’s, that’s, oh, my gosh, I’m taking a deep breath, because it is so frustrating to me that in this day and age, that that bias is still there with with all of the you know, you feel like you do all this advocacy and your stories out there. And my social media platforms are huge. And there’s all these other stories out there, and people still have no idea I just did an event here in in my town where my boys have grown up and done all kinds of things. And we are I mean, you’re, you’re kinda it’s hard to not be famous in a small town when you got two blind kids. I mean, everybody knows who we are, everyone has seen all the stuff that they do. And I did an event with a short film that I just co created about the bias against blindness, and hiring people that are blind. And after the film, people that have watched, I mean, elected officials that I know very well, incredibly smart, successful. People were coming up to me saying, Oh, my gosh, I had no idea that blank, people could do all the things and I recite, but you you had two examples in front of you for two decades. How is that possible? I guess they figured my kids were some anomaly or I was constantly opening doors for them. I don’t know. But they were blown away. And I was, it was a weird, I don’t know what the word is for it. I have to have to go into chat GPT to give me some words for this. But it’s it was like angry and happy at the same time. They’re not angry, astonished. Yeah. And happy at the same time that the 20 Minute. Video got through to them. But I thought how could you not know. But that’s that is how it is?
Michael Hingson ** 32:22
Well, you know, and I joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1972. It’s a consumer organization, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. And it does a lot of things. But even with a lot of blind consumers, who have adopted a philosophy that blindness isn’t the problem, we are not having a lot of success, at changing people’s attitudes, not nearly the success that we have to have, in order to truly make it possible for us to have the same opportunities as everyone else. And the consumer organizations can help they do help. The National Federation of the Blind, and its legal efforts, changed the insurance industry so that blind people could buy insurance, you know, back in the 1980s, no blind or other person with a disability, physical disability could buy insurance because the insurance industry said you have a higher mortality rate, you’re a higher risk. And wow happened was that somebody came along and said, You do everything based on scientific data and evidence, Where’s the proof? And they said, Well, we have it, but they could never produce it because it didn’t really exist. It was all based on prejudice. So by around 1985, legislation had been passed in every state saying you can’t discriminate unless you got the proof. But the fact is, it was still there. There’s still the attitudes and even that didn’t deal with it. And I think part of the if I were to say one thing that doesn’t happen that needs to really make a difference is we’ve got to become more part of the conversation, the whole human dialogue. And we’re just not even some of the so called Disability experts. Don’t push enough. We need to be in the conversation a lot more. Oh,
Kristin Smedley ** 34:14
I 100% agree and and we also need to be in every facet of life that sighted people are in right I think that’s why I’m so passionate with, with stories with with, especially the children’s book that I just put out and film and Hollywood, I tell you this, I put a post on Twitter, or x, whatever it’s called these days. Yeah, I’m just gonna go with Twitter. Another story. Oh, my. Anyway, I put a post about my son Mitch, who’s home for the summer from college. In our home, we are addicted to the show suits. I don’t know if you follow that show.
Michael Hingson ** 34:56
I don’t I’ve heard of it. I gotta watch it.
