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For some unknown reason, Peter Altschul was born totally blind. He was the only blind student attending his local high school, where he played percussion in the marching band and other music groups, failed as a wrestler, and studied while pretending to goof off. In college, he played percussion in the marching band and other music groups and drank beer while studying music and psychology.
Since graduating from college, Peter has traveled a unique journey: customer service rep at the most hated federal government agency, musician, trainer of New York City taxi drivers, parent of three stepkids, grants manager, mediator between pro-life and pro-choice activists, and workplace diversity specialist — all done with the assistance and companionship of six wonderfully quirky guide dogs. He has published two books: a compilation of short essays titled Breaking It Down and Connecting the Dots: Creating Common Ground Where Contention Rules (2017), and the memoir Breaking Barriers, Working and Loving While Blind (2012).
Peter lives with his guide dog, Heath, in Columbia, Missouri where they market Peter’s books, tutor student-athletes attending the University of Missouri, play drums in their church’s praise band, and sing in four choirs. Peter blogs regularly about connections between the workplace, politics, music, diversity, family life, sports, religion, and dogs while Heath snores on the couch.
And Now For Your Listening Pleasure, We Introduce Peter Altschul
Podcast Interview Transcript
Mike: Hey, everybody. This is Mike Moran from Bold Blind Beauty. On this podcast, Men in Motion for April 2020, we have the pleasure of interviewing Peter Altschul. Peter is a well-known blogger, musician, mediator workplace diversity specialist, and a step-parent who has published two books. One is a compilation of short essays, Breaking It Down and Connecting the Dots: Creating Common Ground Where Contention Rules, published in 2017, and the memoir, Breaking Barriers, Working and Loving While Blind. Currently, Peter resides in Missouri. Let’s join the interview now.
Nasreen: Welcome to Bold Blind Beauty and B3 Magazine, (Music stops.) an online community where real beauty transcends barriers. Bold Blind Beauty 2020 A Year of Vision campaign also celebrates blind and visually impaired men, and I’m your host Nasreen, and I have with me Michael Moran from Clear Vision Network, who is also part of our wonderful team here. And today we’re also going to be chatting with Mr. Peter Altschul, who is our featured guest for the April 2020 segment of Men in Motion. I have known Peter for a few years and now you will come to know him, too. Mike, take it away.
Mike: Peter, I have seen your name in what I affectionately call the blind vine for many years. I remember seeing you a lot on various emails and so forth, and then I lost track of you. I don’t know what happened. I guess computers crash and address books go away and whatever happened, and this was eight to ten years ago. And you were a busy guy then. I read some of your accomplishments before we joined the podcast here. How did you get started on your journey here? Tell me about blogging and your writing achievements.
Peter: Thank you for having me on. It’s great to be here. I never really enjoyed writing, actually. But when I moved out to Colombia, Missouri, my wife challenged me to take a graduate-level writing course and I said, “I’ll never get in. I’ve never written anything. I’ve never taken a creative writing course.” She said, “well, go for it and see what happens.” So I applied, and much to my amazement got accepted. And so I thought, OK, well, that must mean I have some talent in the writing area and I should take it more seriously. So that’s how I started writing my memoir, Breaking Barriers, Working and Loving While Blind, which came out in 2012. When we started marketing the book, my publicist said, “you need to start blogging.” And I said, “well, OK… What should I blog about?” She said, “anything you want.”
Mike: That’s when blogging started, isn’t it? Around 12, or 10? Somewhere in there?
Peter: Yeah, 2012, that’s when it started, and I’ll just say one other thing. So I said, “well, any ideas? Any tips?” She said, “yes, keep every blog fewer than seven hundred and fifty words.” And I thought that was the best advice she gave me because a lot of the blogs I’ve seen are over seven hundred and fifty words and I find a lot of them not particularly readable. So I’ve really made an effort to keep my thoughts concise and I think it’s been pretty effective.
Mike: And how do you get the blogs out there so they’re seen by other people?
Peter: I use WordPress and then I market them using Twitter, occasionally Facebook, and I have an email list that I use a lot, which continues to grow, and so whenever I send a blog out, and send out notices to folks I think will be interested. I hope that my Twitter feed gets people to read the blogs, too. Occasionally, when I tweet something, I’ll get an interesting response from somebody from Australia or someplace I never would expect to hear from. So it’s been an interesting experience.
