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August 26, 2020

The Most Interesting Griller in the World

Chris Peltz, founder of Blind Grilling and host of the Blind Grilling Experience, stops by to discuss retinitis pigmentosa, being technologically challenged and many things grilling.




Episode Transcription: 



John:
Hey, Chris. Thanks for joining us. How are you today?

Chris Peltz:
Hey man. Doing great. And I'm just really excited to be on Ambiguously Blind podcast and really been looking forward to this and the conversation.

John:
Yeah, I think it will be a good one. So let's just start conversating then. Tell me a little bit about your vision, Chris. Give me the overview.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah, well when I was 10 years old, I was actually in the middle of a cornfield, Coon hunting and realized that I was having some vision issues that I hadn't been having, you know, the last year or two prior to that. And we started going to eye doctors and trying to figure out what was happening with my vision. And at the time my dad was in the military and they Medevac me to Denver, Colorado at a hospital that was called Fitzsimmons, which is now a children's hospital in Denver, but they diagnosed me with retinitis pigmentosa, which basically meant that I was losing my night vision, my peripheral vision. It was going down into small tunnels. And so from the time I was 10 to 16, I lost 80% of my vision. And, it just continued from there. You know, when I was 10, that was 1984. And so you know, I'm 46 now. And so about 13 years ago I got to the, where I really had no usable vision. I'd lost my left eye a few years prior to that. And then finally my right eye. And with the exception of bright light, like a sunlight or a really bright flashlight, just right in the right spot. You know, I have no vision just you know, no shapes, no colors, no shadows or anything like that. And so that's where it's been for about the past 13 years. And it's, you know, it was kind of a long slow process, but it, it eventually took, you know, everything that was usable.

John:
Do you know lots of people with a similar condition? Have you met folks like that or?

Chris Peltz:
Yeah, in the past three years, I would say, I've met a lot of folks. I've met more people in the past three years with, with visual impairments as a whole but particularly RP, retinitis pigmentosa than I've ever known, you know, in, in, you know 30 years of dealing with it myself. So I, I know a few now. But I, you know, I don't have a lot of blind or visually impaired friends necessarily. I've got a few. But you know, I even fewer than that though, that have retinitis pigmentosa.

John:
So, your acuity would be labeled as a zero or totally blind, just slight light sensitivity. What would you say that it is?

Chris Peltz:
I, of course I always say no usable vision because even if there's a bright light, I mean, that literally I can just say, alright, there's a light and that's it. And, and even sitting in a room you know, someone turns a light on, or the lights go out, you know, like something like that. I can't even tell that for the most part. So it's really got to be something super bright sunlight directly in the eye or something like that. So, basically no real visual acuity.

John:
And when you tell people that, or when people know you or interact with you what is usually the most common misconception someone may have of someone in your situation with that kind of vision?

Chris Peltz:
You know being able to do anything just as a whole, I mean, that's that that's probably the biggest miss, you know, Oh, how can you do that? How can you you know, accomplish some of the things that you've accomplished, how does that work? You know, a lot of times when they find out certain things that I've done or that I'm doing, you know, and, you know, how does that happen? You know, how's that possible? Just because they don't understand either technology or any other, you know, whether it's adaptive equipment or just adaptive ways of doing things and getting them done. And so that's probably the biggest thing. I haven't had any really negative experiences that, you know, haven't been able to be turned around into something positive and a teaching moments. Everyone really seems to be truly interested, you know, rather than just always blind. He can't do nothing, you know, they may have that attitude at first, but then they're like, wait a minute. He actually can't do something. And then they're, they're intrigued and they ask a lot of questions and we can move forward.

John:
And so in your time with this condition do you use a guide dog or cane or some other device for mobility purposes? Or, how do you get around?

Chris Peltz:
So right now I'm using a cane. Of course, when I first started losing my sight, you know, went through mobility training with the cane. And in 1995, I went and got my first guide dog. And, and that was an amazing experience in and of itself. And he was an amazing dog. He had some health issues that retired early and overall I've had three dogs. So I, you know John or Bubba was the first one there was Gregory and then Navarone was my last guide, dog and he retired two years ago. I barely, I guess maybe three years ago and about a year and a half ago passed away. But since then I've used my cane and if I don't have a cane, then I usually have a sighted guide with me, but right now it's cane travel a big difference between cane and dog travel. But just the situation at hand at this point in my life. It's, it's, you know, and, and plus with the coronavirus, and everything else going on, it's just not feasible to go and get another dog for me right now. So I'm going to stick with cane travel right now.

John:
And is guide travel in your future again? Or, you just don't know.

Chris Peltz:
I really don't know. I doubt it, but you know, things change. I mean, I went a couple of years between my second and third dog, and I thought after the second one I'd probably be done and then things changed and I went and received my third dog and I had him for you know, 10 years working and it was awesome. And you know, and now it's, you know, things have changed again. And so it's just really hard to say, I mean, you know, life changes and, and situations circumstances at this point, if things were to remain the way they are, no, I would not go and get another one, but who knows things, things might change again. And that would be a good route for me.

John:
Do you wear glasses or some sort of protective eye wear or anything?

Chris Peltz:
I wear sunglasses. Yeah. I just wear a dark sunglass. I've got Costa's, you know, a lot of folks are interested in, in sunglass brands.

