Episode 66 – Unstoppable Blind Therapist with Delmar MacLean
Yes, our guest on this episode, Delmar MacLean, happens to be blind. Does it really matter if Delmar is blind or not? No not at all. Some may ask then why I even mention blindness? It is because Delmar typifies the fact that happening to be blind does not in any way define him. Delmar’s philosophy is that while he has a disability, he is not disabled.
Delmar completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in psychology and Religious Studies in 1998 and an honors thesis in psychology in 2001. He went on to complete a Master of Social Work degree at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo Ontario in 2003.
Since securing his Master’s degree he has held several jobs he will discuss during our conversation. Today he works as a tele-counsellor for an international company helping employees dealing with issues about well-being.
What strikes me most about Delmar is that he has one of the most positive attitudes I have encountered not only about being blind, but about life in general. I believe you will find his thoughts and observations inspiring and thought-provoking. Please let me know what you think after listening to our episode.
About the Guest:
Delmar MacLean, MSW, RSW.
Delmar MacLean was born and raised in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Although Delmar has had vision loss since birth, he has never let his vision loss hold him back. Delmar’s philosophy is that while he has a disability, he is not disabled. Delmar believes in the social model of disability and that disability is just something that you work around. Delmar completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in psychology and Religious Studies in 1998 and an honours thesis in psychology in 2001, both at the University of Prince Edward Island. Delmar went on to complete a Master of Social Work degree at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo Ontario in 2003, specializing in clinical social work. Since completing his master’s degree in 2003, Delmar has worked in a variety of social service settings. Delmar has lived and worked in a several different Canadian communities, including Halifax, Nova Scotia, Calgary, Alberta, Kitchener, Ontario, Waterloo, Ontario, and Barrie Ontario. Delmar worked as a Service Coordinator for Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada from 2008 to 2019. Since 2019, Delmar has worked as a tele-Counsellor for LifeWorks, a multinational wellbeing platform that improves employee’s individual, social, financial, and metal wellbeing. Delmar currently lives in Barrie Ontario, Canada.
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.
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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, wherever you may be, this is Mike Hingson. And welcome back to unstoppable mindset where you’re glad you’re here. And we have a guest Delmar MacLean today Delmar has a master’s in social welfare work. And he is also a person who happens to be blind. So we have some things in common there and Delmar has had his share of life experiences and adventures and we’ll get to talk about some of those. And you’ll get to meet him and kind of learn about him and maybe he’ll inspire you a little bit so Delmar, welcome to unstoppable mindset. Glad you’re with us.
Delmar MacLean 01:56
Oh, thank you very much. It’s great to be here. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 02:00
Well, tell me a little bit about your life growing up and were you born without sight Were you born blind.
Delmar MacLean 02:07
I actually I was I was born. I was born blind. I had what I was told anyways, and I had congenital cataracts and other issues. Now, the congenital cataracts they weren’t dealt with in the same way when I was young as they are now of course, I was born in 1973. And I had, I had basically up until about 1977, or 78, I had five operations, you know, in five I operations within that period. And that allowed me to obtain partial vision in one eye. So So technically, I’m not totally blind. Now, obviously, I have enough vision right now that I can, you know, I can get around. I, you know, I can take public transit, I can walk I you know, read large print, I have larger fonts on my computer. But to give you a context there, I had my first i operation, I think it was in January of 1974. So, yeah, so between 74 and 77 or 78, that’s when I had my series of five eye operations. And I had one last eye surgery in 2011 wherein I, there was a an inter ocular lens implanted in my better seeing IRA because, when I had my surgeries back in the early 70s the process at least as I understand it for children was not to take out you know, the the lens that was that had the cataract and right and replace it with anything, right? They would just remove the lenses and then often you would, they would use, you know, glasses right with with strong magnification to you know, if there was any vision to that could be maximized.
Michael Hingson 04:08
So how, yeah, so how is cataract surgery changed over the years?
Delmar MacLean 04:13
Well, I think nowadays, you know, you can have the the inter ocular lenses putting your eyes in often you know, a person can have fairly normal vision, you know, like, it’s a result of the surgeries but because of the type of surgeries they did when I was younger, you know, there was I think I’m not not a medical expert so cracked it I mean, I don’t I have to be careful what I say here, but I think that it was more of a risk of you know, scar tissue being left behind. And that’s what happened in my other eye, which I sent for the see blur, right? I prayed. I pretty much consider myself as being blind in that eye because it’s really there’s nothing there to use, you know? to do anything, and that’s what happened there, there was, there was some scar tissue that was left behind that the surgeon couldn’t get in. And, you know you in in 2011, the surgeon that was that I was working with, he said, yeah, there is no in no real sense, you know, trying to do anything once and I, he said I could we could try to implant a lamp lens in there. But he said, I don’t think it would really make a difference, it wouldn’t really give give you anything. So,
Michael Hingson 05:31
of course surgery, and I’m not a medical expert, either by any standard, but I would think that surgery has changed now to where there is a lot more specific pinpoint surgery they can do and a lot that they can do with lasers that they weren’t able to do 4050 years ago.
Delmar MacLean 05:49
Yeah, but just in my case. So they’re saying at this point, it’s not, it wouldn’t give me anything more than what I have. As it was, in 2011, when I had the lens put in my, in my seeing eye, so to speak, the dot one of the physician’s assistants, when I went for my post surgical checkup, he said, Oh, I’m sorry, the surgery failed, you know, and your vision. So poor. Meanwhile, I thought it was great, because I had been wearing really thick glasses, you know, for most of my life. And now, of course, I feel like I have a little bit more vision than what I had with the thick glasses. So so to me, it’s an improvement. They’re telling me basically now, getting any type of eyeglasses won’t really help me. But I think it’s kind of great not to have to wear to wear glasses. And it’s weird, because now sometimes people don’t even know that I have you know that I have low vision. And so I’m kind of excited that I can walk around without glasses, and I don’t I don’t, you know, consider it a failure. So I guess it’s all perspective.
