Bizviznet Interview Series – Interview 3 with Patty L. Fletcher

The Bizviznet interview series is meant to focus on people that are making a positive difference in the lives of those around them and the blind community in general and to serve as inspiration to those wanting to do the same.

If you provide services or products aimed at blind and vision impaired people and would like to fill in our interview questionnaire, please e-mail info@bizviznet.com for more info.

In this interview, Patty L. Fletcher, writer, motivational speaker and nonprofit consultant, shares with us more about her life and work. She is the author of Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life”.
You can read more about this book in our “Books and Authors” category.

Name: Patty L. Fletcher, AKA Lady MoonWalker

Tell us a little about where you grew up and your family?
My mother has passed away. She left us when she was only fifty-six years old due to health complications. I still have my father.  I grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. I have two older sisters.
I am the single mother of one daughter, and son in law, and grandmother of five; three girls, and two boys, ranging in ages from ten years to one year.

Schools you attended and education:
I was privileged to attend both the Tennessee School For the Blind located in Donaldson Tennessee and public school at home as well.
From the first to fourth grade I attended public school. During my fifth and sixth grade years I attended the Tennessee School For the Blind. I needed braille, mobility and independent living skills.
During the summer between my sixth and seventh grades my mother suffered a stroke. I was frightened to leave her and so even though she was rehabbing from it pretty well, I opted to remain at home, and so attended a public school for both my seventh and eighth grades.
Then in the ninth grade I was frightened of attending such a huge public high-school, and so went back to the Tennessee School For the Blind. I’d expected to graduate from there, but during my tenth grade year I suffered my first bipolar break, and missed so much of school that I became discouraged and regretfully was allowed to quit.
In 1991 I studied for, and obtained my GED (General Education Diploma).
I have had no college, but when folks ask me where I attended university I simply smile and say, “I attended and continue to attend the University of Life.”.

Could you tell us more about your disability and the challenges you have faced?
I actually have three disabilities. I am totally blind, have bipolar disorder, and I am a sufferer of fibromyalgia. I am what I call a Neapolitan disabled person. I have a bit of an ice cream fetish, thus the use of that name.

Please tell us about your job, practice or business?
I am an author, motivational speaker, and nonprofit consultant.
I published my first book in 2014 and after that writing became something of an addiction for me. I then went on to create my monthly online magazine, The Neighborhood News. During all this I was working for a nonprofit called Contact Concern, but after a while it became clear to me that I could not serve two masters, and so after giving it much thought I left my job as volunteer coordinator and struck out on my own.
My experience as a volunteer coordinator for five years with Contact Concern involving various tasks such as fundraising, public speaking and recruitment, gives me the experience I need to offer such services to nonprofits on an as needed basis, thus helping them cut costs.
I can go into an organization as a sub-contractor, give them the services they need, as they need them, for a much lower cost than they would pay by hiring someone on a part or full time basis.
This allows me the freedom to pursue my career as a writer, and still do the type of work with nonprofits that I love.
I also have completed one year of service as an AmeriCorps Vista. Vista stands for Volunteers In Service To America. This is paid volunteer work, and one day I hope to serve my remaining two years.

What would be the most important challenges you have faced in your business or career?
I would have to say that thus far the most important challenges I have faced have been the ability to find work, and to make enough money from book sails to keep me going financially. It is my finest wish to continue writing, and in fact I currently have a second book in the works. If I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to publish this book, I plan to give a large portion of the proceeds to The Seeing Eye, the Guide Dog school from where my guide comes.
Another challenge I face is not being able to afford an internet connection at home. Not having a constant connection, limits what I can do from home. I have to go to our public library to do large amounts of computer work because the only connection I have available at home is via my cell.
This can be a definite block for me at times, and it is my hope that one day soon I will be able to remedy that situation.

What helped you the most when times were tough?
Having faith. My faith has seen me through many hard times, and never lets me down. Another thing that helps me is having my guide, Campbell. Anyone reading my book, magazine, or blog, will see that he is a huge part of my life, and I could not get through one moment of one day without him. I also have some pretty neat friends who support me, and they too are greatly important to my continued success.

Name 3 adaptive devices, programs or equipment you would not want to be without?
I absolutely could not do without my JAWS screen reading software, my iPhone, and my Laptop.

