Episode 57 – Unstoppable Stroke Survivor with Melanie Taddeo
Meet Melanie Taddeo. Her parents always encouraged her to be the best that she could be. That attitude shined through when, at the age of 21, she experienced a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side and totally blind. Her drive helped her to regain the ability to walk. Also, she regained some of her eyesight.
Melanie will tell you that she is a teacher and loves to impart knowledge. In this episode, you will get to hear how she crashed through barriers when school principals and others would not give her a job after discovering she was blind. As many of us have experienced, Melanie found that no matter her capabilities and experience, the only thing prospective employers considered was that she was blind.
Melanie’s story proves how incredibly unstoppable she was and is. I hope you will find this episode as inspirational and thought-provoking as did I.
About the Guest:
Melanie Taddeo is a passionate advocate for inclusion who at the age of 21 suffered a massive stroke that left her completely paralyzed on her left side and legally blind. After years of therapy, she was able to regain her independence and go on to become the first legally blind teacher to graduate in Ontario.
She is a certified special education teacher with over 20 years of experience in program development, fundraising, community outreach, volunteer management, and public speaking. Melanie founded Connect 4 Life and Voices 4 Ability; V4A Radio based on her personal experience of the lack of programs that promote independence for people with disabilities. She has made it her goal to help empower others to achieve their dreams despite the challenges they face.
Melanie has assisted hundreds of people through Connect 4 Life’s programs such as the first broadcast training program for individuals with disabilities: “An Accessible voice in Broadcasting”, life skills training program, and public speaking. Melanie’s passion is evident in everything she does to ensure that each client sees their abilities and not only their disabilities.
Melanie published her first book in 2019. “My Unforeseen Journey Losing Sight Gaining vision.
Melanie has been a Toastmaster for eight years achieving her, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), and was the recipient of the Member Making a Difference award (MMAD) in 2020, and now using her speaking to inspire others across the globe as a champion of inclusion,
Melanie empowers entrepreneurs, professionals, and community leaders to embrace challenges and how to overcome unforeseen change with dignity, and ease.
Most recently Melanie has created a company called gaining vision, to help promote inclusion across the world, ensuring that every person feels heard, seen, and valued just as they are.
Her story is proof that despite adversity success is possible with hard work and perseverance.
To learn more please visit www.connect4life.ca
Gaining vision with Melanie Taddeo Nxumalo
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 an 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.
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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, once again, and welcome to unstoppable mindset. I am excited to introduce you all to Melanie Taddeo . And Melanie’s gonna tell her story. I don’t want to give it all away. But Melanie has everything that we could ever expect to have in an unstoppable mindset podcast. She has a great story. She has unexpected life challenges that she has chosen to deal with. And she did deal with them. And she has all sorts of other things that I’m sure we’re going to talk about. She’s an advocate, dealing with persons with disabilities and all sorts of other stuff. And rather than saying all sorts of other stuff, and then living it to your imagination, Melanie, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Melanie Taddeo 02:04
Thank you so much for having me, Michael.
Michael Hingson 02:07
So here it is a late afternoon for me and an early evening for you. You’re in Toronto or LLC and Ontario, right? Correct. Yes. And we’re out here in California. So we traverse the three major time zones of our two countries. And so you Have you had dinner? Not yet. I will. I will start cooking after this is over? Well, let’s get started. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about you kind of your, your early years and all that stuff. And we’ll go from there.
Melanie Taddeo 02:42
Wonderful. So I’m the eldest of four girls, my dad is Italian descent, and my mom is Canadian, and a little bit of Irish and English in her background. But I was raised in an amazing loving home, where everything was encouraged, reach for the stars, hard work ethic possibilities and be a great role model for my three younger sisters. And that sounds like a really comfortable life. But it can be challenging at times, of course, because you know, you want to be the perfect daughter, whatever perfect was, but in your is a child that’s the impression was given work hard. Of course, you had choices be a doctor or lawyer. I didn’t either. But that’s okay. But everything they taught me was about equality. And everybody’s equal everybody, although there may be differences in our friends, all of us are the same inside and really to focus on that and not seeing differences. And I appreciate that now. Now, this was the mindset they taught me yet in their generations. Decision. How
Michael Hingson 03:46
old were you when this was was being taught to you?
Melanie Taddeo 03:49
Oh, from age five, up so
Michael Hingson 03:53
in school and so on, you are already thinking of people more as equal than probably a lot of kids did.
Melanie Taddeo 04:01
Yes, definitely. And, you know, it’s, I’m so thankful for that. Because, obviously, we live in a very multicultural area of Mississauga. And we, it was really great, because, you know, although there are different types, sizes, you know, different genders, all these different things, and of course, you know, different backgrounds. We just were all friends. And that was a great mentality. And I’m really happy my family instilled that in me at that age.
Michael Hingson 04:28
Did other children have any kind of an issue with that? They tend to view people the same way. How did all that work?
Melanie Taddeo 04:37
You know, it was interesting, I think, looking back reflecting back, perhaps there was some definite biases there. But as children, you just think, Oh, they’re mean. And that was about it. And I don’t want to be their friend because they’re mean, but it was never about oh, you’re this or that. But it was just that unconscious bias or the way that they were they were raised. But we all play together. We all had great opportunities to learn about one another. And I appreciated that. Even individuals with disabilities, you know, there was a special class back then you might exam not going to age myself. But back then there was different separate classes. But they were just kids, there was nothing different, which I really appreciate that. My family always said, you know, no matter what family you know, sticks together, we always work towards a common goal. Set your goals high. Again, remember that lawyer and Doctor kind of mentality. I reached for the stars, everything I did in my life was to be a teacher, because that was my dream. I wanted to be a teacher, I was that girl that settled her stuffed animals to the front of the room to teach them, you know, the ABCs. I loved it. So everything my volunteer work growing up, as I started to get older, 13 and up was all right around kids. And I wanted to teach that was my dream.
Michael Hingson 05:57
So when you were when you were growing up? Did you have many friends who had any kind of disability? Do you remember? It was they were in different schools?
Melanie Taddeo 06:10
It mostly Yes. But for me, it was just, you know, it wasn’t even on my radar, to be honest, at that point. Actually, that’s not true. There was a young man down the street that lived there, and he had Down syndrome. But he just used to ride his bike around and he was just the boy like, we called him by his name, Jay. And that was that. But again, everybody was the same. So it didn’t dawn on me. But again, reflecting back, I now recognize that, but it was never said to me, oh, this person has Down syndrome. It was just he was Jay. And it was a good thing, because I feel it taught me so much about seeing past the disability. So that was thrilling years, great. Life was really great.
Michael Hingson 06:57
So you went through? Well, I guess would be high school and all that. And you still wanted to teach
Melanie Taddeo 07:04
everything. Actually in high school I used to I got into art. And I found my passion. I had a mentor in high school teach me about art. And I was able to do all these beautiful paintings and drawings. And my creative side came out and I was on cloud nine. i My mentor at the time said I can retire if somebody one of my students goes to university for art, like that’s me. And again, I did everything working in art galleries, that sort of thing, just to get experience. And I put together an amazing portfolio and was accepted to go to university for Arch. Again. It’s a big joke on me in the future. But this point I was living the dream, teaching art and summer camp. And just loving my spare spare time was painting and drying and really absorbing all the arts.
