My First two Skydiving Adventures

Today, I am going to be sharing with you what might be one of the most exciting events in my whole life, and I hope that this will inspire you to follow in my stead. I will be comparing two of my greatest sky-diving adventures, and hopefully this will help you decide which one you like best.
I got to go on two tandem sky-dive jumps, and to prove them, I have two official certificates stating that I did my jumps with a certified instructor. No one can deny the fact that I did it! On Saturday, August ninth, 2014, I went to do my first sky-dive, and on Monday, September eighth, I went to do my second jump. I was not able to record my first experience, except for what happened on the ground because when the instructor put on my harness and tightens the straps, they patted my pockets to make sure I had nothing on my person. I told the instructor that I wanted to record myself in free fall, but he said that it was something I would not be able to get on tape because of the United States Parachuting Association’s policy, which stated that I could only carry stuff with me after my two hundredth jump. I was also not able to afford in buying a video package as well. On my second jump, however, I was a lot cleverer. I found a sneaky way to have my iPod touch recording while I was in free-fall, and no one knew I recorded everything until long after I had left. I was also able to have my instructor use a GoPro helmet camera to record everything on video. Most drop zones have either a hand-cam or third-person option, but since I wanted to record every possible moment along with my recording, I opted for the former. The classroom at the Sky-diving Sports and Adventures over in Estacada we used was quite small, kind of like the size of a waiting room or sitting room. The one in Molalla was a little bit bigger, and the whole building with the manifest area was quite spacious as well.
On the first day that would change my life forever, we left the park where the retreat was being held at around nine twenty-five pacific daylight time, and we drove up to the Sky-Diving Sports and Adventures in Eagle Creek, Oregon, which is owned by Ralf, chief pilot and owner of the business. I went with two other blind people, all of whom were first timers like myself. Still, I was really glad I had two months’ notice about what the experience would be like, even though there were a few differences which I will describe as I go through my experiences in order. In short, there were five of us in the car. Three blind people and one visually impaired staff member and our driver. We came to a stop in the gravel parking lot, then we climbed out and walked to a picnic table. The day was nice and clear, which was perfect for a jump with no wind, save for a cool breeze from the
North-North-East.
One of the employees came and told us that every year, there was someone who usually wanted to take a video, and they explained about how these videos were a way to record their experiences. Only one person opted to pay ninety-eight dollars for a video package while the rest of us just recorded it. I did bring my own pocket camera, and I asked one of the staffers if they could film me doing my landing, so in a way, I was partially filmed, although it would have been nicer if I had gotten everything.
After the staff person processed the payment for the person who wanted to take the video, he brought us an application for all of us to fill out. Each person was to fill out the forms one at a time, instead of at the same time, which meant that the process took nearly an hour, plus an additional ten to fifteen minutes for the person to read the waiver aloud. Since it was quite lengthy, we all had to listen in because he was only going to read it once. The next person got to fill out the form, and soon, it was my turn. The form asked for my name, age, date of birth, weight, address and other contact information, including emergency contact information.
This is where I knew the waivers were different. Here, they asked if I suffered from any medical ailments, and one of them was hearing loss or impairment. Over in Molalla, they did not ask me about any medical ailments or anything of that sort. I wonder why that was? I was afraid that if I said yes to the question regarding my hearing, it would prevent me from sky-diving, but they assured me that it was only meant as a way to let them know in advance so that I would be able to hear them, and they would be able to hear me. They also asked me if I was on any medications as well, and then I had to sign three different pages. I asked if it was possible for them to provide a copy of the waiver in a PDF form so they could send it out to prospective jumpers. They thought it to be an excellent idea, and they said that they would consider and look into it further.
The way the waivers were set up in Molalla, as I soon found out, was very different. Since Sky-Dive Oregon is a pretty busy place, they set up iPad stands in the middle of the waiting area so people could use SmartWaiver to fill out, check about forty different boxes, and sign the waver in a speedy and efficient manner. The bad news was that I was not informed about this, nor was my friend aware of it either. Had we known that they were going to use iPads, I would have asked them to reserve a space for me to use an iPad that was not enclosed in a tamper-proof case. The result was that I spent nearly half an hour just trying to get it to work, and after a lot of patience I finally managed to sign the waiver with Voiceover enabled within about an hour. Fortunately, it was getting very windy, so we had to reschedule. Normally this would have been unfortunate, but because of how long it took for me to figure out how to sign the waiver with the iPad, it was a good thing that I had plenty of time. To prevent future incidents like this, I am hoping to contact the manufacturer of these iPad stands and ask if they can build cases with key holes so they could press the home button with the crank of a key, or open a headphone compartment, etc. This is simply policy standard to prevent people from using apps that would be on the iPad and to make sure people can only use them to sign the waivers.
After all our applications were processed back in Estacada, our instructor came and talked to us, introducing himself individually. He informed us that he had worked with blind people from either the Oregon School for the blind, or from the Portland Commission for the Blind. He told us that he would be guiding us inside a small building which would be where he would teach us how we were to exit the aircraft, which was a Cessna-182, and how we were going to land. There, we would also put on our jump suits and wind breaker hats, which looked almost like a helmet, except that it was made entirely of leather.
Over at Sky-dive, I was given an envelope that I would hand to my instructor so he could get paid, and I was led to another room in the building. When I got there, I took a seat near a wall, and the instructor started talking to us immediately. According to the web site, it stated that only students who were jumping could attend the class, yet when I went with my friend, he could attend the class with me, even though they weren’t jumping. Maybe this was an exception. I would be putting my jump suit and harness in the loading area, which was further out on the other side of the complex. The aircraft I jumped out of was a Cessna-208.
Over in Eagle Creek, before he started the class, our instructor asked us if we all had any questions, which he would answer as he taught us what to do. I asked about the rodeo sky-dive, where a person flipped three times as they fell out of the plane, and they would be falling head-first. I also asked if there were several methods to get out of the aircraft, depending on what kind it was. He could not answer my question about how free fall was interpreted by the brain, so I was left to experience that on my own for me to describe. He told us that the amount of time we were going to free fall would vary on how much we weighed. Since I was the lightest, it would take me longer to reach the designated altitude where the main parachute would be deployed. On this particular drop zone, the altitude where we would be falling at was anywhere between ten thousand and eleven thousand feet, so our free fall would be between thirty to forty-five seconds. Our instructor told us that we would be falling for about a mile, and then we would parachute for about five to seven minutes for another mile.
Over at Sky-dive, the altitude that I would be jumping would be anywhere between thirteen to thirteen thousand five hundred feet, or eighteen thousand feet if I requested that option. I will also state here that either the weight of me and my instructor was more than I thought, or something else, but my fall was no more than thirty-six seconds from that altitude when they said that I would be falling for sixty seconds. To confirm this, I listened to the recording and timed my fall.
After our instructor answered all our questions back in Eagle Creek, he waited for another person to come back. Whilst waiting, he asked us if we had anything in our pockets or anything else that might fall out. I had no choice but to hand over my iPod to another staff member, who would hold it for me until I did my jump. I must have forgotten to mute my iPod’s Voiceover speech, for my instructor heard it talking, which is what prompted him to check my pockets. One of the guys was worried that his glass eyes would fall out, and I was concerned that my hearing aids would fall out as well. The instructor took the first person down to the creeper, which was basically a platform on wheels that is generally used to look at the underside of vehicles. When it was my turn, he led me to the low table, and I climbed up on it. He showed me the position we would be falling, and he told me to stay in that position so we would not end up falling head-first. When we left the aircraft, our left knee would be on the floor of the plane and our right foot would be on the platform outside of the plane. When we entered free fall, we would have to arch our head and back backwards as hard as we could, and if we needed help, he would put his left hand on our forehead to signal that we needed to keep going back. Likewise, our heels would be on his butt, and if he needed us to go further, he would put his right hand on our knee to tell us to keep it there. Then he demonstrated this by getting on top of me and showing me how to cross my arms over my chest which he called the safety position. You do this both when you leave the aircraft and when you land. After that, I went back to my chair, and then the next person went to the creeper, and soon, our instructor had us practise our landing position by having our feet out in front of us as far as we could hold them, with our knees bent at a twenty or thirty-degree angle. We did this while sitting in chairs.
Over at Sky-dive, the training was very similar, with the only difference being that we would be sitting down as if we were on a kerb, and we would simply lean forward and slide out of the plane. The other difference that I noticed was that my second instructor had me stretch out my arms during free fall when he tapped me three times on my right shoulder. I wonder why he had me do this, but my instructor did not have me do it on my first jump? It could have been the fact that I had more experience, or that the equipment they were using was slightly different. My friend was worried that I would lose my hearing aids, but I reassured them that I already did my first jump, so I knew what I was doing. As proof, I showed them how the wind breaker hid them out of sight.
When we got into our jump suits back in Eagle Creek, we got our wind breakers, and when I put them on, they completely covered my hearing aids so well that there would be no danger of them falling out. The instructor asked me if I had glass eyes, and I told him that I had real eyes, which was a good thing. The goggles were attached to a string on the back of our hats, and we were to put it over our eyes and tighten the elastic strap on either side to secure it. The instructor helped me with the chin strap because it seemed to be tangled. After we were all set, he got the order of the people in our group who were going to be jumping with him. I was the last one to jump, so I had to wait for nearly an hour and a half before I finally got moving. Before we got into our harnesses, however, our instructor took us outside to where the plane was anchored to the ground via ropes. He opened the door so that we could explore how we would get in and out of the plane. The door was set up in an interesting fashion. Imagine feeling the bottom side of the plane’s fuselage curving as it went down to the belly of the plane. Close to that was a place where a person could lock and unlock the door. They would pull on the crack that was underneath, then they would keep pulling the door towards them and then they would end up pushing it up, like the trunk of a car. This was because its hinges were located towards the top where the right wing was located. Almost all sky-dive planes are high-winged, because the carriage hangs below the wings. To get in, I had to put one of my feet on top of the platform that was located above the right rear wheel, and then I crawled onto the floor of the plane. The instructor told me that I would be seated behind the pilot’s seat. I ended up riding backwards both times. Then we got out of the plane and he led us back inside, where our instructor proceeded in putting us inside our harnesses. When I got mine on, I wanted to tie it up myself since I already had experience putting on three other harnesses in the last few days of the camp, but because sky-diving was essentially a vital and extreme sport, only the instructor was allowed to tie the harness for me. I think a person would have to be certified to handle their own harness.
Over at sky-dive Oregon, I learnt a few new things I never heard about before. For instance, I was told to never, ever, ever reach behind me while getting ready to jump, because if I pulled on the wrong handle, my instructor and I would be history. He also told us that he would ask us several times if we were ready, and if we said no, then we would not be refunded. Once I proceeded with the training, I was taken to the back of the classroom, and I was given the stuff to put on. The jump suit I put on was a lot different from the ones we used in Eagle Creek, and I had to take off my shoes to get them on. That was one thing I did not have to do on my first sky-dive. The place kind of felt as if I was indoors and outdoors at the same time; it was very strange. Since this was a bigger plane, and because jumping out of it would be easier, I was not required to use the plane to practise getting in and out. To confirm my suspicion, I asked my instructor if it was true that only the latter was allowed to handle the harness, and he answered me in the affirmative, and he said that I would have to take accelerated free-fall training to learn about handling my own harness. One thing I also learnt about from my instructor was how to stay calm when the reserve parachute was being deployed. He told us to always keep our hands in our safety position no matter what we felt, saw, heard, etc.