Michael Hingson 07:02
It is one of the constant things that we tend to see. And you you summarized it very well with what that woman told you, which is, I’m sorry that we failed, and you can’t have more vision. And the problem in the medical the optical industry is it’s a failure if they can’t restore your eyesight rather than recognizing that eyesight is not the only game in town. Yeah, it makes it it makes it so unfortunate that we see that so much. And that contributes to the myth that if you’re blind, you can’t do anything. And that’d be my question to you. What if you tomorrow lost the rest of your eyesight?
Delmar MacLean 07:44
Yeah, I mean, I think I mean, I can’t say that I wouldn’t be, you know, have some measure of disappointment for sure. I’d be but but I feel in, in my, my view, and this, of course, probably, I have worked for cniv, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, their vision loss rehabilitation area. So I worked for them for a number of years. And so I’m, you know, I’m well aware of how one can compensate for partial vision, no vision, you know, there’s ways to work around it. So of course, I, I think I would have some measure of disappointment, because I don’t, I don’t actually remember having no vision because I was so young. But I know that I could work around like I don’t think, to me, it doesn’t have to be, oh, my goodness, I’m blind, I might, you know, I’m life’s not worth living. And trust me, I have worked with people who were at that point, you know, where they thought, you know, the idea of going blind, it would be the worst thing ever, or even, you know, having partial vision that will walk can you do when you’re blind, you know, it’s over? Right? Where so I certainly don’t think that way, my view of disability is, you know, it’s something that you you can work around, right, that you have to look at strategies that help you just to go around, you know, kind of like you might have to go around, you know, a fork in the road, right or an obstacle in the road, you know, in in in people. I think we all function differently. To a degree anyway. Right? So, like you said, it’s it does, having no vision or less vision, it doesn’t have to be thought of as a deficit. You know, it’s,
Michael Hingson 09:34
well, the problem is that society treats it as a deficit. And so let me let me suggest this and we’ve talked about this on unstoppable mindset before my proposal and my submission is everyone has a disability. And the fact is that people with eyesight all have a disability and to use your terminology, they’ve worked around it that is their light dependent, and they don’t know how to function without light, Thomas Edison and the people who invented the electric light bulb, worked around their disability, but make no mistake, it’s still there. And as soon as you as soon as you lose power, as soon as you learn light and lose lights, people run for candles, flashlights and other things, so that they can see what to do, which they may or may not be able to find technology to temporarily offset that disability. It’s there. But we don’t we we don’t make the leap to say okay, but there are people who are that way all the time. Why should we treat them different?
Delmar MacLean 10:38
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, no, um, and I as human as we’re, as we’re talking with that, I can think of instances where I’ve, let’s say, I’ve come home to my condo with a friend who’s totally sighted, right, and we go into the, in the doorway, you know, when it’s dark in there, I noticed they’re having a fit, because, oh, you put the lights on, right. And I’m kind of just, you know, walking, walking around my condo in the dark, you know, until I until I eventually get to where the, you know, light sources and turn the switch on, right. But I noticed they’re, they’re panicking, you know, there’s no light, there’s no plate, right? And I’m kind of chuckling to myself, you know, these guys really need light. It’s not that hard to get around, you know, like dark gray, you can feel your way. And of course, you know, pretty familiar with with my own house, right? So I know where things are. Yeah. But I know what you’re saying society has this idea that you especially with, with vision, right, that you can’t do anything without vision Corps, I think those of us who have vision loss, or really any type, any type of disability know that we can, we can work around if we’re creative. And that’s, I had a colleague at CNN, IB years ago, who would say that, you know, we have to be creative if we have a loss, you know, to work around, and he was totally blind. And he actually said it was honorable that I remember he said, it was honorable to have vision loss. That is to say,
Michael Hingson 12:11
Well, the problem is, I suppose I’ll put it that way, we do have to be creative, because society has as yet not chosen to be inclusive. And the fact is that society should recognize that we all need different tools to function in life. And the fact that I may need some slightly different tools than a totally sighted person might need doesn’t change the fact. And we can’t seem to get away from that. So we’re forced to oftentimes be a lot more creative than we otherwise might need to be. And we have to go do things differently, like on the internet, it is it is a challenge to go to a lot of websites that aren’t very accessible. And one of the reasons I joined accessibility in 2021 was to help promote a concept that as it increased and improved and was enhanced, would make more websites accessible in a very scalable way. But the fact is that websites can be made accessible, whether it be through artificial intelligence, and remediation, or just manual coding. And even so less than 2% of all websites are accessible today, because it reflects the attitudes of the society.
Delmar MacLean 13:28
Right? I find we, and I’m not before I say this, I’m not saying this is easy, but I think we, as people with vision loss have to be continually advocating for ourselves and others, I think we have to be willing to speak up and say, you know, this, this, the way we’re doing things right now isn’t working. But here are some solutions that we can use. And I know that that sometimes people get offended by that, or they you know, they they they get a little bit a little bit defensive, right, when we’re when we’re trying to say that something isn’t working, and here’s a better way. But I think that’s the only way to help things to move forward as if we continually, you know, continually being vocal, and advocating and trying to educate people in terms of what can be done in the fact that vision loss doesn’t have to be a total obstacle in that you can work around it. And we all do. I mean, we
Michael Hingson 14:31
all and we all have to Yeah, advocacy is is something that more and more we all have to do to to get things done. In this country. There are lots of political debates raging. And you’ve got a lot of evidence that most of society may view things one way, and Congress views it another way. And even advocacy to tends to have major challenges because you’ve got 500 up to 537 people that just have decided no, this is the way it’s going to be no matter what 80 or 90% of the population believes. And at the same time, we can’t give up advocating for ourselves and advocating for what we need to have, because it’s the only way that we’re going to make any progress and get to be part of the dialogue by society.