Kristin Smedley ** 34:58
I gotta Oh my gosh, one Now it’s on. It’s on Netflix. And we’re we’re rewatching the whole series. We watched it through COVID. And now we’re rewatching it and it is I mean, it’s attorneys and it’s it’s egos and it’s just great. We love it. And we all have our favorite characters will Mitchell who just turned 20 years old, literally bounced, like jumped out of his stool. He sits on this little this funny little stool, the cracks, we have this big, tall 20 year old with an attitude right sits on this little stool in front of this giant TV and is glued to the show, jumps off the stool and bounces into the kitchen yelling mom. Netflix put audio description on suits. Yeah, he you would have thought that he just got like his the the bike he always wanted for Christmas, you know, like he was so excited. So I put a post out on Twitter that said, Oh my gosh, that feeling when your son bounces in the room and I put a thing about how him announcing that Netflix, put audio description on suits. And I said, Thank you so much Netflix, for being inclusive, whatever. I did a hashtag that the suits, I didn’t realize how passionate the suits community is about that hashtag. It is now I think it’s at 7000 people it’s reached, people went crazy. We didn’t know that was a thing. Oh my gosh, tell us more. What is audio description. And then um, that was like this teachable moment. But people have absolutely no idea that something like that is out there. But it also, you know, it went back to my point of when people that are blind are involved in all facets of life. That’s when the education really starts to spread. And that’s when perspectives are shifted. And that’s when I see the bias disappear. I mean, my when my boys oh my gosh, I will never actually I’m writing the screenplay now for the moment. And I just wrote out the moment, the scene that we experienced when Michael told me, he wanted to play Little League baseball in our town when he was nine. I mean, he was playing blind baseball in the city. And but he was going to public school. And he wanted in on those lunchtime conversations where all the kids are screaming at each other of whose team cheated in which arm sock and all that stuff, right? And he’s like, I want to play baseball, I said you do play baseball. And he’s like, No, I want to play baseball here in this league where all my friends play. And when I walked up on registration day to baseball registration. When I talk about this, I should actually have like a button I hit with music that’s like, you know, it’s more than Disney World and all these happy cheering people that are there for registration. And Michael walked in with his white cane and said he wanted to play baseball. And as grouchy and grumpy as the Commissioner is of a person, I will give them the credit that he did give it some thought and long story short, Michael ended up on a baseball team. And in his second year, they won the championship like they were the worst team in the league and came back and won the championship and, and he was an all star and led the team in RBIs. And there was a dad that I knew was not happy. Michael was on that team at the first practice that came up to me after that championship when and he said, he said Kristen, you know, when all of our kids started this season, and came together, they were all just a bunch of spoiled kids to get everything they want. And he said one by one, your son changed all of them. And that changed all of us and watching him has been phenomenal. And I thought that’s what it is. It’s it’s when it’s when we’re out in the world in all facets of life, doing life, that we change those perceptions and those biases. So so I want people that are blind and visually impaired and their parents and everybody around them, get out there in the world. And like you said, be in the conversations be in the experiences. And if we can, if we can multiply that then I think that we can really get rid of this bias a lot faster.
Michael Hingson ** 39:11
So how did Michael play baseball? Well, interesting.
Kristin Smedley ** 39:14
Now I’m in so many conversations, you know, in the ENI stuff and workplaces and we keep saying reasonable accommodation. I’m like what I didn’t know it was what we were I was asking at the time, but it was reasonable accommodations I we weren’t changing rules. We didn’t change much. But he was able to hit off a tee now this is 910 11 year olds, they were they were kid pitching hit off a tee. And he played in the outfield with another with another guy. That guy would feel the ball and Michael had to throw it in to where the play was okay. Then I I’ve actually spoken at some sports stuff. And you know on the topic of parents and and sports I say I always say listen for coaches. If you have problem with parents and vocal parents and how, you know, parents have become a nightmare at youth sports, get a blind kid on your team. Because when Michael we get the ball when that guy would hand it to him in the outfield, he had to listen to one voice to know where to throw the ball so that the kids learned quick and they shut the parents down even quicker. No, but as soon as he got that ball, it would be silent. And one person if the kid if the play was at second, that kid would stand there and call Michael’s name, and he could throw that ball to him on a dime. It was really cool. Now, for people that are listening or thinking, Okay, at this point, you know, Michael’s nine and a half 10. And I’m saying to him, you have to hit off a tee he did not he did not initially, he wasn’t on board with that. He was like, no one’s hitting off a tee. That’s, that’s, that’s stupid. No one, there is no tee. In this in this league, I want to swing at the pitchers like everybody else. And it was an interesting conversation that night that I said, you know, you can do that if you’re against the tee. And you think that that’s what you should be doing. But let’s think about this. Those I’ve seen in this age group pitch, there is no consistency. It’s not like it’s gonna they’re even going to try to help you out and direct that pitch, you know? And I said, and you still don’t, we’re not changing the rule, you still only get three strikes and you’re out water. And Michael’s a very scientific, math minded kind of kid. I said, what’s the probability that you’re going to hit that ball with that kid pitching it. So then he went into a whole thing about velocity, and oh, my god, he like nerded out on science about the ball not moving and an object not moving. And I was like, guess what I’ve turned his light off. I’m like, good night. We’ll talk about this tomorrow. And the next morning, we sat there eating breakfast. And he said, he said, I’m not happy about having to hit off a tee. But I don’t want to, I don’t want to let the team down. And I don’t want to be that guy that they can count on will be an out every time I get to the plate. So he did, he had to set up the tee on his own, put the ball on there. And and he got, you know, if there was if he missed it three times, he was out. He never did miss three times he got on base almost every single time he actually led the team in RBIs. That very first season and I said you know you didn’t contribute by hitting a home run. But you sure did set everybody else up to cross home plate.
