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June Men In Motion | Robert Kingett

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MEN IN MOTION

Editor’s Note:

Robert Kingett, he’s Bold Blind and full of Pride. From the moment he was born, he was destined to be an overcomer and a person unafraid to be exactly who he is. In celebration of Pride Month, Bold Blind Beauty is thrilled to introduce you to Journalist and Author of Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet, Robert Kingett.

Born A Miracle

I’ve always been somewhat of a miracle baby, or person, I guess you could say now. I fully embrace it, though, and yes, even the inspirational label that gets placed on me sometimes. I embrace it all because I just simply don’t have time to quibble over a slightly incorrect label.

My miracle journey started in 1989 where I was a premature baby. It’s so wild, because my birth certificate says six ounces. I was born in September. I have no idea when I was actually supposed to be born, but I came out defying all odds from the beginning.

I was born with Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), as well as cerebral palsy. I wasn’t supposed to walk. I wasn’t supposed to talk either. My mobility was supposed to be very limited throughout my whole life. And, to a certain extent, that’s true now that I’m older, but back then, I did walk, and I did talk. I overcame so much at such a young age. I still had communication issues though. I stammered badly as a kid and still do. Which, ironically, is why I enjoy and embrace writing so feverishly.

On His Terms

I was born in New York but grew up in Saint Augustine FL. I attended the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and that’s how my path to adaptive technology and accessibility consulting came to be, but more on that later. I’m probably one of the very few kids that actively refused mainstream school. I rejected it firmly. I hated the thought of attending a mainstream school. I knew I was getting the adaptive technology and mobility training that would help me later on in life. I didn’t want to waste my time advocating for everything under the sun. I knew that advocacy would come later, certainly, in college, so I wanted my high school to be as painless and as inclusive to my visual impairment as humanly possible and I just didn’t see that in a mainstream school.

I knew that society saw me as another worldly being that wasn’t worth nurturing as a disabled person, so I perceived mainstream school to just be an academic hassle. It probably would have done wonders for my social life, but I didn’t care about having an active social life when I was younger. I also didn’t want to be around sighted people unless it was on my own terms because, I believed, that my academics would suffer because I’d be trying to develop social justifications. I thought my energy would be wiped because I’d have to constantly demonstrate to sighted people that I’m worthy of existing and taken seriously. At a blind school, disabilities didn’t factor into my acceptance. 

Another reason why a big part of that unwillingness to fight for a mainstream education was so strong is because I was getting a very accessible education. I also was just trying to get through the day, and to my eventual long-term goal of becoming influential. Even if it was silent influence, I wanted to actively chip away at the social barriers disabled people face on a daily basis.

From Scrapper To Success

My home life wasn’t that great. I was abused, both physically, mentally, emotionally, and otherwise. My mother, who was a single parent, didn’t know how to deal with her own daemons so she took them out on me. She was a heavy drinker and, yes, there would be beatings. I often went hungry, so I absolutely empathize with someone when they tell people they don’t know what real hunger feels like. People will never fully grasp it, I realized, so I just had to survive. Get out. Become as successful as I could possibly be and hope I make a small difference in the world, even if it’s educating someone about blindness or starts a chain reaction that makes things more accessible for many in my generation and beyond.

I developed a strong sense of advocacy in my teen years. I’ve never been good at giving a punchy media bite that goes viral or gets people talking. I knew I’d never be in the spotlight however, I knew my strength was in planning and strategic implementations. Oh, and trickle-down advocacy—chain reaction advocacy, as I call it.

I’m very career-driven, and very focused, which is probably why I’m still single. I’m very proudly gay and or queer. I use those words interchangeably to describe my sexuality. I’m definitely not bisexual though, I’m very much gay. But, often, the men I’m attracted to are sighted and have no idea how to keep up with my career drive. That’s something that will, eventually, slow down I’m sure as I get even older, but for now, I’m very focused. I find the idea of romance and love is just something that I will find when it finds me, and grabs hold of me. That’s ironic because I’m an extremely romantic person. I’m very empathetic but extremely strong, personality-wise. I guess you could say I’m a mashup of imperfections that changes people’s lives in small ways.

The Path To Journalism

My advocacy started when I created the first-ever newspaper for the blind at FSDB. That proved to me that I could give people chances and opportunities if I just kept being persistent. As a result, well, I’m very politically active now. Very progressive. Very forward-thinking. And yes, I’m a proud feminist and trans ally. I knew I had the power to change lives through journalism and fiction, so I began writing. Fiction, advocacy journeys, telling people’s stories. I find that very few people have media literacy skills today. I mean, even in my generation and younger. I read, constantly. I even read mainstream news everybody likes to rag on so much, but again, very few people just simply don’t know how the media works in general, which is why I don’t get into small fights online about mainstream media and agendas and biases and otherwise. It’s all trite ignorance and a complete waste of my time. Besides, I have a socialist revolution to start. Just kidding. Or am I?

