Tag: disabilities



17 Mar 18

Randy walks a tight rope alongside a mountain.By Randy Pierce

“Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this.”
– Stephen Hawking

In honor and celebration of the incredible life achievements of Stephen Hawking, I chose the above quote to lead this week’s discussion. Communication is a double-edged sword for certain. Like so many tools, it is in the manner of use by which its effect for positive or destructive influence is most commonly achieved.

I prefer to advocate for healthy communication with an equal intent for open minded listening and sharing. To that end, I heard an inordinate amount of praise for his work stated in the rough form of  “he was incredible despite his disability.” I suspect the intent there for most was to denote that without question his disability provided additional challenges which he also seemed to manage with seeming grace, dignity, and success.

The praise I mentioned did not suggest he was a brilliant mind for someone in a wheelchair, which would have a much stronger negative resonance, but it does have a hint of that suggestion, which is why I adjusted the semantics to showcase it. Stephen Hawking was a brilliant person with an incredible legacy. His resolve and perseverance through adversity were similarly admirable and commendable. They are separate statements.

I share this because I often hear two diametrically opposed reactions to various accomplishments in my own life. The first is the often well intentioned but rather limiting expression of: “great achievement for a blind person.” This suggests that as a blind person, I should perhaps be judged by some lesser standard. If the accomplishment is noteworthy and deserving of the commendation, it is received far better without the qualifier.

I obviously understand my blindness does enhance the challenge of many things and there is at times a desire to express that as part of the statement which I’ve heard done effectively many times. It’s a matter of the approach to the words and expression which, to be fair, are likely unique to each situation. I simply suggest that thoughtful choice is valuable in these times.

The second counterpoint is a similarly well intentioned incredulity at the most simple of accomplishments. Frequently, because of a challenge, there may be a desire to set extremely low expectations. As I shared at a recent presentation at LL Bean, after hearing of my hiking experience, marathon running and Tough Mudder undertakings, it is difficult to hear someone express appreciation and awe that I am able to tie my own shoes!

As someone who strives to reach for my peak potential and to encourage similar in others, I want to set expectations higher and reach for them without the mindset of settling as a consideration. Whether by lack of exposure or education to what is a reasonable possibility, those who make such hyperbole of the most modest achievement can leave me feeling insulted even knowing it was likely not their intent. I want to ease my frustration and enhance the communication to address such things through this blog and my direct interaction at the time.

With that spirit in mind I also want to suggest this attitude for all of us facing any challenge and do so with another final quote from the mind who inspired today’s discussion:

“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.”
- Stephen Hawkins

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11 Feb 18

By Randy Pierce

Autumn rests on a recent plane trip.

Autumn rests at our feet on a recent plane trip.

Delta Airlines recently announced a new disappointing policy for all animals traveling with them effective March 1, 2018. It creates unreasonable travel restrictions for teams like Autumn and me. Several other airlines are evaluating how to follow suit and I want to credit United Airlines for excluding trained service dogs from these policies.

Specifically, this new policy requires anyone traveling with their animal to download a form from their website, have it filled out by their veterinarian to confirm the animals rabies and similar vaccinations, and then upload this form through the Delta website within 48 hours of traveling.

While this doesn’t seem an inordinate burden for a particular planned flight, it is compounded tremendously by the possibility of unexpected travel on Delta. Airports reroute a traveler due to cancellations and missed connections routinely and if any of these required a new Delta leg, we could become stranded by this policy. Bereavement or emergency travel would obviously be beyond consideration for them and all of this ignores the ability to have stored the form with them or to note that her rabies information is always on her collar. If my journey has multiple airlines and they all have similar policies, I’m getting multiple forms downloaded, printed, out to my vet, home, scanned, uploaded to the various websites for each and every trip. All while knowing any change in plans could leave me stranded anywhere around the country depending on how extensively the draconian Delta policies are adopted! At the very least, these need to be standardized for all airlines to accept the same form for the entirety of any trip!

Why did they make this change? While most of the country operates under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), airlines operate under the Air Carrier Access Act. In this they have opted to allow a much broader support animal. I do not have the qualifications to know the need or training for all the variations of animals and need in this situation. I do know that under the ADA businesses have been managing a large amount of false service dogs as people choose to forge the process in order to bring their dog where they want.

This problem is only intensified with the broader definition of both need and types of animals allowed. Peacocks, pigs, and tarantulas are all recent animals which may or may not have been legitimate but illustrate the diversity in progress. All this said, it was a non-service dog attack on a flight which likely sparked the most recent change. While the paperwork policy will not add any protection from such attacks, it may provide additional liability benefit. I absolutely acknowledge there is a problem and I want to see a resolution. I believe when Delta chooses to be a Maverick they take the risks of their failings as well.