Michael Hingson ** 42:33
I presume he had to practice a lot though, to be able to hit it and make good contact.
Kristin Smedley ** 42:38
Oh, oh my gosh, the practice. And I will say this for parents that are listening. We did I want to make sure I re emphasize he did start in blind baseball. Like he had people that were trained in how to teach a blind child baseball. So he knew the mechanics of swinging the bat connecting with the ball, throwing the ball, like he knew all that. And then we just did I mean, I played softball, my whole my whole childhood. So I have some skill there. And we just practiced and practiced and practice and we would get to the games early and run the bases run the bases just so we had that memory of where the those bases were, when he ran his his coach the first year this guy Rich, who was absolutely tremendous. He didn’t he just he was on board with everything. But he did not want him out there running on his own and having a sound box or something at the bases. That was where he drew the line. He was like he was too nervous. So I said okay, you know, he was on board with everything else. Let’s let’s not have them have a stroke here. Let’s Okay, so rich would run with them. But as Michael got more and more confident and really knew where those bases were, he was getting faster and faster. And then there was fewer so play in the one game, and it was a tight game. And the kid the kid just clocked this ball and everyone on base Michael was at first the bases were loaded. Now they’re running and they’re rounding the bases. And Michael enricher running and they turn third and Michael just he just guns it for home and he outran rich so and then all the parents instead of cheering for Michael they were cheering for rich to run faster.
Michael Hingson ** 44:20
Well, you know Rich needs all the help he
Kristin Smedley ** 44:22
can get to was so funny. It was so quiet. And then he looked like we were like, oh god, somebody better get rich some oxygen and I’m like, You think maybe it’s time that my
Michael Hingson ** 44:34
zone? Yeah. And what happened?
Kristin Smedley ** 44:39
He did what he ended up doing he would go to like second and just call his name once but he was he hadn’t he had a valid concern. He was nervous that if Michael You know, yeah, would do it himself and was on second waiting for a hit. He would never be able to duck. If the ball was coming at him and we didn’t I didn’t want to rely on on a nine year old to be standing there and tell him So we just had to coach out of the base and it worked out just fine.
Michael Hingson ** 45:02
And, you know, we get back to the whole discussion that you sort of alluded to a reasonable accommodation there. The reality is that there’s no reason not to allow for accommodations to permit people who are different than we to be able to perform the same thing. And, again, we we really, collectively, I think, misjudge it a lot. But the fact is that Michael obviously proved he could do it. Now what admits do, did he play baseball or any of that?