Do you have some tips or suggestions for others who would like to pursue their own professional careers or run their own businesses?
The first advice I can give is, even if you are totally disgusted, burnt out and sick of your job, don’t leave it to start on your own until you are sure of, either:
A) the fact that you can financially support yourself on your own, or,
B) that you are 1000 percent sure that you have someone who can and will financially back you.
I learned this the hard way. When I left my job at Contact Concern, one of the main reasons was because of job burnout. I have regretted leaving a paying job even though I felt it was sucking the life out of me. The reason? I thought I had in place financial things that turned out not to be so, and due to a hasty decision I now suffer financially, and so does my writing and nonprofit consultant career.
I have one other piece of advice though, never! Ever! Give up! Pursue your dreams, no matter what.

Which social media channels do you use most often?
In order of preference, email, because it is the quickest, then Facebook, and lastly, Twitter.

Share something funny that has happened to you related to your disability
One of the funniest things to occurred due to my disAbility did not happen to me until I went to get Campbell. I’d always known I had a bit of trouble with my sense of direction, but it showed itself in a huge way during my training at The Seeing Eye. No matter what we did, it seemed that each time someone suggested left, I would go right, or the other way round.
One day, due to this, and my not yet knowing all I now know about guide dog work, I found myself in someone’s flower bed, and feeling quite silly when my instructor pointed this out to me.
I, however, found a way to seriously capitalize on this. I wrote of it in my book.
I find that, without the ability to laugh at myself and my sometimes quirky ways, I would never be able to deal with my disabilities.

What would be your favorite author, color and food?
My favourite author is by far Stephen King. Although he writes genres far removed from what I write, I find his work is great for me, and the way I think. Not only does that type of reading give my mind a break, but his writing style is, to me at least, quite thought provoking.
My favourite color is sky blue. The reason for this is because when I still had a bit of sight, I loved lying and looking into the sky with my father’s binoculars. I always thought the deep blue of the sky was the most calming and beautiful color of them all. My favourite food? Well that is a hard one. I am much like my Labrador. I will pretty much eat anything that won’t eat me first. I suppose if I had to pick a favourite food it would be fried shrimp.

What are some of your interests or hobbies?
What used to be a hobby has now become a way of life for me. I love all things plants, earth, etc. Anything natural. Now I am studying Shamanism and I am enjoying it very much.

Mention someone who is an inspiration to you and why?
My trainer, Mr Drew Gibbon, from The Seeing Eye. When I went there to get Campbell, my very first ever guide, unknown to him and others, I was in an abusive relationship. He constantly encouraged me to believe in myself, to “Take a chance, because there’s a fifty percent chance you’ll be right …”
So, when I came away with this great beast walking beside me, I also came away with something else, and that was self-confidence.
I would possibly be dead today, had that not happened; so I am ever grateful, and I keep those words he spoke to me close to my heart, mind, and soul.

Details:
Patty L. Fletcher: Author, motivational speaker and nonprofit consultant
Area of operation: Live (Tennessee), phone and Internet (everywhere)
Website: http://campbellsworld.wordpress.com/
E-mail: patty.volunteer1@gmail.com
Services or products:
Writing of all descriptions, (e.g. I have written letters to be used in grant proposals),motivational speaking (live, phone, net), and all things nonprofits.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patty.fletcher.108 including three groups and one page.
Twitter: @Bubbalee04

Bizviznet Interview Series – Interview 2 with Shalin Shah

The Bizviznet interview series is meant to focus on people that are making a positive difference in the lives of those around them and the blind community in general and to serve as inspiration to those wanting to do the same.

If you provide services or products aimed at blind and vision impaired people and would like to fill in our interview questionnaire, please e-mail info@bizviznet.com for more info.

Shalin Shaw is a Grade 11 student at Tesoro High School.
In our second interview he shares with us more about how he developed Voice, an iPhone app for people who are blind or have dyslexia.

Name: Shalin Shah

Where are you from?
My family were immigrants from India, but I was born in Socorro, New Mexico.

School you attend and grade:
Tesoro High School. I’m a junior (11th grade)

Could you tell us more about the app you have developed?
Voice is an app that lets the user take a picture of anything that has words on it, and reads it aloud.

People with visual impairment or dyslexia can easily snap a photo of anything and have it read in a matter of seconds. Voice can speak just about any text, whether it is a menu at a restaurant, a medicine label, an expiration date on a milk carton, or even an information board at a museum. To aid in taking the photo, Voice automatically detects the document and says if all four corners of the document are visible. It reads the words by column such as in a newspaper. Additionally, Voice can read multiple pages, one after another, like a book. It is also available in over 30 different languages.

Voice also has many features that help the blind achieve maximum accuracy when using the app. Voice corrects any skew or angle that the photo is taken in so that the photo becomes straight even if it was taken at an angle. It also cleans noise from the background and equalizes the brightness and contrast. It can also estimate the corners of the document in order to take a picture by itself.