For now, I want to simply applaud the better choice made by United Airlines than the disappointing choice made by Delta. My personal experience suggests Jet Blue is trending towards a little additional airport paperwork which can be managed at the airport, more in line with United, but still more delays and challenge for me. Trying to discern what all the various rules may be for all the individual airlines is going to make the challenges exponentially more difficult.

There was progress made in an initial conference in 2016, but reports make clear the airlines are having a problem, though it is not with service dogs. I hope the parties making policy would consider bringing a conference of stakeholders together to ensure a more reasoned and consistent policy may be planned and implemented with an expectation of more reasonable results than the risks ahead for Delta leaving customers stranded even after expecting them to take on some unreasonable amount of work.

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22 Dec 17

By Randy Pierce

Christmas is certainly for all ages, though I admit to the appreciating the special enjoyment it brings to children. In this wonderful Christmas tale, Jonathan Mosen shares an insightful story of Christmas being for people of all abilities. If you visit the link to his story directly you’ll discover audio versions of the story are available and can share feedback directly with the author. Meanwhile with his encouragement to share this story here is his clever and educational Christmas story.

Link to original story here. Reprinted below. 

***

 “Louis, The Blind Christmas Elf”, a Story for Children
- By Jonathan Mosen

A long long time ago, so long ago that even your teacher hadn’t been born yet, so that makes it a really really long time ago, a stylish, shiny elf-driving car pulled into the long driveway at Santa’s busy workshop.

Out of the car stepped Mrs Scott, a smartly-dressed elf wearing a business suit and black patent leather high-heeled shoes.

They made such a loud clop, clop, clop sound on the cobblestones leading to the gingerbread front door of the workshop, that Harold, the chief elf, heard his visitor coming, even over the sound of all the toys being made and packed.

He met Mrs Scott at the door of the workshop, greeting her with a wide smile, a firm handshake and a laugh that was squeaky and high-pitched, yet somehow when you heard it, you could tell it was coming right from his wobbly little tummy. He immediately felt under-dressed in the overalls he was wearing while he was helping out on one of the assembly lines. Yet despite Mrs Scott looking immaculate, and Harold looking decidedly shabby, Harold was the boss, and she had something he needed.

“Come in, come in! You must be from the elf-improvement school,” Harold exclaimed.

Harold ushered Mrs Scott into his office, and one of the kitchen elves was asked to make her a cup of tea. Making all those toys and sorting them for Santa made all the elves hungry like a wolf, so Santa’s workshop had a big kitchen where all kinds of delicious treats were being made for the elves to eat whenever they got hungry.

Mrs Scott had been the director of the School of Elf Improvement for five years, but this was the first time she had visited Santa’s workshop. If elves were ever lucky enough to get a job with Santa, almost no one left. That meant that even though there were many elves graduating every year from the School of Elf Improvement, not many got the ultimate prize, the job of working for Santa.

Mrs Scott was at Santa’s workshop on this day, because Harold had called her late one night on her elf-phone, saying that with more children than ever in the world, they could use a bit more help.

After the tea arrived, and Mrs Scott had sampled some of the delectable fairy cakes from the workshop kitchen, she opened her briefcase and they got down to business.

“As you can appreciate,” she said, “every elf would love to work here at Santa’s workshop, but I know you can only use the cleverest, most capable elves. You have so much to do! So I’ve brought you three elf-assessments to take a look at.”

Mrs Scott took out three beautifully spiral-bound leather folders, with the name of an elf etched in gold on the front cover of each one.

“This is Huey”, she said. “Huey loves building musical instruments. During one of his exams, he built a piano, a clarinet, a huge noisy drum kit, a Didgeridoo, a nose flute and a plinkety plankety, all in under an hour. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Mrs Scott beamed.

“Well now,” said Harold looking impressed, “I’ve heard of most of those things of course, we have lots of them being built in the workshop right now actually, but what’s a plinkety plankety?”

“Oh,” said Mrs Scott, beaming with pride, “it’s a new instrument Huey invented himself! If he doesn’t come to work here, I’m sure he’ll be producing it for one of the big toy companies before the year is out.”

“Hmmm,” said Harold, “he sounds wonderful and would make a great addition to the team I’m sure, but the thing is, we’re not really having any trouble keeping up with musical instruments. Who else do you have?”

“Well,” said Mrs Scott, moving the second leather-bound volume to the top of the pile, “this is Stewy. Now Stewy is a genius at making toy kitchens, and all the things to go in the toy kitchens. Do you know,” she said, getting so excited that she spilled a bit of fairy cake all down her front, so it was just as well that her garments were elf-cleaning, “the other day, Stewy made a toy kitchen with a fridge that really gets cold? But that’s not the half of it. It only works when you put chocolate in the fridge. Put any other food in that thing, and nothing happens. Outstanding piece of work.”