Michael Hingson 07:53
So you went off to university what university I went to York
Melanie Taddeo 07:57
University, which is in Toronto. At first I committed and then I lived in residence. And it was a great opportunity. It was very well known for their art program, top notch professors and had great facility and I was just experimenting with all the different techniques and styles and just really trying to get my feet footing because I encounter a world would be an art teacher that was my dream. Best of both worlds.
Michael Hingson 08:25
So I get the impression that something happened along the way to change all that.
Melanie Taddeo 08:31
Yes, yes, it did. My fourth year university, I started to develop migraines. And everybody kept saying lots of stress from University. I’m thinking I’m studying art, what kind of stress do you have during kid paid by campus, really. And they kept giving me medication to numb the pain. But till one morning, I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. Finally I said there’s something wrong and I went and they did MRIs they did CAT scans. They said no, nothing showing. And so one day, they saw something behind my eyes. And they said well, there’s something there. And they diagnosed me with pseudotumor servi. And really just means there’s a fake tumor. Yeah. But it was a misdiagnosis. It was a sign of a stroke. So they sent me for the eye operation to relieve the pressure from the optic nerve. And they kept me in the hospital and I was lethargic that was throwing up and they said all this anesthetic, it’s this it’s that it’s the other they sent me home. And I was at my parents house recovering. And they had to go the family doctor and I’d still been really really sick and not well. And I couldn’t see out of my eyes when I woke up. So they had the bandage. And they say Oh, it’s okay. It’s part of the surgery, it’s going to come back. And so I had to call the family doctor for a checkup for them to test the eyes. And again, remember remembering that they said oh, you’re going to be able to see Don’t worry me He’s fine. It’s just they’re swollen, they’re going to come down. And I remember having to get showered. And I was like, come on, Melanie get given the shower, and I said, okay, okay, okay, just a minute I sit on, see the toilet and just rest. Basically, my mom had to shower me, and I’m a very modest woman, I would never let that happen. But I was just really out of it. Got to the top of the staircase, and I was like, Okay, go ahead and go down. I’m like, Oh, the house was spinning. And I said, I think I’m gonna go down on my bomb. So I said, at the top of stairs, and I started to go down. And mom’s like, move your left side. Melanie said, I am. What do you think I’m stupid. And I would never talked to my mother. But I had had a stroke at the top of the staircase. So this struggle of be completely paralyzed on the left side and legally blind. So I was in a coma for two weeks. And I tell you, everybody, you can hear everything going on when you’re in a coma. So please talk to us. I heard everything I heard. I had the last rites. I heard the doctors told my parents, I wasn’t going to live to plan my funeral. I heard them basically say, if I survived, I would be a vegetable. Of course, I also heard everybody’s deepest, dark, darkest confessions. So again, be careful what you share. My little sister came to me said, I’m so sorry, I stole your case of peach gum, because I kept it in my bedroom, you know, extra case, throw it in your bag every day. And when I woke up, I had remembered everything. And so of course, I would question them. But during the coma, my dad put a Walkman. And again, I’m dating myself, but with music on my ears. And I remember the songs from that time. And again, all of the DJs everything was right there in my mind, because I could hear everything. And I knew it was going, I just wasn’t awake.
Michael Hingson 11:48
So you actually were unconscious. So it wasn’t just that you were paralyzed and could move. You’re actually unconscious. But as you said, you could hear everything. Yeah,
Melanie Taddeo 12:00
that you couldn’t communicate. And, again, my brain wasn’t there. Apparently, supposedly, I was. You know, they kept saying she’s not gonna wake up, she said, and that’s a scary thing for a family to go through. But imagine hearing all this and wanting to say, Hello, I’m alive. I’m still here. So it was a very exciting time to reflect on but at that time it was. And so when I woke up, I couldn’t see anything. And of course, I was intubated. So I couldn’t communicate either. And they kept saying, use this for that and use because I could hear, so use a thumbs up for Yes, down for no. And they wanted me to use this bliss board of letters to point out and I couldn’t see them and explain to my can’t see anything, and my eyes were no longer bandaged. And this was it. So when I was finally out of the coma, or type still, during the coma, they did life saving procedure, where they inserted a catheter into the groin and inserted 1 million units of blood into my brain. And I was the second out of five in North America to survive. And that changed a lot because it relieved the blood clots, but it also added extra pressure to behind the eyes. So the optic nerves were permanently damaged, destroyed during this whole procedure. So yeah, welcome blind, Nigel to move. It was a very scary time, a very angry time.
Michael Hingson 13:25
So you were intubated, that must have been pretty uncomfortable, especially once you woke up?
Melanie Taddeo 13:30
Definitely I you know, especially because you have to learn to swallow again, not only the stroke, but having this to die for so long. It was it was just a very new process for me having to digest everything that had happened, as well as recover physically.
Michael Hingson 13:46
How long were you intubated once you woke up?
Melanie Taddeo 13:50
So I was in a coma for two weeks. And I’d say that was going to be another two weeks.
Michael Hingson 13:55
Wow. Yeah. My wife went through a situation in 2014, where she had doubled ammonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, and was put in an induced coma. So she was intubated. But after two weeks, they said they they needed to remove the two but they did a tracheostomy so that she could, she could continue to breathe, but they kept you intubated for a month.
Melanie Taddeo 14:21
Mm hmm. Yes. And again, I am sure again, depending on the timing, how that was because again, I had long term, like they’ve cracked on my teeth, all that fun stuff. So it was you know, so lots of other things. And then of course, the raspy throat for quite a while. Yeah. But yeah,
Michael Hingson 14:38
yeah, it was. So you were totally blind.
Melanie Taddeo 14:43
Totally nothing at that point. And it was, you know, it was it was it was scary, because I couldn’t see I could just hear people come in the room. I couldn’t tell who’s there. Of course, I got very used to people’s voices. And that was a good thing because that’s how I tend to, you know, really depend on my sense of hearing. But I also want to have us on one hand, so having to learn to do everything, feed myself, things like that just laying in a hospital bed alone. But being told that I was never going to see again that I was never going to get out of the bed, all those negative thoughts, and I’m a very positive person, I always had been with that positive upbringing. And I kept saying, no, no, I’m going to I’m going to do this. And they, they said, Oh, Melania, you know, stroke really affects you. You’re the mindset of how you perceive things. And it’s true, I understand that. So I always say I had stroke brain, it’s not a medical term. It’s a melody term, that I thought I could do everything I kept telling them. This was happening in July, I’m going to university back to university in September, I’m going back to move out on my own pictures to paint you exactly. In my mind that I just wanted to get back to normal, whatever normal was.
