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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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August Men In Motion | Ahmet Ustunel

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 August Men In Motion, you’ll meet Ahmet Ustunel known as The Blind Captain. Ahmet is the first blind person to kayak solo from Asia to Europe, crossing the Bosphorous Strait. We’ve also provided a transcript of the YouTube audio below. Enjoy!

Transcript

Nasreen Bhutta:

Image #2 is described in the body of the post.
Photo 2

Welcome to Bold Blind Beauty and Beyond Sight magazine, an online community where real beauty transcends barriers. Bold Blind Beauty’s 2020 A Year Of Vision campaign also celebrates blind and visually impaired men. I am your host, Nasreen. For our August segment of Men In Motion, our featured guest is The Blind Captain himself, Ahmet Ustunel. With an adventurous spirit, he was able to kayak solo. Yes, kayak solo via the Bosphorus Strait, a 3.5-mile route. Let’s all give a warm welcome to Captain Ahmet. Hey, Ahmet.

Ahmet Ustunel:

Ahoy, everyone. This is Ahmet, The Blind Captain. Thanks for having me.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Thank you for joining us. What inspired you to become an ocean lover and to be known as The Blind Captain?

Ahmet Ustunel:

I grew up by the ocean, so I spend a lot of time swimming, fishing, doing all sorts water activities when I was a kid. Since then, since I was very little, three, four years old, water was my favorite place, and I continue to do sports, water sports, even after I moved to US. And then I became The Blind Captain around 2018 by crossing the Bosphorus solo.

Nasreen Bhutta:

You went on a kayak, which incidentally is called or known as a smart kayak. What does that mean?

Ahmet Ustunel:

Smart kayak, when I first started thinking about it, it was a kayak that can, pretty much similar to self-driving cars. I was actually inspired by self-driving cars, seeing them around on the street in San Francisco. I thought, wow if cars can navigate around the city, densely populated and a lot of traffic, it could be much easier, it should be much easier on the water. That’s how I started. It was just an idea. I was planning to do something in the future. This was probably the early 2000s when self-driving cars were just starting. And then in 2017, there was an award given by the Lighthouse For The Blind called Holman Prize named after James Holman, which was a British Navy officer and an adventurer, a traveler. He was the most traveled person in the world at his time, and he wrote some bestsellers book. And then for some reason after a while, he was forgotten.

To honor him, Lighthouse started this award program called Holman Prize. I applied with my project and I got the Holman Prize in 2017, and then the design process started. I start putting a whole bunch of technologies together to create this smart kayak. The smart kayak, again, means a kayak with all the technologies that allow a blind person paddle solo.

Nasreen Bhutta:

First of all, I just want to backtrack a little bit here. For those who don’t know where the Bosphorus Strait is, can you share that information with us?

Ahmet Ustunel:

Bosphorus Strait is a body of water between Europe and Asia. It is located in Turkey. It’s a geographical border separating Europe and Asia. It’s a symbolic place. I did my crossing there because that’s the area I grew up around, and I used to sit around Bosphorus when I was in middle school, high school, and imagine one day I should be able to paddle, or sail, or use a fishing boat around here. I remember then, we were studying Greek mythology in high school. There was a Greek hero called King Phineas. He was blind. He used to guide sailors through Bosphorus from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Although he’s blind, he was able to do this. I was really inspired by reading those Greek mythologies because usually blindness or blind people are portrayed not as heroes, not that often.

Nasreen Bhutta:

That’s so true.

Ahmet Ustunel:

That’s why I was thinking, I will be King Phineas one day. Even if I cannot guide other sailors, I will just guide myself.

Nasreen Bhutta:

You were talking a few minutes about the smart kayak and certain technologies. Can you tell us a little bit about those certain technologies?

Ahmet Ustunel:

For an autonomous, or let’s say semi autonomous kayak or any vehicle, a couple of things are must. The first one is a navigation system. It is pretty available and simple. It is a GPS system that will tell you how to get from point A to point B. That was the first system we put together by using some satellite GPS systems and something similar to autopilot. We recorded different plots on the Bosphorus or around my training sites. It actually kind of creates a geo-fence around the route you are going to take. If you deviate from your course, it lets you know by saying, “Oh, you are five degrees off to the West, so come back to East a little bit until you get back.” It keeps warning you. It’s basically very similar to autopilot.