After everyone was set to jump back at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, the first of the trio was led outside while the rest of us sat down in lounge chairs, still inside the waiting area to avoid excessive heat exposure. I dozed off for nearly an hour, and then I heard one of the staffers report that our first member was coming down. When they came back to the room after they landed, we all applauded and congratulated them and asked them how it went. Then the next member of our group went with the instructor. Both times, I thought I heard him say, ‘Do you want to jump? Do not answer right away. Think about it for a moment, because this is really important.’ That is when I asked him just to make sure I heard correctly if he always asked his clients if they were absolutely sure they wanted to jump, once before they got on the plane, once while they were on the plane, and once before they were about to leave the aircraft. The instructor would also tell them that they were not being pressured to jump, as it would be their choice. You see, the reason they would ask you is so they can give you your money back, or at least some of it. If you said ‘yes’ the first time, but then you said ‘no’ the second or third time, then you would not get your money back. I could not hear what he said, but it sounded like he only asked certain people. I will not go into detail about the waiting process, suffice it to say that a few of the employees handed us water or soda to drink while we waited.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, there was no waiting, and I was able to do my jump immediately after the class, which lasted about twenty minutes, so it began half an hour before the actual time that the class was scheduled to start. I left the complex at around fifteen hundred something, and I walked over to the boarding area. There I was informed that we would wait for our plane, which would taxi to the space for us to get on, then I would climb a metal ladder that had about six rums. I could estimate that the plane was about three or so feet above the ground. The plane’s engine was still running as people started to get on it.
Back at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, after the first person was out of the harness and jump suit and the second person left, we all headed out to eat. However, since I was soon to leave, I had to wait until after my jump to eat for two reasons. I could get nauseated, and if I threw up, it could blind the person going below me and this would be bad. Second, because I would not have time to finish my lunch. After we were outside for a few minutes, I started to feel light-headed, so I went inside, and the others followed me. I sat back down and dozed for another half hour. After a short while the second person came down, and then our instructor went to refresh himself, then he filled out a few things before he told me that we were all set. Everyone wished me good luck, and I took my instructor’s elbow and we walked down to the aircraft. I also got to feel his container, which was like a big backpack that weighed five pounds. I asked him what he meant by the fact that when we left the aeroplane, we would fall at a rate of a hundred seventy miles an hour, but that he would pull out a drogue parachute, which would slow us down to a hundred twenty miles an hour for Belly to Earth orientation. He said that because when we left the aircraft, we would experience higher than terminal velocity, which would put a lot of strain on both our bodies and on the parachute. It could eventually be lethal because travelling at one seventy would rip our main canopy to bits and cause us to faint due to the excessive amount of G’s, so the drogue and or pilot chutes would be deployed immediately upon exit. The pilot parachute would also aid the instructor in deploying the main parachute as well. The next thing I asked my instructor was what people did when they fell, because it is obvious that when we lose our balance on Earth, we would instinctively reach out our hands and arms to grab onto something. To inhibit this reaction, he told me to grab onto the straps of my harness as hard as I could while having my arms crossed. ‘This way,’ he said, ‘if you feel like you need to grab onto something, just hold on as tightly as you can and let me do the work.’ By that he meant that I should relax, because I would have a lot of adrenaline rushing through my system, though hopefully not a fatal dose, or one that would cause me to be paralysed. He assured me that he has not lost anybody yet.
Back at Sky-dive Oregon, I told my instructor about my first jump, and I also took note in his demeanour. From what I noticed, my first instructor was more of a no-nonsense person, which made sense because people who did extreme things always made sure to do everything right, and they would not like any irrelevancies. My second instructor was more easy-going, which is what I like best.
Over at Sky-dive Sports and Adventures, we did one last check in which we practised getting in and out of the plane, since the previous time we did it altogether, and therefore we did not have a lot of time for individualised practice. We went inside so he could show me where I would be sitting, which was on the floor of the plane with my legs crossed, and my instructor would be facing me, sort of sideways on the left wall of the plane. In other words, I was facing the tail of the plane, and the door was on the right side of the plane, which was to my left. We got out so that the pilot could climb in and fill out his logbook, and then he told us to climb back in. We had to wait for two more people who were diving solo, for I was the only one doing a tandem jump.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, I could hear the plane approaching the boarding area, and it reminded me of a jet and a propeller plane combined in one. This is because the regular planes have an engine that drives the propeller through a piston, while the ones here use a fan that is driven by a turbine. As such, you have speeds going well over six thousand revolutions per minute. Once the plane was parked, I was taken over to the line. As I got closer, I could smell the fumes of the jet fuel, which, for some reason, reminded me of diesel. When I approached the ladder, I started feeling the wind from the propeller, and I told my guide of that fact, and she told me I was safe. The propeller, which was to my left, was spinning at fifty cycles per second, or three thousand revolutions per minute. The ladder was tilted at a forty-five-degree angle, so I went in as if I was crawling onto the plane. The door was located on the left side of the plane towards the back. When I went inside, I turned around until I was facing the door, and I was dragged towards the right side, where I saw a long bench that was parallel to the wall. It felt like one of those kneelers you find underneath church pews, and it was that high above the floor. I sat down in front of my instructor, and then he hooked me up to a set of seatbelts that were fitted onto my harness. I was also riding backwards. For the first time, I noticed how loose the top of my harness was, but I will get to that in a moment.
Back in Estacada, one of the skydivers asked me where I was from, and if I was excited to do my first jump. I told them that I was very pumped up, and I was hardly feeling nervous at all. I soon realised why it took so long for people to get up into the air. There was a lot of waiting once I got to the aircraft, so that they could make sure that everything was working properly. I asked what it was like to land in one of those things, and the pilot told me that I did not want to land in them, but that I should jump out of them instead. After we got seated, the pilot had a few words with the instructor and the other people inside, and then he shouted, ‘clear prop!’ This basically meant that he was warning everyone, such as sleeping vagrants and small children and their pets to step out of the plane’s propellers so that they would not get hit by them. One last thing I asked my instructor was how I would not be hitting the platform of the plane and the wheel as we dived out of the door. He said that he was going to call out, ‘ready, set, go!’ Then he would push off the step so hard that it would propel us into the air, and we would still be moving forward because of the plane’s momentum. This is called forward throw. He also showed me where I would be attached to his harness. It turns out that they can vary, but they are usually between three and five. In this case, there were four, although there could have been a rip cord, just in case I felt like my instructor was being unresponsive, although I am sure he had an automatic activation device to back us up. This would cause the reserve parachute to open right away. There were two hooks on the shoulders, and two more down by the waist.
After the pilot made sure no one was standing in front of the plane, he turned on the engine, and we started taxiing down the gravel pathway towards the runway. Once he had located and back taxied on the small airstrip to get as much space as possible, he turned around to line up with the runway. The sound of the plane’s engine sounded like I was inside one of those antique cars, or inside a motorboat. When he told us that we were clear for take-off, he throttled the engine up to two thousand revolutions per minute, and, because I was good with perfect pitch, I did some calculations in my head. The propeller blades made an audible sound as they sliced through the air, and this number was thirty cycles per second. I multiplied that by sixty and got the end-result. The pitch of the engine itself was around one hundred twenty-eight hertz. One thing I forgot to mention was that the Cessna-182 was equipped with air conditioning, which was immediately activated when the pilot turned on the engine. It felt strange riding backwards during the taxi and take-off, but it was lots of fun. It felt sort of like when I was taking off in one of those Boeing airliners, with the difference being that the engine sounded like a leaf blower and the amount of time needed to take off was a lot shorter. Since this was a small plane, it did not take as long to get into the air, which was about five to ten seconds. Flying in one of these was about the same as in a commercial jet. The only time I experienced a sensation of moving, albeit forward, backwards, or sideways was when there were bits of rough spots. I could also feel the wind rushing through a small crack near the pilot’s seat on my right. I assumed that this could have been an emergency exit, or it could have also been the pilot’s own door. One thing was for sure, these Cessna aircraft have been modified for easier jumping. This meant that everyone on board was required to wear a parachute. I should also mention that the inside smelt like it was recently filled with aeroplane fuel, which had the same smell of gasoline they use to fuel lawn mowers. It was rather hard to talk above the plane’s engine, so whenever I asked my instructor a question, I had to repeat myself, and if he had something to tell me, he would use hand signals if it were a number-based response, otherwise he would just speak right into my ear. He told me that we were going to let the first person get out first, and then it would be our turn. At around eight thousand feet, he would have me turn around towards the front of the plane, and then he would have me scoot towards him so that he could hook me up to his harness.
The climb itself took about fifteen to twenty minutes, and we were climbing at a very shallow angle, so I could not really feel it unless the pilot either dropped or ascended quickly. This number is measured in feet per minute, and the speed is usually in nautical miles. Also, the way we turned was quite interesting. Sometimes I would feel the plane tilt to one side and then straighten out again. We pretty much ascended in a spiral-like fashion. From the outer perspective, it was hard to know what the plane was doing because of the Doppler effect. After we got to the designated altitude, I had to equallise the pressure in my ears, and my instructor asked me if I could still breathe. I asked him if I could still breathe during free fall, and he assured me that it was not at all like going under water. He also told me that the air was still good up here.
Once everyone was settled comfortably on the two benches over in Molalla, which, by the way, were covered with a thin cushion, the pilot taxied down towards the runway, then he turned around to back-taxi. After that, my instructor told me that we were getting ready to take off. He also explained to me that he would unhook the seatbelt at around fifteen hundred feet, and he would start to attach the lower part of my harness. Once we got to eight thousand feet, he would finish attaching the upper part of my harness. The seatbelts were being used just in case we were to crash on the ground. Soon, the pilot opened the throttle, and we were off. The time it took for us to be airborne was a lot shorter than I had ever imagined, but it made sense because it was a very powerful aircraft, with its propeller spinning at six thousand three hundred revolutions per minute, or one hundred five Hertz. It sounded as if I were in a miniature Boeing seven forty-seven, along with the sound of one of those electric lawn mowers. The climb also took very little time, especially since we were going to a higher altitude than the one, I did in Eagle Creek. It took us about nine to ten minutes to get to the designated altitude.