Delmar MacLean 15:29
It sounds like Canada, right where I am. I mean, not not, you know, a little bit different political structure. Right. But a similar issues, you know, I think,
Michael Hingson 15:37
yeah, it is. It is the same sort of thing. And yeah, the political structure is different to a degree, but the, the political leaders, sometimes in quotes, don’t listen to people, and they think they know more. And you know, that is true down the line, as you said, Some people can get offended when you advocate and say, well, this system isn’t working for a person who happens to be blind, here’s a better way. And they get offended by that, because they don’t think that we really know or can know, what we need for ourselves, because obviously, we’re blind. We don’t know anything.
Delmar MacLean 16:20
And the other thing, though, I think the other factor is that they have a different lived experience, because they they often they don’t have a disability they’ve not maybe not associated with people with disabilities. So they don’t really know what’s possible. I actually had a professor, when I was in University suggests to me that there is no discrimination toward people with disabilities, because we have government legislation to prevent that. And I had to really try not to just sort of laugh in his face, I was really trying to bite my tongue and think, What the heck is this guy talking? I’m sure I know, he meant well, but really, you can see, do you really think that just because government enacts legislation that that things go away? Like so for example, if government enacts legislation, does discrimination, you know, toward persons of color go away, you know, does our, you know, issues of poverty immediately solve because the government enacts legislation? To me that’s such a crazy, naive idea. But that, to me, that was because he didn’t have lived experience of, you know, living with a disability, right, and trying to navigate various aspects of society. Various.
Michael Hingson 17:38
One of the things that we, one of the things that we tried to do with this podcast is to stir people’s curiosity to maybe look at some of the things that we talked about, like what you’re you’re talking about, and your professor is an interesting example. And it’s all too often the case, oh, there’s no real discrimination, because there are laws tell that to women who aren’t hired for positions or tell it to the women Professional Soccer League, in this country that works as hard as men, and just now has pushed to get a contract that says that they’re going to get equal pay anything visibility? That is discriminatory as he gets, and that that there wasn’t a contract for all these years. And the reality is that it it does go back to societal attitudes. And you’re right, a lot of people tend not to have the life experiences that some of us do. But their life experiences also teach them, they have the answers, and that’s what needs to change. True.
Delmar MacLean 18:51
I agree. I agree. And your idea, you know, as he said earlier, that people with vision loss or with disabilities in general, don’t know what they need, right? Because we’re, we’re somehow, you know, we have this deficit, right. And we need to be taken care of, I mean, I think that that needs to be changed. I know that. I don’t know what your experience has been. But But I know, sometimes when you know, people find out that I that I have a graduate degree and that I own my own place and that I you know, I live on my own you know, people are, say things like, Oh, that’s wonderful. You have a you know, you have a job and you live on your own and you own your home, in but they always have to attach on the end of that, given your challenges every year. I’m thinking like, what the heck does that mean? I had a doctor who, while I was doing my, actually when I was doing my last eye surgery in 2011. And he told me that once I had the lens implant, my life I’d have a normal life. And I thought to myself, What the heck is this guy talking about? You know, because even at that time, obviously I was, you know, I had my master’s I was working full time. Let me know, I remind you, I didn’t know in my own home at that time, but you know, things come along, right. I mean, but otherwise, you know, my life was, I thought fairly normal. So I again, I had to bite my tongue and, and try not to laugh at this guy, what the heck? Are you talking about normal life? You know? And sometimes I feel like saying to them, Wow, that’s wonderful. You went to medical school? You know, how did you do that? You know?
Michael Hingson 20:24
Yeah. No, it is amazing. So what was it like growing up on Prince Edward Island where you’re from? It was
Delmar MacLean 20:32
it was interesting. Pei. It’s, it’s very community oriented. And I guess, both in good and maybe bad ways. The good, of course, is that you always have, I think, support your friends and family. And it’s, it’s fairly apparent fairly tight knit type of community. Now, the challenges there, of course, are that you, you have to be careful that you, you if you do something that Peeves someone off, right, or like, especially for example, in your, in the business world, it’s going to really come back to, to hurt you because of because of the smallness of the community, we’re, of course, talking to a province of, I think it’s 150,000 Now, I believe is what the population is. So if you do something, that, that, you know, you have a bad experience in an employment setting, and you’re, you know, you’re looking for other jobs, that’s probably going to make it hard for you to, to move ahead in terms of your career, right, because so many people know one another. So that’s a little bit a little bit of a drawback there. But overall, I, you know, I, I found growing up there to be to be, I guess, successful for me, I mean, I didn’t really have any major drawbacks. Now, I think when I was growing up, I really didn’t think that Pei was any different from any other place. I didn’t understand the fact that, you know, there wasn’t much anonymity there, you know, given the small size of the population. For example, when I left the island, a was hard at first to get used to living in, in larger centers where, you know, people don’t really get as much involved in your life, you know, they’re not looking at what the neighbors do. Because I noticed, like, if I go back east to visit back home to visit, because of the smallness people are more interested in, you know, and what their neighbors are doing, or if their neighbors are having trouble, you know, and, and sometimes, there might be a little more of a tendency to, you know, to talk about your neighbors, right, whereas, I don’t know, that happens as much in bigger centers. And I don’t say that I don’t mean to poopoo PII in any in any way. It’s a it’s a great place in many ways. But I also recognize that there are some limitations given its size.
Michael Hingson 23:11
It’s small, and the size is what it is, it is an island. Yes, it is. Yes, yes. There walk too far in one direction, or you’d be in trouble. Well, I
Delmar MacLean 23:20
mean, yeah, I mean, you have to hit Santos still does take several hours, you know, to drive across it. So. Yeah, so but I mean, you’re you’re talking about, so the main urban area, there, of course, is Charlottetown. And I think it’s about 60,000 people now. And that’s what that’s where most of the population lives. So other than that, it’s, there’s another small city, I think that’s around 15,000. That’s Summerside. But other than that, there are a lot of, you know, rural towns. And so it is very much a rural, rural province. None, you know, nothing wrong with that, right. It just just, I think it’s just accepting what it is right? When, right, wherever you are, right, accepting what it is. Now, one other challenge that I’ve had that I did find growing up there, of course, was in relation to having a disability, right, there aren’t as many accessible features that you would find in larger centers. We do have a transportation system now in Charlottetown. But once you get outside of that, you know, when you’re having to use a car, so if you can’t drive or you, you know, don’t have a partner who drives you’re going to want to, you’re going to pretty much be staying in Charlotte him. So like, I think, you know, I just, you know, I still love the place because I mean, obviously, I grew up there and I still have that attachment to it, but I also recognize the limitations that it presents for me in terms of what I want to do in my life. Do you still have family there? I have some cousins. Is there but mostly like, my parents are gone, you know, sisters and their sisters and brothers. There are some of the some sisters and brothers of my father’s family that are still around, but, but my parents had me when they were older. So like they were in their early 40s When they had me.