“Very clever,” said Harold, “although I’m not convinced the boys and girls will want a fridge that only keeps one thing cool. And we do have some good engineers here. Still, he’s worth considering. And who is the last elf you wanted to show me?”

“Ah, well,” said Mrs Scott, suddenly looking a little fidgety, “I really wasn’t sure about whether to suggest Louis or not. Louis is special.”

There was something in the way Mrs Scott used the word “special” that immediately peaked Harold’s curiosity.

“What exactly do you mean by special?”

“Well, you see, Louis makes excellent use of his hearing. It’s not that his hearing is better than any of the other elves in the school, it’s just that he tends to take a lot more notice of what he’s hearing. Recently, we were manufacturing a load of ride-on toy tractors for a toy company, and one of the whizimybobs developed a fault!”

“Oh no,” said Harold, understanding exactly how serious a matter this was. “You get a problem with one of your whizimybobs and it can really set you back. Actually we had a fault with one of our whizimybobs here at Santa’s workshop last Christmas. It stopped a lot of our production for a week because no one picked up on it, and we nearly had to cancel Santa’s delivery altogether”.

“Well exactly,” said Mrs Scott. “If Louis hadn’t heard the subtle change in the machine caused by the problem with the whizimybobs, I think we would have lost the contract. We were so lucky he was around.”

“I’m intrigued,” said Harold. “We could definitely use someone with those skills. Tell me more about this Louis.”

“He’s very thorough,” said Mrs Scott. “He inspects things with his hands and often picks up on problems making things that we might miss visually. It’s been very useful to us more than once”.

“But why?” asked Harold, “why doesn’t he just use his eyes like everyone else?”

“Because his eyes don’t work,” said Mrs Scott. “Louis’s totally blind.”

“Blind?” Harold scratched his little head in utter bemusement. “How does he…how will he…what if he…I just don’t think a blind elf could work in our workshop.”

“I thought you might think that,” said Mrs Scott patiently, “but hear me out. Remember how you nearly had to cancel Christmas Eve once, because it was too foggy for Santa to travel. If it wasn’t for Rudolph, kids all around the world would have gone without presents that year.”

“Oh I remember it well,” sighed Harold. “It was the most scary day of my life. I was so stressed out I was beside my elf.”

“Then surely,” continued Mrs Scott, “you know that people with a range of abilities and gifts make Santa’s workshop run more smoothly! Louis can bring skills that many of your other elves don’t have.”

“You make a good point Mrs Scott,” Harold said. “Send him to us. We’ll take him on. I don’t want anyone getting hurt and there is a lot that goes on in this workshop, but we’ll give it a try.”

Louis arrived at Santa’s workshop the next day, with his little suitcase and his long white candy cane. He put it out in front of him, so he new when he was getting close to an obstacle. If the cane hit a wall or something left on the ground, he would feel it. And after being shown around the place, he soon started remembering where all the divisions of Santa’s great workshop were located. It wasn’t that difficult for Louis. He soon noticed how different the sounds of the machinery were depending on which part of the workshop he was in. Sometimes, his sense of smell helped too. Just like his hearing, it was no better than anyone else’s, but since he didn’t have his sight, he took more notice of what his other senses were telling him.

Louis was very excited about meeting Santa, but Harold explained that since Christmas was getting close, Santa was very busy preparing, and usually, elves just starting out didn’t get a chance to meet with the big guy.

Louis settled down to work as quickly as he could, but he wasn’t happy. He felt that he wasn’t being given as much responsibility as he was capable of. Everyone was very nice to him, but they just couldn’t imagine how he could do the things that needed to get done if he wasn’t able to see. Louis tried to be patient and explain.

“Since you’ve been able to see all your life,” he said, “you use your sight. You depend on it for a lot of things and that makes sense. But I’ve never been able to see, so I don’t know any different. I get by just fine without any sight. I might do things in a different way sometimes, but I still get the job done in the end.”

Still, the elves found it hard to give Louis a fair chance. It’s not that they meant any harm, they just were scared about him being hurt.

Then, one day, a mad panic developed in the mail room at Santa’s workshop. Every day at precisely 29 o’clock, a small earthquake could be felt, as the mail from all the children who had recently written to Santa got delivered to the workshop.

The mail elves had an efficient system of sorting through the mail, and making sure that all the requests from the girls and boys got put on Santa’s list. At the end of every day, Santa would always check the list twice, to be sure all the good children had their requests noted.

But today, the mail elves had a problem they didn’t know how to solve. They had received a group of letters that were nothing like they had ever received before. The mail elves prided themselves on being able to read every single language in the world. But these letters had them stumped. Rather than being written with squiggly characters on the page, these letters felt all bumpy. Hannah, one of the mail elves, said the pages reminded her of her teenage brother Brad, who was having a major problem with pimples. The pages, she said, looked and felt a bit like Brad’s face.

