Tag Archives: blind

José Feliciano: the blind guitarist

As important as his recognition for being the first Latin artist to cross over into the English music market is José Feliciano’s inability to see.

José Montserrate Feliciano García, his full name, was born blind. Despite of this, he was able to play the concertina when he turned six. He was also able to perform at The Puerto Rican Theater in the Bronx when he was just nine and he was around 17 when a music critic from the New York Times saw him play at a coffee house in Gerde’s Folk City. He was described as a “10-fingered wizard who romps, runs, rolls, picks and reverberates his six strings in an incomparable fashion” then.

By the time he was 23, José Feliciano already earned five Grammy nominations, won two Grammy Awards, performed over much of the world, and recorded songs in four languages. Three of these celebrated songs are “Light My Fire,” “Che Sara,” and “Feliz Navidad.” He eventually became known the world over as “the greatest living guitarist”.

José Feliciano has been also referred to as “the Picasso of his Realm.” He has been recognized as the “Best Pop Guitarist” in the Guitar Player Magazine and has been voted the “Best Jazz and Best Rock Guitarist” in the Playboy Magazine. The Billboard Magazine has selected him to receive a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The New York City has renamed the Public School 155 in East Harlem to be “The Jose Feliciano Performing Arts School” in his honor. The Catholic Church has knighted him at the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and the Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut has accorded him a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his musical and humanitarian contributions to the world.

Today, José Feliciano is also known for being the “Ambassador of Good Will” throughout the world. Apart from performing with the London Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, among others, he also often supports charities “that he believes are important.”

“I used to be a dreamer in school. I never, in all my wildest days, would ever think I’d become kind of a Latin idol to the women in Latin countries or a hero to young kids. I never thought of that. My main interest really was playing music. I was always fascinated by the sound I could get out of things. I’m just, a very lucky person, that God gave me the chance to do what I’m doing.” ~ José Feliciano

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of ognet


Sensory Impairments in Austria

Out of the 8, 441, 872 Austrians, about 8,600 are totally blind, 13,200 are almost blind, 400,000 are hearing-impaired, and 28,300 people are speech-impeded.

This 450, 100 persons with disabilities (PWDs), though, cannot just fit in Austria “because of a dearth of communication facilities.”

Visual impairment is the impairment of the sense of sight. Speech disorder is characterized by stuttering and lisps, while hearing impairment is a hearing loss that prevents a person from totally receiving sounds through the ear.

Vision could be strengthened through the use of software programs that can read text on a computer screen with a speech synthesizer. This is the screen reader, which is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user just has to press different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say. It could also allow users to locate text displayed in a certain color, read pre-designated parts of the screen on demand, read highlighted text, identify the active choice in a menu, use the spell checker in a word processor, and read the cells of a spreadsheet.

Screen readers are currently available for use with personal computers running Linux, Windows, Mac, IOS, and Android. They can be for free or cost as much as $1,200. Each, however, incorporates a different command structure, and most support a variety of speech synthesizers.

Aside from screen readers, there is also the screen magnification system, which—just like a magnifying glass—enlarges text and graphics on a computer screen; video magnifier or closed-circuit television system (CCTV), which does the same thing as the screen magnification system but under a camera; optical character recognition (OCR) software, which transforms print into alternative formats; and Braille printers, which embosses through the use of solenoids that control embossing pins.

Speech, on the other hand, could be reinforced by an array of computer software packages such as the First Words, which is a program that uses graphic presentations combined with synthesized speech to teach high-frequency nouns. The website Enabling Devices also contains a list (with illustrations!) of innovative assistive technology for speech-impaired or non-verbal individuals.

Hearing could be improved, too, with the MotionSavvy UNI, “the world’s first two-way communication software for the deaf” that can translate American Sign Language (ASL) into speech, and speech into text. There’s also the Solar Ear, designed with the 360 million people with a disabling hearing loss that live in low- to- middle-income countries in mind.

Solar Ear is a solar-powered hearing aid battery that lasts for two to three years. It also costs a fraction of what traditional batteries cost. Another device, ISEEWHATYOUSAY, can capture spoken language on a smartphone, converts it into text, and sends the text via Bluetooth to a remote user’s device.

“A person who is severely impaired never knows his hidden sources of strength until he is treated like a normal human being and encouraged to shape his own life.” ~Hellen Keller

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Jonathan Cowper

Sisters of Invention: the challenged pop group

To change the ‘normal’ people’s perception on persons with disabilities (PWDs), five women with learning disabilities formed the first pop girl group in Adelaide.

Aimee, 28, has Williams syndrome. Jackie, 25, has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Annika, 28, is blind with a mild intellectual disability. Both Michelle, 24, and Caroline, 29, have cerebral palsy and, like Annika, a mild intellectual disability.

Every track in the 10-song alternative pop album is the girls’ own story. Chaos And Serenity, for one, is about the “mixed messages” Annika would hear at school: her parents believe she could succeed while her principal won’t. Another track, Tsunami Of Kites, is about Jackie’s cousin who committed suicide.

The Sisters of Invention first performed in 2010 after the singers met through the Tutti Arts, a South Australian organization that supports disabled artists. Michelle said the band’s name was derived from the members’ treatment to each other and their mission ‘to change people’s view of people with disabilities.’

“And that’s where The Sisters of Invention differ from what your average listener or viewer might expect of a ‘disabled band’: this is no parade of trite ~inspirational anthems~. Rather, they are top notch pop songs that, like any other artist, deal with the emotional truths of life; it just happens that for these women, that involves living with disabilities (and living with people’s prejudices about those disabilities),” Clem Bastow, broadcaster and music critic currently based in Melbourne, Australia, wrote in her column for the Daily Life.

The Sisters of Invention would perform 20-30 paid gigs every year. The band’s producer, Michael Ross, has been working with them ever since “to get them to the point where their natural musical talents have created broadcast standard records.” Together, they are already preparing for the Sisters of Invention’s upcoming album. The second video, in fact, is already underway and would be shot at the Luna Park in Sydney.

All of members were influenced by Stella Young, a comedian, journalist and disability advocate in Australia. Her humor was the one that spurred them to change their own thinking about disability and in turn to attempt to do the same for their listeners.

“We’re here to challenge people … and just to get the music out there and where we should be.” ~Aimee Crathern

Video permitted to be posted by the ABC News