JOHN GASSMAN: In FSCast Episode No. 165, Vispero’s JAWS private beta manager, Rosemary Kleske, will discuss one of her favorite JAWS features. Elly Du Pre is the Director of Beyond Vision Loss in Florida. She has some amazing stories and will share some of them with us. George Tice is a veteran of Desert Storm. He lost his sight in 2017. But as you’ll soon hear, he never gives up. All of that and more coming up on FSCast.
LARRY GASSMAN: Hi, everybody. Larry and John Gassman with you. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year. Time to dive into 2019 with another FS podcast. And we have lots to talk about. Before we do anything, we want to let you know how you can reach the podcast. You can do that in a couple of ways. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org; or also by way of the listener line, and that’s (727) 803-8000 and extension 1010.. Again, that’s
The first exciting thing that’s happening in 2019 is the return of the Freedom Scientific Webinars. And for those of you who have enjoyed the training sessions over the many years, you’ll be glad to know that they are returning. And on January 17 the training team will outline what they have in store for 2019. So you can go up on the Freedom Scientific website and register for that. If January 17th has come and gone, and you missed the actual webinar, don’t worry about it. It will be posted on the Freedom Scientific website. The specific address is FreedomScientific.com/training.
And one thing I think it’s very important to address is the fact that, in the past, we have had paid webinars, and we’ve had free webinars. From this point going forward, there will be no cost associated with the webinars. They will be free. Freedom Scientific/Vispero is very happy to be able to do this for all of you. And I think, in fact I know because I’ve seen some of the topics going forward, that there’s going to be some wonderful things that you will want to take advantage of with regard to webinars in 2019.
JOHN: Now, last month, Larry, you teased everybody about how they could interact with the podcast in a very special feature.
LARRY: I did. And we’ll show you an example of that in just a moment. But everybody has their favorite JAWS feature. For those of you who work, for those of you who are at home, you use JAWS on a daily basis, I know. And so there are features that you love to use. That’s what we’re about. We’re going to call it JAWS Byte. We’re going to keep calling it that. It was used several years ago. Jonathan Mosen used it, as well. And so what we would like you to do is to come up with your favorite JAWS features and then either email them to us, or call us on the phone number that we gave you a little earlier, and tell us about your JAWS feature.
JOHN: You can send us an MP3 file. Keep it fairly brief.
JOHN: And if it’s really, really good, and if we like it a lot, we will use it on the show. We’ll contact you in advance.
LARRY: Yeah, right. So that’s what you can do. Find your favorite feature and then let us know what it is. And you may be heard at some point on FSCast.
LARRY: Those of us who beta test for Vispero know the name Rosemary Kleske very well. We’ve had conversations with her, seemingly forever. And John and I are among four members of our family who share the birthday January 2nd. We have another dozen friends from our lives that share that birthday. And included as one of our friends is Rosemary Kleske, who also shares that birthday.
Rosemary, we welcome you to FSCast. We’ve never talked before until now. We’ve emailed plenty of times over the years. Tell us a little bit about how you became involved with Freedom Scientific.
ROSEMARY KLESKE: Okay. Well, hello. I have been with Freedom Scientific or Vispero since the Henter-Joyce days. I came on in March of 1999, believe it or not. And I came from a completely different world. I had never had any training or experience with computers. Believe it or not, I was an orientation and mobility specialist in the area. There were a lot of people moving to the region, to the city of St. Pete, because of Henter-Joyce hiring lots of blind testers and developers and technical support folks, which is great. And they would call the agency that I worked for and say, “We need an O&M specialist because we have somebody new that needs to learn the way to the office and around the office.”
And so I knew a lot of people initially. I knew Ted Henter casually through shared events and that kind of thing. So he knew who I was, I think vaguely. And one of my clients who had moved there said, “We need people. I think you’d be a great tester. You kind of know the blindness world. You know Braille from your education. Why don’t you apply?” And I said, “You’re crazy. I don’t know anything about computers.” And he said, “We’ll teach you.” And one thing led to another, and here I am. I love it. I absolutely love it. And I was hired on as a tester. And so I wear two hats. One is as a software test technician, and one is as beta program manager.
