Erik Weihenmayer

Erik Weihenmayer

Erik Weihenmayer, July 30, 2015

Erik Weihenmayer is not only an accomplished mountaineer but also the first blind person to reach the peak of the mighty Mt. Everest. The vision loss this natural-born athlete began to experience at thirteen hardly deterred him from intense physical activity: skiing, kayaking, rock climbing — nothing is off limits for Erik. Weihenmayer has been featured on the cover of Time for his mountain-climbing feats and has started his own organization, No Barriers, which seeks to bring together people with challenges (whether physical or mental), empowering them as a community. In this interview, Katie Grimes, managing editor of Exceptions Journal, talks to Weihenmayer about his approach to climbing, his inspirations, and the diverse challenges of living with limited vision. Read the interview here.

Christine Ha (photo: Mitch Mandel Rodale)

Christine Ha

Christine Ha, December 1, 2014

Christine Ha may be most famous for her victory on the third season of MasterChef in 2012, but her artistry extends beyond the kitchen. She holds an MFA in creative writing and serves as the fiction editor for the literary magazine Gulf Coast, blogs regularly on her website The Blind Cook, and maintains an active presence on various social media. After being diagnosed with an immune condition in 2004, Ha underwent progressive vision loss over several years, but her creative achievements have only continued to expand. With a recipe book under her belt and a continuous stream of artistic and public engagements, Christine Ha lives in a multifaceted world marked by diverse artistic passions. In this interview, Craig Pearson speaks with Ha about the roots of her creative interests, her path to success, and how she manages to keep so many pans in the fire. Read the interview here.

Geerat Vermeij, November 11, 2014

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Geerat Vermeij

Dr. Geerat Vermeij is a professor of geology at the University of California at Davis, with research interests in marine ecology. Widely published and respected in the academic community, Dr. Vermeij has received prestigious awards including a MacArthur Fellowship and a Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal, and was named a National Ambassador for Braille Literacy by the National Federation of the Blind. In this interview, Craig Pearson speaks with Dr. Vermeij about growing up blind in a sighted school system, balancing cutting-edge audio technology with Braille, and discovering one’s academic passions. Read the interview here.

Peter

Peter Khalil

Becca

Becca Khalil

Becca and Peter Khalil, November 4, 2014

Becca and Peter Khalil are lawyers by training who have, most recently, joined forces to create Beadtography, a craft business specializing in accessible mixed-media art. This husband-wife duo combines photography and beading to create unique pieces of art that feature Braille poetry to engage all on the visual ability spectrum.

Before creating their business, Becca and Peter were both invested in issues surrounding visual impairment. Becca has raised and socialized guide dogs for the blind since she was in the sixth grade, and has raised more than 20 puppies in training. She has volunteered as a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guide Dogs of the Desert, and Guide Dogs of America, for which she currently serves as one of the Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR area volunteer group leaders. Peter has had keratoconus, a degenerative corneal condition, since high school. During this time, he has had to adapt to visual distortions, variations in visual acuity, and a number of different treatment methods, the most recent of which was a corneal transplant. Peter’s efforts to adapt to a chronic vision condition have made him a passionate proponent of accessibility in all aspects of life.

In this interview, Craig Pearson talks with Becca and Peter about the inspiration behind their artwork, their creative process, and Braille itself. Read the interview here.

Israel Antonio

Israel Antonio

Israel Antonio, October 29, 2014

Israel Antonio is a five-time Boston marathon qualifier and a Paratriathlon USA National Champion. He is also an accomplished writer, playwright, and screenwriter with wide-ranging interests in performance and the arts. After losing his sight at 14 years old, Israel has continued to set high goals and challenge both his own limits and the assumptions of his fellow athletes. Craig Pearson talks with Mr. Antonio about running with guides, the value of a creative community, and what it means to be a blind screenwriter. Read the interview here.

Jim Gashel, October 22, 2014

After the September debut of the KNFB Reader app, a smartphone application that enables users to take photos of printed text and listen to immediate audio playback of recognized words, the tool was hailed as a “game-changer.” Indeed, the app represents another incredible leap forward in accessible technology, which has seen character recognition and text-to-speech tools evolve at a pace that has in many ways reshaped the landscape for people with low vision.

Jim Gashel, the national secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, has been at the forefront of these advances. His collaborative efforts with tech entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil led to the formation of KNFB, which has spent years developing and preparing the KNFB Reader mobile app for the market. In this interview, Craig Pearson discusses with Jim how changes in accessible text-to-speech devices have created a more inclusive and connected environment for individuals across the visual ability spectrum, as well as what’s next on the horizon for real-time mobile technology. Read the interview here.

Maribel Steel

Maribel Steel

Maribel Steel, May 9th, 2014

Maribel Steel is a writer, speaker, blogger, mother and vocalist. She lives in Melbourne, Australia and has been legally blind since the age of seventeen with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). She says her passion is to write and dispel some of the myths held by others about living with a disability – and shares her life experiences through presentations and insightful short stories. Exceptions editor-in-chief Craig Pearson spoke to Ms. Steel about her background and her inspirations. Read the interview here.

Kristen Witucki, April 16th, 2014

Kristen Witucki is a writer and teacher based in West Virginia, where she lives with her husband James, her son Langston, and her Seeing Eye dog, a black lab named Tad. Witucki’s fiction has been featured in numerous publications, including Exceptions, where her story “Test Run” was spotlighted in our Fall 2013 issue. Click here for that story, and read below for Part One of our interview with Kristen, in which she discusses her experiences, her influences, and how blindness has shaped her art. Read Part One of her interview with Craig Pearson here, and Part Two here.

Jeff Moyer, November 11th, 2013

Jeff Moyer is an authentic renaissance man. After losing his vision at an early age, Moyer went on to become a pivotal player in the Disability Rights Movement, a forerunner in accessible technology, and a consistent advocate for human rights. He has used songwriting and musical performance as a means of social change, and now operates his own publishing company,Music from the Heart. Moyer is also an author, historian, and public speaker who has been featured on the CBS Evening News, National Geographic, and the BBC. He spoke with Exceptions Journal‘s editor-in-chief Craig Pearson about his journey and how blindness has influenced his creative perspective. Read the interview here.