John:
Yes I am, too. Tell me more about that.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. So I mean, the Costa's, you know, they, you know, made by a company that really focuses on water, sports, water, you know, fishing polarized stuff, but you know, that's, it, you know, they, they have really good you know, I wear for you know, for eye protection as far as that goes. You know, so the high resistor, the high impact, you know resistance, you know, so they're certified the ones I have anyway, if you're going to go and shoot a firearm or or something like that. But yeah, that, that's what I wear and I have them on pretty much all the time,

John:
And you're no stranger to the firearms. You're quite the outdoors or are you not?,

Chris Peltz:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I love it. Love outdoors, love, love, hunting, fishing all of that. And you know, we found ways to get it done. And you know, just through some regular means regular technology just, you know, or red dot. In fact, we use a red dot scope on both rifle, shotgun, and crossbow, and able to have someone sighted guide, align my shot up from behind me looking over my shoulder and, and and yeah, I enjoy hunting, you know, shooting altogether. And it's been great for my family. We do that together and we try to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

John:
What's your best catch?

Chris Peltz:
Man, that's, that's a tough one.

John:
What's your favorite catch?

Chris Peltz:
My well, okay. So my favorite thing to fish for right now is white bass. Because they, they run kind of like, you know, we, the best way I can describe it is like you see on these outdoor channels where they're up in Alaska and the salmon are running and the bears are out in the middle, as the salmon are jumping and they're catching the salmon cause they're running up river to spawn well, white bass run from the lakes up the rivers here in the Midwest. And and it is it's similar to that. I mean, they are not only jumping, but if you're in waders and you go out and you stand in the middle of these smaller rivers I mean there were literally be hundreds of white bass that are just bumping up against your legs as they're trying to swim past you and go upstream to spawn. It's a really cool experience. And, and I love fishing for white bass, so that's probably my favorite all together. My brother-in-law was getting me more into trout fishing which is fun. You know, but generally, you know, grew up, you know, catfish bass and croppy kind of thing, but the white bass is, is always been one of my favorites.

John:
It sounds like you're kind of the bear in the river there with the white bass then.

Chris Peltz:
That's right. Yeah. Yep. Yep. So although while they are swimming past, you know, you're still, you gotta use a rod and reel to get out there. So they're, they're jumping up around you and, and yeah, it's, it's really cool. I mean, just the experience of hearing them when they're responding and running up river, and then, you know, you can just hear how they're dancing on top of the water. They come up out of the water, their tail is, you know, flapping and, and you know, slapping the water a couple of times before they, you know, splash back into it. And it's just, it's a really neat experience and as cool as it is to see when I was younger, being able to see it, I enjoy it even more now just hearing it happen. I think it's just really awesome to sit and just listen. When, when all that is going on around you,

John:
Do you know of any like research or programs or things that are, that are doing things to make RP better? Or do you feel like in your lifetime you'll have any, any restoration into any of your vision?

Chris Peltz:
You know, I've, I've really gone back and forth on this as far as hopefulness or whatever, you know, you, maybe you might say, but I they're, they're always working on it. Right, right. I think on every type of of eye disease, eye problem, you know, vision loss, they're working on restoring it RP, they've got different organizations, groups that are set up to study that specifically. And, and it's my understanding they've made some progress in various forms, but I, you know, they've been saying that for 20 years. I mean, you know, they've been saying that a long time, well, we've made progress, we've made progress and okay, great. You know, but you know, it, it, we still have people losing their vision to RP and apparently the progress isn't been that substantial, I guess in some ways. But, but it's always changing. I mean, I, you know, where they're at now is probably, you know, just leaps and bounds from where they were 20 years ago, but nevertheless, you know, we still have people losing their vision to it. So certainly no cure and no one just being completely restored, but they're working towards it. And if that option, that opportunity came to me I mean, I've got nothing to lose, you know, I would, I would, yeah, whatever, let's try it, but yeah, it's it's, it's

John:
Kind of chasing that stuff too, because as you're right. There's things, things are, evolving, there's research and medical tests and trials and things that are going on, but yeah,

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. And I have friends and family that keep up with that more than I do. You know, and, and I know some folks with RP that, you know, they're, they're always, you know, Oh, they're, you know, they're doing this testing, they're doing that. And, and I I've, I don't ever remember Googling, you know, advancements or anything like that. You know, someone will call me, Oh, there's a news story on this. They'll email me, they'll text me a link and I'll go, and I'll read the story or the link or whatever, but I'm not seeking out all of that myself, but I have a lot of friends and family that are.

John:
Well, something that does kind of make vision more easier for, for people with impairments is technology. And I think you are a self-described what did you call yourself?

Chris Peltz:
Technologically challenged.

John:
Yes. Okay. Well even though you are technology technologically challenged, there are a lot of technologies I believe you probably use in your daily life. I think for me, at least the biggest game changer, it's probably been the iPhone and most of the Apple products once they put the VoiceOver as a builtin thing, is, is that kind of what you've experienced with the iPhone?

Chris Peltz:
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's probably been the greatest piece of technology in my entire lifetime that has changed what I've been able to do as someone with a, you know, with a vision impairment. The has been hands down the greatest advancement, the greatest piece of technology that that I've ever had and, and, and have now, it, it, it has changed everything. Yeah.

John:
And you were an early adopter, I think, got in at the 3Gs model, which was the first one that had VoiceOver built in, which is when I got in as well, which I think was in 2009. And man, it's just, it's incredible. The the opportunities that are there and that little device for, for folks like us.