Michael Hingson 25:22
So, did you have any siblings? No, no. So you were an only child? Yes. Yeah. Which also had its experiences and in your in challenges and, and blessings, I suppose, in a way?
Delmar MacLean 25:34
Well, I used to joke that. And I mean, don’t don’t take this really seriously. But I’d say, in a funny way, the well, being an only child, I tended to get, I tended to get what I wanted, right, because I didn’t have any siblings to compete against. I remember. My, my friend and his brother, you know, they sometimes will they fought over things. I would think, man, I’m glad I’m an only child. And I don’t mean when I say that I got what I wanted. I don’t mean that I was spoiled, spoiled and demanded a lot. Right. But it’s just that I, you know, I didn’t have to, I figured I didn’t have to worry about a brother or sister and then you know, fighting with them.
Michael Hingson 26:15
Well, you went to college, and did all those things.
Delmar MacLean 26:19
Yes, yes. Yes, I did my my undergraduate degree in actually psychology and world religions. For a while I was having trouble deciding whether I wanted to exclusively do psychology or world world religions, which I was also interested in. So I decided to do a double major. I did that at the course at the University of Prince Edward Island. And then, after I finished my honours in psychology, I went off to do my master’s in social work from Wilfrid Laurier University, which is in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
Michael Hingson 26:56
What What made you go into social work and get a, an advanced degree in MSW?
Delmar MacLean 27:01
Well, when I was going on social work, yes, well, when I was growing up, when I was in the ball, I was of course, a client of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and they hooked me up. This is how I remember and anyway, it was, it was pretty young, probably 10 or 11. Maybe they hooked me up with a gentleman who was totally blind through a summer program. And of course, we became, we became good friends. He, as an adult, retrained to become a social worker. And well, I was his friend. And, you know, he was mentoring me, he, he went back to school, he finished his, his is psychology degree, I believe it was he was studying and also then he did his master’s in social work. And, you know, during that time, obviously, I was thinking about, Okay, what could I be when I when I grew up, you know, and I knew that I, you know, I couldn’t do something where I’d have to drive a car, right? I couldn’t be a boss driver, I wouldn’t be an airline pilot or something like that. But I think my through my friendship with him, I saw him you know, doing his doing his university degrees and you know, in working and I thought, Well, gee, you know, here’s a guy that has, they can’t see anything, right. And he’s doing all these things. So obviously, if he can do it, I can do it. And I don’t know I think just through his mentoring and learning about what he did, I figured that’s that’s what I wanted to do. So
Michael Hingson 28:31
of course now with societal attitudes slowly changing. Maybe you could at least if you were living down here you could go off and be a bus driver or whatever you’re given the way most people drive down here I don’t see the problem.
Delmar MacLean 28:43
Yeah, well I sometimes think that here where I am to and in Barry you know, sometimes I’m crossing the street you know, and I of course have the green light and I see someone barrel through the intersection. I’m thinking gee, do you not know that when someone the pedestrians in the crosswalk you you’re supposed to stop? Or you better go back and take your driving past again? Especially when the light is in your favor? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you but you still obviously you know, have to be careful about because I guess not everybody obeys the traffic laws even if they happen to have a driving license My
Michael Hingson 29:17
point exactly. And it seems to be happening more and more people are impatient. People want to do what they want to do when they want to do it and everything else be damned as it were. An unfortunate in your Well, you’re not maybe not old enough to have may have lived in a time to hear the terms of things like defensive driving where people really looked out for each other but that is that is a concept that it seems to have dropped by the wayside over the
Delmar MacLean 29:48
No I do remember that con concept because I was thinking that the other day here when I was walking I said wow, these drivers are really offensive now you know, they’re, they’re, they’re they You want to get to where they want to go? And then that’s, you know, that’s That’s it. Yeah. And I think they might drive. You know, I shouldn’t say this, but part of me was thinking, you know, perhaps they would just run if you were in the way their way, they would just run into you and keep going, Oh, well, I’ve got to get here. So, no, I mean, that’s maybe a little bit. I shouldn’t say that’s a little bit extreme.
Michael Hingson 30:22
I’m not sure that’s always true. Yeah. Things things can happen. But you got your master’s in social work. Yes. And what did you then do? Ah,
Delmar MacLean 30:34
well, I, you know, of course, I spent a little bit of time looking for work. It was a little bit challenging initially. I, I nomadically, if you will, moved around the country a little bit. I started of course, in Kitchener Waterloo where I got my masters. No, I’m sorry. I actually went I actually briefly went back to Pei tried to get work there. It just wasn’t happening. So that I, I decided I’d go back to Kitchener Waterloo and I did that. I worked for a really small agency for a few months, which base basically as a human, sorry, what am I I’m trying to remember what the title of my my job was sort of like an information resource type of worker where I help people with disabilities to access resources. And you know, and I helped him with issues around advocacy. I did that was a very, very, very small agency. So I worked there. And when was that? Oh, it was way back in 2004. Okay. So I did that for a little bit. And then I got a job with a community counseling agency. They’re a contract position, and I was there for about a year. And then after that, I, I decided I try Calgary, Alberta. So I moved there. I worked for a bit, or an employment counseling agency. That was interesting. And then I actually I ended up back, I ended up back in Kitchener for a while. And then I ended up in Halifax where Halifax is in Nova Scotia is where I, I started with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. So I was there for a while, which led me actually to Barry, where I continued to work for cniv for about 11 years, until unfortunately, I should mention that when I was up seeing IB, I was doing mostly service coordination and counseling work, you know, dealing with clients who were new to vision loss, right. So, so helping them adjusted to vision loss, and access appropriate rehabilitation services. So I did that up until 2019. And unfortunately, I was I was part of a union. And there was a cot made to a certain position in you know, when someone else was allowed to take my position it was, you know, I guess they call it pumping. So, so then I, yeah, so then I had to, to look for something else. And I started working with the company I’m with now, which is LifeWorks. And they’re a they’re an international EAP company apply Employment Assistance Program. And I do, I’m a counselor with them. So did telephone counseling. So I’ve been there now. Well, actually, it’ll be next month, it’ll be three years.