“Do you mean kids are now writing to us in pimple?” said Harold, who had been put in charge of solving the issue because of how urgent it was.

“I don’t think any child would be quite that dotty,” Hannah replied. “But I think we need to call an elf-development meeting, to see if anyone can solve this problem. Because Santa has made it clear, we need to do whatever it takes to make sure all girls and boys who write to us have their requests read, even if we can’t always grant them all”.

Elf-development meetings didn’t happen very often so close to Christmas, but this was an emergency. All the elves from around Santa’s workshop stopped what they were doing, and gathered together at exactly elve o’clock for the big meeting.

“For the first time in our history,” Harold announced, “we have received a group of letters from girls and boys that none of our team can read. Here’s a sample.”

Harold held up a page of the dot-filled writing. Everyone stared, first at the dotty page, then blankly back at Harold. No one had any idea what the writing was, or how to read it.

“The interesting thing about this writing is,” Harold said, “if you touch it, it feels very easy to distinguish by touch, almost as if you’re supposed to read it with your hands.”

Louis’s little ears pricked up. He couldn’t see the sample, but based on the description, he was pretty sure he knew what it was.

“May I please feel a page of that writing?” Louis asked.

Harold handed Louis a page filled with the dots. Louis took the fingertips of both index fingers, and started gently running his fingers across the page. He began to speak.

“Dear Santa. My name is Sam. I’m nine, and I can’t wait until your visit. For Christmas, I would please like a cool train set, one with plenty of awesome sounds and loud whistles if you can. My sister Amy is seven. She is a pest, so I think you should bring her a frog. Love, Sam.”

“How did you do that, and more to the point, what is that dotty stuff?” Harold asked.

“It’s Braille,” said Louis. “It’s the new way for blind people to read and write. These letters are from blind boys and girls. They’re writing to you themselves. You see, Braille lets blind children write to us here at Santa’s workshop, just like sighted children can.”

Suddenly, all the elves started jumping up and down and clapping. “Hooray for Louis! Hooray for Louis!”

The elves were happy because, thanks to Louis, they could make sure that all girls and boys, including those who read Braille, could get their presents on Santa’s list.

Louis spent a lot of time in the mail room after that, but that wasn’t all he did. The elves realised that just because you’re blind, it doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable skills that others may not have. They realised that Louis just did things differently. Not better, just differently. Soon, Louis was also put in charge of whizimybob inspection. The elves used to be worried that Louis would hurt himself, because whizimybobs have so many moving parts. But they knew that Louis was careful and capable, more capable at that particular job than anyone else.

One day, Harold came into the mail room to find Louis.

“The big guy wants to see you Louis,” Harold said.

“Santa? See me? Have I done something wrong?”

“No idea,” Harold said, “I was just asked to bring you to see him.”

Louis timidly knocked on Santa’s office door. “Ho, ho, ho!” came the reply. Louis opened the door, and walked into the office, which seemed to be shaking. It turns out Santa was happy to see Louis, and Santa’s enormous belly-laughter was making the whole office bounce up and down like a carnival ride.

“I wanted to see you in person Louis,” Santa said, “to thank you so much for your gift.”

“Gift?” said a puzzled Louis.

“Oh yes,” said Santa. “You know, every year, I give lots and lots of toys to girls and boys all over the world, and that’s wonderful. But your gifts are also very precious. You see, you showed us all here at the workshop that no matter who we are, we’re all special, we’re all unique, we can all do something no one else can do. Some of us are good at some things, some of us are good at others. Some of the elves here thought that just because you couldn’t see, you couldn’t contribute as much. But they just didn’t know better. Now everyone knows you’re a very important member of our team. We’d be lost without you. You showed all of us that the best gift we can give each other at Christmas is to love and appreciate everyone around us for who they are.”

And all these years later, every year, when he’s not looking after those pesky whizimybobs, you’ll find Louis in the mail room, making sure that all the Braille letters from blind children all over the world are making it onto Santa’s list, and being checked twice. Which just goes to show, there’s nothing you can’t do, as long as you believe in your elf.

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21 Oct 17

We often post this around this time of year as a nod to the season’s spooky nature. Happy Halloween!

**

The Scary Realities of Vision Loss

By Randy Pierce

Imagine reaching for the light switch in total darkness on an eerie Halloween evening. You flip the switch and nothing happens. You are surrounded by frightening noises as your hands find only unidentifiable objects. You’re trapped in a prison of manifested fear!

