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September Men In Motion | Joe Strechay

Cover image is described in the body of the post.

MEN IN MOTION

Editor’s Note:

Bold Blind Beauty, home of Beyond Sight Magazine, is an empowering online community that connects blind and sighted people while eradicating misconceptions about blindness and sight loss. We’ve found that when we are open to the idea of limitless possibilities our preconceived notions dissipate. The people we feature aren’t extraordinary because they are living with sight loss, however, they’ve worked hard to adapt to a new way of living. Today, in our September Men In Motion, you’ll meet Joe Strechay a producer and consultant who shares excellent insight into creating the life you want to live. We’ve also provided a transcript of the YouTube audio below. Enjoy!

Internal locus of control meaning, I take control of my life…So I would say if you’re out there in the world and you’re listening to this,
take control of your destiny to create your path.

joe strechay

Transcript

Hello, I’m Joe Strechay. I’m a producer and consultant. I’ve done my undergraduate work at East Carolina University in North Carolina. My graduate work at Florida State. I’ve worked in the area with blindness organizations, managing them, running them, but also teaching people how to travel through orientation and mobility. Using the white cane. I’ve also worked within individuals and daily living skills and helping young people transition from school to work or college.

It’s been many different roles in that arena. But I’m also a producer in the entertainment field and I’ve worked on such productions as Netflix, Marvel’s Daredevil, The OA, and then Apple TV+ SEE. I’ve worked with theater productions. I’ve worked with commercials. I’ve worked with also books and advising around the portrayal of blindness and how blindness is presented often in my world.

And I’m totally blind. And my undergraduate is around communications and studying media affects it, and how smaller populations and minority populations navigate through the world of entertainment. And I’ve been able to, through my graduate work around blindness orientation, mobility, and teaching children and adults who are blind or visually impaired, and the transition from school to work. Been able to look at other aspects and how disability is portrayed and more specifically blindness and visual impairment. And getting to work with productions to portray blindness in a more responsible and respectful way.

Besides the portrayal side of things, I’ve also worked on accessibility of productions. Making sure that the production is accessible to individuals who are blind or low vision, but other disabilities as well. So that has been a cool venture kind of bringing all my aspects of training and experience to the table.

Why does it matter to me, the portrayal of blindness and talking about blindness? Because I know, when I was watching films … I lost my vision and I was legally blind at 19 and continue to lose vision. And now I’ve been totally blind for a number of years and seeing those portrayals and not seeing myself in them and not seeing people that are powerful and cool and independent and doing different things. You often see people who are blind in a bed needing assistance or on a side of the road, asking for things or just walking by, where the main thing is that they’re a person who’s blind.

And it doesn’t show them as parents and villains and lovers and warriors and all the above and all the things, the professions that people who are blind or low vision are out there doing which they are doing pretty much everything, but airline pilot, really. I can tell you, I’ve been with some taxi drivers and Uber drivers, I’m pretty sure they were legally blind.

So I’ve been able to work in the entertainment field and work with productions and the studios, and others to help make sure that there’s that respect and understanding and be a part of the process. And I think we’ve come a long way and I’m sure we’ll continue on that road. My consulting work with the American Printing House for the Blind, who is an organization that I can’t say enough about.

Around a nonprofit in the United States, there are a few that I would really say is making things happen. And they took on a series of websites, web programs, FamilyConnect, Career Connect, VisionAware from the American Foundation for the Blind. And I’m so happy that CareerConnect found a home and Family Connect with VisionAware, because these are resources that help change people’s lives. And I worked on a CareerConnect for about seven years and a number of years ago, and so I get to help, consult and work with American Printing House during my off times to help make sure that it continues and APH believes in it and believes in these programs and know that they make a difference.

So I’m excited to help with that. But I also do speaking engagements, mostly aimed at young people who are blind or low vision in the employment process. And the lessons I learned while losing vision, and then later on being legally blind and then after that, navigating the employment world, the ups, and downs, and you can find some of my other videos on YouTube, in my channel talking about those ups and downs and the funny things that happen, but also the upsetting things.

I really think it’s important to realize that even the most successful people who are blind or low vision are out there in the world, have tough days, and have navigated obstacles and they get frustrated too.

One of my favorite sayings or tips is, you need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. And the more we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, the more comfortable we become. They’re going to be all kinds of situations in your lives or life as a person who’s blind or low vision as a person with disabilities. I grew up with a severe learning disability besides losing my vision. So I’ve seen different sides of it and how disability impacts your life. And I’ve been lucky enough to have the training that allowed me to be successful.