Michael Hingson 33:43
So the union didn’t tend to protect you much.
Delmar MacLean 33:45
No, no. And I think, yeah, and, of course, where I am now doesn’t have a union. And, you know, it’s funny, because before I got a unionized job, I thought, oh, you know, unions, great unions. Great. Right. And you often hear that, that, you know, the union is the be all and end all but yeah, but it just goes to show that you can your job is still not guaranteed. Absolutely. 100% If you’re in the union, of course, you have union dues, and all of that, too. I’m not saying you know that unions are totally bad either, right? I’m just saying, there’s no guarantee 100% You know, just because you have a union that your your job is your job is what’s the word I’m looking for, you know that you can never Yeah, 100% secure that you can never lose it.
Michael Hingson 34:35
And it probably shouldn’t be that way because if somebody was, I’m not saying is true for you, but if somebody isn’t doing a good job, we hear a lot of times that they they tend to get protected a lot. And you know, we look at look at the George Floyd case and the police cases and a lot of the things that have happened down here, where clearly someone did something they weren’t supposed to do How can unions defend it no matter what. Right? Where do you where do you draw the line on that too?
Delmar MacLean 35:07
Right. And the other thing I find, too, sometimes with the unions is, some employees will just say, Well, you know, that’s my job. And that’s it. I’m not doing anything else that’s, you know, leaving a little bit outside of the scope of my job, you know, I’m just doing what I have to do. This is what the union says I have to do. And sometimes, I think that in the old days, you know, we we really, maybe we really needed the protection of unions, but sometimes, sometimes, you know, unions can, can we, you know, they can ask for maybe more than what’s what’s really needed. You know, there can be some, some, a little bit of greed there, too, not saying I’m not saying that all unions are bad. I don’t want to I don’t want to generalize, but certainly challenges, right?
Michael Hingson 35:59
No, absolutely not. You don’t want to do that. Because unions can be very, and are very helpful in a lot of ways. There’s a lot out there, does. We, you have lived in a lot of places in Canada, what’s your favorite place to live?
Delmar MacLean 36:14
I knew you’re gonna ask me that. And everybody asked me that. And what I would say that it’s really hard to pick one place and say, That’s my favorite place. I think every place I’ve lived, as had things that I really liked, and then things that maybe I didn’t like as much. And I think that what I learned from that is that no matter where you are, there are going to be positives and negatives. You know, there’s never there’s never a perfect, you know, you can have your cake and eat it and every everything’s, everything’s roses, right? I mean, I think wherever you are, it’s what it’s what you you make it, you know, if you look at making your life positive, and having a positive attitude, you’ll succeed. But if you if you say, Oh, this isn’t like where I was before, why did he do these things this way, and not the way it was done in my hometown, and this is wrong. And, you know, and he, you’re and you’re not going to endear yourself to the people there. Right, and you’re going to you’re going to have trouble acclimating and into the society. So I think it’s just what I’ve learned is every, like I say, every place has positives, and every place, you know, things that you really like, right? And then there’s going to be drawbacks, things that you that maybe you’re not as fond of in every place and just, yeah, just have a good attitude and be happy where you are and try to align yourself with some things, but the things that you like and, and just try to have an open mind and you’ll, you know, you’ll you’ll have a good good experience there. I like living in different places and seeing different things.
Michael Hingson 37:55
I hear exactly what you’re saying. I grew up in a little town about 55 miles from where I live now. I grew up in a town called Palmdale, California, okay, right in the Mojave Desert, Southern California. And it was a small town, we only had about 26 2700 people in the town. Oh, and as we drove around Southern California occasionally we went through this little town called Victorville, which was hardly even a blip on a radar scope compared to Palmdale is 2700 people when I grew up and went to the University of California at Irvine have lived in a number of places. And, and they have good memories of Palmdale, but also never wanted really to move back there. Because I found other places that I enjoyed well, and ultimately, in 2014, we were living in the San Francisco area in a town called Novato, which is in actually Marin County, just north of San Francisco. And because of an illness my wife had and so on, we decided to move closer to family. And we ended up finding property and building a home in Victorville California, which used to be a blip on the radar scope. But when we came to Victorville in 2014, there were 115,000 people living here. Okay, well, as I said, is 55 miles from where I grew up. And you know, there are there things that are good about Victorville, and things that that we don’t tend to like. But there are things that we do like, and most important of all, we have a nice home here. We built a home because it’s easier to when you have property to do it build a home, when you need to make it wheelchair accessible, which we needed to do for Karen. Because if you buy a home and modify it, it’s so expensive. So every place you go is what you make of it. And I hear people talking all the time about how horrible New York is, and they wouldn’t want to live there. And they say the New York cabbies are dangerous and so on. My wife actually pointed out once when we were in New York and We were in our car with a friend. And Karen said to our friend, look at the New York cabs, you never see any of them with dented fenders and all dinged up. The reality is they’re good drivers. Now they honk their horns and they get impatient. And that’s part of the New York Mystique, I suppose. But they don’t. They don’t tend to crash their cabs and have all sorts of dinged up cabs, they’re taking care of, and they drive. They really drive pretty well. Now, that was a while ago, and I don’t know about today. But the best thing to do in New York is to take public transportation anyway.