While there may be moments similar to this fright in the lives of someone newly blind, there is perhaps an even more powerful terror in the transitioning through vision loss towards blindness. Losing vision is challenging with the fear of the unknown and the anticipation of how much will become more difficult or seemingly impossible. Certainly any form of vision loss is going to present difficulty and each person’s experience will be different.

One fundamental part of our mission with 2020 Vision Quest is to demonstrate the possibilities of success despite vision loss, or, in my case, a transition to total blindness. This is not just intended for those dealing with the challenges directly, but also all those whose lives may be touched by these challenges despite living in a fully sighted life. So very much of a typical world is visual that it impacts many aspects of how we interact with the world and with each other. It can be tremendously isolating to have that common connection diminish in ways far too many people simply do not understand.

I do not for a moment pretend to have all the answers regarding life or vision loss. I still find many moments of significant frustration as I attempt to manage particularly difficult aspects of blindness and, not surprisingly, life. Just like anyone, there are challenges and they can at times seem to overwhelm any of us. As with any challenge, the right preparation, the right support, and a more educated world can vastly increase the chances of successful achievement through any adversity.

In thinking about the “Trick or Treat” of blindness, I acknowledge all the real and scary frustrations possible. I also welcome the incredibly powerful perspective it has brought to me as well. In losing my sight, I began to develop a more powerful vision for myself and my world. Paying attention to all the other aspects of our senses, environment, and interactions which are not visual can have a beneficial side. It’s forced me to “look” at the world differently, but has also inspired me to try to do so often in a variety of ways as I try to understand as much as possible outside the realm of the typical. While without question I do wish every day for the chance to have sight again, I know that I am glad for having lost my sight and the vision that blindness has helped bring to me.

Hopefully our charity efforts will provide education, inspiration and much more! I know that I’ve received a lot of both though the process thus far!

Happy Halloween!

See the original post here.

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29 Jul 17

A steep, rocky, uphill trail

When you’re blind, a lot of things can feel like a steep uphill climb.

By Randy Pierce

“Patience? How long will that take?!?” – Tracy Pierce

I firmly believe going blind was much harder than being blind. While losing sight had many challenges of varying intensity, being blind for some time has lessened the burden considerably. Still, there is one persistent challenge with a solution I attempt constantly and yet so often struggle to manage: almost everything I attempt simply takes more time to manage without sight. This can lead to frustrations and failure unless I plan for the potential extra time and learn to practice patience in everything I attempt.

Planning more time is a benefit although we all still have the same number of hours in each day. So as I prioritize the things I hope to accomplish, there are more difficult choices of things to exclude simply because I know I should allow additional time.

This time manifests immediately in the finding of items I need. This is mitigated by better organization, although that organization requires some initial setup time. Identification of items whether by tactile or technology is typically more time consuming. Travel usually requires a little more planning and preparation, whether to ensure Autumn is also prepared or that any coordination involved has been managed with possible delays included. Often this involves putting myself at the scheduling of others which means building in margins. Bus schedules have an earliest possible arrival and I need to be there by that time even though they may not arrive until the latest window. Several times it is well past that later window before I can determine reasonably they must have driven past me without stopping. Hopefully I’ve left myself enough time for back-up plans!

I admit these time drains are frustrating, moreso when I’m caught waiting outside in particularly unpleasant weather. The reality is that these concerns are part of the world in which I exist and to be frustrated by them too much would be to allow constant negativity into my world. This is why the notion of practicing patience is so valuable.

Part of that is learning to understand what is truly urgent and what is only important at varying levels to me. The more urgent, the more time margins I allow and patience I plan into events. The lower the importance, the more I can tighten those windows and accept the consequences if things go awry. These truths hold whether you are blind or fully sighted–it’s just that blindness affords me many opportunities to test my patience, as not only will most things take me longer, but also I’ll likely have to gently educate people around me for how and why things may take longer. Sometimes we can agree upon shortcuts to alleviate the process and sometimes there are good reasons why those shortcuts are not acceptable. In the latter case, it is often the explanation of why which may require the most patience and consume the most time. It is also the best reason for patience, however.

The best moments for education and team building occur when done from a platform of patient knowledge sharing. Reminding myself of that notion is a significant part of the motivation to success in finding my patience. I just hope you may forgive me if you encounter me in a time of failure and perhaps give me a gentle reminder to get back on the path!

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25 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

Christopher and Randy posing proudly in their Mission Possible T-shirts after recording an episode of Christopher's popular podcast showOne of the many joys of the path I attempt to follow involves the incredible people and stories I find along the way. In this case Christopher and his Mom Christine found our 2020 Vision Quest charity back in 2012. We were hiking  Mt. Uncanoonuc with some students from Trinity High School as part of their community service efforts.

