Monthly Archives

June 2021

Going Blind & Catching Up with Andrea Yu: An Interview with Emmet Teran

By | Emmet Teran, Updates

Going Blind & Catching Up with ANDREA YU:
An Interview with EMMET TERAN
June 18, 2021

A year after the start of a global pandemic, Andrea Yu, who is a student with City Access New York interning with A Closer Look Inc., spearheaded a series of interviews with characters from Going Blind (2010) to find out how they fared through a year of COVID-19 lockdown and where they are now in their sight-loss journeys. 

Andrea spoke with Emmet Teran in mid-March about his eye care during the pandemic and his current occupations.

To listen to the interview, use the audio player below. A transcript of the interview follows. To view the film, Going Blind, click here

ANDREA YU: Hello. I’m Andrea Yu, host of Going Blind and Catching Up. This week, we have an interview with Emmet Teran. He has been working in politics and advocating to unionize workers. 

Hi Emmet. How have you been since the making of the film and during the start of the pandemic? 

EMMET TERAN: Hey Andrea. Thanks so much for having me on to talk. It’s a pretty broad question, but all in all, really good. It feels like it’s been forever, it kind of has for me since Going Blind came out. Since then, I went to high school, went to college, graduated in 2018, and was working in politics as a press secretary for a couple of years in Connecticut, and then just actually moved back to New York City, and have been working for Joe. So, I’ve been kind of going a little full circle in terms of where I was 11 years ago and where I am now. 

I’m helping Joe out with some grant work for his projects and helping him out on a bunch of different things, but excited to be back working with him. In terms of the pandemic, like everyone else, it’s been a pretty jarring year, but I’ve been healthy and safe. I was actually just vaccinated yesterday. I’ve had my first dose, so you know, looking forward to this being over. All things considered, I’m really fortunate. I was able to keep my job, have the support of my family, and I’m sure you’re talking with my dad, so he’ll fill you in there, too. I hope that wasn’t too much of a ramble, but that’s what I’ve been up to. 

AY: Wow, it sounds like a lot has been going on. 

ET: Yeah, you could say that. 

AY: So then, because of this pandemic, how has your eye care been affected? 

ET: A little background for me, since the film – in 2017, before the pandemic – my retina detached in my left eye, which was a scary prospect. Because I have ocular albinism, the lining in the back of my eye’s pretty thin, so the prospect of getting my vision back was pretty unclear for quite a few months. So it was a bit of a scary time in the fall 2017, but fortunately, I had a really amazing surgeon and I was able to get it back. You know, with that said, like with everything else, getting all the necessary doctor’s appointments has been a special challenge. I haven’t been to the doctor’s in ways that I wish I could have been, haven’t been seen in the ways that I’d like to, but I’m hoping, now that I’ve had my first vaccine dose, that I’ll be able to start making those appointments again and getting out now that the rates are lower and I feel safer. Obviously, I’m younger, but I’m more so just worried about hurting someone else accidentally on the subway. Now that I’ve had my first dose, I feel a little bit better about getting out there. 

AY: So then, I assume you’re adjusting to this time well with the Coronavirus? 

ET: Yeah, I mean, trying my best to. It’s been an interesting time, to say the least. Kind of moved in November after the election. I left my job in Connecticut and moved to New York to be closer to my brother. It’s been really nice being able to have him in my small pod all winter. Catching up with him and catching up with people in New York, of course at a distance, has been a challenge, just like for everyone else. But all things considered again, financially doing fine. It’s really nice to be back in New York. 

AY: Oh, that’s good. Would you say working remotely has been accommodating to you well? 

ET: Yeah, I mean, I think with everyone staring at a screen for 8 hours a day sucks. It’s definitely a wear on your eyes for people like me and you and Joe. Having low vision and having to strain in ways that we haven’t necessarily had to dedicate as much screen time as we do now, which is definitely a challenge. 

But I’ve been fortunate. I’m currently working 3 different jobs. One with Joe doing non-profit work, another one doing some content writing for a startup called Unit that helps create an app that helps workers unionize, talks them through the legal processes that they have to go through. And my last one is helping out on comms on a City Council race. All of it, for the most part, is remote. So I’ve been fortunate in that respect, but spinning a lot of plates. 