Delmar MacLean 40:39
I’ve never been to New York, my mother was and she, my mother didn’t really like big cities. So I asked her about New York, no big city, you know. I don’t know. I mean, I think that’s someplace I would like to go someday, I’d like to see, I’d really like to see Madison Square Garden, because my, one of my my favorite rock band Led Zeppelin played there. And in 19, seven, while he played there a lot in the 70s. Right, but I’d love to see the cmst. And I don’t know, I think I think it’d be neat just to, you know, walk amongst the tall buildings there. And the excitement, there’s a lot going on. So I think eventually, eventually, at some point in my life, I’ll probably, you know, go there for a visit,
Michael Hingson 41:23
there is a lot going on there. It’s a wonderful place to be. And Karen said, If we ever had to move back to the New York area, although we lived in Westfield, New Jersey for six years, so we’re about 40 miles from New York and took the trains in. Although when she went in, she drove, said if I wanted to, had to live back there, I’d want to live in New York City, and maybe expensive, but rent an apartment because you don’t need a car to get around. And even she in a wheelchair doesn’t need a car, because public transportation is accessible, but there is so much there. And so close, there’s a lot of culture in New York City, and I lived.
Delmar MacLean 42:02
I just gonna say, like, then see, that’s, I think that’s, I think, not to keep dwelling on, you know, disability related issues. But I feel like, as a person with a disability, I value being in a large center, where there’s really good trends and like you say, where you don’t need a car where you can, you know, hop on a bus or subway or whatnot, and, you know, in go ease, move easily between destinations. And that’s, for example, PII, right, you don’t have that because it’s small. And I think what happens is, when you try to point that out to people who live there who say don’t have a disability, they don’t really get it, and they think they may be taken, as you know, like you’re putting their place down while being one, because you’re pointing out that it doesn’t have a lot of transportation, because they can hop in a car, right, and they can drive long distances between venues. So for them, maybe they think all the big city, it’s, you know, too noisy, there’s too many people and there’s too many big buildings, and everything’s congested together, right. Whereas, you know, I guess, to us, right, we see the value of, Wow, you can, you know, you can, you can get to so many places so quickly and with so much ease, and you don’t need to own a vehicle or worry about driving. I just wanted to add that in there. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.
Michael Hingson 43:20
And those big buildings. If you walk around a lot in a city like New York, then you start to wonder what’s going on in there, I want to go see. And it’s a lot of fun. But you know, not every large city has the same level of access and public transportation. And sometimes there’s strong resistance. I remember when I moved to Westfield, we moved just before they started modifying the train station in Westfield to make it wheelchair accessible. So when we first moved there, you would if you were at the train station waiting for the train, the only way to get on the train is they have built in stairs on the train, they’re very steep, you go up three steps that take you probably up over four, well, not up over four feet, but close to it. Three feet or so no more than that. And you get on the train. So wheelchair access didn’t exist there. And when the New Jersey Transit organization said, We’re gonna make this accessible, there was a lot of opposition to a Why don’t you just hire people to be at each station in case somebody in a wheelchair comes in, you lift them on the train, forget the liability and the dangers of doing that, especially in the rain. And, and other things. There was a lot of opposition to it, even though it was the right thing to do. And one of the arguments was, well, if you put in these ramps and so on that we have to run up the ramp and run across the sidewalk and get on a train. And if we’re there at the last second, we might miss the train. I mean, there were all sorts of excuses, right? Right, that people would give rather than saying, why don’t we want to be inclusive. And the reality is that it didn’t make a difference to people’s access to the train. From a standpoint of the average walking person getting on the train, they still got on the train, they made it. But it also, once it was done, made it possible for people in chairs, to get on the train, and be just as accommodated as everyone else was.
Delmar MacLean 45:30
Yeah, well, it’s like, if that’s the same thing as if you look at the slope curbs, you know, the street corners, I like, it doesn’t just benefit someone in a wheelchair, it’s easier for a walker. So you’re not stepping down like a steep curb really abruptly, you know, or or, you know, a parent with a child in a stroller, you know, he can roll up and down those easily, like, so really? It really benefits everybody, right?
Michael Hingson 45:53
Sure it does. And the reality is, that is so often the case, and a lot of the technologies that blind people use could certainly benefit other segments of society. But we tend not to think about that. Why are we using VoiceOver and the voice technology and iPhones a lot more in vehicles than we do to make us not need to look at touchscreens and so on. There are so many examples that that are out there well, and on one of the episodes of unstoppable mindset, we interviewed a woman. She’s known as the blind history lady, Peggy Chung, and she told the story of how the typewriter was originally invented for a blind Countess, to be able to communicate privately write an interesting story. And there are a lot of examples of that kind of thing.
Delmar MacLean 46:44
For sure. And I was, I was also thinking of just how, you know, most transit authorities now, you know, you have the automated announcing on the bus, you know, announcing the stops, right. And of course, originally, of course, we’re thinking that people with vision loss, but that also, I think convenor can benefit people, maybe who’s, you know, maybe, you know, English isn’t their first language, and maybe they struggle a little bit with reading English, right, but they’re better at hearing it, you know, and people that are just more auditory in terms of perception, right? It can be, you can be beneficial for them, you know, maybe even people who, you know, can’t read, right, but they can, but they can hear the stop Oh, here, you know, a, you know, I get off now. Right. So, right. So yeah, it’s beneficial to more, you know, to all kinds of segments and in society. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 47:39
So, what is the for you from a standpoint of having a master’s in social work, and so on? What’s the most challenging part of being a therapist?