Michael Hingson 15:57
So what happened? Well,
Melanie Taddeo 15:59
I am a fighter. I’m a survivor, my parents will tell you I’m stubborn, but I’d like to say determine it sounds much nicer. And after a good kick in the butt from a chaplain of the hospital. I decided that I wanted to thrive instead of just survive, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. And, you know, there’s a lot of time to think in the hospital. And you know, I had amazing family support, whatever they were petrified. Because of course, going through the I had regressed because I was scared to a little childcare my parents, mommy and daddy again. And I’ve just was it was just part of the stroke and part of the fear. But after the chaplain really brought it back home, he’s like, if you want to go back to school, you can you know, you just need to really get your act together and work hard. And I went to a rehab hospital where I learned to walk walk again, I don’t have use of my left arm still. But that’s because I’m right handed and I kind of forgot it was there for a while. But I started walking again after you know, driving my wheelchair and to the wall several time, they said they had to repeat the entire hospital, the rehab center after I left because I kept couldn’t see where I was going. So I kept ramming into walls and things like that. But I just kept a positive attitude got my independence back as far as I could physically walking first, of course, you know, with a quad cane, a single pain, and then without a cane. But then I had to come to terms with the fact that I was blind. I went through the denial. They had cniv with just cane National Institute for the Blind, come and see me with a guide dog and a talking watch. Like what are you here for? I don’t need you. Well, Melanie, you’re black. No not. And after going through that denial, I went to see an IV and learned how to navigate use my white cane, get around and cook independently and get my independence back. And then, of course being stubborn, as you know, as my family would say or determined. I went to teachers college I applied and because my grades were great. My volunteer experience was right up that I knew they had to give me that interview. And the interview went like this much. How are you going to do this with your disability? And how are you going to do that with your disability? Of course, in my mind, I don’t have a disability, right. I’m like, fine. I said, I thought this interview was about my abilities and not my disability. Oh, well, they let me in. And my first day of teachers college, my professors are gone by Christmas. I said, Watch me. I had no idea what I was doing. I never went to school without eyesight. And I had to learn to put books on tape about having notetakers asking for accommodations. I knew nothing about this. But I quickly learned and Teachers College was only a year. It was intense. And even with my practicum I had to advocate for myself. So I learned a lot really, really quickly. Because I was determined to achieve this dream. I wasn’t gonna let anything hold me back at this point, because that was my lifelong dream. I had to learn how to do things differently, though, because of course, I couldn’t do it the same way. Well, you could do them. Absolutely. 100% I got very creative. I was teaching a grade seven, eight split art. And I had these goggles created for the students to see what I saw. So they could understand just a little bit of what I was seeing. And it was the best teachable moment I’ve ever had. Those students could empathize. They got a really great ideas of what they couldn’t do what they couldn’t do ask a lot of questions, which opens the dialogue for kids because they you know, they’re there. They want to ask questions are curious, but they also are afraid of offending. And I was able to get them to try using doing art without their eyesight. Yes, I haven’t blindfold themselves put some music on Okay, painters, and it was a really great experience at the beginning. And as well working with little kids and teaching them about abilities versus the disability, because of course at that time when I was teaching and Teachers College, there was the differences and there was really hard differences with people with this abilities into schools. So they’re being made fun of and stuff like that. So I wanted to close that down fast. So it was a great experience. But the one thing I did face that was challenging for me is my professors thought that I should only teach special education. And I fought that tooth and nails. I ended up going into special education because I love it. But I was angry at them for putting me in that box.
Michael Hingson 20:25
So, you, when you were teaching art in Teachers College, what kind of art? Was it painting or sculpting
Melanie Taddeo 20:36
or helping and drying, believe it or not, and it was really getting them to teach the basics. And I had to teach myself, okay, how am I going to teach this concept now that I can’t see, because after I, when I was in the rehab hospital, they had me trying to paint and draw. And first of all, the drawings was totally totally disproportion. So I thought, you know, what, it’s all about interpretation and perception. So why not call it abstract. But I was still able still having the skill sets to talk it through. So I would help them with a verbal practice, okay, so we’re going to, you know, take the charcoal and do this and walk them through it. And I said, Why don’t you try and show me how you would draw this from your perspective. And then I would do a demonstration. And they’d be like, Oh, mister, doesn’t look like that bowl of fruit? No, it doesn’t, you’re right, what does it look like, but this is my interpretation. So it was a really great eye opening experience for them. But I also really started to sway towards clay, and sculpture, and really get those tactile feelings. So for me, that’s what shifted for me in my art, but I still had to teach the the elements of art. So being creative thinking outside the box, and getting the students to really listen, and be creative as well.
Michael Hingson 21:58
So when you were teaching, drawing, and charcoals, and so on, were you doing that, in part, because you still were going through some sort of a denial or?
Melanie Taddeo 22:10
Oh, okay. And wasn’t it?
Michael Hingson 22:14
Right? Because that’s, that’s what you teach in the in art, right?
Melanie Taddeo 22:17
And that’s the norm, right? Because I was normal, though, it took me a long time to really understand when I got to that acceptance stage, I was like, you know, I don’t want to join it anymore. And that was okay, for me at that time, since then I’ve gone back to it, but in a very different way. So, but at that moment, it was working through the process of acceptance.
Michael Hingson 22:41
So you were you were totally blind, that that did change at some point. It did.
Melanie Taddeo 22:46
So I it’s amazing. The brain is a amazing muscle, I’ll call it. And so because my eyes actually are fine, this optic nerve that is destroyed, in my optic nerve wasn’t passing the messages to the brain and what I was seeing, so technically, my brain taught itself how to see. Not well, but it’s still going see some shapes. And I see some details. I can read large print, things like that. So I do have some usable sight. However, I also learned very quickly not to depend on that site, because you never know. So,
Michael Hingson 23:21
so how long after? Well, you were in Teacher’s College? How long after that? Did you regain some use of eyesight?
Melanie Taddeo 23:29
It was actually a number of years after Teachers College that actually, yeah, okay.
Michael Hingson 23:34
Did you learn braille? I did. So you use Braille. Still?
Melanie Taddeo 23:39
I do not. i It’s funny because I had when I was doing my additional qualifications. To teach individuals with a blind or partially sighted they, they you have to learn how to read Braille. So I mastered grade one like that grade to the contractions a little tricky for me, I’ll be honest, but it was more visual, I was doing it because my fingertips are not so good with sensation. And, you know, of course, I can still teach it, but I don’t use it myself and then still depend on that large print or a Sharpie marker. But I’m also learning but other technologies now to count on that instead of the print.
Michael Hingson 24:21
You think your fingertips and their ability to sense or read dots were affected at all by the stroke?
Melanie Taddeo 24:28
i Yes, absolutely. Even though it’s my right side, I definitely feel it was that I noticed even though the stroke affected my left side, other sensations on my right side were diminished. So I think that was definitely part of it.
Michael Hingson 24:40
So that may have been an issue that if you didn’t have a loss of sensation that may have helped with Braille.
Melanie Taddeo 24:47
Oh 100% And I think I would have definitely continued with it if it had been able to read it with my fingers because it is such an easy way to communicate and help with interviews like this. If you have no So whenever it would be great.