At ten thousand feet over at Sky-diving Sports and Adventures, the pilot opened the door, something I wondered how that was done, and I felt the cold rush of the wind hitting me. I could hear the sound of the wind, which sounded as if I was in a car with the window opened. If you mix that with the sound of a leaf blower, you would get the same sound. Then I felt the plane jerk to the right, which was an indication that our first jumper had pushed off the platform and was now in free fall. The pilot closed the door, and then we went back to the other side of the drop zone, my instructor told me not to put my right foot forward until he told me to do so. After a few minutes of my kneeling down on the floor, my instructor pushed me forward towards the door, and then he told me to put my right foot forward just as the pilot opened the door. I started feeling the wind blowing across my face, and then my instructor had me locate the little platform. Once I had firmly planted my right foot on it, he made sure I felt where his foot was, which was to the right of my foot. Our left knees were still on the plane. We leaned forward so that we were now partially outside of the plane. By this time, I already had my hands across my chest, so there was nothing else for me to do except to listen for when he gave the signal that would tell me that we were ready. At this moment, I felt relaxed, a little apprehensive, but still very relaxed. This was because I fully trusted my instructor and I knew he has done it thousands of times already.
Halfway into the flight back in Molalla, my instructor asked me how I was doing, and if I was ready to jump. This was also when I asked him if the top of my harness was tight enough, because I could tell that it was loose. He told me not to worry, that it was tight, and I trusted him. Soon, I found out why. After he told me to lean back on his chest so he could attach me more easily, he told me to lean forward as hard as I could. That is when I realised that he had tightened the top part of my harness by finishing the attachment process. Once we reached thirteen thousand feet, the pilot decreased the plane’s engine speed, and then he opened the door. I was sitting behind a fellow skydiver, so I had plenty of time to explore the container that was atop his back. I started to feel how cold the wind was, and I could also hear the people as they left the aircraft. My instructor asked me one more time if I was ready to sky-dive, and I told him that I was. He started pushing me forward on the bench as the number of people grew less, and soon I was on the floor. My instructor told me to put both of my feet out in front of me, and soon my legs were out in the open, and he continued to push me forward until the rest of my legs were dangling off the side of the plane.
Back in Eagle Creek, my instructor called out ‘ready, set, go!’ He pushed us off the platform, and I felt myself roll forward slightly, then to the left, so that I was now on my left side. My instructor stabilised us, and then we were falling. The sensation of falling was not like the kind I was expecting. It is not like when we fall in a dream, because that sensation is usually a heavy sinking feeling. You would, however, get this heavy falling sensation if you fell from a stationary aircraft, such as a helicopter or a hot air balloon. The air resistance gave me a cushion, and it was also sort of a reference point that gave me a sense of weight and direction in space. This was how I knew that I was falling with my stomach down. When I screamed, a cheer-like shout of joy, I could hear it resonate inside my head, and then I said, ‘I love it! I really, really love it!’ It was a good thing I was wearing my wind breaker, because it muffled the sound quality of the rushing wind a great deal. Again, it sounded as if I were riding in a car, except for the engine’s sound. I could feel a stinging in my nose as I breathed in the air during the fall. Since I was falling so fast, and because I wore two layers of clothing, I could not focus on how cold the wind was. Also, it felt like I was travelling at fifty or sixty miles an hour, not a hundred twenty.
My instructor back at Sky-dive Oregon gave no warning. He simply pushed us forward until we slid out of the plane, and I was met with a second or two of feeling weightless as he kept leaning us forward. I could not remember the sensation of tilting forward, but all the sudden, I was on my stomach plummeting towards Earth. At first, I let go of my harness, but I quickly decided against it. Soon my instructor tapped me on the shoulder, and I put my arms out in front of me on either side. I decided to talk into the camera, but the wind was very loud, plus it was also hard to breathe during the fall, mainly because we were so high above the earth, so my voice was never recorded even though one could see my lips moving. Also, it appeared that I was recovering from a cold, so the thin air made my nose run, and it also made my right ear feel as if I had an itch inside. A few hours later, I was aware of some inflammation in my left ear, which subsided in a few days. One thing I definitely noticed was that I did not roll at all, but I knew when I was spinning left or right as we were falling.
I did not keep track of how much time had passed back at Sky-diving Sports and Adventures, although at one point I heard a snap, like a metal clasp being shut, and then I was whipped into a standing position. I felt myself bounce for a little bit, and then I felt weightless for a few seconds as the parachute started slowing us down to about seventeen miles an hour. It was important that the parachute deployed correctly, because if we suddenly slowed down to seventeen miles an hour, it could hurt us and or damage the equipment. Since I had my knees folded during the fall, the force of the parachute pulling us in an upright position was so strong I did not even feel my feet move downward. It was as if one second, I had my heels on my instructor’s butt, and the next second, I was standing on his feet.
We started talking, and I could hear the rustling of the sheets as the wind was blowing it along. I asked him if blind people could sky-dive solo, and he said that he met a few blind people who has done it with an audible altimeter and a two-way radio. I asked if there were ones that vibrated for people who were deaf-blind, and he said that there could be, but they were probably not approved by the United States yet. I forgot to ask him how blind people knew where to steer if they could not see. This could probably be from the instructors on the ground communicating to the person via walkie-talkie. At one point, I felt myself being tugged upward as if a spring was pulling me, and I soon realised this was because my instructor was pulling one part of the parachute so that it gave us a feeling of weightlessness. This allowed him to turn more easily rather than just spinning. Also, we had a great sensation of moving forward because the wind was pushing us back, and I could hear the low, quiet
rumble of the wind as it rushed past us. He also pulled on both wings to slow us down, which made us feel as if we were going up and then down. For a few minutes, he told me that it was okay for me to let go of my harness so I could experience what it was like to soar like an eagle. It was very exciting, knowing that I was not attached to anything except a huge pile of sheets which I felt when we landed.
Over at Sky-dive Oregon, I felt a slight jolt as the main canopy was activated. I immediately put my arms in the safety position, and then I said, ‘We did it!’ I asked my instructor a few times if I was allowed to steer the controls, but he either did not hear me or chose not to respond. He told me that he was going to loosen the two attachments down at the waist so it would be easier for him to manage the parachute’s controls. I leaned back to get a better feel for how the gliding sensation felt, and I also wanted to look up at the sky as I was being filmed.
Back in Eagle Creek, my instructor told me to put my hands in my safety position, and then he told me to put my feet out, just like we practised, and I asked him if we were going to land hard. He said that we were not, since we would be gliding forward and hitting the ground at the same time. I would be landing on my butt while he would be landing on his knees. After I felt the ground hit my butt, the small parachute collapsed, and for a few seconds, I thought it was the main parachute, but they told me that they were kidding. They let me feel the huge pile of nylon. ‘Aw, does that feel nice? That is what saved ya!’ That was one of the staff members of the park who told me.
At sky-dive Oregon, my instructor had me put my feet up in the landing position a few seconds after he deployed the main canopy for practice, and I must have thought we were getting ready to land, or he told me to relax. When he told me that we were going to land, I put out my feet and bent my knees, just like we practised. Since my instructor was very tall, the landing was very different. We came in nearly in a standing position, so as soon as I hit the ground, I could stand up right away, and I took off my gear. I exclaimed how funny the landing was, and, at the instructor’s request, I also gave him a thumbs up for the camera. Both my guide and the instructor were surprised that I did everything correctly. I guess they were expecting somebody to mess up or something, but no, I did everything right! He asked me if it was just as good as my last one, and I told him that there were just a few differences.
Back in Estacada, my instructor detached the two of us, and I quickly got out of my harness and jump suit, along with the goggles and hat. The staff person who had my camera told me that he was able to get it all on video. After I was out of my suit, I shook hands with my instructor, and I thanked him for everything. He told me that he could autograph my shirt once I bought it. One thing I should note, the way they processed the videos was a little bit more primitive, for they had to put it all on a DVD, which they would mail to you within seven days.
At sky-dive Oregon, my instructor shook my hand, and my guide took me back inside the loading area to take off my jump suit. Once I got out of it, I was taken back to the classroom where I met my instructor, who handed me my first jump certificate along with a bumper sticker, and he told me he would be back with an SD card for me to take home. My friend, whom I invited to come along with me on the trip, congratulated me on my second jump, and I promised him that I would tell him all about it.
My final thoughts on these experiences: Since I could not record myself on the first sky-dive, I was able to create a replicated version of what skydiving sounded like based on sounds that were already in existence. All I had to do was make sure those sounds match the ones I had in my memory, which was easy for me to do because of my perfect pitch. I had no trouble recording my second jump, and for that, I am very grateful.
The instructor never asked me if I really wanted to jump on my first sky-dive, and I told people about this fact. Some of my friends told me that he probably knew that I was extremely self-motivated to learn about skydiving. There were probably a certain number of people who do not want to learn about it. They simply want to get the experience. One person thought that maybe I did not hear the instructor when he asked me that question, but that sounded illogical because if I did not hear him, I would not have answered him, and this would have been a question that required a response, so he would have had to repeat himself until I understood him. Maybe the first instructor asked me a similar question, such as what my second instructor said, which might have been why I was not expecting the same question that I was told by my friend. Such things can be, do you want to sky-dive, or, are you ready to sky-dive? You get the gist.
The reason I was hardly nervous on both jumps was thanks to a meditation class taught by a former teacher and a friend of mine who was at the camp. He hosted a stress and anxiety-reduction mindfulness workshop four days before my first jump, and a month before my second. I learnt how to fully relax and calm my nerves by releasing oxytocin, slow down my heart and breathing rate, etc. Skydiving or going on a wild amusement ride can be moderately stressful, but it has shown to increase oxytocin, though. I meditated a lot, and the fact that I did it so many times was the reason I hardly felt nervous, and it allowed me to trust my instructors fully. Also, the fact that I knew exactly what to expect was a major contributing factor. This is because people fear the unknown when they have no idea what to expect, regardless of their motivation and will. All in all, I think this would be something I would be doing for quite a while, and I might start preparing to do high altitude low-opening jumps in the future.
When I showed people this transcript, many people told me that I had written it as if what happened to me happened yesterday, which led them to think I was able to remember everything so well. I told them that it all depended on several things. Since skydiving was something that I was extremely passionate about, it helped me relive the memory over and over, looking at every detail, the way you do when you watch a moving picture several times. Another thing that helped me was research. For example, I did not know what the instructor meant by a drogue parachute. When he said it, it sounded like he had said a robe parachute. I went on-line to look it up, but I did not find anything on the internet about it. One day, as I was reading about skydiving in general, I came across the same word, and I took note of its spelling. If I forgot something, reading about it on-line would cause those memories to come flooding back. Also, our brains can remember images more easily than words, even for blind people. I imagined feeling the plane’s texture, from the outside in, and this allowed me to remember the words the instructor and the other people said. Of course, there is a lot of speculation that blind people can remember words better than their sighted peers, but it is not always true. So, this is what allowed me to associate things more easily, and I recommend that people do this more often.
regarding the iPad issue I experienced, I went over to http://www.iPadenclosures.com/ to see what kind of kiosk cases they made. It really surprised me that they had something that was supposed to be accessible to everybody, but current measures or policies prevented them from making that accommodation, or at least, finding workarounds. I was thinking of having them buy several iPads and making room for quiet environments so that people who were blind and or hard-of-hearing would be able to hear and or use a Braille display along with Voiceover to read what was on the screen. I also recommended that they include an accessibility section on their web site to let other people know ahead of time with the information they would need before they got there to avoid scrambling at the last minute.
Many people who are afraid to jump are frightened by the idea and not by the experience itself. That is why it helps to know in advance what a person would be getting into, though I was told that some people do not want to know because it would ruin the surprise for them. Still, I am going to be sharing this to anyone who might be interested, and I hope you can share it with anyone you think might like this as well.