LARRY: Was a beta testing program in existence before you became the manager?
ROSEMARY: I sort of fell into it. The beta testing program falls under the auspices of the test department. There was a JAWS beta program. It was a small and intimate, bit of a fledgling process. And they needed someone to help with that. And over the years I just sort of fell into it and became the Grand Poobah of beta testing.
LARRY: Now, are you doing the same thing for ZoomText and Fusion, as well? Or do they have different people handling those?
ROSEMARY: No, I do all of the beta needs for the company.
LARRY: Rosemary, you’ve tested JAWS for over 20 years. Tell us something about JAWS that you use over and over again in your work.
ROSEMARY: Well, I have to say my favorite feature with JAWS is Virtualize Window. It’s the INSERT+ALT+W. I use it all the time. I love it. I always say, if they ever propose getting rid of it, I will pitch a fit because I need it. Basically, as a tester, anytime a long dialog comes up, or if I’m testing in a different language that’s not my native language, it’s very hard to type all that out on a bug record. So I can use Virtualize Window, bring up that dialog’s text, and copy-and-paste it into my bug report. So it saves me a lot of time, and it’s much more accurate for developers reading my report.
LARRY: Rosemary, we want to thank you for spending a few minutes with us on FSCast and for all of the work that you have done over the past several years to make JAWS such a successful piece of software, starting with the beta and ending with the release of the eventual product.
ROSEMARY: Thank you, and it’s been my pleasure. So I guess I’ll tell you Happy Birthday.
LARRY & JOHN: Thank you, and Happy Birthday to you, too. Thank you very much.
ROSEMARY: Take care, you guys. Bye.
LARRY: Okay. Bye-bye. So let’s talk a bit about why and what this is, how it can be used by you. Let’s say you’re working, and it’s time to upgrade your SMAs. Gee, that sounds familiar. Didn’t a lot of us just do that? But you need to capture everything about that license so that it’s very clear to your manager or IT person specifically about what you need in the future regarding JAWS or Fusion.
Let’s show you an example. Let me go to the JAWS window. We’re going to use Ava as the voice. We could use any number of voices, but we’ll use Ava for this time round. Now, there are a couple of ways to find this keystroke. You could do the JAWS layered keystroke by doing INSERT+SPACE+J.
JAWS VOICE: Search for edit.
LARRY: And now I’m going to type in “virtual window” because maybe I don’t know the keystroke. So we’ll type in “V‑I‑R‑T‑U‑A‑L window.”
JAWS VOICE: Virtual window.
LARRY: And tab once.
JAWS VOICE: Virtualize window, ALT+JAWSKEY+W heading level three link.
LARRY: And then if you want to read more about it.
JAWS VOICE: This keystroke displays the text in the current window in the virtual viewer. You can then select the text and copy-and-paste it to another application such as an email message. This is especially useful in error dialog boxes.
LARRY: So now we know the keystroke, JAWSKEY+ALT+W. So now we can actually go to the example that we have constructed, and it has to do with the JAWS About box. Now, because I have my JAWS in the system tray, I can press JAWSKEY+J, and it takes me right to the Jaws window.
JAWS VOICE: JAWS context menu. Option submenu. To navigate, press up or down arrow.
LARRY: We’ll hit “A” for about.
JAWS VOICE: Leaving menus. About JAWS dialog. JAWS: Job Access With Speech, Professional Edition Version 2019.
LARRY: Okay. So we’re at the present version. It’s actually a beta version. Now, remember, I haven’t used the hotkey to virtualize the window yet. I’m just tabbing around the box.
JAWS VOICE: Serial number, read-only edit. Locking code, read-only edit. Software maintenance agreement. Upgrades remaining. Remote access disabled. Tandem direct disabled. Authorized using a local JAWS ILM key. Display device, read-only edit. Okay button.