Michael Hingson 25:03
Yeah. Well, and it’s important to be able to do that. And you’re absolutely right. The The reality is Braille is the main reading and writing mode that blind people and a lot of low vision people use as well, because in general, it’s more efficient than looking at letters unless you have enough eyesight to read to be able to do that comfortably. Yes. And so the problem is that a lot of people, on the other hand, never get to learn braille as children, because they’re forced to try to use their eyes. I’ve heard just countless people say, if I’d only really had the opportunity, and really did learn braille as a child, I’d be a much better reader today.
Melanie Taddeo 25:47
I’ve heard that a lot as well. And then also, a lot of parents don’t want their children to depend on Braille, which is mind boggling.
Michael Hingson 25:55
They don’t want their children to be blind, and they won’t deal with that. That’s true, too. Which is, which is part of the problem. But Braille is still the, the means by which we read and write. But you, you certainly have dealt with it well, and you’ve dealt with it in some some very practical ways, since you really don’t have the sensation to do Braille really well. And that’s perfectly understandable. So you went off and you went to be a teacher, you went to Teachers College, and then what did you do?
Melanie Taddeo 26:25
I graduated as a first legally blind teacher to graduate in Ontario, which is a really big deal. Except nobody would hire me. And, you know, I’ve really struggled with that I didn’t comprehend why. Because again, to me, there was no difference. It was just doing something differently. And creatively. I had a lot of great references, of course, because I was doing practice teaching at my old high school as teaching art. And of course, I have references. But once I put my application out to the boards, I get calls from the principal’s and they’d be like, Oh, you’re exactly looking for, you know, grade seven, eight split for RT, are you willing, and I Ghen, this is something I learned, but not you do not disclose your disability over the phone before getting to the interview, and I asked, Are you aware that I’m visually impaired? And they said, Oh, no. And of course, I said, What was that a problem? Well, not with me, of course, but will be with parents. And again, it wasn’t a huge understanding advocacy at that point. But to me who better to tshirt, children with a disability than somebody that little one, just 24/7? So I said, Okay, thanks so much. So I didn’t get hired. And I started to feel like what a waste, oh, my gosh, I’m never gonna get a job. You know, the whole pour was me pity parade thing. Stopped. And I thought, you know, what, I’m a great teacher, I was still volunteer teaching, and I was loving it. And I was coming up with really unique ways to teach and get around this, you know, safety thing. So I had all the answers down pat, and how to do things safely for everybody, and where I would be successful, and what different things I could do to bring to the table to add that little bit extra. And I started to talk to people, a lot of people with various disabilities. And they kept saying, you know, we want to learn how to be independent. Melanie, how did you do this? And I said, Well, it’s easy. You just have to, you know, really put your mind to it set some goals. And so I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a charity, or a program known as a first it was a program to help individuals with different disabilities access, education and training, just as they are, despite their disabilities. And so I had run a learning center for adults with disabilities, just teach them life skills, help them learn to advocate for stuff, all the stuff that I had done to get my independence back. And that went on for three years. And that was great. But I learned a hard lesson. Like I’ll use my own money for that. Not a good idea. So it didn’t last long. And I then I have met a lawyer, and they’re like, why did you start a charity to do the same type of programming, and that way you can seek funding and donations. Okay, so I did that. And in the meantime, I was trying to think outside the box other than life skills, what other skills should I be teaching when the programs you’re talking to different people? And advocacy was a big piece. And then also, I needed something to share information because I can’t read brochures, and I was like, No, you have to have a great brochure on it, but I can’t read it. So I created voices for ability radio, which is the first 24/7 Internet radio station for about and by people with disabilities as a platform for us to have a voice and that was in Canada so I wouldn’t be clear in Canada because there’s many all over the globe but and so voices for ability radio was our A platform for people to share their stories, as well as those resources that I and my family found so hard to find after becoming someone with a disability, because nobody shared information. So this was an exciting journey that started 2014. And we still are up and running. And it’s exciting. We now since doing voices learned that many people with disabilities love media. So what created a radio broadcast training program? And how to podcast so I teach that every day, it’s a great thing. So I’m teaching just in a very different way.
Michael Hingson 30:34
Well, and there’s nothing wrong with that. No, not at all. I’ve always liked to teach. And when I was getting my master’s degree in physics, I also got a secondary teaching credential. And in a sense, the actual certifications in both cases, I have not used, I didn’t really end up with major jobs in physics, although I did, and still do work with companies in terms of scientific technologies, bleeding edge technologies, and so on. And teaching, by definition, because that is something that all of us have to do, as you’re pointing out. The reality is we’re the best teachers for teaching about disabilities or persons with disabilities. Absolutely. And, and so it’s important to do that. The other side of that is that we also, if we do it, well learn to sell we all become great salespeople, because we have to do that in order to break through the misconceptions and perceptions that people have about us. Absolutely. So we we have to do that and make that work. So your the radio and the internet program is still up and running.
Melanie Taddeo 31:56
It is yes, we act now virtual because of course with pandemic, a lot of our clients are high risk. So we had them sound during the pandemic and we were able to reach more people throughout Ontario. So for us that makes sense. So with a 20 week program, we teach radio broadcasting just the basics introductory, they created their own podcast and a demo reel and a resume and then we connect them we partner with a lot of broadcasters they come in and they share their expertise and teach them and connect them with internships after they graduate and help them get their start that’s the starting point.
Michael Hingson 32:31
You teach them how to edit and and process what do you use for that Reaper? Okay. There is there and all the appropriate plugins and and scripts that go with it. Yes, Reaper is a wonderful thing.
Melanie Taddeo 32:48
Yes, it is incredible. And you know, it’s funny because it took us from trial and error. We tried to das it. We tried all those other ones. It’s just like, I can’t do this. They’re not gonna be able to do it. So yes.
Michael Hingson 33:01
Well, I go back, talk about not wanting to give away your age, but hey, I’m not shy. I’m Nora, my modest. I worked in radio at a campus radio station in the late 60s and early 70s. Actually up through May or June of 1976. And I can tell you that there is nothing like when you need to edit a reel of tape, cutting, splicing, putting splicing tape in and doing it in such a way that you really can bridge the sound very effectively. It is nothing like Reaper today.
Melanie Taddeo 33:35
Yes, it’s amazing how far it’s come the technology and it again, I can’t even imagine how you did that. That’s incredible.
Michael Hingson 33:44
Yeah, my wasn’t the best splicer in the world. But I but I can use Reaper really well. So I’m very happy with with all the different things that one can do with Reaper, it is a great program. Yes. And it is accessible. And the reality is that it is possible to do editing and so on. And Reaper is something that not only blind but sighted people use, but they have the people who are involved with it have been very diligent about doing everything possible to add in scripts and do other things so that all the features of Reaper are available and accessible.
Melanie Taddeo 34:16
Yes, and it’s so great because when we teach our students with who are blind, we do the shortcuts, but we don’t do it just for them. We do it for everybody. It’s faster guys. And they’re like, Yeah, I did as well. This is great. I love that. And it’s interesting because it’s amazing because everyone’s on the same level. And we do do some extra work for those individuals with screen readers, you know, because we’ve got to make sure that Jaws key commands aren’t the same and all those fun things so but it’s great.