Nasreen: Peter, I’m part of that mailing list of yours and I just absolutely love reading some of your blogs because I find that satire type of writing style that you have is just phenomenal and unique, and sometimes there’s a chuckle at the end of reading your blog, or kind of like a” hmmm” statement, an exclamation point lighting up going, “hey, I didn’t think of it like that!” Or “yeah, this one here is really an oxymoron.”
Peter: Well, thank you, and I do write that, and I try to write in all kinds of styles on all kinds of topics. I’ve been focusing more on politics than I’m used to doing because of what’s going on in the United States. But my most recent blog, which will come out today, has to do with irony in music. I’m a musician and this is a topic that interested me because of a piece one of the choirs I’m singing in will be singing in April.
Mike: I noticed in your bio that you worked with the taxi cab union in New York, not an easy thing to do. What was your role there?
Peter: Well, back then, Rudi Giuliani was the Mayor and he was getting lots of complaints about taxi cab rudeness. And in his infinite wisdom, he decided that every cab driver had to go through a four-hour customer service training program. And I was hired to be one of the trainers to do that program. There’s a lot to say about it, but it was a fascinating group of people to work with, people from all over the world, with differing experiences, and I learned, I think, more from them than they learned from me. It was a wonderful group to work with.
Mike: Who would you say your biggest influencer in life is, Pete?
Peter: The person that comes to mind first is my mom. When I was raised, the idea of mainstreaming a blind kid into a public or private school was unheard of. And so, I was the first blind kid in the private school I attended through eighth grade and the public school that I went to in High School, and that took a lot of advocacy on her part and some skilled marketing on her part to get me to do what needed to get done. I always admired her willingness to take those chances and to fight the system in a respectful way, most of the time, and to be a good educator. And later my dad became an influence and there are a number of people more recently. Most recently Kobe Bryant, who I find actually fascinating, a guy who started off as a spoiled brat with great talent who morphed into this incredible adult who worked with woman’s basketball and did so many great things for the community.
Mike: Are you going to publish any more books? Do you have any more books in the works?
Peter: My second book is called Breaking it down and Connecting the Dots: Creating Common Ground Where Contention Rules. The title was too long and I don’t think that book was especially successful, both in the sense of the way the book was marketed and also, some of the articles I wrote in that book, I just don’t think, were up to my expectations. So I am in the process of crafting a second edition, if you will, that really, I think, is much more concise about what I’m trying to say. What I’m thinking about doing, since I don’t have the resources right now to do this myself, is to find a group of people that can help me fund and market the book. So that’s sort of what I’m thinking about in the future.
Mike: I would like to ask you about your role as a step-parent and husband. What are some of the challenges you faced in that role?
Peter: Well, one of the things you said is that you lost touch with me for the past ten years and that’s primarily what I’ve been doing, is being a step-parent to three kids. Being a step-parent has its own set of challenges, not the least of which is they have their own biological dad, who they love and respect, as they should. So to sort of try to fit in between their mom and their dad has been a real challenge. It turned out when I moved out here that each of them have their own disability, a psychiatric disability or learning disability. And so that prompted me to do what my mom did, which is to work with the school system to try to get them the support they needed, and of course, Lisa was very good at that as well. And we were pretty successful, but boy is it a challenge!
Mike: Certainly you are an exemplary role model and I’m very happy to have had you on the program and to finally connect with you after ten years. I mean, you probably did know I was out there. But it’s my pleasure to speak to you. Nas, would you like to say a few parting words to Peter?
Nasreen: Yeah, absolutely. Peter, I’ve known you since 2016, 15, and so it’s great to catch up with you again, in 2020 of all years, and have you as our featured guest for our April segment of Men in Motion, which is found in our B3 Magazine at Bold Blind Beauty.
Nasreen: So I want to thank you, Peter, for being here and sharing your journey with us. And for anybody who wants to know where you can find Peter’s segment and read up on Peter’s segment and more about what we do here at Bold Blind Beauty, you can visit our website at www.boldblindbeauty.com where you’ll find all our segments and features. Thanks so much for listening.
For additional information about Peter, please visit:
Peter continues to support individuals and groups to get better at what they do by connecting them with people who have different experiences and values so they can better achieve a common goal.
- Header: The Beyond Sight Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number are in the upper right corner in black ink. Peter’s photo of him playing drums is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. “Beyond Sight” is in large black text and a teal-colored circle with Peter’s name is in black text. There is 3-lines of black text on the image that reads “Author, Musician, Mediator.”
- A second photo of Peter playing drums.