LARRY: Okay. So you see all of these things in your particular copy of JAWS, but you’re seeing all of these items in fields. You’re not seeing them, for instance, in a dialog box where you can arrow up and down and maybe see them a little easier. And you can’t copy them in that present form anywhere unless you use the virtualize window. So let’s use the hotkey to virtualize the window. Let’s use JAWSKEY+ALT+W.
JAWS VOICE: Virtualizing window about JAWS.
LARRY: Now, what it does, it puts it in a dialog box so that all you have to do is arrow up and down.
JAWS VOICE: JAWS. Okay. Job Access With Speech, Professional Edition, Version 2019. Serial number.
LARRY: All of those items we just tabbed through are in a great big dialog box.
JAWS VOICE: Locking code. Software maintenance agreement. Upgrades remaining. Remote access. Tandem direct. Authorized using a local JAWS ILM key. Display device.
LARRY: It’s all in a dialog box. You can now take it – I just copied it all, copied it to the clipboard. And if you don’t really want all of it, if you just want a line or two of it, for instance maybe just the part that is specific to, say, an SMA, which tells which version of JAWS you actually have running at the time, you can just copy that line. You don’t have to copy the whole segment of speech.
But let’s just say we did. Now, in order to move it anywhere, for instance, if I wanted to move this into an email, you have to push Escape to get out of the virtual window. Okay. Now you’re out of the virtual window, and that message is still on your clipboard so you could move it to an email. You could address the email, tab over to the body of the email, paste it in with CONTROL+V, and all of that is there in your email. Now you can make an introductory little message saying, “I realize that we’re going to go to another version of JAWS next year. Here’s where we are this year.” And you send it off to your manager or your boss, whomever it might be. So this eliminates paraphrasing. All of what you just sent to your boss is exactly what was in that About box, which eliminates confusion. And again, the keystroke is JAWSKEY+ALT+W. And by the way, this keystroke works in JAWS. It also works in Fusion.
Now, just to be clear, you can use this function for more than just checking out where you are with regard to your JAWS SMA. I use it all the time at work, for instance, because I do a lot of work on pages to check for errors, to check to see how things are running, to see what I can do to help make the experience even better for the people who work where I work. And so sometimes I’ll see an error on a page, and I may not be getting all the information that I need by just arrowing up and down. I can find that error, and I can also open up this dialog box with JAWSKEY+ALT+W, and it often gives me more information than I otherwise would have received. And I can take it, put it in email, and send it off to my manager or, in most cases, to somebody working with JAWS Scripts to help program, et cetera. And we can make it a better experience for everybody else based on the information I’m able to give them. So a terrific keystroke to use. Use it in your future. Make it a part of your JAWS/Fusion toolbox.
LARRY: We’re very happy to have with us on FSCast today Elly Du Pre. And Elly has been in the assistive technology field for a number of years. She’s heavily involved with BeyondVisionLoss.org, the website and the group. She also is a board member and treasurer of the Academy of Certification of Vision Rehab and Education Professionals. And she’ll talk more about all of those areas of her life. She’s a sighted individual and has worked with blind people for a number of years. Elly, thank you for joining us today, and welcome to FSCast.
ELLY DU PRE: Hey. How are you guys doing?
LARRY: We’re fine. How are you?
ELLY: I’m great.
LARRY: Elly, tell us a little bit about how you got started in the technology field.
ELLY: I actually started in this field as an orientation and mobility specialist. And I ended up, after working in Boston for a while, I ended up in Miami at the Miami Lighthouse. Slowly over time I became the coordinator of all the programs there. I learned more about administration. I got a degree in administration. And then a job opened up in Fort Lauderdale, which isn’t that far from Miami. I ended up becoming the executive director there. And after doing that for four years, I thought, you know, I really – I’m actually not ready to be an administrator in this way, and I don’t like it.
And I went back to Miami Lighthouse, and they were just starting the computer training program then, which in 1992 there wasn’t a whole lot of computer stuff going on yet for blind people. And so my old boss, who hired me back, said, “You’re going to have to be the director of the Vocational Training Unit,” he called it. So I talked to the guy who was doing the teaching, and I said, “What am I going to do to learn about this stuff?” because I had never even touched a computer. And so he gave me some books on Microsoft Word and on DOS, and I went home, and I spent the whole weekend reading them and putting together some lesson plans because he was going on vacation the next week. And so that’s how I got into it.