Chris Peltz:
Oh yeah, yeah. It was absolutely incredible. And I was, I was blown away because I was struggling so much with various phones and operating systems and someone at the guide dog school that I went to out in California, they actually cause I was contacting them about GPS systems and, and various things. And, and they had mentioned that they're looking into the, the iPhone and so I was intrigued. And so I started looking into it and yeah, I think by January of 2010, I had my first iPhone 3Gs.

John:
Yeah. I, it was, it was just so cool too, because I'd had iTunes and I mean, I was a Windows user, but I had iTunes and iPods sort of, there was a iPod Shuffle, which is why, I mean, I had an iPod, but I really couldn't use it cause I couldn't see the controls on it. But then they came out with a Shuffle, which was this. Did you have you, are you familiar with that one?

Chris Peltz:
No, actually I I've never had an iPod or anything like that. In fact, prior to my getting the iPhone in January my first Apple product as a whole was in black Friday of 2009 we got my wife a iMac, one of the very first 27 inch iMacs that they came out with. And while she's using it, I, I found out there was something called VoiceOver. And so, so I was way behind the curve when it came to technology and on this and started using it. But I had no idea about their phones or anything like that. And and so no, my first piece of anything, Apple or Mac was, you know black Friday of 2009 in November. And I haven't looked back since, but but I've never had the, the iPod or anything like that because the phone does all that. Yeah.

John:
Yeah. Well, the, the, the Shuffle was the first iPod that I'm aware of, at least that had a VoiceOver built into it and it didn't have a display. It was like I don't know, maybe like two inches square was the whole thing and it had a button, just a one button on the front and you would just navigate essentially through voice commands. You could turn VoiceOver on and off. Otherwise all you could do is shuffle songs. That's why it was called the shuffle. And so that was really when I got excited. And then it wasn't soon thereafter that they added VoiceOver to a nano I, iPod I'm huge into music. I'm a big music fan. So this was a big breakthrough for me. And then a buddy of mine who is a big technology guy told me about the three GS he's like, Hey, did you know that the three GS is coming out with, with VoiceOver built in? I was like, no. And within 24 hours of knowing that I had one. I was with another carrier. And at that time in 2009, AT&T was the only carrier that had the iPhone. So within 24 hours, I switched carriers and had an iPhone that was quite a, quite a momentous occasion for me.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was huge for me too. I mean, I went from a Windows operating phone with a, you know a reader, you know, a voice

John:
Motorola Q or Q9

Chris Peltz:
Q9. Yeah. That's what I had. Yeah, exactly.

John:
Mobile Speak Smartphone was the software that was loaded on it. That was all kinds of bugs and it was very robotic and it,

Chris Peltz:
Yeah, my Windows continue, you know, their history and they continued, it was something you always had to reboot shut it down and reboot it. So it was, it was frustrating. I mean, they got the job done. I mean, you know, it was better than nothing, but sometimes it was, it was nothing. So

John:
My experience with the Motorola Q was that it got me into the world of texting because I was not able to text, I mean, I had a phone of course, a cell phone, but I wasn't able to text with the T nine. And I, you know, I obviously just couldn't see the typing. And so that got me into text the text world. But it was probably about eight to 10 months after that, that I got into the, I was introduced to like the real world of, with the iPhone.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's awesome. Yeah.

John:
So other than the iPhone, or I guess Apple products in general, because of all the VoiceOver stuff is what we're talking about here. What, what's the best piece of technology you've, you've owned?

Chris Peltz:
You know, there's probably, there's really three that immediately pop into my mind when you asked me about, you know, technology and I'm assuming you're asking about technology that helps for, you know, being blind or visually impaired. And so when it comes to that, there is the Flame Boss, which is the controller for the grill, you know, something that you know, it has allowed me to be completely independent when it comes to using a charcoal grill and monitoring the temperature of the grill of the meat and, you know, and controlling it. And it's accessible. It's not, it wasn't made or built or, or marketed as, you know, a blind accessible tool. It's it's for everyone. It was intended for the sighted, but the company is so awesome. They made it accessible for the blind and visually impaired as well. And so that's been a huge game changer for me in a lot of ways with, with a lot of what I do. So, so the Flame Boss is probably the first piece. The Braille Note, and I've got, I've had the Apex, which is, I've had it for, for 11 years now. I got it in the summer of 2010 Braille Note Apex, which is a electronic braille display almost like a computer without a screen. It's got a, I've got a Qwerty keyboard on mine electronic braille display. So I can actually, you know, take notes, make outlines, do different things, and then read the braille from the braille digital braille display or, or electronic braille display. And that is probably the most used next to the iPhone. That's probably my most used piece of equipment for, for my every day. I mean, I use it every day. I use that thing absolutely every day. And so so that, that, that's probably, you know, that would be the next thing, the, the, and finally the third thing would be something that you actually have. I know. And, and that is a piece of technology called the Rodecaster Pro.

John:
Yes, yes I do.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. And you know, again, it's not one of the most blind friendly, necessary, but it is a piece of equipment that has really changed how I do some of my work it's allowed me to do more live streaming for the church that I work with it for blind grilling organization that I work with, you know, podcasting other things that I do, it has really opened up a means for that to happen. And it's, it's been a game changer as well. And so those would be probably my top three you know, next to the iPhone.