The other system you need is an obstacle avoidance to avoid any kind of collision on the water, which-

Nasreen Bhutta:

Absolutely.

Ahmet Ustunel:

… which we tried whole bunch of things and hacks. This is a lot more complicated and expensive area of autonomous vehicles, especially on the water. You are using a lot of sensors, which cannot be as accurate as on the land because light reflects from the water and you have a constant motion up and down with the waves. So the sensors are not very reliable. That was the hard part. The third one is also getting to know the traffic. The area I was crossing is one of the busiest water channels in the world, so there are a lot of huge tankers and freighters are coming back and forth from Black Sea to Mediterranean. It was like crossing a highway, so I need to know which freighters are coming and how long they are going to take to reach me all that stuff. And then for that, we used Marine Data System.

And so, those were the three main technologies we focused on. But depending on the area you are working or depending on the watercraft you are going to adapt, these technologies might slightly differ. But I would say the three main things you need are navigation, obstacle avoidance, and the traffic control. So-

Nasreen Bhutta:

Being completely blind, how did you train for this solo journey?

Ahmet Ustunel:

How did I train? Well, the training also had a couple of different areas I needed to train for. First of all, I need physical training to be able to cross. Well, it was not a very long distance, but it could be very choppy and it has a strong current. So even if it is not a long distance, it requires a certain physical stamina. I also need to cross it quickly without getting caught in the traffic, right?

Nasreen Bhutta:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ahmet Ustunel:

That’s why I needed some physical training. I put a goal for myself. I said, “Before the crossing, I’m going to paddle 500 miles in eight months.” I get up at 5:00 AM every Saturday, Sunday morning, I went to my training site, paddled 20, 25 miles a day. And then before the crossing, actually I exceeded my goal. I paddle about 650 miles or so. That was the easy part, physical training. Rain or shine, I get up and do my paddling, and I was in good shape. And then I also needed training with the technology because we were … remember, this technology, I didn’t have. We were developing it at the same time. Whenever we have a new software or hardware, I used to take it with me to my training site and try it on the water and give a report back to the engineers. “This works, this doesn’t work, let’s change this, let’s add this feature.” It was constantly changing. That required a lot of tech training. And also, I feel like I trained myself emotionally as well because there were a lot of ups and downs during those eight, nine months.

Well, the basic, the easiest thing was the challenge with technology. Something fails and then we say, “Oh, this doesn’t work and we don’t have that much time. We have like three months, what are we going to do? We need to find a plan B or replace this technology with something else.” And then that is the type of thing I can deal better because it was a troubleshooting issue, and I like problem solving and working on that kind of stuff. That didn’t affect me that much. But more than that, there were times people were discouraging or my project almost stopped by the Coast Guard and they didn’t allow me to do this and people were like, “Oh, why are you going to do this solo? You can just sit on a tandem kayak and paddle with a sighted person. Why are you even trying this?” That kind of stuff took more energy for me to deal with. That’s why I need to train myself also emotionally, just close my ears and not to listen to people. That was-

Photo 3

Nasreen Bhutta:

It’s a good thing you didn’t listen to them.

Ahmet Ustunel:

… a hard part of the training. Yeah.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Good thing you did close your ears. I’ve been actually on a paddle boat which is kind of like a kayak, and you do have to paddle. Yeah, I could see you having to really physically train that paddle, sitting in a position in such a manner just on top of the water like that. What-

Ahmet Ustunel:

Exactly, but that was the fun part because for me, any time on the water is fine. I love it, so I didn’t regret any second of it.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Ahmet, can you share some of the challenges that you encountered during your trip?

Ahmet Ustunel:

Well, challenges, I mentioned a little bit about the challenges. Most challenges were actually easy to handle, like dealing with technology. We had a lot of trial and error with the technology because everything was new. The team working with me were all volunteers, so they were professional engineers, but they were just spending their own personal time on this. It was kind of hard to finish things quickly, so things were taking time and we were constantly changing things. But as I said, that kind of challenge was easy to handle because I like working on tech. The biggest challenge, as I said, was dealing with people and the negative ideas about the projects. The other stuff I don’t see as challenge. I capsized multiple times in the winter in 45 degree water.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Cold.