Kristin Smedley ** 45:39
Oh, he sure did. He a few years later was on the exact same team. So that was Michael for his first season. The second season is when they won the championship. And I remember watching the whole thing unfold. And then when the whole town was on our sideline, watching and everything that happened, I thought, oh my gosh, this this is like, this is like the feel good movie of the year. And I would talk about I’m like, I gotta make this into a movie. Mitch played a few years later, this same orange Mets team, we are Phillies people, the fact that I have had two kids on teams called the Mets was brutal. But anyway, he was on that team. And, and he won the championship. Also, Mitchell was a completely different. He’s a completely different kind of kid made a completely different impact, equally huge impact. But he was they had to figure out real quick about him running the bases because he wanted to steal second, he didn’t want to just run the second one, there was a hit. Yeah, he wanted to steal bases, he figured out he was actually the fastest base runner on the Team Mitchell is quick. And he has an even if it’s even possible, and even better spatial memory. Or maybe because he has this little see had this little sliver of vision in the in the right corner of his right eye. And if he tilts his head, just so and he was so much smaller and closer to the ground, maybe he was able to navigate the bass line a little better. But he did the same thing. He hit off a tee. And he played the outfield. And I have this I have this incredible picture of him and his best friend Nick, on that team. And Nick’s dad was the coach Mitchell, you know, Michael and Mitchell and Shay achieve everything they want in a day. Right? Michael will do it all by himself. I mean, if he was he was moving in Florida the other day, and I swear he was going to try to figure out a way to get a U haul on his own because he did not want to wait for somebody, right? He does, as much as he can all by himself accomplishes everything. And he’s exhausted at the end of the day. Mitch uses every ounce of charm, good looks everything to get people to do things for him to accomplish once and he’s so he’s so crazy with it that that when they would him and his buddy would come in from the outfield. I have a picture of it. Mitchell would hop on Nick’s back like Oh, Nick, my legs are tired. We’ve been out here the whole day. Give me a ride. And he could run with Michel
Michael Hingson ** 48:10
blindness issue? Nope.
Kristin Smedley ** 48:14
It’s a laziness issue.
Michael Hingson ** 48:17
Now Oh, my goodness Michael doing today. You said Mitch was in college still. Yeah. Michael
Kristin Smedley ** 48:23
Michael graduated Penn State last year. And you know, I had said that one of my things I thought about was summa cum laude. And sure enough, he was summa cum laude from Penn State. And he had two majors, two minors and a business certificate. There were a couple of semesters that he took 28 credits, they now have a law and Penn State you can’t do that. I said, if I get a second tuition bill, that they think there’s two of you, you’re gonna have to stop doing this. But he’s, he was a communications and, and audio engineering, double major. And now he’s at Disney. In, in a situation where it’s only Michael, I always say I’m coming back in my next life is my son, Michael, because things work out for him in ways that are just unbelievable. But he My mom always says Michael wakes up every day expecting it to be the greatest day and everything to work out. And sure enough, that’s what happens for him. But he started with Disney in the live entertainment, doing sound design and things like that. And then he had an opportunity to slide over to working in contracts, and he eventually wants to go to law school and be in copyright law and stuff like that. So he went, he’s like, Oh, I could try that out for a little bit. So they’re holding only Michael. They’re holding his position, the first position while he tries the other one for six months and then decides what he wants to do. In this day and age where 70% of this community is unemployed. People aren’t even going to work companies can’t get people to work. And then they say to Michael Michaels, like I want to try this and you want to hang on to that. position in case they don’t like it. And they said, sure they’re loving them down there.
Michael Hingson ** 50:05
You know, you’re speaking of Disney and you’re talking about descriptions, descriptive audio descriptions. We got the Disney Channel, my wife and I signed up for Disney in 2019, because we wanted to watch Hamilton. And I assumed that it would be audio described and it was, but before I watched Hamilton, I decided, I want to go see one of my favorite Disney movies, if they haven’t the sign of Zorro, which goes back to I think 1959 with Guy Williams. And it was audio described, Disney has done a wonderful job of putting in audio descriptions on everything. I haven’t watched Davy Crockett yet with this, Parker, but I know it’s going to be audio described. Oh, man, it’s really amazing that they have done such a tremendous job of putting audio descriptions on the things that they do, which is wonderful.