AY: Wow. So what led you to work at those two jobs? 

ET: One of my main goals in life is to write. If I’m able to do that, I’ll be happy, whatever form that can take. My politics are also pretty important to me. The impact that the job that I have in terms of what it does for people is also very important to me. 

Working for a startup that helps workers unionize and hopefully stand up for themselves more in the workplace is really important for me. Not to be too political, but we know that the declining union rates are tied to income inequality in the US. Working to bridge that gap and put more of a voice, rights, and a seat at the table for workers is so important now more than ever, especially. Since people need more of a voice, they need to stand up. 

In terms of my political work, I graduated from school wanting to go into journalism and 80 applications later, wasn’t really finding too many jobs, since it’s not the easiest industry to break into. So I started getting involved in some local political races and found myself working in Hartford for a couple of years as a press secretary for the committee chairs up there – so labor, housing, health care. Yeah, I found my way back into New York in fall in this pretty important election year with the mayoral race up and all these city council districts in play. 

AY: Wow. So how would you say balancing everything remotely is going so far then, since that’s a lot you’re handling? 

ET: It’s a challenge. Full-time job would always be nice, but you know, especially given the pandemic, things are a little bit harder to find. But I’ve been managing okay. Remote hours are a task, because there are less limitations in the way of packing up your office and leaving for the day. Your work kind of follows you home, because your work is at home. I’ve found a good way to balance it and ways to stay sane and watch movies with my roommates. Trying to find a good balance when I need to close the laptop. 

AY: When you’re in an outside environment in your free time, how have you been adjusting to these changes? 

ET: You mean COVID-19? 

AY: Yes. 

ET: You know, double-masking, keeping my distance, avoiding the subway if I can. I’m a runner, so I go on jogs. I’m sure to wear a mask and try to go in off-hours. I mean it’s kind of like anyone else. You’re trying to limit your exposure to the outside. Obviously, we’re getting a little stir crazy now that we’re pretty much past the 1-year mark on the pandemic, but now that it’s getting warmer out, it’s much better to be outside. Braving some cold walks to socially distance to catch up with people over the winter was so so necessary and really looking forward to the spring weather where it’ll be nicer to be outside. 

AY: Right, it’s refreshing. 

ET: Seriously. 

AY: Yeah. I think that about wraps it up. It was great hearing from you again. 

ET: Thanks so much for doing this project, Andrea. I’m really looking forward to hearing from all the other folks from Going Blind. The movie really had a huge impact on my life. I really wouldn’t know how to advocate for myself, if it wasn’t for Joe teaching me early about all the really important aspects of low vision therapy and all the tools and gadgets that are out there in the world. I know we didn’t talk a lot about it in this, but from my retinal detachment to even before then in the classroom, I think what this movie has done for me is really hard to describe and quantify, but hoping it continues to have an impact on others. Say “hey” to the rest of the cast for me. 

AY: Of course. Thank you for doing this with me.

Going Blind & Catching Up with Andrea Yu: An Interview with Tim Teran

By | Tim Teran, Updates

Going Blind & Catching Up with ANDREA YU:
An Interview with TIM TERAN
June 11, 2021

A year after the start of a global pandemic, Andrea Yu, who is a student with City Access New York interning with A Closer Look Inc., spearheaded a series of interviews with characters from Going Blind (2010) to find out how they fared through a year of COVID-19 lockdown and where they are now in their sight-loss journeys.

This week, Andrea spoke with Tim Teran about life with low vision and adjusting to uncertainty during the pandemic.

To listen to the interview, use the audio player below. A transcript of the interview follows.

To view the film, Going Blind, click here.

ANDREA YU: Hello, this is Andrea Yu, host of Going Blind and Catching Up. This week we talked with Tim Teran about life with low vision and adjusting to uncertainty during the pandemic. 

Hi Tim!

TIM TERAN: Hello Andrea.

AY: So you gave your story on how you adopted with your low vision. So how have you been since this pandemic started? 

TT: Well, I think because I’ve lived with low vision my entire life that it hasn’t impacted my life as much as it might others, because I don’t drive – never have driven – for example. So in Connecticut, I walk everywhere, like I walk to town and get groceries, that sort of thing. I live in both New York and Connecticut. I’m lucky. 