JOHN: Wow. So you really experienced baptism by fire, didn’t you.
ELLY: You’re not kidding. I had to sink or swim. Or swim or sink. But I liked it. I really liked it.
LARRY: Was this early ‘90s?
ELLY: Yeah, I did it from ‘92 to ‘98, and that’s when I went to work for the – I wanted to see what – I had never worked in a for-profit before, and I just wanted the experience because I was teaching blind people about getting jobs. So I went and got – I ended up working for four years in a for-profit disability insurance company in Maine. And I used the keystrokes and did really well.
LARRY: Now, had you ever been around blind people prior to this?
ELLY: I had never actually been around any blind people until I went to Boston College to become an orientation mobility specialist in 1970. I got out of college, and I went there to become a mobility instructor. And I knew I wanted to do that from the time I was 12. I wanted to work, well, what I really did was I read a book about a boy who’s blinded, and he ends up getting a dog guide.
So I wrote to the Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey, and said, oh, I had read this book, and I was so excited, and I wanted to teach blind people when I grew up and work with the dogs. And they wrote me back; and they said, “Well, we don’t hire women.” But that was the first year that Boston College had this program in teaching people to travel with a white cane. So I just kept the brochure and went to college and stayed in touch with Boston College, and eventually I went there.
LARRY: Now, when you worked in the 1990s, what was the state of accessible technology at that point?
ELLY: There were screen readers and very, very low-fidelity speech synthesizers.
ELLY: And magnification wasn’t that great. The magnification programs weren’t that great yet, either. But they worked. Everything worked. Anything that you were doing, you were always kind of behind because, you know, Microsoft would come up with a new iteration of their software. And before you knew it, it didn’t work with JAWS or anything. You had to wait maybe half a year before it would catch up. So it was still a very great frustration. But, I mean, blind people just loved it. Even though all they had was bulletin boards. They didn’t have an Internet or anything.
ELLY: It was just so popular, and it opened up a whole world for people. And people were getting jobs, even so. They were getting jobs using those crazy, crazy systems.
LARRY: What was the most gratifying element of all of this when you were working with blind people back in those days?
ELLY: I think just seeing people being willing to try something that was that hard to do. It really was hard to do. And people just toughed it out, and they got themselves jobs. And they had to work extremely hard to keep up and to have the telephone talking in one ear and the synthesizer in the other, and try to keep track of everything in DOS.
LARRY: That’s right, it was all DOS.
ELLY: It was a lot. It was a lot. And people who had perhaps been blind their whole lives, who were now 50 or 55, were trying it. And kids, of course, were playing the games and having a wonderful time and just taking to it like water. But one of the most gratifying things, I think, was when I was working with some teenagers. The purpose of their learning the computer partly was to learn how to write a polite letter to a person that you might want to get a job from, or a thank you letter, or things like that. And one day – these kids were all crazy about this band at the time called Color Me Badd.
JOHN: Oh, yeah.
ELLY: And they decided that they wanted to write a letter to Color Me Badd and invite them to come to Miami and have a concert that they could then attend, you know, and meet them. So we talked it all over, and we came up with a strategy, and they brought in one of their CDs. And we looked up the name of the record company. And so we used the computer to figure out a strategy, what was going to be said. And then they made a phone call to the record company in order to see if they would let them talk to the band. And they wrote a letter and explained what they wanted to do and everything.
And I said, “You know, you have to have a fallback because they may not come to Miami. So what do you want as your second option?” They said, “Well, we want to talk to them on the phone.” So they ended up practicing and writing the letter and everything, and then making the phone call to the record company. And they ended up having – Color Me Badd said that they would call. So they gave them the phone number of a room at the Lighthouse where we had a speakerphone. And they said they would talk to the kids for 15 minutes. And they talked to them for an hour because they were having so much fun with the kids.
LARRY: That’s great.