Kristin Smedley ** 51:00
Oh, yeah. Well, he Michael said they are they are so majorly focused on accessibility and all that they’re doing now, especially at the parks, and he’s on committees and, and all kinds of things working on his ideas for it’s actually how he got the job. He in his interview, you know, there’s the whole thing in the blind community, whether you disclose or don’t disclose your blindness in the interview. And I said to him, I go, of course, that we were coming out of the, you know, we were in in zoom times coming out of COVID, when he had that interview, and I said, Of course you it’s your luck that you get to do a zoom interview, and they will never know Michael is very good at at setting up the camera and the lighting and looking straight on. So there was nothing to tell anybody physically, visually, that he’s blind. And I said, Are you going to disclose you’re not and he was like, I have no idea. And he was five minutes before the interview, he still wasn’t sure what he was going to do. And it just, uh, conversely, he called me afterwards, he said, Well, I made the person cry. And I said, Oh, my God. He said that they he went, they went through all the technical questions. And then there was something to the effect of, of how can you make Disney an even better company? Or what can you really bring to the table, something along those lines? Well, I told a story about growing up. We used to go to the Disney Parks every year. And he said, one of the biggest reasons he loved going to the Disney Parks is that they thought about kids like him, they thought about people that access the world differently. So he could have a phenomenal experience just like his sighted friends, and they could talk a lot about everything that they got out of being at the parks, he didn’t feel like he missed out on anything. And he said, he said but also, knowing what I know now and and, and the things that I know professionally, we can make it 10 times better for all abilities, disabilities, all different ways that people access the world. I mean, he said it much more eloquently than that. And it was absolutely magnificent. And, and he ne harped on the fact that it was because of his blindness, that he’d be the biggest asset because he really knew that the couple of tweaks that they needed to do. And then this woman ended up in tears because she said she had never heard somebody so passionate, and so confident that they could make the changes that would enhance the company. And she was in full belief that that would happen. So after he tells me this whole thing I said I’m so what you’re saying is you disclosed.
Michael Hingson ** 53:34
It has always been a debate. And I realized, well as back in 1989. I had owned my own company for four years selling CAD computer aided design systems to architects. I didn’t need to work the system. All I needed to know was how to work it. And I decided though eventually I was going to go back into the workforce. So my wife and I were looking at jobs, and we found this great one that sounded perfect. And we talked about do you say you’re blind or not. And finally, I went off and I wrote a cover letter. And I decided I’m a sales guy. Sure I should be able to talk about and so I wrote, in the cover letter, I said, the most important thing that you need to know about me is that I’m blind. And the reason that’s important is because I have as a blind person, have had to sell all of my life to convince people to let me buy a house, take a guide dog into places because we didn’t have the ADA back then rent an apartment, go into grocery stores or do anything else that I wanted to do. So do you want to hire somebody who comes in for eight or 10 hours a day? And then they go home because the job is over? Or do you want to hire somebody who truly understands sales for the science and art that it is and sells 24 hours a day as a way of life? And I got the job because of that
Kristin Smedley ** 54:46
that’s that’s what I love. It’s it’s it’s so many and I was I was the same way for so long until recently looking at it as Oh, I got it. I gotta convince these people that this It’s okay. And my kids are okay. And it’s going to be just I gotta convince them to give them the chance now I’m like, chance. Are you kidding me? Hiring someone like, like, my Michael gives you the competitive edge? I’m like, exactly. They’ve got skills they’ve been practicing oh my gosh, when everyone was talking about being resilient after COVID Michaels like if I hear resilient, one more stinking time, he’s like, we have been resilient 57 times a day since the day we were born, like, oh my gosh, it was so funny. He’s like, Oh, this 82 People are being resilient. Now.
Michael Hingson ** 55:32
It’s a beautiful thing. You know, and we, we keep hearing, and I heard it so often after September 11, we got to get back to normal. And it took me a while to realize that’s ridiculous. We can’t get back to normal or it’ll happen again, normal will never be the same. And I hear it after COVID and everything else. And we, we really need to, to look at things differently than we do. And we need to give everyone the opportunity to use their gifts, to be able to to thrive as much as they can. We talked about conversation, one of the things that I think we knew need to do collectively is to change words we use. I’ve never I’ve learned not to be a fan of the whole concept of blind and visually impaired. And I and I realized that my problem with visually impaired after thinking it through was twofold. One, just because I’m blind I’m not visually different visually has nothing to do with that’s what the experts did, to screw it up and impaired compared to what why do I need to be compared with eyesight? So I believe that blind low vision is a much more accurate terminology. Deaf people realize that some time ago they will bristle or maybe eliminate you from the world. If you say hearing impaired, for the very reason, you know, visually impaired is is a horrible thing. But that continues to promote the attitude that we really need to change.