My writing eventually created the Accessible Netflix Project, which actually got Netflix to provide audio description platform-wide wherever possible. This was a huge accomplishment, but my work isn’t over with. My real love is books. Especially diverse books, and audiobooks, and the publishing industry. I’m working to eventually make it so that seeing blindness in fiction is common while continuing to be a very strong ally to my fellow minorities.

Unicorns, Cookies & Education

I always find it really weird when someone asks me what my hobbies are. My hobbies are extremely plain and ordinary. Like, who doesn’t like listening to music and watching TV shows with audio description? I know a few people who don’t like reading, but I just imagine them as very confused unicorns and continue loving books and literature. I read, certainly. I watch very dark comedy. I listen to boy bands. I steal rainbow tinged cookies from unsuspecting glittering cats in my spare time. I’m so done with being normal. It’s overrated. 

Ironically speaking, my career path has never been regular, either. I dropped out of college, published a book, wrote for free, did accessibility consulting, became more progressive, posted accessibility rants onto the web, and, finally, became an expert witness for a law firm here in Chicago. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell all the responsible readers to stay in school, even if I loath private colleges with every fiber of my peculiar soul. Seriously. I think education is the most important facet in someone’s life. Encourage reading. Encourage creativity, because that’s what truly makes the world go round.

Image Description:

Featured image is the Beyond Sight Magazine cover. Robert’s photo is on the cover, he is wearing a black tee-shirt with the word “PR💛UD” in rainbow colors. The masthead is teal with “Beyond Sight Magazine” in black text. The dot on the ‘i’ in ‘sight’ is the eye used for our 2020 Year of Vision Campaign (described HERE). There are 2 lines of black text that say “Bold blind and full of” the third line ‘PRIDE’ is in rainbow colors. In the bottom left corner is a teal circle with an illustration of a blind man in motion with his white cane and “Men In Motion” is in yellow text under the circle.

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Tatum Tricarico From Author To Advocate:

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WOMEN ON THE MOVE

Pushing For Disability Representation

People yelled mean things, whispered to each other, kicked my cane, stared, pointed, laughed, and ultimately made me feel like I was less worthy because of my blindness.

Tatum Tricarico

The above quote breaks my heart but I know all too well, the truth its words convey. Even so, I’m so grateful that the ignorance and hatred displayed here didn’t stop Tatum. In recognition of International Women’s Day which was yesterday, I’m thrilled to introduce you to an exceptional young woman. Tatum Tricarico, March’s Woman On The Move, is a powerhouse who is breaking barriers! Her fight for the inclusion of people with disabilities began with her personal story of exclusion. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to a fierce young woman, Tatum Tricarico. Enjoy!

Growing Up

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I often remember learning about Helen Keller in school because when people see my cane, many decide to fumble into an awkward story about learning about Helen Keller when they were young. But as a child, I don’t remember feeling connected to her.

I knew I had a vision impairment and had already undergone many surgeries, but for the most part, I considered myself sighted. I could “pass” as sighted well, aside from the occasional large print. Then all of a sudden as a sophomore in high school, seeing began to cause me pain. Just using my eyes hurt so badly that I would have to stop whatever I was doing. I suddenly realize that I couldn’t keep “passing” as sighted and that I was going to have to stop using my vision to avoid constant, debilitating pain. I began functioning as blind. I started using a cane and reading braille. My functional blindness came on very quickly and had a huge impact on how I lived.

“Independence”

Independence was definitely a buzz word in special education. I was told that I needed to be as independent as possible or I wouldn’t be able to be a college student or adult. I felt like I had lost so much independence when my vision changed and was convinced that I would need to be fully independent before I could be a “real” adult or bring good to the world. This definitely helped me motivate myself to learn braille, figure out accommodations in college, and learn how to travel with a cane. But what it didn’t do was prepare me for life.

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I realized in college that being dependent on those around me is not a bad thing. The only way I am making it through college is:

  • depending on my friends to be student readers and notetaker in my classes,
  • depending on my professors to accommodate and
  • depending on both friends and professors to help me in relation to my functional blindness
  • and in ways that everyone else needs help.

But I also know that my friends are dependent on me for things, too. That’s community. My independence has come from recognizing when I need help and when I am called to help those around me.