My very first MRI Scan

So, I wanted to talk about my first experience getting an MRI of my brain since I promised I’d follow up to those two posts I wrote about what happened to me. I would like to encourage you to visit this web site to better understand how these work. Also, I really enjoyed watching their videos, plus they recorded other experiments as well.
Anyhow, my ear, nose and throat doctor, whom I have seen since I was seven, back when he used the Rinne and Weber test using a 256-Hz and a 512-Hz tuning fork, saw me for the first time in six years. Also, when I was nine, he inserted a drainage tube in my left ear to try and clear up the fluid from my chronic otitis media. Then I was referred to see him back in 2010 because there was a significant decrease in my hearing, both in my left and right ears. I hadn’t seen him since then, but after what I went through back in 2016, I got to see him three more times. He agreed to do an MRI, as well as prescribe me some anti-anxiety medicine and send me to physiotherapy.
So, on Friday, 23 December 2016, I was given the order for my first MRI scan, which was to take place no more than half a mile away from where I was being seen. In fact, I was able to get an appointment very quickly. I also learned that the code most insurance companies used to identify an MRI scan was 7551 or 7552. I was really excited to get my first MRI scan, not only because I’ve read so much about it, but because I was taking one step closer to being able to 3D print a model of my brain, skull, and facial features.
I made arrangements to be picked up by my medical transportation provider on Tuesday morning, and we headed out to the medical plaza, which is similar to the main hospital, but it was more for out-patient use. My driver had a hard time locating the building because they went to one that was closed. So, I called them up, and we were able to get redirected to the right one. After stepping inside, I walked over to the registration desk where I took a seat as I filled out paperwork and handed over my insurance card. They got everything ready for me, and then, after about five minutes, I was guided up stairs to the third floor. They handed in my paperwork to the receptionist up there, and the same person led me to a row of chairs. After about ten minutes, the technologist (the same one I had spoken to on the phone when confirming my appointment) summoned me to the hallway where the imaging rooms were located. After making a stop at the restroom at my request, I swallowed one Percocet tablet I had gotten for wisdom teeth extractions, drank lots of water, and then I accompanied him to another room. There I found a locker where I could stash my belongings. I told him that I might not be able to hear him once my hearing aids were out. This is why I wish they utilised headsets like on a plane or helicopter. Later, I learned that their headsets were built like stethoscopes, meaning that they utilised air tubes. Anyhow, after everything was put away, I took my cane, since it was only aluminium, and the guy said it was not going to be attracted to the magnet. So we walked for about ten or so feet into the magnet room. We had to pass through two doors. The second door reminded me more of a soundproof booth. Still, it was a small tiled room with a table about a foot off the ground. After I got settled on the table, which felt like an arch to fit your back, like one of those changing tables, the technologist put a leg pillow to make my legs more comfortable and slightly elevated. Then he lifted the entire bed, but not before I tried feeling for the giant tube. He told me that it was located near the ceiling. So he elevated the bed to around five feet, and then he slid the bed back into the machine. I felt the sides of the tube, and it felt very smooth and cool to the touch. The entrance was like going into the bell of a French horn. The table was small enough to fit through the bottom of this opening. I imagine the coils are wrapped around the smallest part of the bell. If you stuck the insides of two French horn bells together, then I believe that is how it will feel, and what might cause the magnetic field to be generated around the bore. Oh wait! He also attached this headpiece that surrounded my head. It felt like bars were surrounding my face, but I could not feel them. Then he gave me some headphones, and a bulbous-like call button. Then he slid me into the tube and left the room and probably went next door to the control chamber. He tried talking to me through the intercom speaker, but I could not really make out what he said, but it sounded like, ‘still as a statue.’ Then I heard the low hum, knock, knock, knock, and then a whir as the machine was trying to find the best frequency to resonate with my body. That also included making low resolution images. This is called MR tuning. Once it has been tuned, it starts to work. Because I had headphones on, I could only hear the bass sounds of the machine. I could feel the side of the tube and the headpiece vibrate against my headphones. The pill I had taken before was already starting to make me feel more relaxed. After about twenty minutes, I was slid back out, and some gadolinium was slowly injected into my vein using a winged infusion set. Then the test continued for another ten minutes. After that test I was all done. He slid me out once more, removed the headpiece, headphones, and blanket, and then lowered me back to the ground. After I had my hearing aids put in, I was made aware of a hump, wump, hump, wump, hump, wump, hump, wump sound. I asked the technologist what it was, and he told me that it was the helium circulation system, keeping the coils from losing their conductivity.
A few weeks later, I ordered a Lyft to pick up the CD with my images in a DCM (diCom) format. Fortunately, I had gotten in touch with the biology instructor at Portland Community College, so I arranged to have those files sent. the first successful 3D print was made in early April 2017, which just consisted of my brain. I was hoping to send in my scan to an on-line library of other scans, similar to Thingiverse, but I haven’t found the right time to do it. We used a Tiertime Desktop Mini 3D printer.
So, there you go, my entire MRI and 3D-printing experience. And, let me finish this by saying that although I never had an MRI in my life until now, I thought I had invented the concept in my novel of my character lying on a bed, going to sleep and waking up, only to find that they were confined to a dark cocoon. And if that were not bad enough, they were six feet above the ground! So I was surprised to discover that this concept already existed. The MRI images the blood inside the brain, not the brain tissue itself. This is why a brain biopsy is still necessary, at least until we find some means of performing a stereotactic ultrasound.
Finally, I encourage you to look into getting a copy of your scans and have them 3D printed so you can study them. Perhaps we could have you work towards becoming a surgeon with blindness or other challenge contributing to the medical diagnostic imaging field! You could also help advance the bioengineering field by submitting models of your skin, skeleton, and other organs for use in various applications, like the cosmetic and reconstructive departments, too!