After the pandemic started, I think New York became a little creepy to me in a sense that everything was fine with indoor activities, and then spring-summer-outdoor activities, and all that goodness of reflecting on life and how precious it is and what it means. But at the end, I feel like being cautious sort of became wary and wary of others and their behaviors, so I found myself always looking around in public and since I don’t see so well, that doesn’t necessarily mean I know where people are. So it’s been a little odd to feel uncomfortable. If you add that to the fact I don’t see well – trying to figure out what people look like behind their mask is impossible. 

9 out of 10 times, I will go by someone who will know who I am, but I won’t know who they are. With low vision, that happens from afar all the time. It becomes exacerbated when you can’t even recognize some of the bigger details on their faces.

AY: But with social distancing now, how has that been going? 

TT: Well, there you go. That adds to it, right? So with 6 feet away, it’s hard to tell “Who is that person?” I’m somewhat comfortable in my skin in the sense that I know I don’t see well and I don’t hide it from anybody, so I’m happy to say “You know, I hate to say this, but I can’t tell who you are behind your mask.” Sometimes it feels a little awkward, because it feels a little rude. But I’d rather do that and get that out of the way, then carry on with the conversation. 

AY: Right. So now that we are all in quarantine though, how have you been adjusting with your low vision? 

TT: Well, as my wife will tell you, I spend too much time on the computer. I think we all have screen overdose from the pandemic. In that respect, I think the difference in the pandemic to me, the biggest issue for me from a vision standpoint, is it’s that much harder to recognize people, and I love people. It kills me when I’m walking down the street or I’m in the country, walking down the road and I see someone and I say “hello” just ‘cause I say “hello” to everybody, and I don’t know who it is. It’s just that it’s a little disconcerting and I kind of feel uncomfortably rude, which is why for me, the thing I’ve got to do is say “I’m sorry, but I can’t tell who you are with your mask on.” Unfortunately, because so many people can’t do that, it doesn’t become a hardship in the sense that “it’s because of my low vision, I can’t tell who you are.”

Because enough people do it, I don’t feel like it singles me out or calls me out as having a particular challenge or what have you. 

AY: Speaking of challenges, have you also been facing challenges with your work? 

TT: Well, you know, so much of my life, I have worked globally and I’ve been using video conferencing since they called it that, not Zoom, for 20-odd years. So, in some respects actually, if you have low vision, Zoom is a godsend, because you actually are closer to that person than you would be if you were in the room with them. 

In the past, I could sit across the conference room 7 or 8 or 15 feet away, but I couldn’t see their facial expressions. I could hear them, but I couldn’t read their facial expressions. Of course, I’m getting hard of hearing, that’s becoming difficult, too. Thank God for hearing aids. But I would tell you in some respects, Zoom makes it easier for me to have a call with someone ‘cause I can actually look at their faces with details that I normally wouldn’t see in a conference room or if I was seated across a table from them. 

AY: Oh, that’s good. Very accommodating them. So then, would you say you’re adjusting to this pandemic well? 

TT: Yeah, I mean the other thing that I find in a way that is a good thing is – you know, there are people who’re challenged for so many reasons and they are typically irregular, if you will. They’re not normal. It’s being challenged in our society in particular is different. It’s not the norm, as opposed to perhaps a culture where everybody is an individual and therefore, whatever you are is what you are. Because the pandemic has created a blanket challenge to everybody, people are much more accommodating, understanding, and compassionate than they are when there wasn’t a pandemic. 

Here, for example, I might go to a deli. The most hated thing is when there is a menu board, I can’t read them. When I don’t know exactly what I want it is really frustrating, because I’m saying “Can’t I try something new?” but I can’t read the damn board. Sometimes in the past, when I ask the question “What’s special today?” and they’ll say “Look at it, it’s on the board” and they’ll point above. And I’ll say “Okay, I’m not gonna ask that question again, because that’s gonna single me out and make me feel really uncomfortable and clearly they don’t want to answer.”