Michael Hingson 34:46
There are some great Reaper listservs and most of the time is spent talking about doing things to create an edit music and I don’t use it for that. I’m so I’m only doing simple stuff by hand. relative terms and that is for podcast. But it is amazing the things that I see people doing and, and all the things that we’re learning and all the different things that are available. It’s just pretty incredible.
Melanie Taddeo 35:10
It is it is. But I really appreciate the fact that they continue to update the accessibility with Asara and as somebody else. And there’s even a group, I don’t know if they’re in Canada, or they’re on national, where they’re located. But Reapers without papers. And they’re a group of young people that have all this expertise of a river. It’s amazing. And they’re a great resource.
Michael Hingson 35:32
And that’s where all the music stuff comes from. Most Well, I think the main proponents of it are in England or, or in the British Isles somewhere. But it is all over. And there is a huge subscription list. For the for the Reapers with the help papers. It’s pretty cute.
Melanie Taddeo 35:52
Yeah, no, I think it’s awesome. It’s a great resource for our guys as well. So it’s, it’s wonderful. It’s a great experience, and I get to do what I love and watch individuals grow. And that’s a dream come true.
Michael Hingson 36:05
So you’re, you’re teaching them, but do you still have a radio program or any kind of thing that you’re publishing?
Melanie Taddeo 36:12
I have my own podcast, take another look podcast, with my co host, kereta Felix, and we talk about uncomfortable and difficult conversations. So that’s what I’m doing, you know, because you have to lead by example, of course. And if you don’t have a podcast, you’re teaching podcasts like, how does that work? But I also, I did have a show on voices for ability for a long time, but just don’t have the time to do everything. So I said, just take my content from the podcast and put on station so we’re gonna get to that.
Michael Hingson 36:41
Well, there you go. See? And and the podcast is working. Well, how long have you been doing it?
Melanie Taddeo 36:45
Michael Hingson 36:47
Oh, you’re just you’re?
Melanie Taddeo 36:49
Yes, we’re newbies. It’s interesting, because we wanted to start something new and different. And working together is a lot of fun. And of course, we have we just recorded our 25th episode. So it’s exciting.
Michael Hingson 37:03
You’re doing once a week.
Melanie Taddeo 37:05
We Yeah, they come on every Saturday, we meet together, we record two episodes, and then just launch them every Saturday. Yes, yeah.
Michael Hingson 37:13
Well, we just are ready to put up show 37 of unstoppable mindset, it goes up on Wednesday. And same thing, we’re doing one a week, and we started in September. And we’re we’re pleased with the results. We’ve gotten a lot of people who listen, and I hope that the people who are listening to this will definitely reach out as you get the opportunity to and let us know what you think of this. But we’re having a lot of fun doing the podcasts. And hopefully we’ll be able to teach other people the value of doing their own. It’s all about telling stories, isn’t
Melanie Taddeo 37:45
it? It is really isn’t it, but a platform to be able to share your story to inspire others to educate others, there’s so many opportunities, and really just have a conversation with the world about things that others don’t know about. It’s a great opportunity. And I’ve learned a lot from your podcasts, Michael, hearing all the different guests and different perspectives, I think it’s a great opportunity for everybody.
So is Connect for life still in operation?
Melanie Taddeo 38:10
It is it is that’s where I teach. So I teach students connect for life, the charity that I started. And it’s great because not only are we doing the broadcasting class and the life skills class, where we have started up intro to public speaking course. And again, for individuals with, with, you know, some difficulties with being able to see, confidence sometimes could be but any disability can generalize. But so we have an introduction to public speaking course where we just teach the basics and get them comfortable and get them confident to be able to share their story because that’s what advocacy is all about and being able to ask for things in an effective way when they need it. And then we also have our Connect for wellness program, which helps individuals cope with their mental health what’s happening with being isolated, lonely, having a disability, and again talking about that so that they can get through anything they’re struggling with.
Michael Hingson 39:04
So, in teaching public speaking, what’s the most basic thing that you try to get people who are interested in becoming like public speakers? What’s the most basic thing you work to get them to understand or what what kind of things do you have to overcome?
Melanie Taddeo 39:20
So first thing first is having a universal message that your audience can relate to your stories can be personal, but you always have to have that universal message. And please don’t talk like this because it’s really boring. vocal variety is everything. And for me, it’s just about communicating and sharing stories, having that engaging connection with your audience. Because if you lose your audience right off the bat, they’re not going to listen. So it’s that universal message, tie it through so that what you’re saying makes sense to people. And so that would be the main thing but then of course, you know, of course, in our state Your words don’t mumble as well as to to clearly outline your speech or Keynote, whatever it is, so that you know where you’re going with this and that people can follow easily. Those will be the main things.
Michael Hingson 40:10
read or speak from the heart and don’t read a speech.
Melanie Taddeo 40:14
Exactly. And don’t read, don’t read, please don’t read. Because that’s terrible. It sounds awful, but connect with your audience have a conversation. And that’s exactly speak from your heart. A lot of people speak best when it’s off the cuff.
Michael Hingson 40:28
When I first started, when I first started speaking, after September 11, a couple people said you should write your speeches. Okay, I wrote a speech. And I read, it sounded horrible. And I read it to the audience. And it sounded horrible. They were very kind. But I listened to it because I like to record speeches, and then go back and listen to them again. And find that I probably learn more from listening to speeches, as well as going back and listening to these podcasts, which we do as we’re running them through Reaper, to take out any little funny noises and throw clearings and all that. But I find that I learned a lot by doing that. And what I discovered was don’t read a speech. Yes. And it’s important. And the other reason, which most speakers get locked into a mindset don’t do is the value of not reading your speech. If you are at a venue where you’re speaking and you get there early, you never know what you might learn that you want to put into the speech to add value to it. You
Melanie Taddeo 41:38
got it 100%. And I think it’s so important, because I think, you know, what I learned is, if you read a speech, you sound like you’re reading a speech, you’re not connected with the audience, and nobody knows what you’ve written. So here’s the thing, if you know what you’re talking about, just talk, have that conversation and connect with somebody. And like you said, you can add live and add things that just happen. So can be more relatable to your audience, because they were there for that. Sorry, perhaps they can relate to the topic because they’re right there in the moment. But for people that are so focused on what they’ve written, they won’t even go off script, and they lose.
Michael Hingson 42:20
And how boring is that? Or what?
Melanie Taddeo 42:22
Yes. And they only say there’s three types of speeches, the one you wrote, when you delivered and the one you wish you’d delivered, right? Yeah. Wouldn’t it be great just to deliver and be happy?