Ahmet Ustunel:

I got pneumonia. I don’t know, I got caught in 30, 35 mile wind, had to wait six hours to be able to get back to the land. All that stuff I don’t see as challenge. They were mishaps, yes. It could happen to anyone, any time. But I was prepared. I was prepared for that kind of-

Nasreen Bhutta:

Yeah, you absolutely were. One other thing I wanted to ask you is, did you have any sponsorship behind you? You keep mentioning a team. Was there any company sponsoring it?

Ahmet Ustunel:

Oh, yeah. I had a lot of sponsors. The main sponsor of course, was the Lighthouse For The Blind Holman Prize. They paid for all the equipment, expenses, and travel and all that stuff.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Oh, great.

Ahmet Ustunel:

Other than that, I had Hobie Kayaks was one of my sponsors. The volunteer engineer team was from AT&T. Although the company didn’t sponsor the engineers, that’s organized and created a workforce group for this project. Those were the main sponsors.

Nasreen Bhutta:

A lot of folks in our community are actually still applying for Holman Prize. It seems to be a big thing each year. Let’s see what other amazing things come out of that venture from Holman Prize.

Ahmet Ustunel:

I definitely encourage anyone to apply for the next round because it’s not only gives you the opportunity to realize your dreams by sponsoring you, and also it helps you to connect with other prize winners and other people with great ideas. Now, this will be the fifth year, I think. Next year will be the fifth year. That’ll be a big group of people helping each other and giving ideas and exchanging great projects.

Nasreen Bhutta:

One quote that I absolutely love from your bio is when you’re talking about blindness as a characteristic rather than being a limitation for a person. What does this mean? Why is this important to you? Because I’ve never heard it spun like that before.

Ahmet Ustunel:

Well, this is the approach or philosophy I grew up with, I would say, learning from other blind mentors, blind people I met when I was younger. But it means briefly, we have a lot of adjectives, a lot of characteristics that define us. I am Turkish, I am blind. I am medium height, I am 40 years old, I have black hair. You know?

Nasreen Bhutta:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ahmet Ustunel:

I can count hundreds of characteristics about myself, and blindness is just one of them.

Nasreen Bhutta:

One of them, yes.

Ahmet Ustunel:

It doesn’t have to be the most important one. It doesn’t have to be a negative one. Each characteristics actually has brought negative, positive or neutral implications. But how we define it is because of the physical environment or the social prejudice, or negative perceptions, it could be negative or positive. Blindness, unfortunately, because of the prejudice and the social barriers, it could perceive as a negative characteristic, but it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be. So that’s why I just see it as a characteristic, not a defining underlining aspect of myself.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Who is your major influencer?

Ahmet Ustunel:

I don’t have one person I can tell I was looking up for this person. But when I was younger at around 14, 15, I start thinking about kind of like my future as a blind person, where I am and where I was, and what I’m going to do in the future. And around that time, I didn’t have really good cane skills. I was about to start high school and I was thinking, I cannot rely on my friends all the time to go places. I need to do my own thing. And then I convinced my parents to take me to this organization, a blindness organization in Turkey. I met some blind university students, blind college students. They were just ordinary blind people doing their own thing, studying and having an independent life. They had girlfriends, they were partying, they were doing cool stuff. I was like, okay, that is how I am going to be. I will just be a normal person, do normal things as a blind person. After seeing those people around 14, 15, I felt like cool, so I will be one of those people, just do ordinary stuff, regular stuff, and don’t worry about it that much. I think meeting other blind people doing ordinary things and being successful was a big influence on me. I cannot say just one person, but the event, just meeting other mentors.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Finally, if you can describe yourself in one word, what would that be?

Ahmet Ustunel:

I would say adventure. I love trying new things, being adventurous. That keeps me going. I always have a new idea and something new to try.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Captain, how can we all reach you?

Ahmet Ustunel:

All right, you guys can find me online on social media. You can check my Facebook page Ahmet, A-H-M-E-T, Blind Captain. And also my website, http://www.theblindcaptain.com. And my email, you can shoot me an email, again, my name A-H-M-E-T at theblindcaptain.com. If you guys have an idea to share or if you’re a kayaker or sailor or rower, any person who is interested in water sports and learn about the techniques or the technology, you can just shoot me an email. Yeah, hope to hear from you guys.