Delmar MacLean 47:48
I think, the most challenging part, I think is, um, you know, when learning to do to do this, what am I trying to say here? I’m better in terms of doing this. And I wasn’t actually but I think the most challenging part is not to think that you have to give the person all the answers. It’s really, you know, you, you, you listen to what they say, You, you, you know, you’re reflecting back to them, what you hear them, saying their concerns are, you know, you’re making suggestions about things that could be helpful. But in the end, it’s for them to do the work, you know, and if they don’t do the work, you have to be careful not to take the blame for that. Because sometimes people will try to project that blame back on you, you know, if they, if they don’t do the work they need to do you know, they might say, you know, they might come back to you and say, Oh, I’m still, you know, I’m feeling I’m still feeling stressed. My you know, I’m not, I’m not finding any answers here, you know, what kind of a therapist, are you? Right? I mean, they might not, you know, directly come out and say that so much, maybe that’s an extreme example, but sometimes people will try to put the blame on you if they haven’t moved forward. And it’s because they they haven’t, they haven’t done the work, you know, for example, if you talk about self care, sometimes, you know, person will be really stressed out, right, and they won’t have a very good balance between work and personal life. And you’ll suggest to them, you know, the importance of taking time to take care of themselves, you know, do things they find that are relaxing and enjoyable. So they’re, so they get some diversion from the stress of work, but then they don’t do it right. And then they come back with you with the same, the same challenges, you know, but they they get, sometimes people can get it because they get frustrated with you, but they haven’t really tried to put the strategies in place that you’ve, you’ve suggested, so you have to be just careful. Not to take that on. So I think as a therapist who I really have to know how to take care of myself, right how to make sure that I’m that I’m getting some diversion from my work, right when I’m not working so that I so that I don’t burn out. Does that? Does that make sense? What I’m saying?
Michael Hingson 50:20
It does? It does. And you do have to really take care of yourself to in all that. Yeah. Yeah, you need to step back yourself sometimes and look at how is this affecting me? And how do I deal with
Delmar MacLean 50:34
it? Right. And I think the only thing I’ve noticed as, again, as a person with with vision loss is I’ve had to find a creative way to, you know, to work within the electronic structures that they have, you know, for important note taking and effective ways to do my notes. And, for example, you know, as talented, as challenging as it can be, I make notes while I’m talking to people, you know, and I halfway done have my, you know, my notes when I’m done sessions, so then I just have to edit things, because it tends to take me longer to do paperwork. So I can’t necessarily leave all my paperwork till after my sessions, because then you know, I’d be working all the time, right? Have you looked at?
Michael Hingson 51:15
Have you looked at doing things like recording sessions, or maybe having a microphone and laying a computer? transcribe the conversations?
Delmar MacLean 51:23
I thought about that. I mean, it’s, yeah, I’m still some of that’s, I guess, still a work in progress. But yeah, those are things I have thought about. So far, what I’m doing seems to be working for me. But like, I’m not my mind isn’t isn’t close to, to alternative suggestions like that.
Michael Hingson 51:46
You’ve said, and some of the information we’ve learned about you, and so on, and looking at your bow that you subscribe to the social model of disabilities. Can you tell me more about that? Sure. So, basically, so historically, right, I
Delmar MacLean 52:02
think we’ve we we sit, we subscribe to the, the medical individual model of disability, right? Where, where a person is seen as having deficits, right? And then the deficits are kind of their problem, right to deal with, right? That per, you know, for example, well, you know, that, that, that that person, you know, is in a wheelchair, that’s, you know, that’s too bad, right? But that’s, you know, that’s their, that’s the deficit they have, right, or that person’s blind or so on, right. Whereas the, the social model of disability, I first learned about that, you know, in in graduate school, I was reading works by all all Alden Alden. Chadwick in the UK, and he was talking about the social model of disability where disability, if seen more as a reflection of the, you know, the limitations in society, right to barriers in society. So, someone you know, wheelchairs is considered disabled, if there isn’t a ramp to allow them to get into the building, right? Or, or someone who is blind, right? Well, there, we, they would be considered more disabled within the context. So, you know, if there’s not voice to tech software, I just thought that maybe they’re the, you know, the company that they’re working, that they want to work for they they won’t offer them jobs, right Job asked access with speech, you know, so they can, you know, use the computer just like someone who has total vision. So in other words, so the disability is more of a more of a reflection of the limitations in society than it is the, the, the physical limitations, right. Right. So that’s why I like that model.
Michael Hingson 53:57
Well, you know, and as we advance in technology, we’re, we’re finding more and more ways to address some of that if people will choose to do it. So for example, for blind people, probably one of the more significant overall technologies in the last seven or eight years is Ira, I don’t know whether you’re familiar with Ira. I’ve heard of it, but I’m not as familiar with it. So I resent what’s called a visual interpreter. And the the way Ira works is that you run an app on your phone, which activates a connection with a trained agent. And the operative part about that is trained. The agent can see whatever the phone camera sees, there are other technologies that you can add to it like if you’re sitting at your your, your desktop or laptop, you can activate something called TeamViewer. The Ira agent can actually work on your computer and fill out forms. But the idea of IRA is that what you’re able to do Who is when something is visual and you can’t use, you can’t do it yourself. There is a way to activate a technology that allows someone with eyesight who is trained to come essentially in and help you, which means you still get to do things on your own terms, or going through airports and traveling around can be very helpful. There are other technologies like Be My Eyes that
Delmar MacLean 55:24
mentioned that one. Yeah, that’s the one I was, as you were talking about that, that was the one I was thinking of.
Michael Hingson 55:29
Except the problem with Be My Eyes is that the agents are our volunteers. And there’s not the level of training. Whereas with Ira, not only are agents trained and hired because they demonstrate an incredible aptitude to be able to describe read maps and other things, but they sign nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements so that blind people using IRA can do tax work, they can use IRA, in doing work on their jobs, there are lawyers who use IRA to look at documents for discovery. An IRA is okay for that because of the level of confidentiality and absolute restrictions that agents are under. So what happens that IRA stays on Ira if you will, right, but But it means that I have access that I never used to have, which is really kind of cool. And then you’ve got access, and you’ve got technologies like accessibility, which uses in large part in artificial intelligence, which that can help make a website a lot more usable than it otherwise would. It’s not the total solution for complicated websites, but the technologies are making things better, which is really cool. Yeah, and what we need to do is to get society to accept more of it,
Delmar MacLean 56:46
I just gotta say that to you know, to, to educate people more about these things and get them to accept it. So. So you don’t hear things like well, you know, a blind or partially sighted person couldn’t do this job, right? Because, you know, then they just, sometimes you hear things like that, oh, no, you know, that person couldn’t do this job, right? Because they don’t, they don’t know. But all these technologies that are available, and that it’s actually not a really costly Big Deal thing, you know, to to make the the work environment more accessible.