I really, really appreciate it, and I’ll continue to work. I’m a consultant. So I have to create my business and work with organizations and businesses to help them meet their needs. I’m providing services, whether it’s content writing, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s assisting them in connections, all of these different aspects are pieces of my work. I don’t believe in just letting things happen to me. So I definitely have a strong internal locus of control versus an external locus of control.

Internal locus of control meaning, I take control of my life. I control my destiny. External locus of control, meaning that people at the world, we let things happen to us. We let things determine, or other forces, other people determine our path and destiny. I believe that we have control in our destiny. So I would say if you’re out there in the world and you’re listening to this, take control of your destiny to create your path.

There are so many different opportunities out there in the world today. And I’ve been lucky enough to move into the world of entertainment or we’re still working in the world of blindness, and the community. And so I’m proud of that. So don’t stay still or be comfortable with the uncomfortable and keep pushing forward. My blindness, I used technology to make up for my blindness. I use my training with the white cane and travel and skills and abilities, and I’m able to advocate for myself. And I know when I’m going to educate and create awareness.

I don’t always go to the negative. I start with the positive and keep pushing on. I think 99% of your interactions with people will be positive. And you got to keep trying to educate and create awareness in a positive manner. And then there are times where you have to step up. But I also do a lot of speaking around employment and interacting with employers and the employment process. And you want to stay positive, you want to create those opportunities and you want to sell people on who you are and what you will bring to that organization.

You want to keep, create trust between you and that employer. And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that through a lot of different lessons and mistakes in my life. I’m not perfect and I’ll never be perfect. But I knew what I’m good at. And I know where my skills lie. I also know where my weaknesses are. And I continue to try to make those weaknesses better or stronger. And then I look to enhance my skills and keep learning and keep putting myself out there.

Thank you for your time. I wish you the best. And just some thoughts from me. You can check out my other videos on my YouTube channel. Again, my name is Joe Strechay. I’m a producer and a consultant, and I wish you the bes

Connecting With Joe:

Bio

Joe Strechay is a producer And consultant to entertainment productions, theatre, publishers, government agencies and non-profits while being blind. He has worked to bring accessibility to television and film productions for persons of all disabilities.He has managed a state bureau, a website, and transition services. He has been an instructor to thousands of people who are blind or low vision around skills for independence. Joe did his undergraduate work at East Carolina University and his graduate work at Florida State University. Him and his fantastic wife live in Pennsylvania.  

Description:

Featured image is the Beyond Sight Magazine cover. Joe Strechay is on the cover wearing a blue and gray shirt. He has dark shoulder-length hair and a goatee. 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 5 lines of text that say “Joe Strechay Television Consultant & Producer Extraordinare.” 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.

CREDIT:
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January Men In Motion | Juan Alcazar

Image is described in the body of the post.

MEN IN MOTION

Editor’s Note:

On the first Monday of every month in 2020, you will meet some amazing blind & visually impaired male influencers. For January’s “Men In Motion” Bold Blind Beauty is thrilled to introduce you to Filmmaker Juan Alcazar.

Juan is the talented creator of the YouTube Channel JC5 Productions and is also a valued member of our CAPTIVATING! team. From 1 minute short films to dramatic shorts, collabs, vision impairment, and disability awareness, Juan has a varied collection of video content.

Always remind yourself why you do what you do.

In September of 2018, I made a comment on an Instagram post of Juan’s that led me to view his video “A Second Chance.” The storyline in this poignant video tugged my heartstrings because the subject matter is universally relevant to all of us at some point in our lives. Questioning, doubting, and underestimating our value can leave us feeling like what we do doesn’t matter. I think Juan beautifully captured the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness experienced when we make comparisons. Many creatives, who also happen to be sensitive, are especially vulnerable because we feel so deeply.

It took Juan some time to find his “why” as he didn’t want to be known as “the blind filmmaker.” While he doesn’t let his sight loss define who he is, he realized he had a bigger purpose for creating videos. Today, we share his powerful story in “Accepting My Blindness” (transcription is below the video).

Accepting My Blindness | Juan Alcazar

Accepting My Blindness Video Transcription

When I was really little my parents would see me staring at the TV from a really close distance. At first, they thought I was just fascinated by looking at the pixels but little did they know that I couldn’t see well and I would eventually need glasses. 

So I did end up getting glasses and yeah they helped out a lot during my grade school, middle school, and high school years. But I still had problems. I still had to sit in the front row and I still had trouble seeing what the teacher wrote on the blackboard or the overhead.