John:
Alright. So let's switch up to the most, your best piece of low tech gear or thing that you have.

Chris Peltz:
Of course a cane is low tech for sure. You know, every day I carry,

John:
There are some high-tech canes. Are you aware of those?

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. Yeah, but I don't have any of those. I've got a low tech folding cane and that's that's about it, but a felt tabs that I stick on my oven, you know, and and mark things with just a little felt tab, you know, and little piece sticky on one side, stick it on, you know, the start button, the bake button, you know, that that's, those things have been, those things have been great. You know, I was like, where's this button where, you know, and sticking those on things have have been awesome. So that there is a piece of low tech. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. So in fact, I remember the first time my wife ever marked up a, like a microwave or an oven, she, she found those on an, on a website for the blind or visually impaired. And she had these felt things for the bottom of chairs to keep them from scuffing your, your floors, your wood floors, and you put them on your bottom of your chairs. And so she just, she had a couple extras and she just cut them and, and stuck those, and they were great. They were great. And so yeah, that, that was awesome.

John:
Has most of your computer experience been with Windows or Mac? It sounds like maybe Mac now, but was it Windows before?

Chris Peltz:
It was Windows before. I mean, I, you know in jobs I've held previously you know, growing up, you know, growing up in school, they were starting to teach you dos, you know, that we were starting to get into, you know, some of those things, but one, once I left, you got out of school. Once I started getting into the workforce, everything was Windows. I had, you know, Windows, PCs. I'm trying to remember what I had prior to Windows 95. I don't, yeah. I had something, but it's, it's been Windows from a couple of years prior to Windows 95. And then going, you know, 98, 2000 you know, and so I had Windows up until and even beyond 2009 because you know, my wife got the iMac and, and that's when in 2010, I got the, you know, I had the, my wife had the iMac, I had the iPhone and I was still using a Windows computer and It crashed, it was gone. I needed a new computer. And it just so happened that I had to upgrade my jobs software that I was using for, for the speech. And because I used the zoom text for a while, and then I had to go to Jaws and it was going to cost me an exorbitant amount of money, not only to get a laptop that I needed for work, but also to upgrade Jaws because it wasn't a free upgrade. I mean, you had to pay for this upgrade. And I had an old version of Jaws, so it was going to be almost like buying a new version all together. And I was like, well, what about just buying a, a Mac book? And that's what I did. I've been bought a Mac book pro and it was, it was cheaper. Everyone said, Oh, you know, the Macs are so much more expensive, but because I was needing that screen reader, the Mac was actually cheaper for me when I went to the Mac book pro at the time. So so, you know, mid 2010, you know, late, you know, leading up to 2011, I went and became just completely engulfed immersed in the Apple ecosystem.

John:
And was that a pretty, pretty easy experience jumping into that? Like it was with the iPhone.

Chris Peltz:
You know, I mean, there was definitely a learning curve. But yeah, overall, it, it was because a lot of the keystrokes, as far as the hand typing motion were the same, the keys were called something different whether than, rather than alt it was command. But you know, a lot of the keystrokes were the same, whether we, you know, instead of all tab command tab rather than alt C or alt v the, you know, command C command V I mean, so in, in there, those, you know, the command and alt were placed in the same area, right to the left of the, exactly to the left of the space bar. And so those keystrokes were exactly the same when you know, that I was used to even though they called them something different. You know, the, in the voiceover commands became, you know, pretty easy. I mean, I, again, a learning curve, but it wasn't so astronomically difficult that and I'm not a smart guy. I am, I truly am technologically challenged and I was able to do it. And yeah, it, it, it and it was worth it, I think. Yeah.

John:
So my next question was going to be about the software you used otherwise. So it sounds like you had some experience with Jaws and ZoomText. Was there any other software that you used in addition to that with a Windows ecosystem?

Chris Peltz:
No, not really. That, that was pretty much it. I had a braille printer and, and that was probably the, my biggest setback when moving from Windows to you know, to Mac was, I think there was only one real printer at the time that would work. And you know, that that was kind of a, a big setback for a little bit, but we got through it. But other than that now now that, that was the only software that as far as adaptive software that I used.

John:
And in your opinion now, VoiceOver just runs circles around Jaws and, or ZoomText or things like that, or are they kind of equivalent?

Chris Peltz:
You know, I think it would be unfair for me to try and say because there, I cannot imagine that Jaws and or ZoomText have not improved since 2009 or 10, and that's the last time I have had any contact with them. And so I, I think it would be unfair for me to say you, you know, because I don't, I don't know what kind of advancements they've made and where they're at today. I know that with voiceover it works and I've been able to use it and, and, you know, being immersed in this ecosystem with my phone, you know, laptop iPad with everything, just working together. I, I can't imagine throwing something in that didn't just work with it and, you know, and trying to find work arounds. And because of that, I, you know, I'll stick with Mac, but I just don't know how far along they've come in the past 11 years.