Michael Hingson 42:34
Yeah, I work really hard to get to the deliver the one I wish to deliver. And so that’s why I love to listen to speeches, and so on, and why it’s so important to do. But I don’t know whether I’ve ever mentioned that on unstoppable mindset. I was asked once by a speaker’s bureau to go deliver a speech to an organization called the National Property Managers Association. And I said to the speaker’s bureau person, well, what is that organization, already having my own preconceived notion of what it was, but they said, what I thought, oh, it’s an organization while the people who are in charge of taking people’s properties and renting them out and so on. So, you know, do you have stories that you can tell him all that and I said, Sure, because, in fact, at the time that we were doing that we had rented, well, we had given a property manager a home, we were moving from one place to another, we’re moving Southern California after Karen’s illness. And so we had a property manager take over that. And then there were stories about that, not all positive. But I flew in to deliver the speech and got there very late the night before I was supposed to deliver a breakfast speech. So I got to the event on 1230. And I went to bed, got up in the morning, went down after taking my guide dog Africa outside because she has to go do her stuff. So we went in to do the speech, and it was breakfast. So I sat down and I was listening to some people near me speak. And something sounded off. So I said to one of the people, tell me more about the National Property Managers Association. Exactly what do you guys do and so on. The National Property Managers Association is an organization that is in charge of and responsible for anything physical owned by the United States government. Totally different? Yes. And I’m about 10 minutes away from speaking, whole speech has to be revised. And I’m not saying that to brag, but rather to express the importance of really learning to be flexible. Now as it turns out, I had negotiated government contracts and schedules and so on and had lots of great stories. In fact, it was a much more fun speech to give and did deliver a speech that everyone appreciated. He got to also talk about things regarding disabilities and other things like that. But the bottom line is that if you are locked into something so much that you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you, you’re going to get in trouble. Or you don’t care, in which case, they’re not going to want to have you come back.
Melanie Taddeo 45:23
Exactly. You would have got up until richer, original speech and they would have been sad about exactly. And probably wouldn’t have said much, but probably wouldn’t have invited you back. Yeah, no, exactly.
Michael Hingson 45:39
Right. Exactly. Right. They would, they would not have but, but it was fun. It was a great event, and enjoyed it and spoke to other divisions of it. So it was a it was a fun time. But I very much enjoy the fact that I believe it’s important for me to learn more when I go to a speaking event than the people I’m speaking to, because that will help me in future speeches. And it’s all about speaking from the heart. And it’s all about learning to speak. And I can’t even say extemporaneously because I know what I want to say. It’s not like it’s totally random. But I want to be able to be flexible. And that’s what any good speakers should be able to do.
Melanie Taddeo 46:20
You know, it’s when I ever talked to my students, oh, how do you memorize all your speeches, I said, Well, I personally, I write out my thoughts on the computer. And then I listened to it over and over again, I never ever go by what I write, but it’s just the concepts I want to cover. And I may make point form notes, as I’m practicing, but it’s just a matter of listening to it. And then I just put them away, and I just start talking. And that’s the best speech when you start talking. Because I already know what I want to say, because I’ve written it down. And that’s part of how I learned. It’s just like, putting it down on something. And it could and then I’ll just walk around the house talking to myself, my husband’s like a UK. Oh, yeah, I’m just talking to yourself. And it works out just fine. And sometimes again, you get up and, you know, wait a minute, no, I’m gonna say this instead. And it just happens. And in the moment, so it is a great way. But it’s important I find to teach the art of public speaking to anyone with a disability because they’ve got to be confident in what they’re saying, because they want to win what what we what I like to do is to ensure that people feel heard and valued. And being able to articulate what you need and how you feel things like that is very, very important skill that not everybody does. Because that Oh, well. I’m just somebody with just blowing the whistle here. Yes, they do. They need to hear your voice. So for me, that’s why we do that course.
Michael Hingson 47:50
Yeah. And by doing that, you’re helping them to gain confidence. And the reality is people always say, well, aren’t you afraid to get up in front of an audience and speak because why couldn’t do that, I’d be afraid. And so I love to tell the story that after September 11, the first time I was invited to speak anywhere, was to a church service in central New Jersey, where they wanted to honor the people who were lost. So it was like two weeks after September 11. So that would have been? Well, it was the 26th. That was Wednesday, two weeks in a day later. And I said, Sure, I’d be glad to come they said, Well, you don’t have a lot of time, only about six minutes or so. But we’d like you to come and tell your story. And I said, Sure, I’d be happy to do that. Then I asked the big question, how many people will be there, not 6000. So I learned pretty quickly, you don’t be afraid of how large or what kind of what audience you have. You can you can deal with them. And it doesn’t matter about the audience. If you connect, which is what you said earlier, it’s all about connecting with the audience.
Melanie Taddeo 49:01
And again, knowing that they’re there in an emotional state like you had just gone through and knowing that you can connect on that level, you can connect by celebrating the first responders or whoever you were the fire you’re celebrating, and just really truly you’re all there for a similar reason. And any conference any speaking engagement usually the people are there for the same reason, usually, but usually, you never know there’s always that person that it may hit that may not know what you’re talking about, or may really get something more out of it than you even expected.
Michael Hingson 49:37
And one of the things I love to do after speaking is take time to talk to people to to meet with them and so on course it’s a blessing to have a book. That was the number one New York Times bestseller and, and also have a guide dog because what we do afterward usually is is there is a book table set up and I’ll tie now Alamo black lap current eighth guy dog and tie him to the table. Alamo knows how to draw in people when it’s all about petting him, of course. But but people come in, and then we get to chat. So whatever tool you have to use, but the bottom line is that people mostly really do want to interact. And you know, I’ve spoken at events, if you talk about politics and so on, that are completely opposite in view from the political views that I have to that I happen to have. But who cares is for me, it’s not about politics, it’s about about speaking and delivering messages. And one of the things that I generally do tell people is, like, I am perfectly capable, and probably will pick on Washington DC during this speech, but just let the record show. I’m an equal opportunity abuser. I go from the standpoint of Mark Twain who said Congress’s Grandal benevolent asylum for the helpless, so they’re all in the same boat. Yeah. So I said, you know, we could we could pick on all of them. And it’s a whole lot of fun,
Melanie Taddeo 51:06
though, and again, adding humor, and it just breaks the ice. It says people at ease, and they know that you’re just here to share a story. And then you’re not going to get those people. Well, I’m on the side, I’m on that side. Right. Yeah. That that commonality. I love it.
Michael Hingson 51:20
And you know, a lot of people say, don’t tell a joke at the beginning of a speech. Well, if, if you’re telling a joke, just to tell a joke, then I agree. But if it has a purpose, and I have found some of those that are that are really very helpful to drive points home. So it’s a lot of fun.
Melanie Taddeo 51:39
Yes, absolutely. And that’s exactly it, it’s the right time, the appropriate time, you get used to where that is. And yeah, it’s just every speech is unique and different. Every audience is unique and different. So really, knowing your audience ahead of time, the best your ability is good thing,
Michael Hingson 51:55
even delivering the same speech at a lot of different kinds of venues. Each speech is different, and it should be different.