It wasn’t until college when I finally was able to wear contact lenses. It was great, but it lasted for about just nine or so years and that’s because my vision was still getting worse and worse and then they told me “You know what they don’t make contacts that go to your prescription. Your prescription is too high now.” So I eventually went back to wearing glasses.

So fast forward to present day now where I’m making this short film mix sit-down video. This YouTube video where I’m here to tell you hey, uhh, I’m legally blind and I know I’ve mentioned my vision problems in a few videos before but I’ve never really wanted to say that I was legally blind.

Being born with nearsightedness and living with it every day. It’s a real interesting experience actually. Everything is just completely out of focus and only comes into focus when you put something really really close to your eye, but it’s not just nearsightedness. I have problems with my peripheral vision. I drop something and I take maybe 20, 30 seconds to find it and also when I look straight forwards that’s also a problem because I tend to see things a little bit darker than usual and this can be really really problematic when I’m walking around at night. 

And here’s the thing I was in denial. I didn’t want to admit that I was legally blind and the reason for that is I could still see quite a bit. I mean I still have trouble seeing with glasses but compared to what other people have. They have more severe vision problems.

I just didn’t feel like I was blind enough to even say that I was legally blind. And here’s another confession. I did not want to be known as the legally blind filmmaker on YouTube and that’s because for some reason I kept thinking that if I focus on that it’s going to take away the attention from my creative stuff to my vision and I didn’t want that to happen.

But after watching a few YouTubers with disabilities it really made me just stop and think why I’m feeling this way about my own disability and why am I so insecure about it? They’ve helped me accept my blindness. They’ve helped me accept it and that it’s a part of me. That is part of who I am. That it’s part of my daily life but at the same time they’ve also taught me that this doesn’t completely define me who I am as a person. 

In many ways, this has all left me pretty empowered and just confident and motivated to do what I want to do. When I stop and think about it I’m like, “Dude, you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing technically. You’re a filmmaker. You’re making movies but yet you’re visually impaired. You’re doing something that heavily relies on your eyes.”

And it’s almost like I’m telling my disability, “Hey, you may be slowing me down but you know what I’m not gonna let you stop me from doing what I want to do.” In a way that’s pretty cool.

What matters to me the most as a filmmaker is trying yo get my stories out there. Trying to get my content out there. Sure it may take me a little longer to set up my camera and edit. It may be more challenging but then again hey life is full of challenges and this is my challenge and I’m willing to accept it and you know what? I’m okay with that.

Hey JC5ers what’s going on? So yeah I wanted to make this video for a while in this format because you’re going to see a few more short films kind of, well…short films mixed in with sit-down videos in this format and I wanted to talk about my vision, my eyesight and that’s going to become a little more prominent on my channel. It’s not going to completely dominate my content but I just want to talk more about it.

It wasn’t just those YouTubers who I watched with disabilities that helped inspire me it was you guys as well, uh. I’m grateful that you guys are watching me and I’m hoping that I continue to entertain you guys and educate you guys here and there as well. 

So anyway if you happen to like this video then give it a thumbs up if you found it hey a little bit inspirational for you then feel free to share it if you want. I will see you guys next week or next time hopefully you next week cuz I missed last week’s upload anyway I’ll talk to you later. See ya

Here are a few of our favorite JC5 Production videos:

If you are a fan of creative and authentic storytelling you will want to add JC5 Productions to your playlist.

Connecting With Juan:

Image Descriptions:

  • Featured image is a closeup of Juan with a big smile on his face. He has a knit gray beanie on his head and is wearing a green crew neck sweater. In the blurred background is a redbrick fireplace next to a doorframe.
  • In the second head & shoulders photo, Juan appears more serious with his right hand wrapped around the handle of his white cane. Wearing a casual, open, button-down gray shirt he has a navy blue tee underneath. Juan, sporting his bald head looks distinguished against a stark white backdrop.
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Becoming A Blind Photographer

A black & white image of a long stretch of railroad track taken from the caboose.

Introduction:

When I began Bold Blind Beauty my original intent was to empower others by sharing lessons I learned through my sight loss. As this site has evolved, however, many of us are beneficiaries of empowerment from the sight loss stories of others. Each of the Women On The Move (WOTM) and Blind Beauties featured here has unmatched strength and resilience. Every story is different as we walk separate paths yet the one thing we share in common is a change in our perspectives.

Experiencing losses in life is universal. How we each deal with our losses is the difference between living and thriving as Megan Sinks, today’s WOTM explains.

Becoming A Blind Photographer

There are events that draw very bold lines between your life “before” and your life “after”, in which nothing is the same on the other side. This is my story.