ELLY: It was really super. It was really super.
LARRY: And those kids probably remembered that for the rest of their lives.
ELLY: They’re still remembering it, yeah.
LARRY: They’re still remembering, yeah.
ELLY: Those kids are now 45 years old.
LARRY: Yeah, absolutely.
ELLY: They’re happy.
LARRY: Sure, sure.
ELLY: It’s a happy memory for them.
LARRY: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about BeyondVisionLoss.org and how that came to be.
ELLY: Oh, and I became the executive director of Florida Agencies Serving the Blind. Actually, that wasn’t the name of the organization when I became the executive director. And I started talking to the members, who were all CEOs of the Agencies Serving the Blind in the state of Florida. I said, “We need to rebrand this organization. The website sucks, and Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind is too much to say. It’s too long. And it doesn’t really even talk about what we do, what we really do.”
So we rebranded ourselves, and we ended up shortening the name a little bit, Florida Agencies Serving the Blind. And recognizing that most people don’t want to talk about being blind, we put the tagline “Moving Beyond Vision Loss.” We need the word “blind” in our name because when we speak to legislators in order to advocate for better programming in the state, the legislators want the word “blind.” They don’t want any fancy terminology about low vision or vision loss. The word “blind” is what captures their attention.
As you know, the people who actually have severe vision loss don’t want to ever hear the word “blind,” and especially the ophthalmologists never want to hear the word “blind.” So the tagline has really worked for us because when I’m talking to the ophthalmologists, I talk about us as Moving Beyond Vision Loss. When I talk to legislators, I talk about Florida Agencies Serving the Blind. And the website BeyondVisionLoss has resonated with a lot of people.
LARRY: Now, Elly, you also write a monthly blog dedicated to a blind person. Tell us about that blog.
ELLY: You know, I don’t know if you know this, but one of the people that I interviewed for my blog was the first blind person to sail across an ocean by himself.
LARRY: No, I didn’t know that. Tell us.
ELLY: Yeah. His name is Geoff Hilton-Barber. And I found him in a book that I have that was actually written by one of the CEOs. He was the head of the Lighthouse of Tampa, the Tampa Lighthouse, for, like, 30, 40 years. And he had a hobby of trying to find vignettes and stories about blind people, and he amassed over 400 of them. And he created this book called “Undaunted by Blindness.”
LARRY Oh, that’s a great name.
ELLY: It’s a great book.
ELLY: It’s a very – it’s just little stories. But I have a copy of the book. And when I was trying to put together the blog, I thought, what am I going to write about? Sometimes I won’t know what to write about. I’ll just do, once a month, I’ll do a story on somebody whose birthday is that month. So because of the book “Undaunted by Blindness,” I could figure that out. So I met, came across this guy, Geoff Hilton-Barber. He has a brother who actually also is blind. And he was the first blind person to sail across the ocean.
ELLY: An ocean, which was the Indian Ocean. He went from South Africa to Australia. Actually, he’s an incredible athlete. He’s a world-class runner. He doesn’t just run marathons. He’s run these across the desert in Northern Africa races that go on for six days.
ELLY: And he’s a wonderful tandem biker. He’s done mountain climbing. He’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. He’s just a terrific guy. So I thought, well, I’m going to write a story about this guy, and he lives in South Africa. So I said, well, I really would like to actually interview him. So I happened to know here in Fort Lauderdale two people from South Africa. So I wrote both of them an email, and I said, “Since you’re from South Africa I’m sure you’ll know this guy.” And one of them did.
So she got me in touch with him. I wrote him several questions, and he answered them. And I turned it into a story, along with the research and the pictures that I found on the web. And he went with his – he just trusted his instruments. So when you’re talking about an airline pilot flying overhead, I mean, you think about self-piloting cars nowadays, you know, who knows what the future will have?
ELLY: We may be riding in drones, but the pilot won’t even be in the plane with us.
LARRY: That could be. And there you go, employment for the blind, because the blind person can be the drone driver, too.
ELLY: Well, you know, a truly amazing career that you’d never really think about for a blind person is an astrophysicist.
