The coronavirus – creeping onto the world’s scene only a few short months ago and then exploding into our day-to-day lives. Every day we hear about the impact of corona and COVID-19 on – well, almost everyone. But how is it affecting disabled individuals? Today on Blind Abilities we explore just how blind and visually impaired individuals have experienced and adapted to corona and COVID-19.
In our previous episodes, we have circumnavigated the world, from Australia to Malaysia-
My name is Elise Lonsdale, and I’m from Northern Australia.
This is Chee Chau, from Malaysia.
Hi, my name’s Steve, and I’m from England.
-Trinidad and Tobago-
In this, the tenth episode in our series Around the World With COVID-19 From a Blindness Perspective, we come back to the United States of America-
Brooklyn Rodden Kelly:
Our guest today is Jeff Bazer. Jeff works for Vispero, where he is the south central Regional Sales Director. Jeff shares with us his experience with the coronavirus and COVID-19 in his home state of South Carolina – its impact on his company, its impact on him as a citizen of South Carolina, and on him as a blind individual. Now, please welcome our guest, Jeff Bazer.
American Newscaster (female):
-start today with breaking news. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control – DHEC – has now reported the first confirmed death of the coronavirus in our state.
American Newscaster (female) 2:
State health officials have released the latest update on COVID-19 cases – 113 new cases, bringing the total number to 3319 cases-
American Newscaster (female) 3:
-528 new cases, and seven additional deaths, bringing the death total to 575 people since March.
American Newscaster (female) 4:
It’s another record-breaking day in South Carolina. The health agency continues to warn South Carolina residents to practice social distancing and wear face coverings in public.
American Newscaster (female) 5:
Another 1000 people tested positive for the virus yesterday. South Carolina is now considered a hotspot for coronavirus cases, trailing only Arizona and Florida in cases per population this month.
Hello, I’m Jeff Bazer, I’m a sales representative at Vispero and Freedom Scientific, and I have a sales territory in the south central part of the United States. COVID-19, you know, one of the things that I’ve often thought about was what if this pandemic had occurred at a time when we didn’t have access to the internet? We couldn’t listen to our favorite podcasts, we couldn’t get on a Zoom and, you know, talk with all our friends, and have our children educated that way, and everything else that we’ve been able to do on our smartphones or computers because we haven’t been able to see folks in person. So if there’s a silver lining here at all, maybe that’s it – that because COVID-19 chose the time it did to visit us all around the world, at least we had technology to rely on, so that we didn’t drive ourselves and everybody around us crazy, right? Oh, boy.
This is really something else, I’ll just let you know a little bit about how this has affected me from an employment standpoint but then tell you a lot more about family and just a blindness perspective in general, because we’ve all had to retool, haven’t we, and all just come up with new ways and new plans of doing things. So I just want to let you know first, Vispero and Freedom Scientific, it’s actually turned out so far to be not so bad as far as my own employment stands. You know, I really appreciate how our company has taken things and what we’ve done, but also just from the standpoint of how we’ve continued to conduct business – we were at CSUN in the middle of March when this all started, and you know, we really thought at that point, “Are we even going to have CSUN?” Because this was when, you know, lots of other things were all being cancelled so quickly – in fact, the week of the CSUN conference was when the NBA first said, “Nope, we are cancelling the season,” and then the other major sports followed suit. So we almost thought that that was going to happen to the conference too, there, C-S-U-N, but it did not – they went on, and had it, and I think as the week went on more people thought, “You know, this is just a place where we probably don’t need to be. We need to go home.” And California was beginning to shut down that very week, too. So, on Friday the 13th was when I came home, and I have not travelled since. I think, you know, that’s the case with a lot of folks who travelled for work before, that just hasn’t happened for lots of us, and I’m not sure when I will again. So, I’m so thankful that business has continued, for all of us – you know, you folks listening here too, we have figured out ways to do it, but it’s not been easy, that’s for sure.
One of the things that happened at Vispero right away, in kind of our haste to figure out, well, what are we going to do, and how are we going to conduct business now, we made sure that anybody who was displaced from their school, from campus, from their job, still had access to our software – JAWS ZoomText Fusion – and the way we did that is we provided it for free online, so all you had to do was just go download the version that you wanted, install it on any machine, and basically with an email address you were back up and running. We just knew that we needed to do something like that, because little did we know what was happening to all of you – where you were going to work from, or try to conduct school from, your classes that is and everything else, so we just thought the easiest thing to do was to make sure that we did our part in making sure that you were covered and you didn’t have to worry about whosever machine you were using that you could still get your AT software on it. I think big moves like that are what a lot of companies and a lot of families and a lot of all of us have had to do in this time of COVID-19, we’ve had to step back and we’ve had to say, “How are we going to make it through, what are we going to do, how are we going to make it work best?”
I’ve had to do a lot of that as well, I’ve got a couple of young children here in South Carolina with me, and my ex-wife and I had to figure out, so, okay, they’re not in school, we’ve got to do distance learning, how are we going to do that? And from a blindness perspective that was a little tough because there were certain things they were doing online that they needed sighted assistance, or that we needed sighted assistance for to help them. And so, thankfully, my ex-wife has quite a social media hype, and we were able to find people to help us help our children pretty quickly. That all actually worked out. What’s been a little tougher is over the summer here, because a lot of camps have been cancelled, bible schools and things like that, that we normally have our kids involved in, now the challenge has been trying to keep them entertained so they’re not jumping off beds and getting crazy in the next room while I’m trying to work or their mother is trying to work as well – we’re doing everything from home now, you know? It’s been tough to explain to them too, you know, my two here are 7 and 10, and trying to explain what COVID-19 is and the fact that we all now have to be so careful around each other, and that people- some people are getting very sick, some people are dying, and we all have to do our part to really just help each other, and the way we do that is to steer clear of each other a whole lot more. That’s hard for them to understand, of course – it’s hard for all of us to understand, I think, and so many people- it seems like whoever you talk to has a different opinion on how they want to do it, you know, how much social distancing they think they really need to do, whether they need to wear a mask. These opinions are from one end of the scale to the other, it seems like.