John:
I think they've come. I think they've come pretty far because I still use I use ZoomText. I've used it for over 20 years now. And it certainly has evolved quite a bit in that time obviously, but it's, it, it still leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion, because it's still an add on, you know, if I kind of think of it like that Mobile Speak Smartphone software, it wasn't designed, you know, which is, what's so great about Apple is that it's, it's all designed to work together. ZoomText adapts itself to work on a Windows platform. So whenever Windows changes something, ZoomText has to change something. And so, and it's also additional, you know, it's, it's an additional piece of software that has to be purchased, and it is not, it's not cheap. It is, a commitment, it's a commitment. To have that stuff as well. So I, myself am I've been on the fence for a while, especially since having the iPhone in and just making the leap into the, the Apple all the way in, and I've got some friends that are telling me I'm crazy for not doing it, but I do work in the business world. And it's just not where I am. It's just not an Apple friendly environment. So regardless of whether I was using an Apple personally or at home, I would still be using a Windows device at work. So I'm kind of in that, in between land. But I I'd like to jump over there and, and be, be totally in, but Apple is also, they are proud of their products, you know?

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. They are. And yeah, and that's where the PCs have gotten so, and I don't mean to say cheap as in cheaply made as much as they, they just don't cost much. You can buy a, you know, a decent PC laptop, cheap, you know, it doesn't, you know, a couple hundred bucks. So, you know, I mean, definitely under a grand for sure, easily you know, but then you gotta buy the software, you know? And so once you, once you put all that together, you're, you're looking at you know, pretty close if not over what a a Mac or Mac book is going to be in most instances and, and, and that's where it then it becomes, you know, the, the, you know, the price isn't as big of an issue now, because they're on level ground. The difference is, you know, the OS Apple has built it in, so it works and it works with every upgrade It is in it's in that system that you know, when one thing changes, it it's changed with a view of making sure it also, you know, works with, you know, that accessibility feature. So so that's been the really nice thing that Apple has done. And and, and why I'm so glad I made the change, but I can definitely see, you know, if, if you're using it at work all the time, but if you're using it at work, you can, you maintain that knowledge you know, and then just, you know, and switch on in your personal but yeah, I can see where that could be a challenging decision to make. Yeah. I should just do it. And you're saying, yeah, pretty much. It's your money, not mine. So yeah, go for it.

John:
So, before we get off of the technology topic, I want to know what you think about a smart cars or self driving, autonomous vehicles and things you have a feel for those, or do you think you'll, you think you'd be driving anytime soon?

Chris Peltz:
Man, they've been around a long time. I know a lot of folks are thinking, Oh, they're coming. They're coming. Listen. When I was 12 to 16 years old, we had self driving cars. It was called, Hey, mom, look, no hands.

John:
Yikes!

Chris Peltz:
Oh, okay. So, you know, it they're exciting. I think they will work. I think they would be an amazing addition to this world. The problem is man, and that's been the problem since the beginning of the world, right, man has screwed everything up and, and that's, what's going to happen with the smart cars. They are going to work great and do everything they're designed to do. And even for someone who's blind or visually impaired, it's going to be an amazing accessible feature. The problem is not, you know, until everyone has one, you've got people out there making mistakes, you know my daughter and I were hit head on by a distracted driver last year and a self-driving car would not have stopped that accident. It just wouldn't have happened because the, you know, some idiot was distracted and, and he, he messed up big time. And so even with self-driving cars there's all kinds of things in them and the technology today to avoid accidents, to keep you in the lane that you're in. So, you know, warn you before you change lanes, or if you're going to change lanes or someone next to you, the warnings that are given all of that is there and works great. But when you've got someone who doesn't have that technology and they mess up that technology, isn't going to say, and, and so there's going to be issues still until it gets to the point where every vehicle, you know, is doing it. And so I don't think that'll ever be seen in my lifetime.

John:
Yeah. Well, I think I'm, I'm kind of with you on for most of that. It's, it's kind of the wild west of autos, I guess, or vehicles. And I think you're right. I think everybody needs it. It needs to be all or none to, for it to work in a more harmonious way. And I don't know, I just, I can't tell what's what science fiction and what's real and when it will be real.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. And I mean, I think they're out there. I mean, I've, I've I know somebody that the husband and wife, they have Teslas and they live in a home where they can hit a button and the Tesla pulls up to the door and they get in and they drive away. And when they get out of the, out of, when they get home, they get out at their front door, they hit a button and their Tesla goes and parks itself. I mean, it's, you know, that in essence, that's, self-driving, you know, in a, in a very controlled environment, but nevertheless it is self-driving, I mean, it's what they're doing with these cars is really amazing. So that is there. And they'll probably be on the road there, you know, there, and there are some, in some ways they're on the road already. But for it to be feasible for someone who's blind or visually impaired, and that's really what, what my statement previously was really about. There will be self-driving cars. They, they will, they will be out there. But you know, it, it's scary in some, some ways, but it's really cool and exciting and others, because what they're able to do.

John:
Let me ask you in a different way. I think you may have already said no to this, but do you think in your lifetime, you'll take a trip to the grocery store to get a gallon of milk in a car by yourself?

Chris Peltz:
No. I won't. Now will someone who's blind or visually impaired in my lifetime, I think that's possible. But in my lifetime that technology is going to be outrageously expensive and I won't be able to do that, but do I think it will happen? I think it might. I, you know, depending on how long I live, you know let's say you know, another 40 years I'll be 86, so in another 40 years, will that happen? I think it's very possible. I really do.

John:
Alright. Well, let's talk about grilling. Let's talk about the Blind Grilling Experience. Tell me a little bit about the, kind of the origin of that and where that started.