Now, I find people are much more accommodating and saying “Oh, well the specials today are [fill in the blank]” or “I’m interested in an omelette. What kind of omelettes do you have?” and once I look at the board, they’ll tell me. For some reason, people are feeling much more compassion about saying “Well, let me help you!” You know, there’s so many bad sides to the pandemic, but we do live in a human community and I think that challenges and disasters bring the best in people out, for the most part. And so, that’s a change for me. I’m much more comfortable saying “What are the specials?” in a store where I can’t read or if I’m in a grocery store and they have a board for the “meat specials” or the whatever specials behind the counter or are farther away than two feet in front of me. I can ask the question. I’m more comfortable, because I’m more believing that they’re gonna be okay answering the question and not feel that they’ve been put upon. 

AY: Right, so have you gotten the vaccine yet and if so how has it affected your routine?

TT: Well, I got my second vaccine yesterday. It is quite new. And it’s funny, because I went home yesterday afterwards and I was exhausted. I think it was just – the anxiety of waiting ‘cause I kept saying to myself, “I don’t know whether I’m staring into space because I have a reaction or I’m just absolutely exhausted and relieved.” So “will it?” I guess is more accurate, ‘cause I haven’t had it yet, yes. 

Our hope is to take a small trip down South to explore the Smoky Mountains, where we have never been and then I’ll feel much more liberated to do so – not that we won’t be careful to wear masks and do social distancing because that’s the right thing to do. But we’ll feel like it’s okay for us to do that. Our worry will be that – God forbid – they’re wrong and even after you get vaccinated, you carry the stuff and people who you come in contact with might actually get it from you, that would be a horror for us. But I feel more liberated than that. We’re beginning to think about, you know, as Dr. Fauci would say, is having small gatherings with other people who have been vaccinated. So there is some sense of liberation. 

I don’t think there has been enough said about people’s personal feelings and what’s been going on, and certainly for those who’re less than perfectly sighted. One of the reasons we moved to Connecticut and not stayed in New York. We left March 5th, 2020 and moved up to our house in Connecticut and went back a few times over the summer. I just found it to be anxious-provoking because I live on the subway in New York and I love it. I mean, I could do it literally with my eyes closed probably. I’ve done it my entire life, you know since the age of 8 or something like that. So to me, the city is about exploration and being out and around and obviously, wonderful museums and restaurants. And then having taken all that away from you… Those are the sights and sounds and smells and taste of what makes New York like nothing else. So that was really challenging. 

When I talked about the fact that I went from cautious to wary, you really felt that when you’re out on the streets or when you’re taking the subway. Because once you take the subway away from New York, that city is built for the subway or the subway is built for the city, however you want to look at it. Once you’re uncomfortable doing that – and it’s hard when you can’t see – ‘cause there are parts I don’t know well and trying to read the subway maps is virtually impossible from my perspective – that really just tainted my whole love of the city right now. 

I believe New York will come back. God willing, next year will be better, then we’ll have no more surges in the virus and people will feel comfortable. But I don’t think people recognize that this is a year that has taken a toll on people’s trust of others, which is why I say you get wary of others. No, New York is wonderful relative to Florida where people are just idiotic in their brazen lack of respect for other people and the way that they behave. New Yorkers, I think are pretty good, from what I can tell. I haven’t been back much lately to the city, although I’ll go back in the coming two weeks. I haven’t been back since probably November. It was just so sad to me. I didn’t want to be there. Let alone that it was just uncomfortable, since I couldn’t eat in a restaurant or I wouldn’t. It just made it too hard. Sitting outside in a restaurant, I was constantly looking over my shoulder, seeing how close were people next to me. That’s not the joy of being in the freedom of being in that city. 

AY: How is it in Connecticut, since as you said before, a lot of people have been accommodating to you?

TT: I live in a town that has extreme left and extreme-right human beings, so we have everybody from people who’re incredibly compassionate to people who still think it’s China’s fault and they did it on purpose. So I live in a very bipolar world. By in large, it’s been pretty good. It’s been isolating from the physical-social standpoint. You know, I think the guy who originally rang the alarm in 2010, I think he’s from University of Minnesota, about potential pandemics said “We should really stop talking about social distancing and talk about physical distancing, because we should never be socially distant.” We’ve tried to make a point of making sure that we’re never socially distant, but we’re physically distant. It played a toll on my family at Christmas. It was just my wife and I. Usually, we have my grown sons and their girlfriends or boyfriends or whatever the case might be, and maybe my brother and his wife, and my more extended relatives. This year, it was just my wife and I. It was fine, we made it work ‘cause we were socially near and physically distant. But it’s very hard.

