Written by John Samuel
Do you remember the last physical book you read with your eyes? This might sound like a weird question to many people, but it isn’t to me! It was November 25, 2005, the day after Thanksgiving. I was reading Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” on the blue leather couch in the family room of my parent’s house. I had the day off from school for the Thanksgiving holiday, and it was just a couple of weeks before I would finally be graduating from North Carolina State University after an exhausting 6.5 years, and months before I would finally be starting my professional career. I didn’t read often for pleasure, or for that matter, required readings for school either (hence the additional 2.5 years to complete my undergraduate!). However, I had heard so much about “The Da Vinci Code” that I thought it would be worth it. In all transparency, I think the main driver for me to read the book was that it was being made into a movie, and for once I wanted to be the person that said: “the book was so much better than the movie”.
One of the main reasons why I wasn’t much into reading was because I was losing my sight, and it made it difficult for me to read the small black words on the white pages. It would physically wear me out – to the point that I stopped reading books all together after that day.
That changed in 2010, when I got my first iPad – it was an oversized iPhone, with a large screen. The built-in accessibility features allowed me to invert the colors of the screen, so instead of the traditional black letters on a white background, I was able to flip it, so the words were white, and the background was black. The black background made it much easier on my eyes, which would get fatigued from staring at the bright white screen for an extended period. I was also able to increase the font size, so I no longer had to squint my eyes to read the text. The combination of these two things opened a new world to me, something I had missed for five years – books!
The first book that I read on my iPad was “The Great Gatsby”, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Like I said, I rarely read the required readings when I was a student and I had looked up a list of books everyone should read in their life, and Gatsby was on that list.
Eventually, my sight diminished to the point that I could no longer rely on my eyes to read, and I turned to audiobooks. It was a difficult transition for me, to stop relying on my eyes – it was the way I was raised to read and learn. During this transition, a friend of mine told me about a book called “Eyes Wide Open” by Isaac Lidsky, which she heard about on a talk show, and was about a guy with the same eye condition as me. And in August 2017, it became the first audiobook that I listened to once I was no longer able to read with my eyes. It also gave me a little bit of hope at a time when I really needed it.
Little did I know that five years later, I would listen to over 250 books (five times as many books I had read in my entire life to that point), and even record my own!
Even before I wrote a single word of “Don’t Ask the Blind Guy for Directions”, I knew I wanted it to be offered as an audiobook because I wanted it to be accessible to as many people as possible – especially people like myself, with visual impairments. I also knew it would be extremely difficult for me to record the book myself for the audio format and, because of that, I didn’t want a random voice actor reading my book. That’s why I turned to my friend, Sean Maroney, to provide the voice for the audiobook.
Sean had heard me tell my story on several occasions – in public and private settings – and I thought, because of that, he would have a unique perspective. It also didn’t hurt that he was a former news anchor with a beautiful voice that I didn’t’ think folks would get tired of listening to for 4 or 5 hours!
Once again, I turned to a friend and familiar face when it came to choosing a production team to help with the recording of the audiobook and reached out to Jason Gillikin and the Earfluence team. I’d met Jason years ago and had the honor of participating in several podcasts that his team produced (So, he knew my voice inside and out!) Jason pulled in his colleague, Mark Meyer, to help with the recording, and we hit the studio at American Underground!
After 20-hours of recording, and many more filled with editing and producing, I’m excited to announce that “Don’t Ask the Blind Guy for Directions” is now available on Audible and Spotify. I hope that this audiobook can now reach more people, no matter how they consume books. And just maybe, one of those people who don’t read the required readings for school will take a chance on this one for fun!
Go out and listen to it today!