Check out these links for more information.

San Antonio Plastic Surgery

Get ready for some cuteness!


If you are assigned male at birth, click here to see how your face might look by submitting your picture.
Here’s a more in-depth explanation on how MRI and FMRI differ.
Enjoy!

My Experiences as a Totally-blind and Hard-of-hearing Person, part 2

Okay! Last time I talked about some of the social issues I’ve experienced due to my hearing challenges, and if you read my about me page, you’ll probably know that I can’t watch a lot of TV and films, which means that my perception of social dynamics might as well be static. Anyhow, I wanted to talk a little more about some of the auditory and technical issues I’ve dealt with, as well. First, however, I’d like to introduce you to a blind and hard-of-hearing gentleman who is pretty well-known among the blind community. Back in 2014, he wrote a blog article about how living with hearing loss has impacted his life to some extent, and what he has done to make up for it. Now hear this! The surprising thing was that I never knew he had a hearing loss in the first place, or that he had the same condition I have.
‘Click, click. Is this on? Can you hear me? Hello? Is this working? Is that too loud? What was that again?’ These are many of the things I either heard other people say to me, or things I’ve asked of them. Some of them refer to using something called an FM system, which is a radio transmitter and receiver that operates on a frequency spectrum using FM without causing interference. The receiver sends this signal to a neck loop using electromagnetic radiation, much like how a guitar pickup coil works. This part of the hearing aid is called the telecoil. Sometimes I’ve used the FM system to spy on other people and do some eavesdropping. Although this post from Kids Health doesn’t have this, I remember reading stories from other kids about how they’ve taken advantage of their systems to tell their classmates when the teacher was coming back within range.
I first started losing my hearing at the age of seven, though it was barely noticeable at first because I’ve had perfect hearing from birth to about age six. Since I was born with a condition that made me prone to developing hearing loss, though, I was later tested by the education service district’s audiology department when I first entered Kindergarten. Occasionally, my primary doctor or someone at school would bring in an audiometer. It was this big and bulky box with lots of buttons on it. The person running it placed noise-cancelling headphones over my ears and played a series of tones, some of them I remembered to be at 1000Hz, or 1kHz. Other times, they would simply insert a small probe into the ear canal and play the tones through it. Whenever I got ear infections, which was usually in my left ear, I couldn’t hear that tone at 30Db, I think, or maybe lower. They simply asked me to raise my hand corresponding to the ear they were testing if I could hear that pure sine wave tone.
I was always extremely talkative and was frequently dubbed chatterbox. I guess it is why, in later years, I became more afraid of being taunted for something I should’ve been free to do. A lot of people told me I never laughed, but how can you if you don’t know what people are laughing about? They’ve also criticised me for not yelling or making any loud vocal sounds. You see, part of the problem with hearing aids is that your voice may sound extremely loud to you, but it might sound very soft to others. Without hearing aids, you might speak up so you can hear yourself, but it causes people to cringe because you are speaking way too loud.
I got my first hearing aid for my left ear in Summer of 2001, and at that time, I remember experiencing tinnitus that sounded like the buzzing of a fly’s wings, or more like a sawtooth wave, though not as harsh. Some of them were around 325Hz, but the one I remember the most was one that I kept hearing in my left ear, which was around 260Hz. It lasted for about four months, and at one time, I thought it dropped about a semitone. Anyhow, I was first ecstatic for having gotten it, and that I could hear things just as well as I could hear with my right ear, but soon, I didn’t feel comfortable wearing it, mostly because I didn’t want others to know I had a hearing aid. I only wore it at school. I still had enough hearing in my right ear to not need my hearing aid at home. if you’ve read my other posts, you may have learned that I was bullied by some blind people for having hearing loss.
In the summer of 2004, it was decided to complement my setup with another hearing aid, which meant now that I had then developed bilateral hearing loss. It was evident by the audiograms that my right ear was better at perceiving higher frequency sounds than the left, so whenever I talked to people, I’d turn my head so that my right ear would be facing them, or i’d sit on the person’s left side.
I’ve had some instances of diplacusis. That’s basically when a tone sounds slightly higher or lower than what you know it to be in the other ear. For example, if I played a tone of F-sharp4 in my right ear and played that same tone in my left ear, I’d hear a G4 instead. I didn’t know I had perfect (absolute) pitch until long after, but for now, this is what I had to work with. Occasionally, I’d wake up with a condition that felt like my right ear, usually, ducked the audio coming in. Sometimes I’d get a small headache and hear this strange buzzing tone, like one of those old dial tones at 120Hz. Also, frequencies at the high end of the spectrum are almost imperceptible, and voices end up sounding tinny. There has been some studies to see whether corticosteroids were effective at treating sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL). I suspect it was maybe how oversensitive my tiny ear muscles were while I slept. I had a habit of sleeping with earbuds, so I could listen to various soundscapes while I slept, but maybe my ears thought they were too loud, so it tried to protect itself the best way it could. If you’ve ever experienced spontaneous ringing in your ears, this post from 2013 explains that the outer hair cells, which are used to amplify really quiet sounds, tend to vibrate on their own, sometimes causing a feeling of fullness or temporary loss of balance. Fortunately, there is a feedback loop that corrects this problem in a minute or two.
I don’t know what happened, but once, probably in summer 2006, after I had gotten a tooth extraction, I noticed my hearing dissipating in my left ear if I moved my jaw too far back. I was genuinely afraid of this, and I never told anyone about it, so I don’t know what could’ve caused it. I suspect it might have been due to inflammation of the tempromandibular joints, but since I was on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, I didn’t feel anything.
Anyhow, socialising got harder and harder as my hearing continued to worsen over time. Crossing streets became troublesome to the point I needed to solicit assistance all the time, and I’ve had some blind people guilt trip me into thinking it was my fault I couldn’t hear them when they yelled at me or whatever, instead of just using alternative means of communication, like spelling words on demand using the phlnetic alphabet. When I got my first computer in 2007, even though I didn’t have internet then, I still had enough hearing to use the desktop speakers at high volume. I watched some TV shows by pressing my right ear against the TV’s speakers, but I later found a TV with a headphone jack, and this made watching TV shows easier. It wasn’t until late 2009 to early 2010 that my hearing decreased rapidly, especially in my right ear, that I started being more dependent on my assistive technology to hear my surroundings even when I was in my own home.
When I first got my own internet back in 2010, I was gradually introduced to other blind people, and I learned about audio production-editing using single and multi-track editors and digital audio workstations, MIDI sequencers and VST hosts. I did not know much about some of the fancier audio equipment people used to make better quality recordings. I had lots of ideas for making audio drama, but I ended up being criticised because people told me that my audio was of super-low quality. They never explained how so it was,and I probably should’ve explained how difficult things were with my hearing loss. Alas, I never did. Instead, I continued pressing on, oblivious to some of the artifacts I was likely producing by boosting my onboard sound card’s preamplifier to the maximum so I could monitor myself, and probably other things. Speaking of monitors, I began relying hevily on anything that acted as one to also behave like a personal sound amplifier or hearable. This is one of the ways I’ve developed interesting and unconventional uses of audio gear. I’ve used headphones as stereo microphones. I didn’t know that in-ear mics existed, like the Andrea’s Electronics binaural microphone headphone combo, or the earbud version. Fortunately, I later got a Pocket Talker Ultra from Williams Sound. I really enjoyed using them because to people, it didn’t look like I was using hearing aids. Rather, it looked more like I was listening to music or something. Someone told me that if I got Bose’s new augmented-reality headset or Apple Air Pods, I could virtually use hearing aids all the time. Not only have I found monitoring to be of great help in amplifying my surroundings, but it has helped restore my hearing awareness, so that I was more likely to notice when I mispronounced words or use wrong intonations as is common in people who can’t hear themselves well.
In Fall of 2011, I was now at the top of the heap in my high school career. I initially didn’t think of making anything of it other than do my school work, but when I learned that our musical theatre department was putting on a production of The Wizard Of Oz, one of my favourites of all time, I knew I had to conquer my fear of not being able to do well because of my hearing challenges. And, while I didn’t run the soundboard that time, I did help in sound design. I later got to run the board for Senior Spotlight after having demonstrated that I had exceptionally good operational skills even if I didn’t have the technical background, knowledge or expertise of audio fundamentals.
Although a lot of people always recommended that I record lectures using a digital voice recorder, there was one particular reason I didn’t often follow through, a huge problem I didn’t learn about until much later. If you remember when I first talked about using an FM system, and if you read the article I linked here pertaining to that subject, then you are probably aware that many venues provide assistive listening devices to help negate the effects of ambient noise by bringing the sound of the person speaking into the microphone directly into someone’s ears. This is because, more often than not, sounds with frequencies that decay rapidly are lost in the reverberation or echo of a room, thus making it virtually impossible for one to hear the subtleties of a vowel or consonant. This was always a problem I experienced when I was at an auditorium and couldn’t hear what was being said through a speaker, or even when someone was just talking without one. What I’ve also noticed was that there tended to be some psychoacoustic differences in using headphones versus speakers. For instance, if I recorded something, and then I used speakers to play it back, I might hear things I failed to hear had I used headphones or earbuds. So, beginning in 2014, I began to look for ways of recording lectures directly. I had one instructor stand in front of a stereo microphone that was hooked up to my computer so I could record what they were saying. One challenge to using this kind of approach of direct listening was that since FM and other wireless transmission systems sent the microphone’s input directly into the hearing aid in mono, we also tend to lose any sense of directionality, so if a person were to my left, they would still sound as if they were in the centre. the only exception to this would be if someone invented a wireless system that used stereo microphones. So, when I ran the show for Senior Spotlight, I was able to use my FM rig to connect to the soundboard, and while I couldn’t hear the performers who were far away from the hanging mics, I was able to hear when one of them spoke directly into the microphone, and I knew when to play the sounds without the help of the stage manager to cue me by tapping on my shoulder.
Anyhow, in 2016, I was eligible to get new hearing aids thanks to my insurance plan. These new devices had two microphone capsules with variable pick-up patterns. They wanted to wait until I had completed another tympanogram, audiogram and speech perception test, all unaided, before configuring them. It was determined that I could not hear anything above 3,100Hz at 85Db in the right ear, and nothing above that frequency, no matter how loud it was, on the left ear. I once had a few bone conduction tests, but I told them that I mostly felt the vibration of the tones rather than heard them because of the occlusion effect. Speaking of that, some of the older hearing aids used a bar that you would bite on, so that the sounds resonating from it would be transferred via this means. Since the type of hearing aids I received were more modern, it meant that I could now use brand-specific accessories to enhance my listening experience. These hearing aids also had sophisticated digital signal processing for equallisation, cut and shelf filters, and even a transposition feature. Imagine I played a tone at B-flat 7. To my ears, it would sound like something in between B5 and B-sharp5. That feature always through me off because I didn’t know what was real and what was not. I had the audiologist set up a programme that would turn this feature off whenever I wanted to listen to music. Anyhow, it made things like the S-sound sound more like an SH. It was still hard to differentiate between the Eeh and ooh vowels, though. For example, my friend told me that they knew of someone who may have had auditory neuropathy or central auditory processing disorder, and that they couldn’t hear the /k/ and /t/ sounds in cat, leaving them only to hear the /ae/ sound with a high attack and release. Although this post further explains how these hearing aids work, I couldn’t find one that talked about how lack of exposure to high frequencies could lead to brain atrophy, so some manufacturers are using either a harmonic exciter or some other technique to gradually introduce those high frequencies again.
Having said that, I recently heard about a former on-line academy that prepared blind people for careers in the IT and audio production fields. Sadly, however, they ran out of funding, but luckily, they released their audio courses. When I finally started working on refining my critical listening abilities, I found that I could not hear certain vital characteristics that would’ve helped me determine if there were problems in my audio, such as aliasing, quantisation noise, artifacts from transcoding, comb filter effects, etc. At least now I knew about these concepts so that I would be more aware of them.
So, that’s basically my experiences with hearing loss in a nutshell. I do hope that synthetic biologists will further experiment with quale and other birds to better understand how epidermal stem cells work, and implementing a technique discovered by Oregon State University. I know that a lot of blind people would act indifferent about wanting to restore their eyesight, but they would almost no doubt jump at the chance of having their hearing loss cured. Of course, there is always going to be a big Deaf and a little deaf, the former referring to people who identify with Deaf culture and have lerned to embrace it. Someone from the National Federation of the Blind said that there was no such thing as Blind Culture. So, is there such a thing as Deaf-Blind culture? You tell me.