Chris Peltz:
So, you know, the Blind Grilling Experience is, is now a podcast, which began a few months ago, and it was a changing of the guard in some ways from the YouTube channel. Six years ago, I did my first cooking video, which I posted on my personal Facebook page with my, with my kids. And and then I decided, you know, what I was doing work for social in social media, for other companies hunting and fishing Outfitters. And they, they retired, they, you know, were moving on and I was still wanted to do something in the social media realm. And so so I started the blind grilling Facebook page. And then you know, time is flying, I guess, you know, three and a half years now, maybe four. I moved that over to YouTube as well and did blind grilling YouTube channel. And there was a police officer here where I live in, in Missouri who was shot in the head and he survived. He lost one eye. He had just an amazing recovery that took place, but I wanted to do something to give back to first responders and veterans and others, but, but the focus mainly was first responders and veterans who have suffered vision loss to, to give them back to say, thank you for the service they've, they've engaged in for our community, for our country. And and to let them know that that vision loss doesn't mean their life is over. They can still be productive you know, citizens in the community and their family and their neighborhoods. And so so I wanted to do something. And so we turned blind grilling into a 501c3 nonprofit, and we began getting together with various companies, such as Big Green Egg, Kick Ash Basket, Lane's Barbecue, Flame Boss, which I mentioned earlier in, and several others. And we started trying to find, you know, raise money and try to find some folks that we could encourage and help and give back a sense of independence you know, to them. And, and we've, we've been able to do that a little bit. We've, we've provided eight complete packages and just over 20 partial packages of different accessible items to individuals to help them, you know, get, get to grilling, you know, and, and be able to do that independently by themselves. Which is something that many of them thought they would never be able to do again without some type of sighted help. And and so that that's been, our goal is to continue that we've got a couple of people in our sites for this year, in fact, that we would love to help. There's a police officer that I've, I've recently found out about in Illinois that has been in fact, 2007, I think he was shot in the face and suffered vision loss and a few other you know, a few other things, but you know, has come a long way. He's doing very well. And, and so we're, we're looking at seeing what we can do to help him. There's another individual closer to here to where I'm at that we're looking at trying to provide a package to who, you know, suffered some vision loss and, and this trying to do what he can for his family in the midst of this situation. And, and you know, we're, we're wanting to help them out. So that's what we're, that's what our, you know, our mission basically is what we're trying to do is provide that encouragement, that independence and and help them to know that they, they still are productive people, citizens, and, and able to provide in, in some way, you know, for themselves, for their family, their neighbors, and you know, just do what we can in that area to, you know, provide recipes. I mean, just, you know, we love cooking, we love smoking grilling and, and just sharing that love with others, especially those who are blind or visually impaired so that they know that this is something you can do, you can do well. And and you can eat really good, even for guy that's…

John:
Technologically challenged, right?

Chris Peltz:
That's right. Yeah, absolutely. Because, because this thing just works. I mean, the Flame Boss, I mean, it just, it, you know, I open up the app on my phone and it tells me, and in fact, it, I can even ask the Amazon Alexa like, Hey, Alexa, ask Flame Boss what my temp is I don't even have to grab my phone, you know, to find out what the temp is or to change it or, or anything. And so so yeah, it's, it's easy. It works. And you know, I, I never opened a computer or even have to grab my phone on some occasions.

John:
So take me back to like the beginning for you personally, when you're grilling as your, your vision is either fully deteriorated or, or deteriorating. And you're, you're standing at a grill that's, I don't know, gas or charcoal or whatever it is. And you're like this isn't working, there's gotta be a better way. I mean, was that a, did that happen, or?

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. It, I knew it, I have almost always used charcoal grills. I've had a few gas grills, but I've always went back to charcoal even, you know, and after buying a gas grill using it for a month or two, my wife was like, we gotta get another charcoal grill. And I was like, yes, I know. I know. And so but I always had metal grills and, and I always knew that it, it wasn't the best situation, but I love to do it so much that I would power through it. I mean, I burned myself a lot. I've got a few scars and and one day in 2003 2003 or four, my brother came and visited my family, his family visited my family. We we're going to cook some steaks. And so I got the grill fired up and he came out to, you know, we're going to sit out out, back chat, little bit, grill some steaks. And so I'm going to the grill and I'm, you know, feeling around trying to grab the handle and, you know, touching the grill and like, ah, Ooh, ah, you know, kind of thing, kinda like one of them, cartoon characters running across coals barefoot. And you know, my brother's like, dude, let me help you, you know, which is, you know, the ultimate sin, right. You never helps. You never touch another man's grill when you're out his house. But he was finally, he was just like, I can't watch you hurt yourself. You know? So, so he jumped in and helped, well, a couple of weeks later, he showed up my house with a big green egg, which is a ceramic grill. And he's like, dude, come out here and check this out, you know, and feel around. And, and it was really cool. It was neat. You know, I could tell at the time it was green and it looked like an egg and he's like go in there and get the meat ready, you know, and then we'll come back, we'll get familiar with it. And we'll, you know, we'll fire it back, we'll fire it up and we'll get going. So I went, I got the, got the stakes ready and I came back out and he said, well, feel around on it a little bit more and make sure you're ready, you know, to get into it. And I'm feeling around and like, yeah, I'm ready. And he's like, he's like I said, look, let's fire it up. And he said, it's already set in 350 degrees. Wow. Amazed. Cause my hands were all over it. You know, I didn't open it, but I was just getting familiar with where it was setting, how he'd built a table. So it was sitting in a table and, you know, just kind of getting to know the area that I was getting ready to work on. And here's this grill at 350 degrees and I got my hands on it and I mean, it was hot outside. I mean, it was, you know, we're talking in the middle of the summer in the Midwest here in Missouri and, you know, so, so it was hot. But but I, I mean, my hands were on it. I mean, like resting on it, you know, touching it. There's no way I could have done that with a metal grill. And in that, that right there was just a, just huge, I mean, that was just like, wow. I mean, I can yeah, I can take my time actually feel around and know where I'm at, you know, without hurrying or rushing or, you know, worrying about leaving skin behind and, you know, having ice water close to dip my hand in because it got burnt so bad. So so that was awesome. And, and I never, I didn't look back as far as that goes now, I still had the problem of, of knowing how hot it was. And that was the great thing about kids. Right. Hey kids, go out and tell me what the temperature is on the grill. And so that's how I did it for you know, 10 you know, going back in, looking at, looking at time wise, you know, for 12, 13 years until I came across the Flame Boss. And, and then of course, you know, I think my kids were more excited about it at first than I was, because I didn't have to ask them to go and look at the temperature anymore. I was doing it all on my own, which was an amazing feeling.