American Newscaster (male):
As those numbers continue to go up, the governor urging people to practice social distancing and use face masks when out in the public.
Dr. Linda Bell:
Today, I am more concerned about COVID-19 in South Carolina than I have ever been before.
American Newscaster (female) 3:
Dr. Linda Bell, epidemiologist, announced 528 new cases of COVID-19, and seven additional deaths in the state, bringing the death total to 575 people since March.
So, you know, it’s amazing what’s happened, I’m sure that I’m saying a lot of familiar things, but I want to tell you a couple of things that I’ve noticed here just recently that are a little bit different, and I think these are unique to blind folks. The first one I want to tell you about is I was at my favorite sandwich shop here recently, and we were trying to order our food. Now, the way the restaurants are configured now, you know, everything’s in a different place, and there’s actually a table that sits between the counter and where you order now so that you social distance and you’re a little further away. Well, that’s tougher to hear the person, it’s tougher to interact for somebody like myself, who’s totally blind, you know, I have to go all on being able to listen, and some people just don’t want to get very close, you know, they want to steer clear, and so that whole interpersonal aspect of things is I think quite a bit tougher sometimes from a blindness perspective, because if somebody’s not going to get close to you you’re not going to be able to hear them very well, and you certainly can’t see them shaking their head. That’s been tough to deal with.
Another thing that happened is I was in a drive-through – came up to the window, and normally folks are great, you know, they’ll start to hand me my food once they realize, “Oh, I guess he can’t see!” We don’t really have time for that whole conversation in the drive-through, “Oh, let me give you a little warning, I’m blind, and can you please assist?” So, what happens now, with COVID-19, is this contactless drive-through thing’s going on, and they’ll just hold out the container, and you take your food out of the container. And I certainly did not realize that at first, that was tough! It’s just the point that people don’t want to have a lot of contact with you sometimes, and I think that really hits home for us folks who are blind, who maybe we didn’t even realize it before, but once a sighted person realized that we couldn’t see them and didn’t necessarily know what was going on they might compensate for that just automatically – might not even realize it themself and we might not either. And so that’s just thought of a lot differently now, I think, with where we are.
One of the things that I really got used to prior to COVID-19 was minimal time to get an Uber or Lyft to my house, and I’m talking seven minutes at the most, sometimes it could be five or six minutes. When COVID-19 started, it wasn’t so bad right away, I mean, for the first month or so everything was fine. But the longer it went on, the longer it took to get an Uber or Lyft, and this is how I get to my children’s house to pick them up, and- I mean, I have come to rely on Uber and Lyft so much both here at my house but also when I travel to other cities all around the country as well. I think as blind people we’ve gotten so spoiled, because usually, unless you’re in a real rural area a long ways out, it just does not take long to get an Uber or Lyft at all, maybe 10 minutes at the most, and sometimes as little as three or four minutes. And so this has made a huge difference as far as that goes, I’m waiting sometimes now 20 to 25 minutes, and it’s really tough – and I know that there’s a lot of concerns with drivers about safety, and, you know, PPE, and all these other things that they really have to concern themselves with, so it’s not that I feel like I’m blaming the drivers and that there’s, you know, a lot less drivers that are out there, but it is certainly something as a blind person that’s become a little frustrating because it used to be wherever you wanted to go you could get a ride quickly, and now that’s a whole lot more of an issue, and you have to plan ahead, and I’m not always the best planner, so when I want to go somewhere, I’ve come to rely on that 5 to 10 minute block and now it’s at least 20, sometimes less, but that’s tough. That’s tough to get used to.
I don’t know if that sounds familiar to any of you, but there you have my opinion. I guess in final I just want to tell everybody that, hey, I’m thinking about you, I certainly hope you’re staying safe and well, if there’s anything I can do to assist – you know, just a couple of blind people getting together, talking things through, I certainly would. Best of luck to all of you, and again, everybody please take care.
American Newscaster (female) 6:
A new travel advisory is impacting the Carolinas; the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have now issued an order for a handful of states, including South Carolina – so what this means is that anybody who travels from those states, you have got to quarantine for 14 days if you enter that area of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
Governor Henry McMaster:
You all, thank you for coming. This concerns another executive order that we call the last call to help reduce the rapid transition of coronavirus, particularly among young adults congregating in bars and restaurants at night. This executive order will prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages in all South Carolina restaurants and bars after 11 p.m. starting tomorrow night, Saturday, July 11th, 2020, and will stay in place, nightly, until further notice. Many of the young people in our state as well as around the country seem not to be taking the virus as seriously as they should, and we hope that this will help all of us, particularly the younger generations, to realize just how serious this virus is and how much is at stake if we don’t see these infection rates start dropping.
We’d like to thank Jeff for sharing his perspective on corona and COVID-19 in the state of South Carolina. Be sure to tune in for more episodes in our series. And from all of us here at Blind Abilities, through these challenging times, to you, your family, and friends, stay well, stay informed, and stay strong. Thank you so much for listening, and have a great day.
[Music] [Transition noise] –
When we share
-What we see
-Through each other’s eyes…
[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]
…We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on Twitter @BlindAbilities. Download our app from the app store Blind Abilities, that’s two words, or send us an email at email@example.com. Thanks for listening.
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