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Imperfections

As I gained more of this independence within the community, I started going out and doing more things with friends. I quickly realized that people did not respond well to seeing my cane. They were scared of me, rude to me, and occasionally mean to me or mad at me. People yelled mean things, whispered to each other, kicked my cane, stared, pointed, laughed, and ultimately made me feel like I was less worthy because of my blindness. In response, I turned to something that I have always loved: writing.

I started writing the story of a man named Will living with a disability in a futuristic society. I wrote the story of his journey to prove his worth. I got my friends, family, and professors to help me edit it, and eventually, I published my novel Imperfections. Now that it has been made available on Amazon, several people have read it and my advocacy journey has started to take off.

Women’s March

Recently, I connected with the San Diego Woman’s March and expressed the importance of having disabled women in their speaker line up. Eventually, I was chosen to speak to the tens of thousands of people there. As a junior in college, this was the biggest honor of my life and I loved every minute of it.

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Getting the opportunity to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in front of so many people including many of my family and friends was empowering and monumental in my journey. I encouraged people to recognize the worth of those with disabilities, to pay attention to our stories, and to think about what role people with disabilities play in their lives.

Classroom Speaking

After the Women’s March, I was contacted by several elementary schools that wanted me to come to speak. To know that the most disability education people have is the occasional story of Helen Keller makes me think deeply about how wonderful it is that these students will get to learn from a blind college student. It fills me with joy to wonder how one interaction can impact them and prove the worth of people with disabilities. The fact that my vision changed in high school was so incredibly scary, but now, to realize the independence and confidence it has given me is an incredibly beautiful thing.

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Connecting With Tatum:

Image Descriptions:

  1. The B3 Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number, are in the upper right corner in black ink. Tatum’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. In this photo, Tatum (full body) is in front of a white wall holding her cane in the air with a shirt that says “what makes you different makes you beautiful!” “B3” is in large teal text and a teal-colored circle with Tatum’s name and “Women On The Move” in white text. There are four 4-lines of dark gray text on the image that reads “From Author to Advocate The Push for Disability Representation.”
  2. Tatum (close up) in front of a white wall holding her cane in the air with a shirt that says “what makes you different makes you beautiful!”
  3. Tatum smiling holding her book Imperfections. It has the title and her name on the cover along with a pair of red men’s shoes with the laces untied looking beat up.
  4. Tatum with a shirt that has a picture of a sign reading “blind person in area” and a poster in her hand that says “anything you can do I can do blind” with a cane and Braille letters drawn on.
  5. Tatum in her “blind person in area” shirt standing at a podium speaking with two microphones in front of her.
  6. Tatum in front of a classroom with her cane speaking to children.
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What Makes A Hero?

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What Does Hero Mean to You?

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

~Maya Angelou

Some days I can’t help but feel that I’m the luckiest person on the planet. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by heroes. I’m not talking about fictional heroes or those endowed with superhuman qualities although this could be dependent upon how these traits are being used. No, the types of heroes I’m referring to are those who practice humanitarianism as a way of life.

Those who give of themselves without the expectation of monetary gain or notoriety to me are extraordinary people. With these types of individuals, there is no ‘catch’ or deception because these folks see the world differently than the vast majority. Qualities like truth, integrity, compassion, empathy and the like are dominant characteristics in these people.

Last year, when my friend Carla Ernst died I felt a part of me died with her because Carla was one of my all-time heroes. She was an extraordinary person who believed in the mission of Bold Blind Beauty. On days when I doubted myself (there were many), she lifted me up and motivated me to continue pushing forward.

While Carla’s death knocked me off-kilter and I struggled mightily to honor her memory there were days grief threatened to devour me. Yet, it was at one of my lowest points another hero came into play. Her name is Nasreen Bhutta a woman I am honored to call my friend.

A Heroic Act Out of the Blue

I’ve known Nasreen for nearly two years and while we’ve periodically maintained contact she called me completely out of the blue. This act may not seem like much until I tell you she called me when she was on an extended stay in India.

I can’t remember exactly how our conversation went but I do remember what she said next: “Steph I like what you’re doing and I want to help.” Since I wasn’t prepared for this I was momentarily speechless. I mean, Nasreen was so emphatic and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. My response—I cried. Without shame, I cried because here she was halfway around the world and she was compelled to reach out to me. By the way, I should probably mention that while Nasreen has been featured here before this will be her first time on the cover of B3 Magazine.

A lot has happened since Nasreen’s call last summer and I almost feel like I’m in a dreamlike state. This woman, who gives wholeheartedly and unconditionally, has become my right-hand person here at Bold Blind Beauty. Thank you, my friend!

Up until this past January Nasreen and I hadn’t even met in person. Yet the universe presented an opportunity for us to meet. Nasreen traveled from Toronto, Canada and I from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to meet up in New Jersey for a conference. What was true serendipity though was for the two of us to connect with some other amazing heroes.