~Megan Sinks

The Body Battles Itself

Megan & Her Mom (#1 Supporter)
Megan & Her Mom (#1 Supporter)

My line was drawn when I was 25 years old. It was 2011; I was a newlywed and recent college grad with big dreams. What started as excruciating pain in my feet became much scarier when I could no longer see my face in the mirror. Although it’s still not well understood, I’d had an autoimmune attack. Many of my nerves had been damaged, including my optic nerves. Fortunately, after the hemorrhaging subsided, I was left with some functional vision, but I’m legally blind and in constant pain.

My first 25 years were as bright, as I had been, in terms of both grades and spirit. I was a happy person who studied abroad in Germany while getting my Bachelor’s degree in philosophy. My plans were to either go on to graduate school to teach or attend law school. Those plans—everything, really—changed when I was plunged into a disorienting, blurry world of alternating darkness and unbearable light.

My body and mind couldn’t make sense of the sheer amount and variety of pain sensations that never stopped. When I did sleep, it was during the day to avoid the harshest light. I didn’t have much of a schedule, sleeping or otherwise, for the years it took to get my pain under control. I could no longer drive, work, walk well unaided, even prepare a meal or have any semblance of a social life.

In Search Of Answers

My family and I were doing all we could to find the cause for my body’s deterioration, regularly seeing new specialists and trying increasingly dangerous treatments. Our lives were focused totally on this. My young marriage couldn’t handle the stress of this sudden and debilitating illness that made me very dependent, depressed, and… different. We all wanted “the old Megan” back.

I was no longer the bubbly, vivacious, smart young woman I had been, I was desperate and exhausted. I had become a tragic version of myself. In moments of lucidity, I recognized how bad things had gotten but had no idea how to address them.

When my husband and I separated, I felt even more physically and emotionally isolated, living on my family’s farm in rural southern Illinois. As difficult as that time was, I am so grateful for it because I had a lot of internal work to do. I had to learn how to live in this body that seems to hate me, how to appreciate what I have and define what I wanted. My primary goal was to become a contributory, functional part of society again. The only way to do that was to reframe how I saw myself and my situation. I’d been missing “the old Megan” so much, I hadn’t thought I’d appreciate my current self.

The Awakening

In my “Before,” I took everyday beauty for granted like most everyone else. That is until I lost most of my sight and identity. Sight loss caused me to see the world differently, both literally and metaphorically. I used the camera on my phone to take photos of things I wanted to see or read. Then I zoomed in to see the details I couldn’t identify without help. This was my first taste of assistive and adaptive technology which opened up a whole new world for me.

Organically I started to take more and more photos, which gave me a positive way to view my disability. I see the world differently than others and that can be positive as I can use my new perspective to become a better photographer. I’d taken photography classes in college but truly fell in love with it after becoming legally blind. I feel so much joy in rediscovering the visual world and sharing the experience with others.

After spending years going to doctors like it was my job, we were left with more questions than answers. It’s been almost 9 years since the autoimmune attack. I haven’t given up on finding the name of my disease, but I no longer see that as the key to my ability to live a good life I had to move on, somehow.

I attended a school for the blind in Chicago for a year, where I learned essential skills like using my cane properly, reading Braille and performing regular daily activities without sight. (Thank you, Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education/ ICRE-Wood!) From there, I was hired to work at the Base Supply Center at the Great Lakes Naval Center for the nonprofit AbilityOne agency, Beyond Vision.

Moving Onward

My husband and I decided to give our marriage another shot, so he moved with me to the northeastern Chicago suburbs. That was in the summer of 2017 and we are still here, I am still working at the Base Supply Center and I continue to explore the world around me with my camera.

I want to show people, through my art and life, that our limitations can become our strengths and there’s great beauty in disability. Disability is often thought of as simply a lack of ability, but it’s truly having different abilities and perspectives with value. Blindness and other disabilities are so badly understood, yet nearly one in five Americans is living with a disability. Widespread misconceptions are a problem that I hope to help, as no one expects a legally blind person to be a photographer (especially if they don’t realize that most blind people have some vision.) I hope to spread awareness and advocate for people with disabilities we have value and unique talents to offer if given the opportunity.

When I lost my sight, I didn’t think I’d be gaining anything, but I was wrong. The “old Megan” had more depth of field and visual acuity, but the new me has more depth of character and emotion, plus more vision than she could’ve imagined.