Nasreen Bhutta:

Thanks, Ahmet, for sharing your incredible journey with us and being our man in motion for August, 2020. You can find Ahmet’s journey and so much more in Beyond Sight magazine at http://www.boldblindbeauty.com. Thanks for listening.

Connecting With Ahmet:

Bio:

Ahmet Ustunel AKA The Blind Captain is a Teacher of the Visually Impaired at the San Francisco Unified School District. He enjoys teaching Braille, Assistive Technology and life skills to support blind and visually impaired students in achieving their dreams. 

Originally from Turkey, Ahmet won the Holman Prize in 2017 and was the first blind person to kayak solo from Asia to Europe, crossing the Bosphorous Strait. In 2019 he founded an outdoor adventure club for the Blind in Turkey called Sports for Everyone because he believes in the power of nature and physical activity to create opportunities for Blind communities and transform public perception of blindness. 

You can read more about him and his upcoming projects at www.theblindcaptain.com.

Image Descriptions:

  1. Featured image is the Beyond Sight Magazine cover. Ahmet trains for his crossing of the Bosphorus Strait. He stares ahead determinedly as a large wave on his left catches the sunlight and lifts his kayak. In the distance, a bridge connects Europe and Asia. Green trees surround the Hisar castle on the European shore. 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 3 lines of text that say “Ahmet Ustunel The Blind Captain From Asia To Europe.” 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.
  2. Ahmet smiles as he paddles in the Bosphorus Strait of Istanbul, Turkey in a specially equipped kayak with the words “Ahmet Ustunel The Blind Captain” emblazoned on the side. He paddles the Hobie kayak with his feet resting on foot pedals that move through the water, and a traditional kayak paddle in his hands.
  3. Ahmet kayaks in Tomales Bay, USA. He smiles as he lifts his paddle and moves over calm waters. Green hills dot the landscape in the background.
  4. YouTube thumbnail is a closeup photo of a ship’s wheel with ropes, sails, water, and another boat in the background.
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July Men In Motion | Andrew Donald

Image is described in the body of the post.

MEN IN MOTION

Editor’s Note:

Bold Blind Beauty 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, from Down Under you’ll meet via video, our July Man In Motion, Andrew Donald, known as “Nocturnal Archer.” We’ve also provided a transcript of the video below. Enjoy!

Andrew Donald, Nocturnal Archer

Introduction

Image is described in the body of the post.
Andrew Donald #2

Good day. I’m Andrew Donald. I’m from Melbourne and I’ve been a professional musician and music teacher since I left school, and I’m currently studying my master’s of education at Victoria University. I’m 36 years old and I’m legally blind. I’ve been involved in martial arts and music since I was about five years old, and more recently I’ve taken up traditional archery. That’s what I’d like to talk to you today about, my journey into archery as a vision-impaired person, and really more broadly about how accessible archery is to really anyone.

Sight Loss & Archery

My vision impairment is called rod monochromatism. This means that I see only with my rod cells and have no cone cell function. This makes me extremely sensitive to light. I have quite low visual acuity and I’m totally colorblind. I do however see quite well in the dark and this has formed a major way that I’ve adapted archery to work for me. Archery is an incredibly diverse art form. There are many different styles from all around the world, and there are so many different ways to enjoy archery. It is primarily extremely fun. It is extremely challenging and very personally rewarding.

You can make a lot of cool stuff in archery. I make my own arrows. I fletch them and paint them. You can make your own bowstrings. You can even make your own bows, which is something that I’ve really been looking forward to getting into. But overall, archery is an extremely technical discipline and it requires a lot of practice, and that’s part of the appeal for me. It’s very similar to music in that way. I’ve found that archery has been a natural extension of my experience with martial arts, but it’s also surprisingly been an extension of my experience as a musician as well.

Instinctive Archery Shooting Style

Like I said, there are many different styles of archery. I practice traditional archery with traditional bows. So this is an example of a traditional longbow. It’s an example of a traditional hunting recurve bow. As you can see, there are no accessories on these bows. There are no bow sights or other attachments. As opposed to a bow like this, which is a vintage example of a bow you might see in the Olympic games. You can see, we have a few more attachments here, including a bow sight used to aim the bow.