Melanie Taddeo 52:04
Yeah, you have to tailor it, even though you say,
Michael Hingson 52:07
even though it’s basically the same speech, but every one is different. And that’s what makes it fun, and also makes it great to listen to, because when I go back and listen to some of those speeches in here, how audience react or don’t, then that helps me improve it for the next time. So thanks, that’s pretty
Melanie Taddeo 52:26
good feedback, or the the response or having those conversations after always gives you that feedback. And you can just evolve from there.
Michael Hingson 52:36
Well, with speeches that I give today, I’ve learned what I should be able to expect from an audience if I’m connecting with them. And if I’m getting those reactions, then I know that I’m connecting. And if I don’t, then I’m, I’m well, on the fly literally need to figure out what to do to make sure that I connect, and I’ve learned enough to be able to do that. But it is important to do that. And that’s what a good speaker should do. Yeah. So you on the other hand, in addition to speaking have written a book, I have, tell us about that if you would,
Melanie Taddeo 53:15
please. So my unforeseen journey losing sight gaining vision is my book and it was published in 2019. I had been told for years, I should write a book, who would want to read my book. And I was listening to an audio book over the Christmas holiday in 2018. I received it and I was mesmerized. It was also such an inspiring book. And it’s like, that’s why you need to read a book. I’m like, asking the question, Who would want to read my book, he’s like, you don’t get it Do you don’t understand how inspiring you are. So he planted a seed, and I didn’t want the book just to be about me. I wanted something tangible for the audience. So the book is about unforeseen change in our life and how we cope with it, and some tangible resources for them to use for their own life. So everybody goes from preceding change, a breakup, a relationship, a death in the family, a loss of a job, let’s say, the pandemic, and all of these things. But so the first part of each chapter is my story on a word. So it might be differences, beliefs, success, whatever the word of the chapter is the title of the chapter. And then underneath, I give some things that helped me cope with it. And that way the reader has a choice to add, try to apply it to their situation, or maybe it doesn’t work for them. But I wanted something so people’s could walk away, go wow, okay, now I can try this out my life, because these are the things that helps me. And it was such an amazing, cathartic process to write the book for myself, but also had my book launch the beginning of December 2019. And I plan this amazing book tour for 2020 and
Michael Hingson 55:00
You know what happened? You got to do it virtually. He
Melanie Taddeo 55:03
was this is it. I didn’t actually do much of it to be honest, I understand. Yeah, I, you know, I still will do it. I, you know, I’ve got all these books. And but what was really great, we got to record the book and audio version, my friend ready for an audio book. And I’ve been talking a lot about it with different things. But it was a great help. In the pandemic, I had a lot of people say to me, your book, Can I order 10 copies for my friends because they need this right now. And who would have thought I didn’t know anything about the pandemic, which was definitely a solution to coping with unforeseen change.
Michael Hingson 55:40
We’ve just started writing a new book I and a colleague, are writing a book that we are I originally wanted to call blinded by fear because people, when unexpected life changes come about, literally become blinded by fear and they can’t make decisions. And it’s all about learning to create a mindset where you can deal with unforeseen circumstances and, and be able to move forward. For the moment that we changed the title Carrie, my my colleague decided better title. So right now we’re calling it a guide dogs Guide to Being brave, because I’ve had a guide dogs and so my whole life has been intermix with dogs. So we’re going to have a lot of dog stories and other things in it. But the the issue is that people really do need to learn that they can deal with fear and sounds and deal with unexpected life changes. And that sounds like your book, very much talks about that, which is great. It really
Melanie Taddeo 56:37
does. And it’s interesting, because I think we automatically assume okay, it’s it’s terrible life, oh my gosh, how could this? I can’t get over it. But we all have that choice. And that’s what I had to learn the hard way, that chapel, they came to me and said, Melanie, do you want to just survive? Or do you want to thrive and both. But we don’t always have that Chaplain come to us. Sometimes we have worked struggling on our own and not knowing where to turn. And I had to learn a lot of hard lessons. And they weren’t easy. So why not share? I wish I had had a book like this. Before this all happens.
Michael Hingson 57:15
When you published the book, was it self published or did a publisher partner publishing?
Melanie Taddeo 57:21
And it’s interesting because I did a lot of research about publishing. And I knew nothing about writing a book. And I Okay, I could do the self publishing to a lot of work, and what if it sucked? So I wouldn’t know. So I went partner publishing, and I had an angel publisher, and she was amazing. I created a new language. It’s called Melanie’s, so I use Dragon naturally speaking to me. And it doesn’t take what you say. Not always, no, not all the time. So there was a lot of parts, she’d be like, What did you mean here? And then I’d have to go back. Okay, this is what I meant. And so we were caught through it. But she was such a great help in creating the structure of the book and then helping with editing. And she’s like, Melanie, look, I wrote it, within eight months, it was just because it was all in my heart in my head. And it was just, I needed to put it on onto the computer, and just get it there. And she’s like, this is easy. It’s not a problem, just the deciphering of the Davinci Code you’ve written for me. And, but it came up beautifully and exactly how I wanted it. And it was, it was a great experience. You know, of course, partner push publishing costs money. So that’s something I learned now that I kind of know what I’m doing, I would definitely hire an editor, and maybe Self Publish.
Michael Hingson 58:43
Yeah, the thing about self publishing is that you just have to be prepared to do all the marketing, but that’s okay.
Melanie Taddeo 58:49
And I did a lot of that with partners publishing as well. So half and half, so it was good.
Michael Hingson 58:55
Don’t think for a minute though, that even if you create a contract, and you actually work with a regular full time legitimate publisher, don’t think you won’t be doing the marketing still, because more and more, they’re expecting the authors to do a lot of the marketing, they do provide support, and there’s some value to it, but they do require you to demonstrate that you not only can mark it, but that you have a cadre of people to to help and that you have an audience that you can market to, which is cool.
Melanie Taddeo 59:25
And the thing is, who better to market your book than yourself. Because you know the story, you lived it, you’ve written it. So to me, that makes a lot of sense. And again, I think it’s like you mentioned, if you do speaking engagement, you have your book, you can talk about that you can connect with people, and again, it’s just making that circuit and I still have to do a lot of that because I haven’t had the opportunity yet, as the pandemic starts to, hopefully cool down. We’re hopeful I’m optimistic. Again, travelers become, again, something that we’re able to do and I hope to go and take it across. Well, definitely to Africa to where my husband is from. So
Michael Hingson 1:00:06
we’ll see how it works worse. Yeah. Now where is he from?
Melanie Taddeo 1:00:10
He’s from Swaziland, which is a little bit north of South Africa. Closer South Africa.
Michael Hingson 1:00:15
Yeah. So it’d be great to go internationally. Yeah. You join Toastmasters along the way.
Melanie Taddeo 1:00:20
I did. Really when I started the charity. Yeah. So when I started the charity, I knew I had to talk a lot about it. And I’d have to talk to bigger audiences and be able to get my message across. And every single Toastmasters, I’m like, I don’t need toast, I don’t need to drink, I just need to talk. Like, that’s what it’s about. So, you know, it really changed my life. I’ve met a lot of people. And I’ve learned the fundamentals, the connections in the networking is pretty huge, and a lot of great people. But it’s given me valuable feedback and evaluation to help me grow as a speaker. It’s international organization across the globe. Of course, I joined one club and then two, and then three, and then a four. And it’s just, you meet so many great people, and you learn so much from other people. And now that it’s international, of course, during pandemic, I was able to travel the world going to all over the world different Toastmasters Club has been a great experience.