Like me, Christopher is completely blind. I was gifted with his determination to experience the trail as we hiked together on that day so many years ago. At the summit, he shared with all of us his incredible singing talents. Along the trail, as is so often the case, we shared the start of a friendship.

Six years later and he’s still an an incredible inspiration. I was appreciative of his request to join him on his “Mission Possible Podcast.”

You can find my sessions with him here and here.

I hope you’ll visit his archives not just to hear the shows we shared but to hear all of the fun pieces he’s put together. At just 15 years old, Christopher faces many challenges and we are like minded in many ways for putting the focus on what we can do: possibility not impossibility.

Christopher working at his microphoneListening to him manage the recording studio with the technological ease and confidence of an adult professional was remarkable. My only reminder he was doing it totally blind was listening to the high speed chatter of Jaws in the headsets as he managed it all seamlessly throughout the recording.

His shows are 10 minutes in length and he had to manage the overall timing, develop his questions and work my often lengthy answers into the time frame of his show. He worked the edit process into our time shared while pausing as necessary to reset our efforts. We had our separate conversation off the microphones as well as on the recording while he managed the technology, his guest, and the over-arching plan. I was impressed and enjoyed myself in part for the process and in part to see how far I feel this remarkable young man has come on his journey. I encourage everyone, myself included, to reach for and achieve our peak potential. I don’t have to encourage Christopher as he already has that spirit in himself, in his family and in his community.

Seeing all this already ensured my day with Christopher was a success for me and I can only hope he found some value in our time as well.

Randy and Christopher recordingI know Christopher is renowned for performing the National Anthem for many major venues including the Boston Red Sox. I know he’s produced a couple of music CDs and that his faith is very important to him as part of his mission. I was not surprised when talking with him to learn that he’s starting to frame his future in ways that combines his talents and his beliefs with an eye/ear towards the radio world. My own future plans changed so many times from 15 years onward and still changes today.

I think once again Christopher and I have a similar mindset which will allow him to pursue his goals and dreams with a passion and a purpose determined to say to the world my “Mission is Possible” and you are welcome to be a part of it because sharing belief is at the heart of bringing people together for a better world.

Once again I encourage you to visit his show and listen to us or his many other shows to appreciate what’s ahead for us in this young man.

Listen to the Mission Possible Archives

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4 Mar 17

By Randy Pierce

As Chairman of the Board of Directors for the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, I have been actively and passionately dedicated to ensuring their best ability to effectively meet the ever growing needs of the sight-challenged. I help to direct the vision of the organization in positive ways and one of those paths brought President and CEO David Morgan to his position just over one year ago. He has helped inspire and guide the branding change which  I personally believe is vital to the organization’s success and, more importantly, the success of thousands of people who have been artificially limited to some extent by a naming convention.

I’ll allow David’s excellent announcement to stand below as a guest blog as well as on the redesigned website for Future In Sight which I encourage you to visit. I do want to address the word blind candidly and comfortably in advance. The organization will continue to provide excellent support, education, and advocacy for the blind and  visually impaired as before. There is no apprehension in use of the word “blind.” We have learned that the wrong timing of that word’s introduction to someone who is experiencing sight loss often inhibits their acceptance of needed services and even can impact a caring medical eye professional from choosing to refer to an organization with that name due to the strong emotional results commonly experienced.

We want to ensure we can welcome these thousands of people to receiving their needed services, education, and support while also providing the same high quality blindness services and advocacy proven over 100 years of valued Charity Service here in Concord NH. That said, I leave you with David’s excellent words below.

CHANGE IS IN THE AIR: WELCOME TO FUTURE IN SIGHT

FEBRUARY 28, 2017

WRITTEN BY DAVID MORGAN

After 105 years of working to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people in our state, today is a new day.

The New Hampshire Association for the Blind will now be known as Future In Sight. We are so proud to announce our name change, and we believe that Future In Sight more accurately represents our clientele since 93 percent of our clients are visually impaired – not blind – and our geographic scope extends to states bordering New Hampshire. Our name aims to capture the optimism and hopefulness of new technologies, therapies, and programs that are always on the horizon to enhance the quality of life for our clients.

YA Gunstock kidrunning Article

Providing education, rehabilitation, and support services is about helping individuals build core skills in school or in their home, and helping them engage their world socially. We accomplish this through a multitude of programs that include recreation, peer support, and technology. We help individuals live and thrive with sight loss! Our new brand must be unique and memorable and reflect this new hope we bring to thousands who need our help, and we believe Future In Sight does just that.

Since 1912, we have continuously improved our offerings to the community so this is just one more step in that direction. Last year alone, we began working with infants and toddlers for the first time since we were founded; we doubled our education staff; and we started offering recreational activities to help clients lead their best lives.