My experiences as a totally blind and hard-of-hearing person, part 1

One thing I have struggled with as a person with both total blindness and progressive hearing loss was which community to identify. I hope this part will not sound too condescending by any means. I have challenged blind people to think about how they would function if they lost their hearing one morning, and, to be honest, a lot of them would be devastated to the point they would want to kill themselves. This was usually the result of when someone asked the usual question of if you’ve been told that you could’ve gotten surgery to restore your eyesight, would you go for it? Many blind people would never do it. Yes, some people would be devastated if they became deaf, but just like how they like being blind and consider that to be a part of their identity, they would respect that I could love being deaf blind, and that it is a part of my identity. Still, many blind people use their hearing a lot, though, and have echolocation.
Most people say it is easier to be deaf than it is to be blind, but when you are already blind, you cannot see yourself as being deaf. No two disabilities are superior to one another. There is a lot of cruelty and internallised ableism towards deaf-blind individuals by some blind people, but I know that not all blind people are like that. I mean, a lot of blind people hate being asked how they use a computer if they cannot see. Likewise, those same blind people who hated being asked that asked me, how do you do music if you have trouble hearing it? It is because they view their hearing as everything; they would just simply collapse and feel like they can never get up again. That is why I remind them to be more open and inclusive towards our siblings with combined disabilities that have blindness in addition to the mix. Some people I’ve talked to agree that deaf-blind people are always left out of accessibility initiatives. Still, people in the blind community continue to refer to this blind gentleman named Kennith Jernigan whenever they argue about codependence, interdependence, independence and dependence, and he wrote the well-known banquet address called The Nature of Independence in the nineties. However, I would argue that The Nature of Independence was written from the point of view of someone who was only blind and married. It was not written by someone who was deaf-blind. It was not written by someone who was blind and in a wheelchair. It was not written by someone who was blind and had a severe chronic illness. It was not written by someone who was blind and had autism, Down’s Syndrome, or any other kind of learning, intellectual or developmental disability. Still, it seems that a lot of blind people, particularly those who are proud of their accomplishments, are overly ambicious and would consider relying on sighted or blind assistance as a sign of weakness or being inadequate. This is where the cultural aspect comes in, because in south America, people are more likely to offer you assistance, whereas here in the US, people tend to be hands-off. A lot of members misquote it. It probably did result in people believing that they are better than I for not pre-boarding an aeroplane and things like that, but I don’t think those people actually read it.
Whatever happened to the concept of work together, help others, and all those things we learned growing up? Besides, it is not a crime to ask for help, and sighted people use assistance all the time, so why should blind people be an exception to the rule? They are so anxious to show society that they can do anything. Besides, Kennith Jernigan did use assistance at conventions, and other members criticised him for going guided travel. Oh, and how can we make talking ATMs more accessible to deaf-blind people? How about movies with audio descriptions? Seriously, deaf-blind people are being left behind it is not even funny. I definitely also went deaf blind people to be included in making appliances more accessible. I have noticed that a lot of things talk now, but if you are deaf-blind, that doesn’t help. So many blind people say they want to make things accessible, but what they really mean is that they want those things to be accessible for only themselves in the current moment. That is because they are not following universal design. Not all deaf-blind people can read Braille due to barriers related to a learning, intellectual or developmental disability. Deaf people who do not develop oral language skills almost never develop reading comprehension beyond the sixth grade anyway, but still. I would imagine that deaf people are the same where they only think of and include deaf people who meet societal expectations in every other way.
Europe uses spinning cones to tell deaf-blind people when it is safe to cross streets. Australia uses relays that vibrate and give tactile feedback. Japan uses Braille signage that is printed directly on railings where they would be extremely conspicuous to anyone using them. I do not enjoy being independent as a totally blind and hard-of-hearing person. But I truly believe we are all interdependent. I have written very cogent remarks here. Perhaps the most important part about being independent is knowing when and when not to need assistance, as well as being extremely self-reliant. Be lucky that you have what you have, and use it to the fullest. Do not depend on anything too much as everything has its time and purpose.
Older people might say that I’m not as independent as they are because I rely on my phone too much. I think that a lot of people just get stuck in the rebellious independence stage discussed in the speech. Other blind people have told me I wasn’t as independent because I used audio descriptions at the theatre, and while I don’t use a guide dog, they would’ve probably criticised me for it, as well. I am not perfect by any means. Yes, people do not want you to use guided travel at training centres because you are there to learn and develop new skills, but even when you are out of it, they act like you should be at the centre forever. Kennith Jernigan agreed that the way we do things while we are in training is not the same way that we would do it in everyday life. For example, if I took a college math class where calculators were not allowed, I would have to learn how to do everything by hand so as to master new techniques. But, when I am out in the field, it would be ridiculous for me to continue doing it this way when I can have a computer do that for me in the blink of an eye; the skills are simply an adjunct. Likewise, it would be foolish of me to criticise others for using calculators and accusing them of taking shortcuts. They would have every right to say that I was being altogether arrogant in that regard. Of course, one could argue that if the power went out, or the batteries stopped working, then your math skills would definitely be of service. They would say the same about blind people relying on their devices that could fail one day, and since the brain almost never fails, they should always rely on that. I am really good at technology, and I notice myself almost never using a reader to do things such as manage my finances and read my mail when other blind people say that they use a reader for these things all the time. I don’t think of myself as more independent than they. It is just easier for me not to have to rely on a reader most of the time. I might decide that I’m not going to follow this person, or I’m not going to go cited guide because I really want to learn about this area, and I really want to develop some new skills. Sometimes it’s also about priority. For instance, if you need to be somewhere as fast as possible whilst having a conversation, it might be perfectly fine to go guided travel because you probably already know the layout of the environment. Even sighted people do things differently depending on what their priorities are and how they want to do it.
I believe the problem is that a lot of blind people act like they want everyone there to be blind. Well, that is exactly like me saying that everyone who is only blind should be deaf-blind. The problem is that when many people in the NFB, as well as many people out of it, say blind people, they only think of and refer to people who are just blind and have everything else that meet societal expectations. They sometimes forget how diverse the blind population can be. If I said a sighted person, I could be referring to a sighted person with autism, a sighted deaf person, a sighted wheelchair user, etc. The same should apply if I said a blind person. Some blind people want other blind people to experience what they could never have. Actually, some people have started thinking about this because it is common for hearing loss to deteriorate with age. Also, some people lose their ability to know in which directions sounds are coming from, whether due to allergies, migraines, or what have you….
That is why I value Helen Keler’s philosophy more, because she knew what it was like from the inside. I was not allowed to have an SSP at several NFB-sponsored activities, and whenever I attempted to use guided travel, someone would come up, I do not know who, and, gently but firmly, separate me. I got lost numerous times because of that, plus I could not hear the crowd in a noisy environment, or I might hear them, but it would later turn out that I would be following the wrong one. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, so I had no way to call someone for help. Some might say I was lazy and did not want to try hard enough, but as I grew older I was able to justify my need for additional accommodations on the basis of having severe hearing loss, especially around 2013 and on. When I discovered HKNC, it was like a whole new world has sprung up before me with a number of countless possibilities. I know that the NFB has been changing in the last ten years, and that the Deaf-Blind Division has been created, but frankly, I would not deal with them until they can prove to me that they really want to accommodate me; not only for the blindness, but for the severe hearing loss I have, as well. It is not just about me. It is about my fellow deaf-blind friends, too.
I don’t know if I can ever have completely positive relationships with other sighted people, or even blind people, but I want that for other blind and deaf-blind people. I want them to be integrated in ways I might never be able to have. I want them to be able to meet sighted people who believe that blind and or deaf-blind people could never have a job, and then have a meaningful and equal relationship with that person even though I can’t do it. My emotional feelings toward sighted people in general, as well as some blind people, and toward the whole situation basically make that impossible, but I’m glad that other people don’t share those feelings, and I don’t think they should. Logically, my feelings aren’t what I think.