AY: Yeah, a lot of people don’t get to see their friends or family as often, which is quite sad. 

TT: It’s absolutely true. Andrea, are you from the New York area or are you from someplace else? 

AY: Oh yeah, I’m from New York. 

TT: Yeah, one of the things about New York that you probably love like I do, and I’ve always loved, is the vibrancy, and that vibrancy is missing right now. There’s still a sense of wariness in the air, ‘cause people are just not sure what the future is gonna bring now. I think we certainly sit on the “dawn of arisen” of some sense of normalcy coming back and if the President is correct, hopefully by – I don’t know if by July 4th everyone will be having barbecues – hopefully by August, people will be comfortable hanging out and feeling that’s an okay and right thing to do and that will be a wonderful thing, and there will be terrific cause for celebration for being back in the saddle again, so to speak. 

AY: Right. Since this pandemic, people have been going less often to their doctors. So how has that been affecting you and your eye care? 

TT: Well, fortunately in my case, I had my last eye checkup just before the pandemic in December of ‘19 or ‘20. So I’m probably due for one now, but my situation is ocular albinism with nystagmus and astigmatism. And so, for better or for worse, it doesn’t change that much, except for my near-in reading which probably means it’s now time for bifocals again, because the more you rely on them, the worse your eyes get. But I haven’t needed to go to a doctor for that. 

AY: So basically, it seems you are adjusting well to this pandemic, and that’s really great! 

TT: Well you know, because I’ve had to adjust to a world in which I don’t see well my entire life – I think one of the things that perhaps, and maybe this is even more true for people who have not always lived with low vision but get it over time, is there is the power of adapting that you, in my case, had to learn from birth. You just weren’t like everybody else, you couldn’t see like they could. Perhaps others had to learn because they no longer see like they used to see. That allows you to adapt to situations where you’ve never had to adapt before in a more, I don’t want to say courageous way, but in a more open way. You’re not gonna fight it, because you can’t change it, so let’s adapt to it. 

So I don’t know whether it’s that people who have had to deal with significant life challenges actually do better or worse. I would imagine that they actually do better. They’re more open to adaptation. Those who have adapted to life changes in the past probably do better. Those who have not adapted well probably do worse than the person who doesn’t “have a challenge that they adapted to.” 

I’ve read a lot of stuff about change and encouraging corporations to adopt cultures of change. It’s the scariest thing on the planet, because as human beings, we’re not taught to embrace change. We’re taught to try to develop structures and routines. It’s why we have cognitive maps to reduce the challenges of getting around, and those maps are based on routines. So if you embrace change, you’re not looking to embrace routine, you’re looking to find something different that is to then incorporate that into the world. That’s a scary thing for most people, ‘cause people are taught and we’ve grown up in school and in business the manufacturing mentality of: you learn the thing, and then you learn how to do it faster and better over time. You don’t learn how to do other things. Maybe, I’d argue the only place in high school we learn that stuff is in the physical sciences, where there’s a “action and a reaction” and you learn what to do, what that reaction means. That’s not how we’re taught in humanities or in business.

AY: I never thought of it like that, 

TT: Well good, I’m glad this is something that’s thought-provoking! I mean, I’m a big believer in change, but you have to be open. You also have to be honest with yourself that says “okay, change is scary.” So either embrace it, and a lot of people don’t. There was a Winston Churchill comment that says “You have enemies? Good. That means you stood for something different.” It’s why people are stuck in paradigms, because we don’t look for information and observation as being “different” and why it’s different. We look for support it to support a worldview you have. 

It’s understandable, because without structure, you live in a world with chaos and notwithstanding the physics theories of Chaos Theory. Society needs structure. True change is destructive to structure, and creates new structures. It’s hard work and most people don’t want to work that hard. People mostly would rather keep on doing what they’re doing than doing something different, ‘cause it’s scary and they don’t know it. But I’ll circle back and say if you had to do that because you’ve had a challenge that you’ve had to overcome that you didn’t have 10 years ago, then you’re more open to change and you’re more comfortable with it and accepting and figuring out how to navigate it than if you’ve never had to do it. Which is why I come back and say I believe that some people who’ve actually had life challenges probably do better in a pandemic than those who haven’t. 