LARRY: Sure. That would work.
ELLY: And of course they’re studying the stars, but everything they do is information that’s converted into a computer. It’s all math.
LARRY: Right. It certainly would work. Sure.
ELLY: So they can be excellent astrophysicists.
LARRY: You know, it’s amazing what – I was looking at your blog, and I thought to myself, how does this lady find time to write about various subjects on a monthly basis? Because I assume that takes some time to prepare.
ELLY: It does. And I haven’t done it for a few months because I really got completely snowed with our legislative budget requests and a few other things that I’ve been working on. So I haven’t done it for a while. But I have a list of people that have already agreed to be interviewed. So I’ll be getting back into it after the new year.
JOHN: Good thing you work ahead because, if you don’t work ahead, it can drive you nuts.
ELLY: Yeah. And you have to have an idea of what you’re going to do and then just grab some time and do it.
JOHN: Because you don’t want to be staring the next month in the face without having somebody already there.
ELLY: Yeah, I feel bad that I haven’t done it for a few months. But I met George that way.
LARRY: Is that right?
JOHN: Oh, wow.
ELLY: Because George I wrote – what I did was I told my members, I said, “I need pictures of people that you’ve served in order to put them on the website.” And I mostly got pictures that I couldn’t use because they were too low-resolution. But one of the pictures was about this guy, George Tice. And I thought, he sounds like a terrific person. So I called up the agency where he’d been attending, and I said, “Do you think that you could ask him if he’d be willing to be interviewed by me?” So it got worked out.
And I actually was going to go meet him because I was over in Naples, so it wasn’t too hard to get up to Fort Myers near where he lives. And as I was heading out, the skies opened up, and I knew that he was going to get a ride from his wife to meet me at this restaurant. And I thought, that’s just not nice, to ask a guy to come out in this soupy weather, not to mention it wasn’t nice for me to be in the soupy weather, either. It was really not safe to be driving, it was so bad. So I just called him up, and I said, how about if we just do this interview on the phone? And I stopped in a parking lot, and I talked to him on the phone. And then the sky cleared up eventually, and I turned around and drove home.
JOHN: Elly, you are a member of a national, in fact, you’re the treasurer, as I understand it, of a national organization. And if I have it written down correctly, I think it’s the Academy of Certification of Vision Rehab and Education Professionals. Did I get that right?
ELLY: Yes. And it took me months to learn the letters in the right order.
JOHN: What is that organization all about?
LARRY: And what prompted the name?
ELLY: We’re talking about changing the name of that organization because it’s not – people think, if it’s an academy of certification, they think it’s a school because people think of academies as being schools. So the name doesn’t really work for explaining what they do. They are the organization that develops and tests and administers exams for people who want to be certified in their field. And they currently have certifications for people who are O&M specialists, for people who are vision rehabilitation therapists, low vision therapists, and AT instructors. And they’re working on a few more. But it’s an incredibly intense process to create a valid examination, that’s valid in terms of testing the right thing, and also in terms of being hard enough to be a true guide for becoming a certified professional, that it’s not, you know, rinky-dink. And it’s expensive...
LARRY: I’m sure it is.
ELLY: ...to pay for all of that stuff to be done, and then it’s got a lot of volunteers who are professionals, who help with the Subject Matter Expert committees. And the head of the organization, Kathy Zeider, is an amazing person. She comes from the finance industry. And then in her semi-retirement she got attracted to this, and now she’s, yeah, it’s something about working in this field of working with people who are blind or visually impaired. Now, once you get into it, you just don’t leave. You know? People just become so – it’s such a satisfying work, I think.
LARRY: It is.
ELLY: And you meet interesting people, and you feel good about what you’re doing. And people just don’t leave.
LARRY: Now, with a lot of organizations on websites, you fill out a form, and you can join right then and there. But this is an organization that operates differently. You don’t just join it.