Michael Hingson 1:01:17
And so like, unlike rotary clubs, and so on, if you don’t do things, do you get fined if you well you do get fines occasionally if you misbehave, or do something that you’re not supposed to do in terms of speaking, right?
Melanie Taddeo 1:01:29
Well, so with Toastmasters, it’s more of a learning process. So it’s Yeah. So it’s not necessarily like a speaker’s bureau or something like that. Obviously, we have an old set of promise, we promise not to do certain things as Toastmasters. But that being said, I don’t think they would find
Michael Hingson 1:01:47
I was thinking more of I was thinking more of in past, they had an up counter. And you when you got to so many, you had to pay a fine for having too many US and stuff like that.
Melanie Taddeo 1:02:00
You know, it’s yes, absolutely great Marian, so they definitely keep track of the filler words. And I tried very hard to work on that. Some clubs do collect money, and then they do a party at the end of the year. Well, there
Michael Hingson 1:02:10
you go see, others had the buzzer embarrass you. But it’s valuable because you need to learn not to do that stuff. Although I hear people occasionally now saying, Well, if there’s some filler words in there, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. And I’m sitting there going, No, you’re getting lazy.
Melanie Taddeo 1:02:28
And you know what, this is an everyday conversation, we do use filler words, let’s face it. But we, if we pause, it’s powerful. And again, with my class, when I start to notice, you know, like so and like, you know, alright, let’s count. And let’s see what we have at the end of class. And they’ll say, oh, wow, and then they stop, and then they start again. So it is a good thing to be mindful of for sure.
Michael Hingson 1:02:57
I listened to a sports show several years ago, this guy liked to pick on some athletes, and he was interviewing one athlete. And when they broadcast the interview, he pointed out that this guy in a minute and a half said, you know, 48 times, which was I know, I’m sitting there going Wow. But but he played the interview, and they were there, you know.
Melanie Taddeo 1:03:21
And you want to make sure that and we kept them and I will say one of my clubs is really, really bad for them. I’m like, Okay, guys, I stopped counting 100, please stop it. That’s a two hour meeting. But still, you get my point?
Michael Hingson 1:03:36
I do. So you got to be quite the advocate. And again, now dealing with persons with disabilities and so on. And I know that we’ve been doing this a while and we’re getting close to the the time that we should wrap it up. But that’s the beauty of a podcast. We don’t have to be right on time, in that sense, but how how do you find dealing with laws in Canada, because a lot of times what I’ve at least in my experience found that laws are more provincial rather than across all all of the provinces. And that gets to be a challenge does
Melanie Taddeo 1:04:13
it does so in Ontario, we have the AOK, the accessibility, accessibility, oh, my gosh, accessibility offer Ontario’s Disability Act. And we really truly have great standards. It’s wonderful. We’re not quite there a lot of work still to do. But it is an effort. But then if you go to a different province, it’s different. So I know they are working on federal legislation. But I will say since I acquired my disability 26 years ago, I’ve seen leaps and bounds with accessibility for buildings, built environment, even for information and technology. Definitely has come far. We’re still not there. The websites are not accessible. We’re getting there, but it’s now not not necessarily an afterthought, it started to be part of the process, which I appreciate. So I will say we have definitely come a far distance, still far different scope. But I will continue to advocate for accessibility and for inclusion as we go, because that’s something I’m passionate about. And I know we can get there.
Michael Hingson 1:05:18
We can get there. And it is a process, you use access to be on your website.
Melanie Taddeo 1:05:26
And I’m getting it now on all of my personal websites. So I’m so excited.
And the point is that accessibe is a representation of how the process is changing. And it’s an evolutionary process, and it will improve over time. I remember dating me again, being involved in the original project of the National Federation of the Blind, and Ray Kurzweil in 1976, where we took several of his 400 pound machines, and put them in various places around the United States to get input from blind people as to what they would like to see improved in the machine and so on. And when I think about it, most machines were horrible at reading. But at the time, they weren’t. Yes, there were a lot of mistakes. And when you compare it with the standards of today, there were a lot of problems. But still, most people recognize, yes, not perfect, yeah, there’s a lot of doesn’t read by Gee, I can read stuff I never could before. And there was always the recognition and the promise that improvements were coming. And look at optical character recognition today, which really did start from an omni font standpoint, with Ray Kurzweil.
Melanie Taddeo 1:06:48
It’s amazing to see the evolution. And again, it’s a matter of just getting that feedback from the users, because that’s who needs to really give that feedback and software manufacturers to listen and to make those switches and changes. I can tell you Syria and I have this love hate relationship with my iPhone. I love it. But she never types what I say.
Michael Hingson 1:07:12
Well, and my Amazon Echo doesn’t understand a lot of the questions that I ask you just another story. Yes. Well, you know, this has been fun Melanie, and I really enjoyed you being on unstoppable mindset. And I would love it if you would tell people, how they can reach out to you and communicate with you. And please tell us about where we can get your books.
Oh, thank you so much. So everybody can reach out to me, my website, Melanie Taddoe M E L A N I E TA D D E O.ca My books are also available on Amazon through that website. And again, the contact me directly. And that’s Melanie at connect the number four life.ca. And again, I’d be happy to ship the book to you. Or if you’d like an audio book or ebook, let me know. And I could just email it to you. So again, there’s lots of methods to connect that way. And then of course, I have my gaining vision website, which is gaining vision 20 twenty.com. And my take another look podcast.com website. So there’s lots of ways to connect. Please do.
Michael Hingson 1:08:25
And I hope people will listen to your podcast and subscribe. that would that would be great.
Melanie Taddeo 1:08:32
We’re just starting and we’re on Spotify and Apple podcasts. So we’re on YouTube, but please definitely reach out. We’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking for guests as well. So if anybody wants to have an uncomfortable a difficult conversation, let me know.
Michael Hingson 1:08:47
I’m volunteer. Yes.
Melanie Taddeo 1:08:48
Oh, don’t you? Don’t worry. I’ve seen you up for that for sure.
Well, now I just said it publicly. Perfect. Well, well, thanks for joining us on unstoppable mindset. And I hope all of you listening have enjoyed this. Please reach out to Melanie and I want to hear from you as well. So wherever you’re listening to this podcast first please give us a five star rating we appreciate that. You can reach me at Michaelhi at accessibe.com 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 which is www dot Michael hingson M I C H A E L H I N G S O N.com/podcast. And again, please give us a great rating. Please tell your friends about the podcast. So they’ll come back and listen to Melanie and reach out to her as well. Whether they’re in Canada or the United States, Melanie has a lot to offer no question about it. So please reach out to her and we hope to hear from you all again too. In the near future. The next time we have another episode and again, Melanie, thanks very much for being you. Thanks so much for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.
Michael Hingson 1:10:04
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.