Lessons from a Blind Public Speaker

“You have one bite of rice at six o’ clock sweetie” Linda’s husband whispers as she slowly slides her fork across her plate to pick up her last bite of grain.

I am the keynote at a conference and am sitting next to Linda at the head table. Linda is a blind speaker who doesn’t wear sunglasses, but wears her heart on her sleeve. She has energy. She has charisma, and she has a story. Doyle, her husband, helps Linda walk, type, and even find the last bit of food on her plate.

Linda and I get to laughing and we both enjoy a few bites of our dessert before our meal is delivered (I mean, how are you going to not eat cake when it is sitting right in front of you?).

“Linda, may I ask how you became blind?” I say.  She looks at me, smiles and says “Wow, you are not a shy one are you?”

She explained that five years ago she was shopping on a normal Friday. She walked down the stairs of the mall, missed the second to last step, fell, and knocked her head so hard it caused her to have a baseball sized welt on her forehead.

Once the swelling went down, she started to lose sight in her left eye three days later. After a week she could only see a few boxes (she explained it as “looking though a really thick chain link fence.”) and two weeks later she was completely blind.

Linda literally fell and knocked her sight out. All she sees is “grey clouds” and she is 100% blind. She will never be able to see her grandkids. She can’t see the sunset. She can’t even see the rice on her plate. “I believe there is always hope though!” she tells me.

Ryan Avery Speaking

I ask to take a picture and we both ask each other if there is anything in our teeth. Linda is a hoot. I wanted to learn more so I asked her a few questions:

 

“What is the best and worst part of being blind?”

The worst part at first was the isolation. I didn’t know what to do, and for two years I just lived in a cocoon. I had to learn how to walk again. A step that was one inch off the ground would cripple me. My friends didn’t know what to do with me. My husband didn’t know what to do with me.” With no pun intended, Linda said “it was very eye opening.” We both laughed and enjoyed another bite of cake.

Her husband decided to jump in and answer what the best part was for him. “We have a stronger relationship now. I had to learn how to talk to her better. I had to learn how to watch out for her. Life is full of assumptions but when your partner is blind you cant assume anything because you have to explain things in detail. I don’t assume anymore. I explain. I listen to her. I love her.” Linda jumps in with “I agree. We were both workaholics before I became blind and now we spend more time together. It is wonderful.”

Do people treat you differently because you are blind?

“Yes, sometimes people think that because I am blind, I am also deaf. Also, they think that for some reason I am not educated, which is rather bizarre. I consider myself to be intelligent. For the most part though, people have been great and treated me with a lot of respect.”

blind signsWhat would you tell someone who is looking to pursue speaking as a full-time career?

“Sometimes your heart feels like it is pounding out of your chest like a cartoon character when you are on stage. Just remind yourself to dive right in because the water is fine.”

Linda opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world where you we should listen more and talk less. A world where we should smile for what we have now and always be a believer. A world where we all have disabilities, but some of us, the good ones, take advantage of our abilities.

I am thankful I sat next to Linda and her wonderful husband. We had a great time. I look forward to meeting her again at another event…and hearing her speak.

How to Be a Speaker: Focus on your abilities, not your disabilities.

Question #1: What is one thing that you think is holding you back? (Be honest, type it out, and it might help you get over it!)
Question #2: If you could have dinner with someone tonight, who would it be?
Question #3: What is your favorite quote? 

This post was written by
At age 25, Ryan Avery became the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking in history; competing against more than 30,000 people from 116 countries to claim the 2012 Championship title. As an Emmy Award winning journalist and a proud member of the National Speakers Association, Ryan uses his background in multimedia and speaking to help reach the younger generation on the importance of improving their communication skills in order to advance in their professional and personal life.

8 Comments on "Lessons from a Blind Public Speaker"

  • I loved this article! What did Linda speak about?

    1. I think the one thing holding me back is my fear of not measuring up.

    2. I’d have dinner with my dad back in Ontario.

    3. I have a couple:
    a) I am just a voice of One who’s greater than this
    But I am still a sacred voice- I will not be dismissed.
    Showbread

    And the other is just so funny I can’t help but love it:
    b) Enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?

    • Glad you liked the article Paula. Hope you are doing well. Looks like I will get to see you in January again, which is exciting. Linda speaks about success and failure. Thank you SO much for sharing part b of your question number 3 it literally made me laugh out loud and I had to tell Chelsea!

  • KIm says

    LInda is truly a sweet-hearted, funny person. I am lucky she is in my region so I have gotten to know her at TRIO training in August and mid-year in Las Vegas! She is so, well, adjusted. I just assumed she had been blind forever. It does discourage me that people see only the outside and not the inside. Education isn’t hindered by outward problems. It is more hindered by lack of curiousity/ You go Linda!

    As you know, we have several visually impared members in my district. Randy , who does wear sunglasses, won our District Table Topics Contest this year. I am used to him having his wife guide him, but he can certainly navigate himself (ok except in a car)/ He has taught me little speaking nuances.

    Randy recently was the speaker at a demo meeting. The Toastmaster, Barney, is in an electic wheelchair. Barney moved to the side of the stage and Randy assumed he moved to the front of the room. He spoke to Barney assuming he was to the left of the audience and ended up speaking to Barney and half of the audience. When the audiable timer spoke, Randy immedaiately made the adjustment to speak to the rest of the audience. I am not sure that I woudl have been able to make that adjustment.

    1. Myself. It has taken me 30 years to really follow my dream.
    2. My grand-daughter, Aiden. I love her sense of humor, wonder, curiosity, and joy.
    3. I have two:
    A Dance With Dragons – George R. R. Martin 
    “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one.” 

    The Graveminder – Melissa Marr 
    “Years leave stories written on every surface.”

    • Thank you for your comments and response Kim. You are wonderful and I enjoy reading your answers to the questions. Linda is an amazing woman and I look forward to seeing more of her in the coming years. Hope you are doing well and look forward to seeing you in Denver soon.

  • David says

    Question #1: What is one thing that you think is holding you back? (Be honest, type it out, and it might help you get over it!)
    Letting go of stuff. Take an area of my life and apply “Letting go of stuff” as what is holding me back in that area. Well, at least I’m aware of it! :D

    Question #2: If you could have dinner with someone tonight, who would it be?
    As long as we’re hypothesizing, I’ll bring the dead back to life. Groucho Marx. I don’t even have to think about it.

    Question #3: What is your favorite quote?
    You may have heard this already if you saw me post it on one of Chelsea’s posts, but it’s from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick: “Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!” I could also quote Groucho Marx, but my favorite quote of his is hard to determine, there are so many good ones!

  • David says

    P.S., Your post was a very nice account of your dinner with Linda. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you Dave. Great answers to the questions, thank you for sharing.

  • Bhawna says

    “Just remind yourself to dive right in because the water is fine.”..these words have made everything so Simple to understand for a speaker on the stage…just dive right in and share what you want to share..thanks Linda & Ryan..

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