S1: Episode 44 - Michael McCulloch

Episode Information

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Narrator:  Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode 44, Michael McCulloch.

Michael:  My mother’s name is Machi Waanabi. She is Japanese, born and raised in Tokyo. She moved to the United States after she married my father who was in the service. She had a lot of strength and I mean, not only was she blind, she had cancer early on in her life. So the strength that I saw in her just adapting, especially seeing my mother being discriminated, and even us kids at times in the neighborhood because we were, uh, half Japanese. I remember seeing the movie Moby Dick. And so whenever a storm would come in and the wind would start blowing and I would start imagining that I was in the Moby Dick story, I would kind of hug a tree and just continuing to feel the rain and, and the wind in my face and would do that as long as I could until my mother would call us in from the storm.

I was 28 years old when the glaucoma was first diagnosed. I, uh, knew that there was a good chance of having it because my mother went blind. And when, when I was in my teens from glaucoma, I mean she basically went from, you know, one day being fully sighted to the next day being pretty much totally blind. I really didn’t notice any symptoms from the glaucoma. What it does is it, uh, damages the optic nerve. It starts reducing your peripheral vision and unchecked, it’ll basically reduce your vision down to like a pinpoint and eventually to nothing.

After I lost the vision in my second eye, went through a period of six, seven months of not doing anything. Basically, I, I didn’t work, I didn’t go out of the house. But, uh, with the support system that I had, especially a group of guys that I had been meeting with on a weekly basis and through my own faith, was able to overcome that depression and came to a point of acceptance of my blindness. For me, uh, blindness is not living in darkness because I do have still some light reception and able to see the shadows. And so even last week we had a full moon and I could see a little speck of light. And so just being able to see that little speck of light was enough to bring, bring back a good memory of having seen a full moon.

I, uh, like to go for walks in the park down near my house and to hear the different birds and other animals, insects. And a lot of times when I’m waiting on transportation to pick me up, I’ll just sit and just listen to conversations. Dialects, the different pitch and tone of voices. I mean, I never would’ve done that as a sighted person. Blindness is not the end of your life. I see it at times as a nuisance, but for the most part I can pretty much do everything that I did as a sighted person. Yeah, there are some limitations. Of course, I cannot drive. I’ve had to adapt. A lot of, uh, movies are now audio described, so enjoy those just as much as I did. Maybe even more as a sighted person.

As far as philosophy or belief, I tend to hold to the golden rule. Everyone has value and at some point in life, you know, everybody’s gonna have some kind of disability. You know, I work 40 hours a week, so I spend the rest of that time on different blind related projects, meetings, the radio program, the ibug cafe, so all of all of those activities related ibug are associated with technology available for the blind and visually impaired. My name is Michael McCulloch. I’m an aerospace engineer working at the Johnson Space Center for the Boeing Company. And my particular job, I lead a group that develops procedures for the astronauts and the ground controllers to tell them how to assemble any of the equipment that go up on the space station that the Boeing company develops and builds.

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Host:  Michael is a graduate of Rice University where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical engineering. His resume is impressive. He worked for the Boeing Company, Space Exploration at NASA, in the space shuttle program on the International Space Station prior to his retirement. Michael is the founder of the nonprofit ibug Eye Blind Users group, which promotes independence of the blind through accessible technology training. He received the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind, which honors individuals who are a positive force in the lives of others. Michael is a traveler and has completed a four day trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru. He talks about his philosophy. At some point in life, everyone is going to have some kind of disability. I believe that everyone has value and has the right to live to their fullest potential. Join us next week. I’m Michael Nye. Thank you so much for listening.