Kristin Smedley ** 56:56
Yeah, I 100% agree. And actually, when I’m when I was writing my children’s book last summer, I wrote it and then it just came out a few months ago, I have a friend that was my educational consultant on it in terms of words and language. And it’s geared specifically for first graders for six year olds. It’s best not well, actually, it was funny because it was at school, it was this is how I love looking back on my journey and seeing where everything just aligned beautifully. And this is why I had said earlier, I really pay attention now when things happen to take it all in so that I don’t have to wait 10 years to see the gain, as opposed to the loss. So yeah, when I was getting so frustrated in my work with with my first book, thriving blind was wonderful. I mean, it was, you know, 13 people that were role models for me and my boys, I’m sharing with the world. And so that opened a lot of doors to a lot of stages and a lot of conversations. And then you know, with the this unemployment statistics, and I do the short film to convince companies and adults, I felt like I’ve just I’ve worked 24 hours a day. And I’m still kind of banging my head against the wall trying to change the biases of adults. And I said to myself, What if the bias never happens in the first place? What if What if kids come into the world with a whole different story about blindness, just like the kids that grew up with my kids, those kids that grew up with my kids, they’re out in the world, they’ll meet a blind person, and I’m certain that they’re like, what football team? Were you on? What position? Did you play in baseball? You know, how many college degrees you have, they have a whole different view of blindness than the rest of the world. So I said, How about if we did, if I do a children’s book, that we tell them from the very beginning that differences so it’s not that they don’t matter? It’s that it’s what makes you unique, and it’s what’s inside of you and what you believe about yourself, is what matters because the world is going to tell you a whole bunch of different things. And so to the point of my educational consultant she was looking at it as making it educationally sound for to be in schools and align with curriculum and all that kind of stuff. But we went through every single word to make sure that every single word was empowering and not you know, there’s no you don’t the word disability isn’t even in the book its abilities we say we all my the words are it’s in first person about the child telling themself all this and it’s about my abilities make me who make me me. It’s there’s nothing about this in there.
Michael Hingson ** 59:43
Well, what I’ve also realized is that there’s nothing wrong with the term disability. It’s a characteristic and the reality is disability doesn’t need to mean lack of ability and sighted people Have as much a disability as blind people, except that since Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb in 1877, we’ve covered up your disability by making sure that you have light everywhere you go. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s there. And we really don’t deal with with the whole issue at all. But you know, I was in a hotel in March, and then the power went out. And so when it did, of course, everybody started to scream because they couldn’t see and they were grabbing for their phones and flat or looking for flashlights, and all that proves my point. The fact is that disability doesn’t mean a lack of ability. And we all have that characteristic, in one way or another. And it’s high time that we start to move away from thinking and just because some people’s characteristics are more visible than others, that they’re less than we are, that’s just not true. Yeah.