John:
And how did you find the Flame Boss?

Chris Peltz:
So there was another unit by another company that was, that I had actually purchased. And these things, you know, at the time are not, they're not cheap. And so I bought this unit, cause my brother had said a guy at work, you know, he's able to get on his computer even at work while he's at home. And you know, he can check out his, you know, everything. I was like, man, if that's the case and especially if it's a web base my voiceover should work with that. And so I took a chance, a chance and I bought it and it didn't work. It not only did it not work, it was so complicated to get set up and try to get onto your system. You had to set up. I mean, like I said, I am technologically challenged to begin with. I mean, you there, I don't know what an SQLSQR, whatever it, I don't know, there's things you had to do and had to know back doors you had to go into and things on the web to get this thing going. And it was a nightmare. And even for my kids trying to get it set up and some of them love technology and they were just like, this is, this is complicated. And and I saw someone post something about Flame Boss talking about it, doing basically the same thing. And I'm like, you know, I'm not going to take that kind of chance again. So I called Flame Boss and I said, listen, this is my situation. And I want to know before I buy your product, you know, is it accessible? Can I use it because I've got your competitors and it it's, I can't use it. It does nothing for me. And and I said, you know what? We don't know if it's accessible or not, but here's what we're going to do. We're going to send you one, you get it, hooked up, call us with any questions, you know, we'll help you if you need it, whatever, but we're going to send you one. You tell us if it's accessible. And so they sent me one, I didn't have to buy it. They just sent me one and I get it. I get it hooked up. It's it right off the bat was super simple. In that respect. I did have to have in that first unit I had, which was a 200 WiFi unit. You did have to have sighted assistance to enter in your WiFi passcode. But once that was done you know, it was web based at the time and it was partially X. I could get all the information, but I couldn't change any of the parameters. I couldn't change the temperature, you know, set the alarms or anything like that. So, you know, I could talk to them and they said, well, let us work on it. And the next thing I know, they said, Hey, we are sending you a package. You know, so when you get it, you know, give us a call. And so I received like the next day I received an Amazon echo, which I, I, you know, one of the, the big tall ones, the, the Amazon Alexa, and they had created a skill. And so, so I got hooked up, I got the Flame Boss took that to my, my Big Green Egg. And then I just talked to the Amazon Echo and asked her, you know, what the temperature asked, ask her to change the set tab. And it did it, it worked and which was, which was a great thing that were, that was awesome, but it still wasn't able to use it on the phone just yet. And they said, look, we are working on it, right. We are in there, we're in the process of creating an app and they wanted to make it sure it was accessible and they did, they created an app. So it was no longer, completely web based. And they made it accessible and, and they've continued with all their updates, everything they've done, they, they made it accessible and that, you know, they, once we became a nonprofit, they say, you know what, we love what you're doing. We're going to provide you know, a unit for each of your packages that you, that you give. And so you know, up to so many year, but there's still, no, I mean, they, they they're providing them and it's been awesome. It's been awesome to work with them. You know, here's a company that, you know, the number of blind and visually impaired individuals while it's growing, after everything I've said about them is so, still very small that it's, if no blind person was using their units you know, they, they, they wouldn't feel it, you know, financially it would not be a huge blow to them, but they care enough that they made sure that if there's a blind or visually impaired person who wants to use it, they can.

John:
Yeah. That's, that's a great story. And it kind of seems like the Flame Boss in general was kind of designed not for people with vision impairments, but it hits almost every spot where somebody in that situation would, would be able to use a product like this. So it's almost designed for visually impaired exactly, but really not at all.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah. I know. Yeah, it's crazy that way. And in fact, the 400, right? So they did the 300, which you still needed some sighted assistance to get it connected to your WiFi. And then they came out with the 400, which you don't need any sighted assistance. You know, as someone who's blind or visually impaired can get the Flame Boss 400 and without any sighted assistance whatsoever, they're able to connect it to their WiFi using the Flame Boss app and their, and their, and their phone. And you know, with the voiceover or whatever technology you have on your phone, you're able to go through and get it, you know, direct, connected to the WiFi, put in the password. And you know, there's a process to do it, but it it's doable without any sighted assistance whatsoever, which is again it just, it's just awesome to have that power and independence. I mean, it was awesome, the 200 to 300, but when, you know, when you go and get it hooked up, I was like, alright, get some signage assistance, get it. But now with the 400, now I'm in it now it's just not needed. It's, that's that's a great thing for someone who's blind or visually impaired. I think that's something that a lot of folks miss you know, and you think, well, I mean, you know, you ask for help, it's no big deal ask for help. Right. Well, you don't want for some folks and maybe it is a pride issue and maybe it's it, it, and that can be a dangerous thing, but, you know, when you can do it on your own, I mean, there's that sense of accomplishment means a lot.