There are more than 30,000 people with visual impairments in the state of New Hampshire, so we know we can be reaching many more clients who need, and would thrive with, our services in rural corners, inside our cities, and along the borders. Our name needs to be more inclusive and reflect the full range of services we provide to babies, children, adults, and seniors around our state and beyond. Our name also needs to resonate with a range of our partners and referral networks, which includes schools, eye doctors, primary care physicians, donors, the Veterans Administration, the state of New Hampshire, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

So, after many months of hard work and collaboration with Proportion Design, members of our staff, our Board, and our community, exhaustive research into our history, our mission, and our hopes and aspirations for the future, we developed this new name and a logo that better reflect the amazing organization we are becoming. We look forward to this fresh chapter as Future In Sight and continue to help clients live fulfilling, independent lives!

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4 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

Jose leads Randy up the Barranco Wall on a steep and rocky mountainside.“The Holman Prize is not meant to save the world or congratulate someone for leaving the house. This prize will spark unanticipated accomplishments in the blindness community. You will see blind people doing things that surprise and perhaps even confuse you. These new LightHouse prizes will change perceptions about what blind people are capable of doing.”

–Bryan Bashin, CEO at LightHouse 

I chose a life of independence and freedom based upon believing in possibility, problem solving, and perseverance. While my blindness slowed me on occasion and helped me stumble on several occasions, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by friends and a community which rarely even attempted to hold me back and more commonly joined efforts with me to help us all reach for our peak potential. In this, I’m incredibly fortunate as well as in the resolve to not allow those other times to overly impact my confidence or determination.

Along the path, I learned how much work remains to be accomplished in the area of awareness to encourage the vast majority to welcome these reasonable approaches. It is why I’m excited to share the news and to ask all of you to help me share this news as well with the sighted and visually impaired communities as well!

The Holman Prize: $25,000.00
The Holman Prize for Blind Ambition is an annual award to finance blind adventurers in pursuing their most ambitious projects. In January, the contest begins with a challenge: blind applicants must submit a first-round pitch, in the form of a 90-second YouTube video.

Deadline for submission: Feb. 28th at 12pm PST 

Click here to learn more.

I love several great aspects of this project. First, it emphasizes my sight-impaired peers to be creative in developing an adventurous goal emphasizing travel, communication, and connection towards the cause of demonstrating ability awareness. Second, it creates a stage for all of the world to see these goals and dreams as well as many of them hopefully coming to fruition. I’m so enthused by it that despite my many adventures I want to develop something beyond my prior scope to suggest in my own 90-second video.

So please, take a look at their message, their contest, and the results already underway! I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I’m just one person with the limitations of my own focus. It is a world full of talented people, some of whom might just need this push to reach for their own peak potential!

Man on a nighttime mountain: The Holman prize for blind ambition

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14 Jan 17

By Randy Pierce

Gate City Marathon course in Nashua, NH

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

My friendships, like my running and my blindness, are a journey of small steps with ever increasing promise when I learn to take those steps with a little guidance. Admittedly the running career involves rather a lot of guidance and fortunately for me there’s been an abundance of kind opportunity.

Recently I sat down with Jennifer Jordan, Race Director for the Gate City Marathon, and Tom Cassetty, President of the Gate City Striders. Each of them has guided me for a run in the past. They each have become personal friends of mine and they were sharing some exciting and well timed news.

I had already decided to run the Gate City Marathon on Sunday morning May 21. I had already assembled a team of friends from the 2020 Vision Quest crew to run the relay for themselves while each guided me during their roughly five-mile loop. I had already determined the relay options created such a fun and festive celebration atmosphere in downtown Nashua that I hoped we’d encourage our community of friends to create other teams or just come join us for the block party atmosphere. This is all still true and I absolutely urge all of you to create any combination of teams for the relay, half or full marathon or simply come down and help us celebrate an epic event and experience. If I can help encourage that, please let me know because I’d love to support this event by having you join us in some capacity!

Gate City Marathon Runners

Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

Randy: Jumping first to the big news, why have you decided to open a VI (Visually Impaired) Division?

Jennifer: Our race and our club has a mission of inclusion. We want runners of all abilities to feel included and participate. Randy Pierce is a very important club member and friend so what better way to celebrate that friendship than to add this division to our race!

Note from Randy: One of the things I appreciate about my club is the approach that every member is a valuable and important club member as evidenced by this response.

Randy: This is the third year of the Gate City Marathon. What was the inspiration for its origin?

Jennifer: This started as a replacement for the long-standing AppleFest Half Marathon, formerly the club’s signature event. This race was losing popularity and registrations so the club decided it needed a new signature event. A group of members, led by the club president, Tom Cassetty, discussed some options.  Tom wanted a marathon course in a clover-leaf formation that would cross over Main St in Nashua as its center-point, allowing for the relay option in addition to the marathon distance.