Kristin Smedley ** 1:00:54
Yeah. And honestly, when that message was delivered to my Michael, by way of Eric weimarer, the mountain climber when he was Michael was six, when he met Eric Eric had just come off Everest, back then. And was was being honored in the city of Philadelphia with this big award. And I took Michael down there to meet them. And I’m looking at my little Michael, right, and his little suit, he was he was short for his age. And I watched his, I watched the moment of him talking with Eric and realizing in his own little mind, oh, my gosh, this blind guy is the coolest, he’s just like me, he just did the coolest thing. And I’ve never heard I’ve never, he never met a sighted person that climbed Everest, you know, we’ve never met anybody that cool. And this guy happened to be just like him. So in that moment, at six, Michael believes that anything was possible for him. And he listened Eric talks in the speech that he gave, and in the conversation with Michael, it was all about the tools that he had to, had to figure out like he was in full responsibility for, he took full responsibility to achieve that goal. And it was all on him to achieve it, and he believed he could do it, and he found people to help them. That was the message that Michael got that day. And it never wavered. It has never wavered in his mind that he, he believes that things are possible for him, he just has to go get the tools and build a team and do all the things. So I thought, Gosh, I need all six year olds, whether they’re blind, sighted, deaf, whatever, to understand that, or to at least get the correct story. That what they can do in this world is up to them, not what other people think about them. And let’s let’s change that and put the correct story out with the little kids because I’m tired of changing adults minds. Much harder work, it’s much easier. And because I taught first grade and was like, I was like a Broadway show with some of the books that I really love. But this book is just like going on a bear hunt, you know, and you’re all these actions, and you’re meeting these cool people. And then you don’t even know that they’re blind until the end of the story. Like it’s just, you’re riding a skateboard and, and you’re climbing a mountain, you’re painting a picture, like it’s just really fun stuff. Because I also I feel like so much of the information that’s there for people to get educated about blindness is boring, or it’s like heavy, right? Like, it’s, it’s a lot for people to take in where I’m like, why isn’t it just part of the regular story? You know, it’s just a regular story happening. And oh, by the way, here’s the tools that they use to be able to do that. Because they don’t, they’re, they don’t use their eyes to see like, no big deal. No, but let’s talk about that. You know, like, it’s just simple and fun. And let’s change the story from like I’ve been saying from the youngest sets of eyes. Is there an accessible version of the book? It’s only printed in an accessible version. It’s in print and Braille. It’s in print in Braille. Yeah, that’s the only format we’re doing it in right now. Which is incredibly expensive. So we’re doing a whole new campaign for that. But where’s
Michael Hingson ** 1:04:11
it available in Braille?
Kristin Smedley ** 1:04:13
It’s the website what I can be is up to me.com
Michael Hingson ** 1:04:17
Got it? You might there there are organizations like bookshare.org that could also put it out and on demand Braille if that helps. Yeah, you
Kristin Smedley ** 1:04:27
know what, I’m thriving blind is in Bookshare I have to reach out to them and and get this in there. There’s an imagination storybooks I don’t know if you’ve heard of them. They’re now doing a they do. It’s their their stuff is just incredible. It’s a video of the book with audio description and narration. And you cannot also order download the, the, what do you call it the BRF file. Well, the other thing with the book because it’s not only in print and Braille, all of the all of the illustrations were done by a low vision and colorblind artist, and all of them have in Braille fixture descriptions in the text.
Michael Hingson ** 1:05:12
Okay. That’s, that’s still pretty cool. And I’m glad that you’re, you’re doing what you can to make it accessible and available, which is, which is great. So what other kinds of projects are you working on?
Kristin Smedley ** 1:05:25
Well, we’ve had, we’ve got a busy summer that we’re stepping into here, Mitchell and eyes and he’s home for the summer, we’re recording the audio version of thriving blind, he’s doing all the guide chapters, then I’m doing everything else. Half the chapters are women half or guys, and he’s recording all the guide chapters. And then me Michael and Mitchell are working on getting all the Michael’s got this idea that he says is so simple, it’s ridiculous. To have all of the sports stadiums, be able to for a person that is blind to tune in, let me let me get the wording right. Tune into the live broadcast in real time, right, because it’s driving them crazy. Some of the gains of one Phillies game, Mitch and I were at last year. The the audio was 15 seconds delay. Yeah. Makes it Mitchell can’t stand to be half a second delay from anything. Yeah, I know what he means. Oh, my he was losing his mind. So so that sparked us to say what, what’s out there? So Michael looked at it all and knowing what he knows from the live entertainment industry, he says it’s a very easy thing that we’ll be able to tap into.