The style of shooting that I practice is called instinctive shooting. This is a style that doesn’t use a bow sight or any other visual mechanism to aim the arrow. Rather, you look at what you want to hit and then you use your physical technique and your form to align your body properly so that you can send an arrow to that target. It’s very much like kicking a soccer ball. You can’t aim a soccer ball. You simply have to look where you want it to go and then put your body in the right position to send that ball where you wanted it to go.

It’s also strangely like singing and playing a musical instrument. If you can play the piano without looking at the keys, you’re instinctively aware of where each key is. In singing, even more so. You can’t see a note or a key you have to play in order to produce the note you want so you have to trust your instincts and your many hours of practice, that when you go to sing that note, it’s going to come out the way you want it.

Image described in the body of the post.
Andrew Donald #3

Navigation & Senses Working In Concert

Another way I’ve found instinctive archery is very linked to experiences as a vision-impaired person is navigating a familiar space as a vision-impaired person. If you navigate a familiar space without using your vision as a primary sense, then you are instinctively aware of your surroundings and where you are relative to those surroundings, and that’s really at the essence of instinctive archery.

Essentially, you’re using your sense of touch, your kinesthetic awareness to align your body relative to the target. I still need to see my target in order to hit it, but I don’t need to see it that clearly. In fact, I can shoot more accurately than I can see, if that makes sense. This is because archery is extremely technical and your form and technique play such a major part in making your arrow go where you want. That sight is really secondary to that, in my opinion, and especially shooting traditional archery from a bow hunting perspective, the distances that we’re shooting really is not that long. In bowhunting, you would never attempt a shot beyond 20 meters, in traditional bowhunting.

When we practice, it’s always fun to push the distance out to 30, 40, 50 meters, but it’s still very satisfying trying to shoot five, 10 meters, and this is still quite a challenge. So that’s another way that traditional archery and instinctive shooting have worked well for me as a vision-impaired person.

Competitive Archery Tournaments & Low Vision

There’s just so many ways to participate in the art of archery. There’s a strong competitive side to archery, with many different styles of tournaments, and there are often categories for blind and vision-impaired people in these tournaments. Blind and vision-impaired people compete in archery tournaments through the use of a tactile sight, which is a sight that rests on the hand and on the feet and helps the archer align themselves properly to the target, through their sense of touch and with the help of a spotter. This is just another way that blind and vision-impaired people can compete in archery.

There are indoor tournaments and outdoor tournaments. There are 3D tournaments that mimic bow hunting, and there’s of course bow hunting, which is an incredible way to get in touch with nature, and being in a natural environment with my bow and arrow is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. Perhaps the most common reason people get into archery is that it’s incredibly fun. It’s super addictive and it’s a great way to meet new people. It can be a very social activity, but it can also be a tremendous solitary, meditative pursuit as well, and I love that side of archery.

Archery is also incredibly safe. By far, the most dangerous part of archery is the removing of the arrow from the target as opposed to shooting the bow. Yeah, archery is a very safe sport and as a vision-impaired person practicing archery, this is of course very important to me. If you haven’t thought about taking up archery as a blind or vision impaired person, I’d seriously consider it because it’s far more accessible than you might think. There are so many different ways to involve yourself in archery and it can be an incredibly rewarding thing to practice.

Global Archery Community

So I’d love to see more blind and vision-impaired people practicing archery. If you are interested in archery and my story more, you can find me on Instagram under Nocturnal Archer. Instagram has been a tremendous platform to connect with other traditional archers from all around the world and I’d have to recommend it. It’s been a very positive community. If you’re interested, there are lots of experienced archers out there to help you get into the art of archery. So, yes, thank you so much for listening and I hope this might have inspired you to look into archery. Take care.

Image Descriptions:

  • Featured image is the Beyond Sight Magazine cover. Andrew, dressed in a red flannel shirt, knit cap, and shades, is aiming his bow and arrow and it appears as if he’s in 3-D. 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 4 lines of black text that say “Andrew Donald The Nocturnal Archer.” 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.
  • Photo #2- A dramatic long exposure photo of Andrew dressed in black against a black background and highlights around his bow and arrow.
  • Photo #3 – A long exposure photo of Andrew using an arrow with a light up nock.
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June Men In Motion | Robert Kingett

Image is described in the body of the post.

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.