Sometimes, blind people do need to be reminded that Deafness and other disabilities affect how you do things, but I think the key point they are making is that BLINDNESS itself does not create dependence. And yes, sometimes that can come off as a little tone-deaf when they are dealing with people with other disabilities. But it is all attitude and all problem-solving to figure out what will work for you. You can try different things, be open to new ideas and be a CAN do person, or you can make excuses, say no to everything and be a CANNOT do person. Not everyone is going to be able to do everything by themselves all the time, and I do not think anyone expects that, but I think they wants you to at least entertain the possibility, play around and experiment with it, and see how far you can go.
This is a very interesting perspective of blindness. When someone is blind, it does not make basic tasks impressive, when someone is deaf, it does not make basic tasks impressive, but because I do not understand what it is like to be both, it makes me think basic tasks are impressive, even know it is just combining 2 things that are not impressive. That is very strange. The lack of having experience is definitely a the leading factor for different mindsets. I know you performing basic tasks is not impressive, but the lack of experience makes it hard to think outside the box. If I could not do basic tasks extremely well, I would not have been able to go on the internet and share my story, so it is very hard to think about what someone has done and then use that to say, oh, well because they did this, then everything else before that must be easy to them. Instead of using what we have seen you do, we use the lack of our own experience to determine what is and is not impressive or easy for you.
So, to drive my point home, I might blow the whistle by recording what goes on at these training centres and take a vow of silence and only communicate in sign language. Or, I might just do an expose on them. How, I know not, but I swear I will do it some day.

In the Dark..a blessing or a curse?

Whenever I am talking about blind people, I am using that as a term not only to describe the obvious, but to include those who have multiple disabilities that have blindness as the primary disability intersectionally. Comments will be surrounded by asterisks within the blockquoted text.

Since I couldn’t travel to New York City in order to attend the protest against CW’s newest show In The Dark, I thought I’d use social media to highlight exactly why this show is disgusting and problematic, and why it should be boycotted. I don’t think a blind actress should replace a sighted actress at all in this instance; I think the entire show should be obliterated. Not only is yet another disabled character being played by someone without a disability, but the entire synopsis is degrading. I took the time to sit down with a friend while she described the 3 minute and 30 second trailer for this show, and these are the observations I made:

  1. The trailer for a show about a blind girl is not audio described… you think about it and tell me what the problem is, the irony.
    *Well, not only is it lacking in audio description, but deaf-blind people can’t access it because it doesn’t have captioning in Braille. We miss out on a lot of films and TV shows because of this.*
  2. The actress feels faces, which is just about the most irritating stereotype that exists surrounding the blind. In case you didn’t know, we don’t do that. It’s weird, and we possess a lot more social competency and awareness than you give us credit for. This stereotype is almost as infuriating as the belief that we are all depressed, helpless losers with no lives. Oh wait… CW has that covered too…
    *Actually, some, not all, blind people do this. I know some deaf-blind people who feel other people’s faces, and some blind people in other countries might do this as well.*
  3. In the Dark portrays the blind girl as a depressed, helpless loser with no life. She just sits around all day, complains, wallows in self-pity, yells at her guide dog, eats a ton of unhealthy food, drinks a lot, and smokes cigarettes. Clearly, she is blind, and can’t aspire to anything else. Blindness symbolizes the end to all happiness and success, right CW? Thank you for further reinforcing the burden mentality, the idea that only a freak occurrence can save us from ourselves. God forbid we’re content, responsible, self-sufficient, and educated.
    *It is true that blindness is the number one most feared disability compared to other disabilities, but no disability is better than the other. Anybody can have a depressing life that is not related to blindness at all and not have any willingness to succeed, so blind people certainly have nothing to do with it. Yes, it’s harder when you have a lot of challenges, such as having a secondary disability or mental health issues, but at least we’re trying to overcome them. Tell me if the common person is able to differentiate between flawed personalities versus blindness characteristics.*
  4. The actress flails a cane around like a child with a baseball bat, or any new toy, because, let’s be real, to her, it is only a cool toy. This is not representative of a mobility tool, nor proper technique. It’s embarrassing. We do not navigate by wildly thrashing our canes around until we find something. Orientation and mobility skills take years to learn. This little show the actress puts on is disgraceful. This also applies to how she works her guide dog. She does not work him properly because, well, SHE IS NOT BLIND!
    *This is why we need genuine performers with the minority or characteristics that deviates from the social norm being represented. If you want to portray an African American, don’t hire a white person who dyes their skin black. Similarly, don’t hire a woman dressed as a man to portray a transgender man! So yes, working with blind people can help tone down the techniques so that it doesn’t seem so overly exaggerated. But truth is, people say that professional blind performers need so many accommodations it becomes a burden… that’s a load of bull! Still, people would say the show was too boring if it didn’t have all these exaggerations.*
  5. In the first few seconds of the trailer, she immediately knocks something over. While we do find ourselves in a fair share of accidents, spills, and so forth, we are not clumsy idiots. We make human errors just like anyone else. It’s disturbing that the first thing CW wants its audience to watch in the trailer is a blind person making a mess.
    *Everybody makes mistakes, and anybody can be a total cluts. Taking away senses doesn’t reduce cognition or heighten other senses, in most cases, but remember that she was supposed to be drunk in the first place. So, blind people who drank would most certainly knock things over.*
  6. The blind girl is incredibly rude, and purposely uses her blindness to push her way to the front of a line. Watch out everyone, I’m ruthless. I’m blind, so I’m not capable of waiting my turn. Blind people are an impatient species with no compassion. Give me a break!
    *Many blind people have entitlement issues, and in fact, many people in other minorities have this problem. Impatience and lack of tolerance is partly to blame. Yes, we don’t want to act like we’re better than you, we just want equal rights as you. We can do this by educating, not demanding.*
  7. The desperate blind sweep with her arms? Really? We don’t have to feel our way around our own houses. We are intelligent enough to know where everything is. Then again, she is drunk all the time, so maybe I should cut the girl some slack.
    *Why repeat yourself? This is a lot like the point where blind people knock things over. We have good proprioception, and if sighted people could just stop being so light-dependent for a few days, they, too, can develop body coordination. It’s not a superhuman ability to know when we’re home just by feeling the turns of a vehicle, although I am a transhumanist and advocate for enhanced sensory augmentation. We set things up so we know where they are, and we think about what we are going to do before we do them. Sighted people just look and do without thinking. This is why I do not like it when they move things around without me knowing, or leave doors open where I can get a prapfall.*
  8. Wow! We go from being incapable of having sex in the public opinion, to being utterly promiscuous, because it’s impossible for us to enjoy the same things as our nondisabled peers, we have to fall under one extreme or the other. CW has managed to fetishize blind women to do us the honor of overcompensating for low expectations. Yes, we like sex. No, we will not sleep with everything that moves like this girl. We have standards, too.
    *This is very flawed, especially since society sees people with disabilities as being entirely sexless, and yes, that may be true to some extent, but that is not always the case. In fact, there is a lot of concern that blind women are at greater risk for sexual assault. And, it is common for them to date and have sex with other blind people.*
  9. The blind girl only has 2 friends. But wait… plot twist: one of them dies. I can promise you that most of us have more than 2 friends, because we are fully functional members of society who can socialize. Add a zero or two to that number of friends and CW may be slightly more accurate.
    *Having many disabilities, or having things that do not pertain to a disability, can make it hard for people to socialise, so we are not all airheads and bimbos, or social butterflies.*
  10. The blind girl makes eye contact with everyone. Now, while we are able to look in the direction of the person talking to us, we cannot make full eye contact, based on the fact that we are, you know, blind. Eye contact is something that we physically cannot give.
    *Of course blind people can, and should, give eye contact whenever you can. For people whos hearing is dominant in one ear, they end up turning in that direction, which makes eye contact virtually impossible.*
  11. The blind girl has a stereotypical job; she helps out at a guide dog school. This is probably because blind people can only pursue careers in blindness-related fields. They are unable and unwilling to work in mainstream positions, or be integrated into communities at large. We enjoy subminimum wages, sheltered workshops, and blindness-related fields. Couldn’t she at least work as a masseuse?
    *This is true of any minority group, and blind people are certainly no exception. Vocational rehabilitation agencies probably deflected any dreams of blind aspiring performers that they would never succeed. Besides, blind people can become entrepreneurs, and there should be no shame in it as long as it is an honest job.*