Michael Hingson ** 1:06:36
It’s easy to do if they’ll do it. I mean, I know why the delay is there. But by the same token for having a special process to be able to be there right on time. For some of us, it’s pretty valuable. I think it’s I think
Kristin Smedley ** 1:06:53
we’re hoping to get that in play before. Before we get to an Eagles game, we shall see. But then the big one is Michael and I are working on the screenplay for the baseball. The two we’re combining the two seasons in one you know, for the purpose of storytelling. To get that message out there in a big way about I thought, man, you know this this baseball sports, that’s a that’s a commonality that you get a lot of people understand that and then when because I’m telling you for years now, every every time I mentioned him playing baseball in speeches or wherever I am, always that’s where people stop me. Wait a second, you know, okay, we understand that blind people can do it and they can be attorneys, and we got you they can do all the things but baseball like yup, with the reasonable accommodation? And like Yeah, I think that that’s going to be one of those big game changers and really starting to open people’s eyes and minds to stop looking at it the way you’ve been looking. I keep saying news the true story of blindness out there. There’s too many false stories out there way
Michael Hingson ** 1:08:01
too many. What is this is the succeed without Summit. And when will that be happening?
Kristin Smedley ** 1:08:06
Oh, the succeed without sight Summit, we have that on December 2 hard to get through thriving blind Academy, this will be the fourth one, the first one I did during COVID just to figure out a way to continue getting people motivated to get out there and live the lives of their dreams. We have now been in last year’s was six continents, 27 countries 1000s of people. And we do it all on Zoom. It’s one whole day of it’s like it’s a balance between some practical like this year, we’re gonna have a whole session with a parent that did homeschool a parent that sent their kid to a school for the blind and a parent that sent them to a public school and compare and contrast like those kinds of things. And then also really fun speakers. Clark Reynolds, the blind artist from London always comes in and Wales the crowd with all of his fun stuff. And then we’re going to be doing some some some kind of behind the scenes, very real conversations of real struggles that that folks are going through with college and how they figure them out and follow on people’s journeys. So that’ll be really fun. Yeah,
Michael Hingson ** 1:09:19
that sounds it. Well, if people want to reach out to you and learn more about what you’re doing and maybe get advice and and your assistance or maybe want to help, how do they do that?
Kristin Smedley ** 1:09:30
Well, I am on pretty much every social media platform you can also find everything I do at Kristin Smedley.com families and individuals impacted by blindness that are looking to take the next step forward to get into the lives of their dreams and take the wheel of their own Drive. Can look at thriving blind academy.org and I’m a Kristin at thriving blind academy.org Shoot me an email, and Smedley is spelled s m e d l e y, and I’m Kristin with an I N.
Michael Hingson ** 1:10:04
Right, Kristen? Well, perfect. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to be here and to talk with us. And needless to say, you can imagine I love having this conversation and we should do another one and go into it further. Maybe get Michael and or Mitch to come on Mitch can’t be lazy though. But it will be fun.
Kristin Smedley ** 1:10:23
Oh, he loves being on camera and on the mic. Although, yeah, he’s he’s got radio show so he could talk all day.
Michael Hingson ** 1:10:31
We should, we should talk about it. Well, I want to thank you again. And I hope all of you enjoyed this listening to us today. Love to get your comments, please feel free to email me Michaelhi at accessibe a c c e s s i b e.com. Or go to our podcast page www dot Michael hingson.com/podcasts. Michael hingson m i c h a e l h i n g s o n.com/podcast. Please, wherever you’re listening, we would appreciate a five star rating. We’d love those and we value your input and comments. If you know someone else who want to be a guest, please let us know. But we also just want to hear your thoughts about today. And Kristin, same for you if you know other people who we ought to have as a guest on the podcast. really would appreciate any thoughts and suggestions that you have. But I want to just thank you one more time for being here.
Kristin Smedley ** 1:11:22
Oh, thanks so much for having me. Thanks for having this platform where you are also sharing the true stories of blindness. Love it.
Michael Hingson ** 1:11:34
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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