ELLY: If you are a professional, so if a blind person is an assistive technology instructor, or a vision rehabilitation therapist, or a low vision therapist, or an orientation mobility specialist, then one of the things that really is sort of the capstone of your professional stature is to be certified in your field because then basically you have met the highest standards of direct service provision and also of being a professional and having the ethics and kind of the intellectual integrity of being a certified person. So there are people all the time who are graduating from those fields who are blind. And they can take those tests, and then they can be certified.
JOHN: So it’s based on what you’ve achieved. Once you become certified, you’re automatically a member.
JOHN: Yeah, makes sense.
ELLY: Things like occupational therapists, which is defined like physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, you know, all those things. And each field has its own terminology for it, but that’s what they’re doing.
LARRY: Elly, if you had just a few seconds to address somebody face to face using JAWS or Fusion, ZoomText or MAGic, what would you say to them?
ELLY: One of the things I would encourage the people who listen to you to consider is to be involved with whatever service providing organization there is in their area because the only reason that any agency that serves people blind or visually impaired is any good is because people who have accomplished something in their lives and who have experienced just living as a blind person need to be involved. They need to be advisors. They are the mark of integrity of the organization, that the organization has their input. Get involved with the alumni association, or any kind of alumni committee that advises the administration of the organization, or become involved on the board of directors, or to just share their wisdom and their knowledge and their fierceness about being independent and respected as an individual in our communities and our society.
LARRY: Passion is a good thing.
JOHN: Ellie, we want to thank you very much for being with us on FSCast for the past few minutes or so. And we’ve enjoyed talking with you very, very much. If anyone would like to read your blog, it’s very simple. Just go to, and you’ll find a link that says “Blog.” You can’t get any more simple than that. And lots of good information and stuff to read about on Elly’s blog. And of course it’s continuing, so check back every now and then, and you’ll see a new story about someone that Elly has written about.
LARRY: Elly mentioned George Tice as someone she had spoken to for her monthly blog. And we also had that opportunity, thanks to Elly. George was a veteran of Desert Storm and has all manner of physical problems since that timeframe. He’s had heart attacks, he’s had strokes, and only recently went blind and started to learn JAWS for Windows. George, how did all this begin for you?
GEORGE TICE: I went blind in January of 2017.
LARRY: And how did you go blind?
GEORGE: I was having major strokes to the back of my brain. I was in a coma for three days. And when I woke up, I had open heart surgery to stop the emboli from going to the back of my brain. Heart doctor said, he said he never worked on someone with so much brain damage. He said, he told my wife and I that, when I go under, you’re going to go blind. He said, “You’re going to be under for a while.” After open heart surgery I was in another coma for a couple days, and when I woke up I was blind.
LARRY: After Desert Storm you dealt with post-traumatic syndrome issues. And one of the things that sustained you was your growing love for fishing. Tell us about that.
GEORGE: Fishing kind of relaxes my body, my soul, my mind, as I say. When you fish, it’s just total relaxation. It’s like you being, like, hypnotized. I mean, it’s just so relaxing.
LARRY: So you fished as a sighted person before Desert Storm, and you fished afterwards. And now you fish as a blind person. What are the differences between fishing based on those states?
GEORGE: It took me about six months to learn how to do everything again. That’s from tying knots – because when you tie a fishing knot, you’re basically using your eyes to tie that knot. I’d practice and practice for hours on end just to try to tie a line to a lead in a knot so the line doesn’t come undone. And the same thing with the hook, too. And also I learned how to bait my own hook again because when you’re baiting your hooks, again, you’re using your vision on where you’re putting your hook.
For me it’s kind of you’ve got to – you’re feeling up live pinfish or something like that. You have to feel to know where you’re going to put it through, or get it back on the spine when you put the hook through. And when you put it through, of course you’ve got to be careful you don’t put the hook through your finger. Or when you do put it through, when you come out the other end, again, you don’t put it through your finger or your hand.
LARRY: And so now as a blind person you fish competitively; right?