It was in New Jersey where we met Melody Goodspeed (another friend who I’ve only previously known online). With Melody, an innocent conversation led to her excitedly becoming our new voice of Abby. Then there were others:

  • Cheryl Minnett
  • Tish Gelineau
  • Michael Moran
  • David DeNotaris
  • Tanner Gers
  • John McInerney
  • Jeff Wissel

The above is only a partial list of individuals who I consider heroes because of their commitment to improving the lives of others.

Who Is The Hero In Your Life?

If you pay close attention, there are an abundance of heroes all around us. And let’s not forget the most important hero—you!

It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine.”

~Byron Katie

Everyone isn’t going to like us and likewise, we aren’t going to like everyone. However to like/love anyone it has to begin internally and it’s no one else’s responsibility to do this for us but ourselves. My favorite speaker, author, researcher, Brené Brown says it this way: “Practicing selflove means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves.” Maybe real heroes understand that in order to love others they must have a healthy dose of self-love. So the next time you are in need of a hero…

Lyrics

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road
When you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand
For you to hold
You can find love
If you search within yourself
And that emptiness you felt
Will disappear

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you, oh, oh

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away, hey yeah
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time you’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
Mmm, that a hero lies in you

Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Mariah Carey / Walter AfanasieffHero lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Featured Image Description:

The Beyond Sight Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number, are in the upper right corner in black ink. Nasreen’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. In this photo, Nasreen, a pretty brunette with shoulder-length wavy hair is wearing a black pantsuit. She’s standing in the lobby of our hotel with a black shoulder bag on her left shoulder. “Beyond Sight” is in large black text and a teal-colored circle with Nasreen’s name is in yellow text and “Monthly Beauties” in white text. There are four 4-lines of black text on the image that reads “A Real-Life Hero Fierce, Fiery & Passionate For People.”

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Living Life Boldly & Transforming Perceptions

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BEAUTY BUZZ & BLOG BIZ | ADVOCACY

Editor’s Note

Last year was tough. My best friend was diagnosed with cancer, another very good friend died unexpectedly, and I had to deal with some significantly unresolved fears. Yet among these struggles, there were always glimmers of light; standing up for my friend, continuing the work my other friend believed in so deeply, and coming to terms with myself.

One of the best gifts I received last year was a connection with Tony Koros at Grotto Network and the opportunity to share part of my story. Here is the video he created along with the transcript (below). Thank you, Tony, for spending my birthday with me and working with me to film this footage. And thank you Grotto Network for making this possible!💛

“When we are out here living our lives, we are bold. We are embracing our blindness. We are blind and we’re beautiful.”

Blind Blogger Transforms Perceptions of Beauty

Video Transcript

Grotto Network

Meet Stephanae McCoy: Blind Beauty Blogger

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Stephanae: Beauty is seldom associated with blindness. Beauty is seldom associated with disabilities, or people with disabilities. I wanted to change that.

I was looking in the mirror and I took out my right contact lens. I’m looking up in the mirror and all of a sudden, because I still had my left contact lens in, my face was gone. There was just no face. I’m like, “Whoa.” My whole feeling about the process of going blind was: If I’m going to lose my sight, I’m going to do it my way.

We can do anything that we want to do, provided we’re given the tools to do it or we learn a different way of doing it.

Stephanae created a blog called “Bold Blind Beauty.” The blog celebrates blind and visually impaired people, and shares Stephanae’s tips on makeup, style, and beauty.

(Applying makeup in a mirror)

Most of the time I’m not even in a mirror when I’m doing this, but old habits die hard. Even when you can’t see, when you can no longer see, you still want to use a mirror sometimes. At least I do.

For me, becoming embarrassed by other people standing around watching me is huge. When I’m in an unfamiliar area, sometimes, even though I’ve been using a cane now for years and I feel like I’ve built up my confidence and I feel like I’ve got this thing down, I sometimes get so overwhelmingly afraid that I panic.

We need to change the way we look at people with disabilities. The way we’re doing it now, we’re looking at the tools that they use to become independent, but we’re seeing them as a crutch, as opposed to a tool of independence.

I created Bold Blind Beauty so that we could change the perception of how we view people, period. I just would like to see us be a more inclusive world for everyone and accept people as we really are, stripping away the outside and getting to the heart of who we are as people.

But when we are out there and we are living our lives, we are bold. We are embracing our blindness. We are blind and we’re beautiful. We’re beautiful because we’re out here doing that, living our lives.

Following Grotto Network:

Image Description:

A selfie of me taken in the doorway to my condo, sporting my stubbly bald head. I’m wearing a black v-neck tee that says “Warrior Life” in white text.