Michael Hingson 57:18
I have used IRA to interact with touchscreens, right? So the agent can direct me as to exactly where to push to activate something that’s on a touchscreen, which is cool. Able to get hot chocolate out of a fancy coffee, hot chocolate tea machine, you know, for example, right? So you have hobbies, I assume, like anyone else, what type of last question for you is, what’s your hobby?
Delmar MacLean 57:42
Oh, well, one of my hobbies is, I like to fool around on the guitar.
Michael Hingson 57:47
Of course, you like Frank Zappa? What else could you do?
Delmar MacLean 57:52
Well, I make noise and mostly right. I mean, I, I can’t say that I’m a really proficient musician, but I just, I just like to play to play around with it just to relax. I’m also also, not currently, but I have in the past, and I tend to return to this as I’ve been a member of Toastmasters International. So enjoy, I enjoy public speaking. And so So Toastmasters International, it’s a program where you learn leadership skills, you know, like public speaking, meeting presentations, you know, organizing different projects. But what I really like about that is the mentoring aspect of it, helping others in improve their public speaking skills and leadership skills, guiding others. So that’s another hobby that I that I’ve had and I plan to return to that I kind of drifted away a little bit during the pandemic, because they, you know, they were doing a lot of remote meetings, and I don’t know, I prefer I prefer in person. I found that after sitting on a computer all day for work, I didn’t feel like doing. But I didn’t know. Yeah. I also, let’s see, what else am I into now? I, I like to do volunteer work. I’m on the accessibility Advisory Committee for one of my local school boards. And, of course, what we do is work with the school board to help to improve accessibility for students and staff who have disabilities, you know, within within the schools, the school board. So that does, that’s interesting. We have several meetings each year and we also do during non pandemic times, right? We do audits in the school board within the schools, right. So we tour schools and we, we help to point out areas where you Um, things could be made more accessible. You know, like, for example, color contrast the gun steps, making washrooms more physically accessible for students and staff and you know, using wheelchairs or, you know, canes or walkers, things like that. You know, so it’s, that that also keeps me busy too, in my spare time I enjoy that
Michael Hingson 1:00:25
keeps you out of trouble.
Delmar MacLean 1:00:28
know for sure. Some of the simpler things I enjoy. I love to walk, right. So I love to be I always it’s funny, my friends always want to offer me rides here and there, right. But so I just, I just liked the simple thing of being Oh, walking to the grocery store, walking on air and just going for walks I like to, I like to you talked earlier about, you know, looking at buildings and wondering what people are doing in there. I do that when sometimes when I just, there’s some apartment buildings in my in my neighborhood here. And I I walk by these high rises and then think, oh, who lives in there? And what are they doing? You know, the same thing with the houses. They’re just, you know, you hear the birds, right? And you you see people driving by in their cars. And I don’t know, I like just I just like to notice those things. It’s relaxing.
Michael Hingson 1:01:20
They’re driving and they don’t take time to smell the roses as it were.
Delmar MacLean 1:01:23
Well, you know, and that’s funny, because I think that, you know, when I think about the fact that I did, I can’t drive I think some ways I think I’m lucky, right? Because I noticed my driving grams. That’s all they do, right? They drive everywhere. And then it’s like, oh, I have to go to the gym. But I figure I do so much walking. That’s my that’s my exercise. I feel like I’m I’m healthier. There you go. Sorry. You see it as positive?
Michael Hingson 1:01:46
Well, it is. And there’s there’s a lot to be said for walking and slowing down sometimes to when not rushing everywhere. I wish we all would do sometimes a little bit more than that. Well, this has been fun. If people want to reach out to you and maybe engage in more of a chat or learn more about what you do. How can they do that?
Delmar MacLean 1:02:08
Sure. Well, you could reach out to me, my my email addresses, Delmar D E L M A R ,M A C L E A N so Delmar email@example.com. Or you can find me on Facebook, if you like I’m on there. I can’t say I’m not on Twitter or any of these other social media platforms. I always joke I’m I’m almost 50 So I’m a little bit old school. So mostly it’s the email or the Facebook, you know, you can certainly reach out to me, if you like,
Michael Hingson 1:02:39
yeah. Hey, whatever works? For sure. For sure. Well, Delmar, thank you very much for joining us today and giving us lots of insights. I hope that people have found this interesting and that people will reach out. And my
Delmar MacLean 1:02:53
pleasure, Michael, thank you for having me. It’s been it’s been fun.
I think we’ve all gotten a lot to think about from it. You know, you and me and everyone listening and I hope lots of people are. As always, I would appreciate it if after this episode, you give us a five star rating. And if you’d like to reach out to me, whoever you are, feel free to do so by writing me at Michaelhi@accessibe.com. That’s M I C H A E L H I at Accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. Go and listen or go look at our podcast page. Michael hingson.com/podcast. And Michael Hingson is M I C H A E L H I N G S O N .com/podcast. But again, wherever you listen to this, please give us a five star rating. We appreciate it. Because of all of your comments. We were the February 2022. Podcast magazine’s Editor’s Choice and I want to again, thank everyone for that. And Delmar especially, I really appreciate the opportunity to have met you and to have you on the podcast and really appreciate you being here.
Delmar MacLean 1:04:00
Yes. And it was an honor for me. I thank you for or asking me to, you know, to come on i I’ve really I’ve really enjoyed it. And then in the end it was a pleasure.
Michael Hingson 1:04:10
My pleasure as well. And let’s stay in touch.
Delmar MacLean 1:04:13
We will. All right. Thank you.
Michael Hingson 1:04:19
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.