GEORGE: Correct. Yes, sir. I fished a couple tournaments since I’ve been blind. I’ve placed 10th out of 76 anglers. I’ve placed 21st out of 25 anglers. My recent thing is kayak fishing, which is more therapeutic than just fishing. I mean, sitting on a kayak, just bobbing up and down on that water, there’s no words to describe it. It’s so therapeutic just to be out there and just feeling. Because when I fish, a lot of times when you fish you’re sight fishing. And I don’t do that. Everything’s with my senses. I feel the water. I feel the breeze, the sun. There’s a shoreline near me. Just everything is all done by senses.
LARRY: And I would assume that when you’re out there fishing, you’re with someone sighted, maybe a friend or a colleague.
GEORGE: On my kayak, I would never go by myself. For one thing, I wouldn’t know where I was or how to get back because they don’t make fish finders or anything like that for blind people. Or I don’t want to run into a boat or a pier or another kayak or a shoreline. There’s nothing out there that would tell you what’s your surrounding, how close you are to something.
So I call my wingman. So I’m kayak fishing with someone else who has his sight, who could tell me, you know, “George, you’re 3:00 o’clock at the shoreline,” or “The mangroves is about 20 feet away.” So I know how far to cast out, about 20 feet to my 3:00 o’clock. That’s the same thing when I catch a fish and I bring it up. I don’t know what it is.
I was just down at the Keys last week. All of a sudden I got this huge bite. And I’m fighting this thing, and the next thing it jumped out the water. Before I know it, the thing had jumped across the back of my boat and flopped in the back of my boat, and came off my hook and flopped right out again. And they said it was a four-foot shark. That’s another reason why I don’t go fishing by myself. If I’d put my hand in the water around that thing, I would have probably got bit.
LARRY: Throughout this whole interview, George, you’ve talked about adjustments. You talked about adjustments to going blind; and then, later, how you had to learn to fish again. Talk to us about the adjustments you had to make when you first started learning JAWS.
GEORGE: I first started using JAWS, learning how to use it, in Lighthouse of Collier County. They just started teaching me how to use it then, let’s see, April, two years ago. And I would practice. I would come home and practice on my computer, just try to learn as much as I can on how to do things. I have my own veterans’ organization. Also I’m a Vice Commander of an American Legion Post that I belong to. And I do a lot of public relations and marketing. I had to learn how to do JAWS to do my jobs for both of them. So I would just literally practice. I don’t sleep much, so I’m up at midnight or 1:00 o’clock or 2:00 o’clock in the morning, and I’d just sit there and practice on my computer over and over and over again.
LARRY: I know that, as a blind person who has been blind since birth, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I first started to learn JAWS because it gave me the mobility and the freedom to surf the ‘Net and to do things on my own. And that was a tremendous feeling. What has JAWS meant for you in the brief time you’ve used it?
GEORGE: Jaws has helped, definitely. And, yes, it gives me some perspective of what I started off when I first became blind. I can do a lot more than I started in the beginning.
LARRY: George, it doesn’t seem possible; but you’ve only been blind since January of 2017, yet you’re already a mentor to many. Talk to us a little bit about what you tell people when you come to talk to them at various events.
GEORGE: I’ve actually spoken to veterans and stuff like that. And I had the opportunity to come up in February to speak in front of thousands of anglers and people at the Florida Sportsman Expo about how I became blind, and how I’ve learned to fish blind, and how I never give up on doing things. That’s the biggest thing that, if I can try to – someone who’s disabled and just sitting around not doing nothing, if I can just inspire them just a little bit to try and do something, try and change your life instead of just sitting around moping and feeling sorry for yourself. Because you’re not helping yourself. You’re not helping your family.
And in service they taught us to, when you’re in basic training, every day you’ve got to make your bunk. So every day you get up, you make your bunk. So no matter what, you know, you come home after a long march or something like that, you come home to a bunk that’s made. So you’ve accomplished something by making that bunk.
JOHN: Thanks again to George Tice, Elly Du Pre, and Rosemary Kleske for being a part of FSCast for January. And a quick reminder, again, the first of the new training webinars comes your way on January 17, to learn all about what the training department has in store for all of us throughout 2019. If you miss it, don’t worry about it. The webinar will be posted on the Freedom Scientific website.
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