Connecting With Megan:

Image Descriptions:

  • Featured photo
    • A black & white image of a long stretch of railroad track taken from the caboose.
  • First Gallery (before Megan’s autoimmune attack):
    • A color wedding day photo of Megan standing with her arms around her smiling Mom and #1 supporter. Both ladies look lovely with Megan wearing a strapless white wedding dress and her mom in a sleeveless black dress.
    • Black & white wedding photo of Megan, her husband, and two adorable young nephews. The boys are being held by Megan and her husband.
    • Photo from Megan’s vision test at the beginning of her illness.
  • Second Gallery 3 Black & White Photos:
    • A bare reflection of a tree in a puddle of rainwater on asphalt. 
    • Closeup of the center of a flower.
    • Another closeup of a leaf with water droplets on it.
  • Third Gallery 7 Color Photos:
    • A partial closeup image of a bright yellow sunflower with a brown center.
    • Downward perspective closeup of the pink and white petals and filaments of type of lily.
    • The veins of a brownish leaf with water droplets.
    • Closeup of white tufts of a dandelion.
    • Reddish/brown veins on a green leaf.
    • Yellowish/brown withering leaf and the bright glow of the sun can be seen in the distance.
    • Another pale pink flower belonging to the lily family whose filaments are the focus of the photo.
  • Fourth Gallery 3 Color Photos of Megan today:
    • In the first and third photos, Megan is posing with her mom sporting a stylish cropped haircut.
    • The second photo is Megan, her husband, and adolescent nephews. The four of them are standing close together decked out in winter gear.

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Blind Beauty 74 | Antonia Lliteras Espinosa

Blind Beauty 74 Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Blind Beauty 74 | Antonia Lliteras Espinosa

I was born with albinism, which caused me to be legally blind. Due to my lack of sight, I live in a world where bugs don’t exist, dust is something I only hear about but never see and everyone has flawless skin.

~Antonia Lliteras Espinosa

The Times They Are A Changin Rapidly

#1 Blind Beauty 74 image description is in the body of the post.
#1 Blind Beauty 74 | Antonia
Lliteras Espinosa

Aren’t we living in exciting times? I sometimes wonder what our ancestors would think if they could be here in this moment. Who would have thought we’d ever be untethered to a phone line? Or have the ability to connect with someone from around the world instantaneously? Heck, even receiving news almost as soon as it happens is almost miraculous in comparison with days gone by.

As an advocate, one of the things that really excites me is being here to see representation unfold. Just thinking about the logistics of tracking the numerous groups of people gives me heartburn. Can you imagine the group breakdowns? It’s enough to make your head spin.

Being one of the 15% of the world’s population who has a disability, seeing more representation is so empowering. When you have an online presence it’s even more so because you can meet so many more awesome people. Take today’s Blind Beauty, Antonia, for example. Prior to last week, I didn’t know this young woman. Yet thanks to Instagram, when I asked if I could share one of her posts, well, the rest is history.

The Beauty Of Unity

Since it’s out of the ordinary to see blind women on fashion magazine covers, I created Blind Beauty. Living the “be the change you wish to see” philosophy, I created this faux fashion magazine cover to highlight these women. As I’ve said since starting Bold Blind Beauty, “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.”

#2 Image description is in the body of the post.
#2 Antonia Lliteras Espinosa

There are so many beautiful people in our world and the real beauty is how we lift up one another. Following is the rest of Antonia’s quote:

Out of sight out of mind, right? I have been asked many times if there was a cure whether I would take it and, to be honest, I don’t think I would. It has taken me many years to get to where I am today, but I have learned to find joy through my other senses. I appreciate the beauty in the world just as much as the next person and my visual impairment has put me in a unique position where I get to experience the raw humanity that unites us all. I get to see people at their best because I am so vulnerable to others. If I were to suddenly gain my sight, I would miss out on all this and, let’s be honest, the world would be a much dirtier place!

~Antonia Lliteras Espinosa

Blind Beauty 74 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Antonia’s image on the cover is black & white. In this photo, Antonia is standing in front of a tiled wall posing with her white cane. She looks fabulous in a lace cami, jeans, jacket, shades, and a handbag over her right shoulder. Blocks of text superimposed on Antonia’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”

Additional Images:

  1. This photo is a color image of the Featured Photo. The tiled wall is sort of a dark teal color. Antonia has a
    white/blonde stylish bob hairstyle. Her cami is white with a light blue jacket, blue jeans, and sparkling silver sneakers. Her white cane also has a bright pink handle.
  2. This photo shows Antonia sitting on a park bench. She’s wearing a vibrant royal blue top with a luxe velvet navy jacket with jeans and black flats. Her white cane is propped up against the bench. In the background parked vehicles and storefronts can be seen.

Connecting With Antonia: