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Podcast Transcript: Living Your Best Blind Life

Posted in accessibility, Blind Business Owners, Blindness Resources, Career, Disability, education, Goals, Make Money, Marriage, Nontraditional Jobs, Podcast Episodes, Podcast Transcripts, rehabilitation, and Skilled Trades

You can find the audio version here.

Sam: It’s a lot of fun to make content, and share your, your life and everything, your knowledge with everyone, but you still have to treat it like a job. You have to put that content out there, you have to feed the machine. And so, if you do that, and you’re persistent, and dedicated, and you take your time, you know, good things will come.

Chris: This is the Penny Forward podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures one penny at a time.  I’m Chris Peterson.

Liz: And I’m Liz Bottner.

Chris: We are blind people learning from each other how to be successful in our personal, professional, and financial lives.

Chris: Have you ever wanted to start a podcast, or a blog, or produce videos for YouTube? Our guest this week is Sam Seavey, producer of the Blind Life YouTube channel. Sam has over forty thousand followers on YouTube, and he will teach us what he thinks is key to becoming a popular content producer for the blind community.

Liz: Before we start, we’d like to thank Ron and Lisa Brookes, at Accessible Avenue, for sponsoring the Penny Forward podcast. I’m sure many of us have experienced frustration and uncertainty when trying to use public transportation or paratransit services that are either inaccessible, or just poorly designed for meeting our needs. Accessible Avenue works with transit agencies and other mobility providers to make transportation services accessible for everyone, including those of us who are blind or visually impaired. Accessible Avenue also works with individuals and organizations who need training or assistance with public transportation problems. You can learn more at
www.accessibleavenue.net

Chris: We’d also like to thank Kane Brolin of Brolin Wealth Management for sponsoring the podcast. Investing doesn’t have to be complicated, and it’s never too late to take action. But depending on how far away your goals are, the decisions you need to make will be very different. Kane Brolin is a blind certified financial planner, and chartered special needs consultant, who may be able to help you, no matter how much you have, or what stage of life you are in. Learn more by visiting
brolinwealth.com
or by calling 574-254-7180.

Chris: Sam, thanks for being here.

Sam: Thank you, Chris. It’s a pleasure.

Chris: Tell us about yourself and your blindness if you would.

Sam: Sure. Yeah. So, I give my vision story as they say. So I was diagnosed at age 11 with an inherited retinal disease called Stargart’s disease. The easiest way to describe it is a juvenile, or early onset form of macular degeneration. So, legally blind by my mid teens, started to lose my center vision towards the beginning of my teens, and completely lost the center vision pretty quickly. I still retained my peripheral, but because I don’t have the center vision, then I don’t have my detail vision, so I can’t read, I can’t see people’s faces, recognize faces, I can’t see any detail. So, it makes it a little difficult. I also have trouble with colors here and there, and I also have the night blindness. It’s inherited retinal disease, so it runs in the family. My sister also has it, which was nice, I think. I always thought it was great being able to grow up with someone who was going through the same things that I was, and could relate, and was kind of like my companion in that. I’m very thankful for that. I have a much stronger relationship with my sister to this day because of that. The down side, though, of, obviously, going to school and all of that with low vision. Outside of school, I was just like any other kid, and rode my bikes, played with my friends, swam in the pool, all of that, but at school is really where the vision loss kind of came to the front, and became very noticeable and hard to hide. But, made it through, and I currently work as an assistive technology trainer at a nonprofit for low vision.

Liz: Tell us about your journey to get there, and what that was like for you.

Sam: Yeah. So, as I said, it was difficult. Luckily for me, I’ve always had a pretty positive attitude. I’ve always tried to be “glass is half full” kind of guy. I’ve always been a sarcastic person as well, so, you know, I hid a lot of that through humor, and often times, self deprecating humor, obviously. Although I was pretty well adjusted, I guess you could say, with my vision loss, I did try to hide it, just like most people growing up with low vision. Especially if you’re partially sighted, you’re kind of riding the fence between the sighted world and the blind world. I tried to hide it as much as possible. That’s why I say at school, that wasn’t very … that wasn’t as easy as it was outside of school. I did my best. I had very, very supportive parents. Because they had two children who were visually impaired, they were great. Anything we needed, they did their best to get for us, and even going so far as, as, for my senior year of high school, I said I wanted to go to school at a school for the blind that I had done a summer program at. And, they said “Yeah. Absolutely. If that’s what you want, if that’s what you think you need, let’s do that.” And I had a blast. So I graduated from a school for the blind, and that was probably the first time in my life, other than my sister, I was finally around other people like me. I was finally around my true piers. And so I flourished there, and had a great time, and I think that kind of led me into a career working with blind and visually impaired individuals. And also led me, I guess inevitably, to the world of YouTube. (Chuckle.)

Chris: Well, that’s a good segway, because I’m kind of curious to know about the history of The Blind Life channel, and how you got started with that.

Sam: Sure. Yeah. So, The Blind Life, which originally was called “The Blind Spot,” was started in 2013, and at the time, I had actually been making videos on YouTube for a couple years, working for a company based out of Texas, making videos about mobile technology. Specifically, Android systems. Android phones, Android tablets, teaching people all the amazing things that they could do with their Android phone, and reviewing apps, hardware and software, all of that. And every now and then, during that time, I would make a video about an accessible feature on the Android system, or an accessible app that I was using, and every time I made one of those videos, I got a lot of positive feedback from the community. Saying things like, “Oh, I didn’t even know my phone could do this. It’s gonna make it so much easier to use.” And so, I thought, you know, “Well, ah, maybe there’s, there’s a need for information out there about these adaptive products and technology.” And so one day, back in 2013, I decided to search on YouTube for my vision impairment, Stargart’s disease, and there wasn’t much out there. There literally was maybe like four or five videos. And those were primarily doctors talking about the disease. But I was really looking for the real life, you know, people living with it. So, I thought, “You know what, “Oh, you know what, I should just start my own channel and share my life. You know, I’ve, I’ve got the equipment, I’ve been making videos for a couple years, I know how to do it, I know how to do it to make it work with my vision loss to do this, so I started “The Blind Spot.” “The Blind Spot,” the name was an homage to my vision loss, my vision impairment with Stargart’s Disease, but I also wanted my channel to be a literal spot on the internet that people could come and learn about blindness and vision loss and all of that. That’s when it was all started. At the beginning, I always say I was just throwing darts at a board, whatever stuck, I would make a video about that topic.” And I didn’t have any kind of direction. I didn’t have any kind of … any goals of growing a channel, it was just something fun to do. A hobby. But over time, you know, I thought, “Well,” as it continued to get more popular, I thought, “Well, maybe this could turn into something … something big.” so I buckled down, and started doing a schedule, releasing videos on a schedule, narrowing down the focus of my content to be mainly assistive technology, because that’s what I was using. I used assistive technology since I was a kid, and I love it. It also coincides with when I started working at a nonprofit as the assistive technology program manager in 2016. That’s also where the … when the channel kind of turned that way, because all of a sudden, I had access to all this amazing technology from work, and I could make videos about it. And so that’s how it’s continued. It’s grown like a weed over the years. Currently have forty-seven plus thousand subscribers on my channel, and my channel has become the number one resource for information about assistive technology for the blind and visually impaired, pretty much on the internet. If anybody’s curious about any kind of device, software technique, for assistive technology, chances are, I’ve reviewed it, and I have a video about it. And they’re all one hundred percent honest videos.

Liz: What did you do to get yourself from the one subscriber, the first subscriber you ever had on your channel to now the forty-seven thousand subscribers? How did you build your audience?

Sam: It’s uh, … (Laugh.) It definitely takes awhile. You know, the … you have to think about the blind and visually impaired community, people watching videos on YouTube, there’s not a lot of us out there. Compared to, you know, the gaming community, or the beauty or the fitness community. So, it definitely took awhile. I remember I was probably five years in before I hit my first thousand subscribers. And, the nice thing about it though is, you put enough content out there, it’s kind of like exponential growth. You know, the more viewers you get, the faster you grow. So, and that’s, that’s the other key is, is … Saturating the market. (Laugh.) Pretty much, it became the point where if anybody was searching anything about blindness, or specifically assistive technology, something of mine would pop up. So, you couldn’t really escape me. (Laugh.) But it’s … I tell people this too, I do consulting, um, for new channels, and I tell them, “It’s definitely a marathon, it’s not a sprint. It’s gonna take you awhile. and the thing too is, if it’s something that you’re serious about, and it’s something that you want to turn into something possibly that might support you financially in the future, you have to treat it like a job. It’s still fun, it’s a lot of fun to make content, and share your, your life and everything, your knowledge with everyone, but you still have to treat it like a job. You have to put that content out there, you have to feed the machine. And so, if you do that, and you’re persistent, and dedicated, and you take your time, you know, good things will come.

Chris: Let’s talk about that a little bit. So you do a lot of product reviews, you sometimes have guests on, how do you find topics or products to review or guests to have on?

Sam: Yeah. It’s, it’s not always easy. Especially when, like I said, I’ve got seven hundred plus videos on my channel. I’ve done a video on just about every single thing you could think of having to do with blindness. But the nice thing about my specific channel is that technology changes so quickly. There’s always something new coming out. So, there’s a constant stream of video content that I can, I can tap into with the technology. And I try to stay up on it. I go to assistive technology conferences several times a year, and different organizations have different conferences, and I just, I go just to, just to kind of stay up on what’s new. And I talk to the organizations, I talk to the … the manufacturers, the distributers, and find out what’s, what’s  new, what’s going on, what might be a good fit, and then um, do videos about that. I also stay up to date on all the other social medias as well. Facebook is, is fantastic for information because there’s always people on there talking about either things that they’re struggling with or, new devices, or what they would like to see, that sort of thing. And so, I might see somebody say, “Oh, how do you guys, what do you guys do about brushing your teeth? I’m getting toothpaste all over the sink.” and I think, “Oh. I know the answer to that. I’ve got the tricks. Let me make a video. Because apparently there’s a need. There’s people out there wanting to know, so let’s make a video.” So, it’s not too, not too  hard now-a-days to keep coming up with new stuff.

Male Announcer: We’ll hear the conclusion of this interview in a moment, but first, a brief word from our sponsor.

Female Announcer: Looking for resources and services related to blindness and low vision? The trained staff of the American Printing House for the Blind Connect Center Information and Referral line are here to help. Call 1800-232-5463, or visit our website,

aphconnectcenter.org
to access our community connect calendar, our directory of services, as well as our websites. The APH Connect Center, providing resources to guide children, parents, adults, and job seekers who are blind or low vision to greater independence and success in their lives. Call 1800-232-5463, or visit
aphconnectcenter.org
for more information.

Female Announcer: ¿Busca recursos y servicios relacionados a la perdida de la visión? El personal entrenado de American
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La línea de información y referencia está aquí para ayudarte. Llame al 1-800-232-5463 o visite nuestro
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a los niños, padres, adultos y personas ciegas o con descapacidad visual que buscan trabajo, para una
mayor independencia y éxito en su vida. Llame al 1-800-232-5463 o visite aphconnectcenter.org para
obtener más información.

Male Announcer: Is there something you’d like to talk about? Visit
pennyforward.com/podcast
to learn how you can contact us, and send us a voice mail that we may share on the air.

Liz: What exactly goes into the production of just one video on your channel? In terms of, possibly, choosing atopic, deciding on the production timeline, or even on how to promote your episode after it’s been released?

Sam: Yeah. A lot goes into it. Uh, a lot of preproduction, post production, all of that. So, generally, if I come up with an idea, we’ll take a product review video for example.  If I see something out there, I’ll contact the manufacturer, or the distributor of the product, or, a manufacturer or distributer will contact me. That happens quite often now-a-days. I’ve kind of gotten to that level where they, they contact me. And we arrange for me to get the device, I try to give myself, you know, at least a week or two, with the device prior to any kind of filming, just so I can get familiar with it, evaluate it, because a lot of my videos are actual product reviews. So I need to be able to use the device and put it through its paces so I can give a really honest review. And then I start to do the production. I, I work in the office Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Monday Wednesday Fridays, those are my main YouTube days. So I will generally, beginning of the week, I will dedicate to recording, so I will record my talking head part, where I’m looking at the camera, talking to the camera about the product, and then I’ll go in and record all of the extra stuff. All of the B roll. The close-up shots of the product, what I like to do is any time I’m talking about the specific feature of the product, whether that’s, you know, “This is, the power button is up here. Uh, here is the charging port, and it’s a USB type C charging.” I like to show a close-up of that part of the device, that feature, to show on screen while I’m talking about it.  so all of that takes awhile, setting up the shots, getting all the different shots, and you always, with video production, you always want to have more than you think you’re gonna need, because it’s usually the other way around. You realize that, “Oh, a shot would go perfect here, but I didn’t get the shot.” So it’s better to have too much. And then, the editing. The editing is what takes the longest for me because I’m using screen magnification, and editing just takes forever. So, I could, with recording and editing alone, you know, I could be twenty, thirty hours into just doing that, for a video. For a regular ten-minute video. And then after I post the video, I always post Saturday mornings at 10 A.M. eastern, then I will go in and share on social media. I will also sometimes chop up the video into smaller clips that I can post on TikTok or Instagram. I also share everything to Facebook. I’m in a bunch of different low vision blind Facebook groups, so I will share links to the video in those groups. And then, a couple days after that, I’ll go back and I’ll start answering comments. And questions. Because there’s always questions on the videos, and answering emails. I always get emails based on the video as well. I posted a video this morning, and I just saw that I already got an email from somebody asking questions about the video. So, it is a lot of work, but it’s one of those things, it’s a labor of love. I love do it, doing it, I love getting this information out to people, and helping them live their best blind lives.

Chris: Is it all you? Doing all this work? ‘Cause it sounds like, you put out a lot of videos, and each video takes thirty or forty hours maybe to produce, how do you do all that?

(Sam chuckles.)

Sam: Yeah. It is pretty much me. My wife helps, obvious ways that, you know, she’s, she’s fully sighted, so if I need to drive somewhere to get some on location shots, then obviously, she does things like that for me, driving me, but as far as all the video production, recording, dealing with the companies, all of that is one hundred percent me. Editing, posting, keeping up with comments, all of that. She does … she, she checks comments every now and then, but not too often. She helps tremendously, though, when I do live stream events. She will join me for those, and she will monitor the chat for me, so that I can interact with the people in real time. It would just be too difficult for me to try and do that with either screen magnification or a screen reader. It would just, you know, it’s, I can’t talk to people while I’m listening to comments in the chat. So she takes care of that for me, and she’s become a very popular addition to the channel. Because last year we started a series called “Talk Back with the Blind Life,” and it’s a monthly video podcast, where we get on there, and I don’t do any editing, it’s just a continuous shot, and we answer frequently asked questions and comments from the previous month’s videos. And Rachel helps with that. She, we both get on microphone and she, she reads the comments and then I will answer them and stuff, and, and we, we, you know, like a regular podcast, banter back and forth, and, and people have really enjoyed that. It’s become a very popular series. People really like Rachel, and of course, that makes me very happy that everybody likes her and accepts her. (Laugh.) ‘Cause I like her too. (Laugh.) And so, um, she helps with that, and uh, and in the live events. But yeah, other than that, it’s all me. And it does take a lot of time. That’s, that’s why I said, it’s dedication, and you have to treat it like a business. Because people don’t realize how much work goes into any type of social media content creating, and then to throw in low vision, and dealing with accessibility on the computers and smart phones and all of that, it takes twice as long as it does for an able vision person. So, yeah. It’s a lot of work.

Liz: Tell us about anything that may be coming up for you in the near future.

Sam: Sure. So I’m always doing speaking events. I’m actually going to Philadelphia at the end of this month, at the end of September, for a speaking event up there at a conference. I just confirmed that I’m going to be working with the ATIA organization. ATIA is the, one of the largest assistive technology conferences each year in the country, and it’s based in Orlando in February, and I just confirmed that I’m gonna be working with them, I’m gonna have a spot set up where I can do interviews with some of the attendees, and I’m gonna be getting some, some interviews with the different exhibiters and featuring some of the new, cutting edge assistive technology. I go there every year and I’m excited, I’m excited to officially be working with them now. And, so that’s in February. I will probably be  in CSUN in March, which is in Anaheim California, that’s another big assistive technology conference, uh, and just, you know, constantly putting out videos. Oh, I should mention that in December, I’m gonna be doing a series called “Working Blind,” where I interview people with vision loss who are working, successfully working, and, just to give people some ideas of what types of jobs blind people can do. I get that question all the time. “What kind of work can a blind person do? What kind of jobs are suitable for the blind?” And my normal answer, my usual answer is, “Well, it’s, it’s actually easier for me to tell you what jobs you can’t do. Because that’s a much, uh, (Chuckle.) “easier list to list. Or to give off. Is, Jobs you want to do, it’s pretty much up to you. You, you know, we can work with, and make just about anything accessible.” But um, so I’m doing a, a whole series where I talk to people, and I’m gonna be releasing a new video every single day in December, and you guys might actually see someone you know on there. Mr. Chris is one of the interviewees.

Liz: For those listeners who may not be aware, can you explain the acronyms ATIA and CSUN?

Sam: Oh goodness, you put me on the spot. ATIA is assistive technology industry association, I believe. ATIA.

Liz: Yes.

Sam: Yes.

(They chuckle.)

Sam: And then CSUN is California State University, uh, what’s the n? I forget?

Liz: At Northridge.

Sam: Northridge. Thank you. (Chuckle.) They uh, they sponsor that. And um, CSUN, I think, arguably is the largest, but ATIA’S pretty fun too. And, you know, one is in Los Angelis, the other’s in Orlando, so you can’t beat that for nice vacation spots.

Chris: I heard you speaking at a convention a couple of weeks ago, where a similar question was asked, and you brought up something that just lit me up as soon as I heard about it. Something about flying a plane?

Sam: Yes. Yeah. So, so the whole theme of my channel, and really, my life at this point, is to not let vision loss stop you from doing what you want to do. You know, we, we, we all find ourselves in this membership, of low vision, and it has its down sides, but you know what? It doesn’t mean I can’t do the things that, I can’t set goals and I can’t achieve those goals. And one of the goals I’ve always had, since I was a little kid, since I was I think 11 years old when “Top Gun” came out, (Chuckle.) The very first “Top Gun,” I’m aging myself here, I thought, “Oh, that would be fantastic. That would be so much fun to fly an airplane.” It didn’t hurt also that my father was in the air force, my grandfather was in the air force, so flying was kind of in our family, but also, that same year, I was diagnosed with, with Stargart’s. And so, it very quickly kind of was not gonna be a possibility. But um, once again, it’s all about overcoming, you know, overcoming adversity and doing what you want to do. Uh, I have a series on my channel called “Blind Challenge,” where I challenge myself to do things that most visually impaired people maybe wouldn’t do. And I thought, you know, “Oh, the ultimate would be flying an airplane. Going back to that childhood dream I had of flying an airplane.” And I, I was actually talking to this, about that with a friend, and he said “You know what, I think we can make that happen.” And so, sure enough, about a month or so ago, I went down to Georgia, and we went up in a small little single propeller airplane, and they let me take control, and flew around a little bit, didn’t do anything crazy, but it was a lot of fun. You know, and, and, couldn’t see the instruments or anything like that. The best I could see was the horizon, and I could, I, you know, don’t run into any mountains, I could do that. But uh, it was a lot of fun. And, and, we recorded it, I’m currently working on editing the video, that should be coming out soon. But, you know, like I said, just to further the theme of the channel, of, even though you have low vision, even though you have vision loss, you’re gonna be able to do all the things you want to do, you just might have to learn a new way to do it. And so, flying an airplane. That was one of mine.

Liz: What advice do you have for other blind people wishing to become content creators and build an audience?

Sam: Well, more of what I’ve already kind of talked about. Social media has been one of the best things for the visually impaired because it’s allowed us to connect with others. Growing up, my sister was the only blind person I’d ever met until I was in high school. And then, I met one other person, and then I went to the school for the blind, and finally, there I was like “Oh, there are more people out here like me.” But with social media, you know, it’s so easy for us to connect with others who are in similar situations. And the great thing about social media is everybody has a voice. So, whether it’s podcasting, like this, or making YouTube videos, or Tiktoks, or Instagram reels, or whatever, I tell people to go for it. You know, there’s ways to do it with vision loss. I know plenty of people who are totally blind, and they edit their own videos. They created a system where they can record themselves, and they’ve got their system for editing, and it works, and they put out content, and they have a lot of fun with it. So, once again, if it’s something you want to do, let’s find a way to get it done. Because there is a way, we’ve just got to figure it out.

Chris: I gather that maybe you make a small amount of money off of, off of the Blind Life. Do you have any advice for people that are wishing to do content creation as a job or a career, or a business?

Sam: Yeah. Once again, it’s, it’s, it’s definitely possible. The Blind Life is an official LLC business. It does bring in an income for me. So it is possible. Once again, it’s not gonna be something that’s gonna happen tomorrow, or next week, or maybe even next year. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s just like anything. You have to build it up. Uh, so, stick with it, determination, don’t get frustrated that it’s not happening right away, it, prob– it will happen eventually. If you, if you stick with it. But like I said, definitely need to, to treat it like a job. If you want it to turn into something to help support yourself and your family, it has to be a job. And you have to go into it with that mentality. You know, it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, and exciting, and all of that, but you have to be disciplined, and treat it like a job.

Liz: How can people contact you?

Sam: Well, super easy. Basically, if you google “The Blind Life,” you’re gonna find me. Probably the easiest way would be to go to my website,

theblindlife.net

and that’s it, blind life dot net. And there’s a contact form on there, you can fill that out. My website is fully accessible, screen reader accessible, and low vision, high contrast, all that, accessible, or you can send me an email

sam@theblindlife.net

or, you know, follow me through all my social medias,

youtube.com/theblindlife

and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok now.

Chris: Well Sam, thanks for being here, we really appreciate all of your advice about creating content, and about being patient and persistent about it.

Sam: Yeah. Chris, and Liz, thank you so much. It was my pleasure. A lot of fun.

Female Announcer: Do you know the difference between a savings and money market account? When you’re in an unfamiliar financial environment, and need a hand understanding the lay of the land, Penny Forward is here to help. Our online courses, members only group chats, and access to one on one coaching, help you build your own bright future one penny at a time. It’s easy to sign up or cancel at any time, and memberships are just 9 dollars a month, or 99 dollars a year. Visit
pennyforward.com/membership
to join us today.

Chris: The Penny Forward podcast is made possible by a sponsorship from Dennis and Nicole Malinis. They sponsor the Penny Forward podcast because they believe in Penny Forward’s mission; to help blind people navigate the complicated landscape of personal finance through education, mentoring, and mutual support. Thank you, Dennis and Nicole, for your generous contribution to sponsor the podcast.

Chris: The Penny Forward podcast is produced by Liz Bottner and Chris Peterson, audio editing and post production is provided by
superblink.org
and transcription services are provided by Anne Verduin.

Liz: Penny Forward is a community of blind people building bright futures one penny at a time. Visit
pennyforward.com
to learn more about who we are and what we do.

Chris: For all of us in the Penny Forward community, I’m Chris Peterson, …

Liz: And I’m Liz Bottner.

Chris: Have a great week.

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