Randy: My own experience downtown for your first event and the reports I’ve heard from others suggest you really captured that goal well. The downtown central location showcases Nashua’s downtown in a festive and fun block party atmosphere which I appreciated as a spectator and look forward to as a runner. My wife Tracy and her relay team certainly appreciated the central gathering point for excitement. Many people celebrate it as the best relay marathon because of the central loops from downtown Nashua.  What do you think are the best features of your event?

Jennifer: We agree that one of the best features is the loop or clover-leaf formation.  This allows a marathon runner to be re-charged after every 5-ish miles, making it a great spectator marathon.  Additionally, it allows for runners who may not be ready for the 26.2 distance to also participate by putting a team of friends together. It’s also a celebration of downtown Nashua! In addition to these items, we have a unique high quality swag bag full of goodies from our sponsors, a great tech race shirt, custom finisher medals and a great after-party! We are also very excited to report that our half marathon has been selected as an event in the NH Grand Prix series and will be a certified half marathon distance. Of note, our Marathon is a USATF certified Boston Marathon Qualifier as well.

Randy: While I’ve a little bit of a bias as a proud member of your run club, I thought you might share with our community a little bit about who are these “Gate City Striders” who are putting on this event?

Jennifer: Who are the Gate City Striders?

We are the largest and longest established, non-profit running club in NH, with over 700 members that includes individuals and families. With a strong focus on running, competitively and recreationally, we also focus heavily on community outreach. We provide a free summer youth fitness program: Fitness University; and several events to benefit local charity organizations: NovemberFest race benefits the Nashua Children’s Home, Harvard Pilgrim 5k benefits the Nashua PAL XC program, we partner with and provide financial help to the Nashua YMCA, High Hopes of NH, Nashua Police Athletic League and many others.

 Randy: How did you come to be the Race Director?

Jennifer: In short, I volunteered. A group of us was working on the concept for the race/event and I (with some trepidation) decided I really wanted to do it. I thought my professional experience as a Program Manager would really help me manage this large project. I think I have developed the skills to be able to lead a team and we had and have an exceptional team of folks on the committee. Like most things, a task such as this cannot be done well without a strong, knowledgeable team!

Randy: I might add caring and passionate team to that description and you certainly have all those qualifications. I was already enthusiastic about the race before we sat down to talk and now I’m even more thrilled and hopeful to help bring even more people to join us. The event is on May 21st at 7:00 am. How can people sign up or get information?

Jennifer:

Here are links to our website:  

 Randy: I feel like we’ve covered a lot of ground, though not quite a marathon. Is there anything  else you would like to share with our community.

Jennifer: It should be noted that the Gate City Striders and the committee and volunteers who manage and support the Gate City Marathon, Half Marathon, and Relay are made up 100% of volunteers. An event this size requires hundreds of volunteers to make is a fun and safe event for all. Each year we are challenged to provide enough volunteer support. This year will be not different so we can always use more volunteers! But it cannot go without saying how much we appreciate the volunteers we do get and how much we appreciate how supportive the City of Nashua, the residents and businesses and houses of worship have been over these years. We hope to continue to build on those relationships!

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5 Nov 16

By Randy Pierce

Have you ever wondered how a blind person votes? In the past, it has been more challenged than most would prefer. It has generally resulted in me, my dog guide, a volunteer to record my vote and a witness all climbing into one of those small booths together. Often they were wonderfully patient, open-minded and non-judgmental people with whom I had the good fortune to share the details of my voting choices… but not always. There was also a former phone/fax system installed in the polling locations which failed at an alarming rate.

But new this year is the “One4All” voting system which showed considerable promise in the primaries and is now ready for its full debut in our November elections. Let me make it clear for all my NH community, visually impaired or not: this new accessible method of voting needs as many testers as possible. I am inviting all of you to take whatever voting choices you have and enact them on the same voting system I’ve been asked to use.

The New Hampshire Association for the Blind wrote an excellent piece about it which I recommend for those wanting more information. They also created an introductory training video for those wanting to be a bit more prepared for the experience ahead:

In a highly contentious time, I’m proud to suggest the opportunity for each of us to  be guaranteed to vote together in a comfortable solidarity. This system needs to be tested by use. It needs feedback from those who can see where it struggles and those of us entirely trapped by the auditory aspects it provides.

It may take you an extra moment or two at the polls, but if nobody is in that line, perhaps you’d consider giving it a try and ensuring the staff gets a little extra opportunity to test their equipment and that proper feedback can be provided going forward. Tell them you have a friend who is blind and has struggled at times with polling equipment and locations, and has friends who have heard enough horror stories they are intimidated to even attempt it until they hear enough good stories.

Wouldn’t it be comforting to be confident you are part of at least one good story this election cycle?

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