Again, the hidden thing we don’t know is the mental toll that has been put on people. It’ll be interesting and I don’t think we’re gonna know until some semblance of normalcy comes back in terms of the workplace and things like that, and the social place is to how comfortable people are engaging again. I think that it may be generationally different, because I still think the people who are in their 20s and 30s still feel, for the most part, they are Immortal, and I think people who are, whether they are Gen X or boomers, they know they’re not immortal, ‘cause they’re getting older and they obviously have experienced the fact that the pandemic has been unevenly impacting people of their ages, so will they be more or less quick to move on? I suspect the answer will be yes. 

AY: Yeah, they would have more of an understanding of what it was like, or what it is like. 

TT: And their fear factor will be high up. 

AY: Right. Well, it was very great hearing from you and I’d have to say, you’re a very deep thinker. A lot of people can learn from you. 

TT: You’re very kind.

Going Blind & Catching Up with Andrea Yu: An Interview with Steve Baskis

By | Steve Baskis, Updates

Going Blind & Catching Up with ANDREA YU:
An Interview with STEVE BASKIS
June 4, 2021

A year after the start of a global pandemic, Andrea Yu, who is a student with City Access New York interning with A Closer Look Inc., spearheaded a series of interviews with characters from Going Blind (2010) to find out how they fared through a year of COVID-19 lockdown and where they are now in their sight-loss journeys.

This week, Andrea spoke with Steve Baskis about his life since the film premiered, hearing about his global travels and recently begun education in sound engineering.

To listen to the interview, use the audio player below. A transcript of the interview follows.

To view the film, Going Blind, click here.

ANDREA YU: Hi, Andrea Yu here, host of Going Blind & Catching Up.

This week, we get an update on Steve Baskis, who if you might remember from the film, lost his sight after being hit by a roadside bomb while serving in the army. Since Going Blind premiered in 2010, he’s adjusted to sight loss, traveling around the world and climbing literal mountains. He’s also taking classes at Berklee College of Music at Boston and learning how to utilize audio programs like ProTools.


Hi Steve. How have you been during this pandemic? 

STEVE BASKIS: Well I was traveling quite a bit, right up until March of last year in 2020 when the pandemic kind of shut down the United States. I was actually in Dublin when the President closed all travel to Europe – at that point, around March 13th or 14th. But before that, I had been in a few other countries – to Argentina – I was climbing down in the Andes in South America. I was doing a bunch of other kinds of things. 

I was in Hawaii and Switzerland, too. I was just traveling quite a bit. And so, that came to an absolute screeching halt. I was in New Jersey with my girlfriend from March till July. I live in Western Colorado, so I flew home early July. But that whole time, and still till now, I’ve just turned to focusing on studies and going to school. 

I’m pursuing to be an audio engineer, a music producer. And so I’m going to Berklee College of Music out of Boston online. I’m just taking classes related to acoustics, audio, and working with that kind of stuff – mainly could be for film or just music or sound design. But I’m going to school for that and that’s what I’ve been concentrating on. It’s kept me sane. I mean, it’s been tough. A lot of things that I normally do have been shut down or closed, but I’ve had a good time going to school. 

AY: Oh wow, that’s great, and with all these online classes, you don’t have to worry too much about navigating to many places.

SB: Yeah, especially now I’ve already got my first vaccine shot not too long ago at the beginning of this month. It’s nice to go online. Things are more accessible. I’ve been blind for 13 years now. In May, it will be 13 years. It’s changed a lot just in a decade, so quite a bit of things related to accessibility on the web, software programs, and other things, too. It’s been amazing. Like I said, I’m not worried too much about everything. I’ve just been focused on school, so it’s kept me busy, kept me focused on something, and I’m just developing a skill set. 

I’m studying ProTools, really. Primarily the software program that’s used in a lot of recording studios all over the country – all over the world. It’s a digital audio workstation. Today, I was working on a whole band, a song, just mixing and doing all the processing for the song, for class. But yeah, that’s all what I’ve been up to really. Staying fit. I exercise a lot, you know, and I just go to school. It’s pretty much what I do. 