John:
Yeah, it does. And so I think you said you've, you've delivered eight packages and, and 20 or so partial packages. I mean, that's got to be a pretty great feeling to see all those things happen for the type of thing you just described that, that you've experienced.

Chris Peltz:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, you know, the full package, complete packages. I mean, that's a grill, that's, you know, all the accessories there, you know, rubs that's everything, partial packages, you know, that, you know, that is not included grill. It depends because sometimes people have a grill already or have, you know, the egg themselves or family have got them the egg, and then they just need some, you know, a little extra bump with a few other accessories and things. And so, you know, some of our other partners provide us with things. So we, we do some partial packages that way. Most of them have included the Flame Boss, but not all of them. But but yeah, I mean, it, it does feel good. It really is. It's nice, you know, to be able to help someone in that respect and you know, all the feedback we get is just been amazing. And, you know, we will, we'll, we'll do our best to continue this, you know, we're not out there pushing people to give or support, you know, like a lot of companies are, you know, we're not having commercial. We just, we just do little things here and there basically, you know, when we're ready to do another package, we raise enough money for that package. And then we, and, you know, we go to the next one so we don't have a lot of reserves, you know, everything we raise goes to the packages and some traveling expenses, cause we've traveled to Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Texas you know, mailing things out to California, Nevada. Yeah, I mean, you know, w you know, Pennsylvania, New York, I mean, you know, so we've, we've done a lot of that Michigan you know, mailing things out to various places and, and sending things out and then traveling, you know, to deliver the packages. So some of that, you know, is an expanse that you know, covers the cost covers that, but, but it's all going towards those packages.

John:
So that being said, what is it that keeps Blind Grilling going? How can people support Blind Grilling?

Chris Peltz:
So you know, to support Blind Grilling, of course we most of our donations either come in directly through like our PayPal account through our email, which is blindgrilling@gmail.com. We are a 501c3, so you know, any donation is tax deductible. But our PayPal account is basically through our email blindgrilling@gmail.com. Our Facebook page has a donate button. So facebook.com/blindgrilling. And so that's, that's generally how most of our donations come in. If you want to send us directly you know, a check or something like that there are, you know, email us, and we can provide you with that information, blindgrilling@gmail.com and you know, and that would be a way, you know, checks made out to Blind Grilling, Inc. And that, that would be the main ways that folks can donate.

John:
Wonderful. Alright, Chris, well, thanks for visiting with with us today. And I'll let you take us out. What is it you say at the end of all your videos?

Chris Peltz:
Absolutely, man. Hey, you know what it is. If you're lookin' you ain't cookin'!

August 25, 2020

Welcome to the Ambiguously Blind Podcast

Welcome to Episode 1! I’m so thankful you found us. The inspiration and driving force behind this project is the desire for me to better express myself, connect with and inspire others and discuss life with a visual impairment. I have coined the term Ambiguously Blind because I think it describes me well. I often find it difficult to articulate to others just how much I can and cannot see. And there are many instances where my vision impairment is undetectable. Since I’ve been at this for over twenty years, you may think I’d have my spiel down, but I don’t! 



Episode Transcription:

Welcome to Episode 1! I’m so thankful you found us. The inspiration and driving force behind this project is the desire for me to better express myself, connect with and inspire others and discuss life with a visual impairment. I have coined the term Ambiguously Blind because I think it describes me well. I often find it difficult to articulate to others just how much I can and cannot see. And there are many instances where my vision impairment is undetectable. Since I’ve been at this for over twenty years, you may think I’d have my spiel down, but I don’t! 

I was born with unimpaired, or normal, vision. But, one winter evening about 22 years ago, I went to bed early with cold-like symptoms and through a multitude of events spanning seven days, it was miraculous that I even woke up.  And when I did, I quickly realized that life on the other side of bacterial meningitis is much more challenging than life before. One of my lasting effects from bacterial meningitis is vision loss. I am totally blind in one eye and have 20/300 acuity in the other. For those that do not understand, 20/300 is a clinical definition for visual acuity and well beyond the limit for legal blindness in American. This means, for example, I’m not permitted to hold a driver’s license and thus don’t drive. And that is for good reason. Prior to my vision loss I did drive. So, I have experienced all the sensations that the privilege of driving has to offer. 

As we venture along the way we’re going to share my story which includes the experience with bacterial meningitis. And, through my eternally optimistic and humor infused lens, we’ll explore a wide range of topics including survival and adaptation, faith and family, technology and education, science and research, nutrition and wellness, sports and recreation to name a few. Oh, and of course, all things visual impairment and blindness. 

So, I hope that you will strap in and join us. For more information visit AmbiguouslyBlind.com and you may email me,  john@amblind.com I look forward to connecting  with you again soon. Perhaps we’ll share your story, too.