Since there is limited content available in braille and audio, blind people have difficulties reading important everyday items such as medicine labels that convey dosage information and so on.

Furthermore, out of the 6.1 million blind people in America, 4 million are unemployed according to The National Federation of the Blind. Apart from being blind, these people face massive unemployment.

This project has engineered a solution to these problems because it’s completely free (compared to the expensive and non-portable solutions in the market) and allows blind people to portably read everyday items through quickly taken photos in a matter of seconds.

What would be the most important challenges you have faced while working on this app?
For the past 13 months, I have been continuously developing and spreading Voice. Since I am not blind, making Voice intuitive for blind users was difficult. But for months, I spent long hours every week learning from different blind communities to fully understand how they use technology. Every time I approached these communities, I changed Voice a little, and gave it to them to use. Then each week, I took their ideas and made more improvements. For example, blind people had difficulties taking pictures from their phone because they could not see. So I added the feature where Voice looks to see if there is a document, and then makes a decision and takes a picture automatically. After countless iterations of Voice, blind people were finally able to use it intuitively. And still, I try to add new features that make the app even easier to use. To add these features, it was not only a challenge to make it user-friendly for blind people, but I also had to learn challenging computer science concepts. I learned computer vision, a sub-field in the field of computer science, to build some of the features.

Have you developed any other apps?
Yes. I started by building games for the iPhone. Two of my games are in the App Store currently. You can find them by searching for my name, Shalin Shah, in the App Store. I have also made other apps as well, but most of them are unreleased.

Do you have tips or suggestions for others who would like to develop apps for those with special needs or apps in general?
It may be hard to build apps for people with special needs, because it’s hard to test the app the way you would test it. But you can always improve the app. And despite those challenges, It’s always a fulfilling feeling when people who need these apps the most are able to benefit from your creation. All the time and energy spent working on the app becomes worth it.

What are some of your plans for the future?
I want to attend a university to study Computer Science. I also hope to continue making apps and writing code that helps people.

What have you learnt while developing Voice?
I am glad I built this app because it not only has helped people, but has also taught me areas of computer science that I maybe would never have explored, and so much about the blind community. Blind people face so many difficulties in their everyday life that I would never have known had I not met and talked with them.

What would be your favorite author, color and food?
My favorite author is George Orwell, because I have always enjoyed his satirical and dystopian novels that paralleled the Soviet Russia of the 20th century.
My favorite color is Cyan.
I particularly enjoy eating Chinese food.

For more information on the Voice app, visit

Voice – Take Pictures & Have Them Read/Spoken In Many Languages with Fast OCR | AppleVis

Bizviznet Interview Series – Interview 1 with Michael Babcock

The Bizviznet interview series is meant to focus on people that are making a positive difference in the lives of those around them and the blind community in general and to serve as inspiration to those wanting to do the same.

If you provide services or products aimed at blind and vision impaired people and would like to fill in our interview questionnaire, please e-mail info@bizviznet.com for more info.

And now, on to our first interview:

Name: Michael Babcock

Where are you from:
Oregon, USA. I am the oldest of 6 and the only blind person in my family. I have been completely blind since birth

Could you tell us more about your business?
I assist blind entrepreneurs with establishing and building their brand online, and expanding that brand to live streaming and other social media.

What would be the most important challenges you have faced in your business or career? Overcoming accessibility issues when it comes to some of the platforms I use.

What helped you the most when times were tough?
Working with someone who can help me overcome these technological challenges.

Name some adaptive devices, programs or equipment you would not want to be without?
My Macbook and my iPhone …

Do you have tips or suggestions for others who would like to pursue their own professional careers or run their own businesses?
Do something, and stop worrying about what others will think of what you do.
If you’re passionate about it, then other people who are passionate about the same thing will connect with you naturally.
Consistent, creative, consumable content will help you stand out from what everyone else is doing.
Don’t forget to add a call to action in your content as well.

Which social media channels do you use most often?
Blab, Twitter, Periscope, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Youtube

What would be your favorite author, color and food?
Too many favorite authors to list here … anything that’s positive and educational to help me advance my life so that I can help others.
Favorite color would be blue, and favorite food, something spicy.

Name of your business: Your Own Pay
Phone: 541-379-0891
Website: http://yourownpay.com/

E-mail: michael@yourownpay.com

Twitter, Blab and Periscope: @payown
Facebook: http://facebook.com/mrmbabcock/

Services or Products offered:
Digital marketing education, consulting and strategy implementation.