AY: So, what kind of music do you work with exactly? 

SB: I work with everything. I’ve been playing more now with orchestral library stuff, like Hans Zimmer or some of these famous orchestral maestros, and music producers. I use the fancy libraries that allow me to mimic a full orchestra. But I also do rock, hip hop, and just anything. I’m interested in all of it, but right now my classes are focused on specific things. This song that I’m working on is kind of a psychedelic, rock song, but I’m really open to a lot of things. Electronic, dance, music, techno to rock to rap. I really like anything, but I don’t have a big focus right now. I’m still learning a lot of technical things, you know.

AY: Yeah, just dabble in everything. That sounds really exciting.

SB: Yeah, it is. It’ll help me do stuff like, Joe. You know, make documentaries.

AY: Right. So you explore a lot in the music industry and you also explored a lot around the world. How has your vision affected your travels? 

SB: I have to be more prepared. I’ve been traveling all over the world the last 13 years and I do a lot of outdoor activities. Like extreme mountaineering, climbing, ice climbing, kayaking, whitewater kayaking. I Alpine ski, cross-country ski. So that’s normally my lifestyle and I speak about it. I give motivational speeches. I have a foundation that kind of operates in a way where we take people who have a disability, a visual disability and give them the ability to experience an outdoor activity. 

So I live in an interesting corner of Western Colorado near a bunch of 14,000-foot mountains. Ever since I lost my sight, I have been very motivated to regain abilities and go even further, because I was 22 years old. I mean personally, traveling blind, it can be frustrating and there can be a lot of anxiety, but technology and stuff allows for so much in a sense of being prepared and having access to, you know, different types of public transportation. I mean, some countries in the world just don’t do a good job in a sense of disability. The U.S. has its problems in different areas, you know, but for the most part, there’s the ADA – The American Disability Act – which helps quite a bit in a sense of standardization to some degree. But yeah, I find my way. I figure it out. I just explore with a cane. I don’t have a dog. I could get a dog, but I feel like the dog’s gonna, you know, it requires more work and other things, so. 

AY: Right. How would you say the other places you’ve traveled to have accommodated you? 

SB: It’s been, I mean. I’ve been to really run-down parts of countries, you know. Poor countries like outside of Europe: Armenia; Moshi, Tanzania; or Baghdad, Iraq when I was sighted. You know, Kathmandu, Nepal. These locations don’t really cater at all to you. They don’t have anything, maybe in very specific buildings, or government buildings or something. They don’t even have traffic lights in some places, or anything, you know. But then there are other parts of the world, major cities and I guess first-world countries or whatever you want to call them. They tend to have more laws and regulation and of course, education and informed citizens. It’s very diverse, but I love diversity. The world is not perfect, and so blindness teaches you to be patient and be resourceful. if you choose to work things out and develop systems and techniques, procedures for doing stuff. So the military has kept me disciplined in that way. You know, my background in the military. In blindness, you have to be organized to some degree. ‘Cause you’ll lose things, you’ll break things, or you’ll get lost, so you have to be prepared. 

AY: Yeah, so be a survivor. 

SB: I guess, yeah. 

AY: That’s a good mindset.

SB: Everybody needs to try to survive. 

AY: True. So then what would you say have been your most memorable experiences?

SB: In the past year? 

AY: Mhm 

SB: You know, going back to school is important to me. I tried to go back to school like three years after losing my sight and it was very difficult. ‘Cause I, you know, was still adjusting, I’m still adjusting now, but I’m way further along, I guess, in this journey, you know. What I’m accomplishing right now in school with learning a very technical software program becoming very proficient in using it to capture audio. You know, like to record a whole band to do multitrack recording sessions to record a guitarist’s, or a drum, or so on to work with them, communicate with them, take the equipment and dial in their correct settings, and bring it into the digital realm or computer, and then edit it and produce it and spit it back out. I’m very proud of that. It’s going to be a very memorable thing in a sense of remembering the year of 2020. 

It is a bad year, to me. it’s been hard as well in other, you know, just separation from people. But I just really enjoyed my studies and it’s hard, because with my travel, all the things I have been doing. I don’t know if I would have settled down like this and worked as hard as I have the past year, so, it’s kind of a blessing or whatever you want to call it. The pandemic made me focus, so it’s good and bad.