All in all, the creators of In the Dark condone, and praise, ableism at its finest.

They degrade the disabled community by casting a sighted actress who can’t use a cane, but gives consistent eye contact. She enforces pre-existing stereotypes, and couldn’t care less as long as she gets a pay cheque. This is a pathetic excuse for a disabled main character. Blind people are not depressed, we have way more than two friends, and, shocker, we don’t cut lines and cheat.
*This is why there is this thing called insporational porn. It’s not a surprise that 70% of the nation’s blindness population is unemployed compared to about 5%, which is just really too bad because blind people have talents that go beyond using things technology-related, and I mean technology as in computers, not medicine, which is another existing stereotype. Sighted people often use wheelchairs to cut lines at airports, and some also try to pass their pets as service animals. So, you’ve got a problem with people taking advantage of our disabilities to get your way? If you want a really exciting show, get yourself a cast of real blind people who do not feel degraded to be in such a flawed premise to work together in solveing a mystery or something, but seriously….who’d want to watch a boring show if the sighted actress were perfect in every way. Yes, some blind people have done some of these things that were contradicted. Sheltered, ruthless, friendless, promiscuous, sexless, face-feeling, depressed and drugged couch potatoes with no life. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and in fact, most of us aren’t. We have more important things to worry about here than quibble about things we haven’t yet watched in its entirety and are fussing over without cause.
So, bottom line is, stop being such a baby and go watch the show. Then you won’t come off sounding like an idiot.*

My Impressions on Bullying and Harassment

When you hear about bullying or harassment, what emotions do you immediately feel? It can vary widely based on your schemas and experiences. Regardless, you should know what’s happening by peering into the points of view of others that differ from your own. How and why this happens will be described to the best of knowledge below.
First, bullying and harassment are not the same thing, although they may share similar meanings. Bullying refers to the constant act of picking on people who are believed to be inferior to the person doing it because they feel they possess a better status or trait than the victim. Things include age,intellect, gender, disability, race and ethnicity or nationality, even socioeconomic classes and more subtle things like microagression, especially in patronising certain individuals in a professional context.
Harassment is a criminal offence when a person continually or repeatedly does something of which the victim has persistently asked and told the harasser to stop. This may be a result of them wanting to stalk the victim for whatever reason, or simply because they insist on doing something the other person didn’t want. This latter type of harassment is more of an indirect form than one that is deliberate. Both are equally devastating, and there has been efforts to criminalise bullying, as well. Nevertheless, there are a broad number of motives as to why one would want to bully and or harass someone else, and I can tell you that there is likely no way I can cover them all.
How bullying and harassment affects a person in the long run depends on several factors of said person. If the person is mentally and emotionally stable, which is to say that they are totally self-confident and they have a positive outlook on their lives, they may feel somewhat impacted, but they would most likely vent and use other forms of expression to talk to other people to insure that the victim was not at fault. Others, however, may not have this kind of reaction, especially with those who have a lower intellect to emotion ratio. These type of people may suffer the most from an attack of a bully. Since they have little to no ability to reason and to think rationally, they often rely on their emotions to express how they feel and sometimes results in self-destructive behaviour. However, it is possible that a person could have their intellect reduced if the bully picked on the same person for an extended period of time. This type of change is called ‘neurosis’. If not treated, the person could end up sharing the traits of someone who would normally be a neurotic (more emotion than intellect). The opposite to neuroticism is psychopathy, which is someone who has more intellect and less emotion. It is also known that children who grow up with abusive parents may become abusive themselves, though they usually learn not to follow in their stead.
The remedies for dealing with a bully depends on the kind of person they are targetting, as well as the bully’s familial background, and possibly other things. you, the victim, are mostly psychopathic, you can find non-physical ways to intimidate the bully and make them submissive if possible. If you are primarily neurotic, however, you may have a harder time standing up to a bully since you would be too submissive, whereas the bully would usually dominate over you. Note that the majority of bullies are acting out of sheer cowardice and ignorance. However, there are things that you can do to help speak up for yourself and realise that there is nothing wrong with you, and that you will pull through. Be sure to address the situation at the micro-level if you can, rather than going all out and going to the macro level. Also, be sure to get plenty of evidence that would be significantly unfavourable to the bully, no matter how hard they would try and convince people that you were bullying them.
Things like mixed martial arts and other forms of sports (physical or mental) can be used to build confidence by stimulating all areas of a person’s brain, allowing for further development of intellect. Examples of when I was bullied or harassed and how I dealt with them are rather hard to find since I was able to get out of most situations. When I was younger, I was often made fun of because of my disabilities of blindness and severe hearing loss–even by people in the blind community! Some sighted children would make me bump into things, and they would laugh and taunt me. However, I did not experience a lot of emotions except for sadness and being upset in general. So, I thought of inflicting the same pain that the bully did to me, but I think that is normally not the best thing to do; I sometimes felt it would have been the right thing to do, because I wanted them to hurt just as they had hurt me. However, the line between wanting justice and revenge become blurred, and sometimes, whether you want to give someone a taste of their own medicine, two wrongs don’t always make a right. And, as aforementioned, hurting a bully first would be consider taking too big of a step… it should only be used if nothing else works.
The problem in many schools today is that both the bully and the victim end up getting suspension time because they have a zero tolerance policy for any physical violence. However, the law does authorise anyone to act in self-defence if the situation warranted it, and if the means of self-defence was proportionate to the offence As an example, you cannot choke someone to the point of near death simply because they punched you a few times. However, the attitude must always be, ‘I do not want to fight, period.’ You should always maintain this attitude even if others will call you chicken or coward These are all forms of peer pressure used to get you to conform to a dominant culture, and possibly, at the subconscious level, because they want to get you in trouble for fighting with them.
In conclusion, bullies often have fears of their own. Fear and lack of understanding makes us do strange and irrational things. Nobody can control how they feel inside, but anybody can choose how to respond to these emotions. Knowing this can help you to a great extent to gain positive power to defend yourself rationally. As usual, new methods are continually being invented by psychologists and sociologists, as well as politicians and other legal personelle. All these things will hopefully prevent bullying and harassment. This kind of behaviour cannot only occur in children, but more often than not, it can just as well happen with adults, too, especially if they do not agree with one another on any given situation and who has no ability to control their anger and frustration. The best thing that can be done is to realise who will be their true friends and who to stay away from. Visit the Stop Bullying web site for more information, and remember that there is always help. Simply dial +1(800) 275-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Two-one-one Info also provides resources for immediate need.
As always, stay safe!