AY: Yeah, I suppose. So since you’re working with these people remotely though, what is it like? You said there are more accommodations. 

SB: Yeah, I mean, I’m trying to become skilled so that I can work. I’m not really working too much with a lot of people right now. I do have a friend in the area that comes over. He’s a guitarist and I’ve practiced with him. I’m a drummer as well. I am a musician too. We record our recording sessions. He helps me practice, ‘cause I need a musician. But yeah, it is hard not to be close and around people. I would love to go and have some mentoring in a recording studio. And that’s what I’m hoping for this year, maybe in the coming years. But I’m just doing schoolwork right now. There are a few people that send me things and I work on it ‘cause a lot of people get their stuff recorded somewhere else. It’s a remote job a lot of the time anyway to some degree, so unless you have work in a full-on studio. My home is more or less my studio. I have a home recording studio, so. 

AY: Wow, you’re able to navigate around with no problem since you’re at home. 

SB: It’s nice. Home is a familiar place, so yeah, it’s easy to navigate. If you saw all the buttons and controls on my control surfaces and stuff, you’d be like “how do you memorize all the buttons?” 

AY: Right. 

SB: That’s going to be more difficult to navigate sometimes. 

AY: So how did you try to get to know those controls? 

SB: I’m part of a very small community of professional audio engineers that are blind and visually impaired, and again, technology is providing that opportunity. It’s a WhatsApp group. It’s just a group where there’s probably 80 people from all over the world. I work with people from Columbia, Brazil, Peru, UK, Australia, Japan, China. I mean, they’re all over the place. 

They’re just individuals theatre blind and we share how you work with the software and talk about the equipment and so that’s been a lifeline in a sense of. There is no good information on the web or any kind of formal school. There’s one school that’s run by a blind person in the world that I know of. It’s called I See Music, it’s in the Chicago area. It’s the only formal thing you’ll find if you search on the internet. Really, like an institution or a place you could go to that teaches a lot of what I’m trying to learn. I’m just going to a traditional college along with sighted people. I’m one of four people in this college. I think there’s 3 that’re blind. Maybe there’s 5, I don’t know. It’s very very few. So yeah, this group on the internet. This international group of individuals is where I get a lot of help and answers and recommendations. So that’s how I’ve learned the controls and then just exploring it myself.

AY: Oh, that’s really helpful. Overall it just sounds like it’s been eventful for you, very eventful. 

SB: Yeah, I mean, I’ve just been inside my home all year long. Pretty much, you know. But mostly, nothing looks any different. I’m blind, so wherever I go, it’s the same. But yeah, I’m looking forward to things, you know, kinda moving back to normal. Life must go on. 

AY: Right. We’re all hoping for that. 

SB: I mean, I served in the combat zone where I was being shot at and literally, you know. I mean, someone’s trying to kill me the day that I lost my sight. They killed my friend next to me, so I have a different mentality about the virus and stuff. But it’s not that it’s not important to heed warnings and be safe. But I went into a war zone and lost my sight, so it’s an interesting feeling I have about it all. Even in a warzone, families and people have to get through. Life continues. It has to. So, we got to find a way to keep going. 

AY: Exactly, and thank you for serving for us, by the way, like at the cost of your vision, too. 

SB: No, thank you for your kind words.

AY: So after meeting Joe though, how did that bring more awareness to your own vision? 

SB: Well, Joe came to me right after I lost my sight. The same year – within months – and I was going to blind rehab. That’s covered, you know, in the documentary. Well, I was learning a lot from rehab in the location I was in, but the film has allowed people to ask me questions, ‘cause a lot of people have seen the film. Or I’d run into people that have seen the film and then they recognize me ‘cause they either work in blind rehab or something. So it’s been good. 

It’s great that it’s informative and creates awareness ‘cause that’s really important. The more awareness there is about any kind of disease or disorder – visual disorder – it allows for accessibility and more things to be created. So, I think it’s wonderful what Joe’s done with the film and how it got pushed around on different networks. I think PBS primarily. But yeah, I love documentaries too and that kind of stuff. It’s a good thing. 

AY: Oh, yeah that’s great. So it was good hearing that you’ve done well since the film. Thank you for doing this interview with me.