Positive Vision: Presenting Ken Brandt
by Stephanae • Posted October 25, 2021
A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of meeting today’s featured guest, Ken Brandt, on LinkedIn. As an American living in Australia, Ken is an author, a remarkable storyteller, and public speaker. In addition to speaking, Ken is also a talented trumpeter who plays the video’s background music. Ken was born with poor eyesight yet his outlook on life is one we can all learn from.
Many of us within the blind/low vision community are often the recipients of the “you’re so inspirational…” phrase but when we ask why the answers are very vague. I believe one of the reasons why is because there is such a lack of understanding about the spectrum of blindness. Ken’s viewpoint and approach to life is something to be inspired by because he has not let societal limitations prevent him from carving out a spectacular life. Below Ken’s YouTube video is the transcription for those who prefer to read. Enjoy!! ~Steph
Hi, my name is Ken Brandt. I’m the author of Positive Vision: Enjoying the Adventures and Advantages of Poor Eyesight.
The Adventures include all kinds of stuff. Being dragged by galloping horses in Montana. Being in some fiery cave adventures. Helping New York City firefighters fight an arson blaze. Things in Australia. Things in the US. Helping catch a thief, a long convoluted successful chase of a thief in New York City. And many, many, many more adventures.
I like going fast. Running, walking, jogging, sprinting, all really good. Bicycling, I like bicycling, but I can easily bicycle faster than I can see some of the potholes and bumps and dips in the road coming up. So I have to be pretty careful and can’t really bicycle as fast as I would like. Driving, well, that’s super fun. But being so nearsighted, it’s very, very good for society and it has saved a ton of lives that I cannot get a driver’s license. So that’s really good.
So I was thinking, what could I do where I could go fast, and I wouldn’t have to worry about running into anything? And I thought, parachuting, that looks really great. It’s so exciting. You’re in the sky, it’s just air, you’re not going to hit anything. What could be better? It would be really fun to try that.
Adventures In Skydiving
So while I was in college, I went with a couple of friends and we signed up for skydiving training. We went to Downsville, Maryland. Yes, Downsville was the real name. And we took parachuting training and training was really exciting.
You spend a lot of time practicing landing, jumping off of boxes. You’ll learn how the backup parachute works, when to use it, what was going to happen. You learn that the first three times you do your parachuting, you’re connected by a cord to the plane so you don’t have to worry about pulling the ripcord. Instead, it will happen automatically because you’re going to be sort of nervous about other things and that’s a good safety feature. You’ll learn what to do when you land in a forest, you learn all kinds of great stuff.
Then it was time for our first jump. So you go in this little, little, little plane, right? It’s a tiny plane, there’s only one seat. The seat is for the pilot, and then there’s space on the floor, just for the instructor and three trainees. That’s all. That fills up the whole plane. You take up a lot of space with your parachute in your backup parachute. That’s it.
Getting into the plane, you couldn’t help but notice that as we go through the door, it wasn’t just a door. It wasn’t something you open and close. It was just an opening. There was no door it could not close. So you go in, alright, no problem. But then you take off and I’m only inches from that opening. I’d never been in a plane before with no, no side, just an opening on where the door should be or a window should be.
I had a great view but I had enough adrenaline going just thinking about jumping. Just thinking about parachuting without having to also think about, well, you know what, if the plane swerves a little bit or whatever. I don’t want to fall out through the opening and, and be in the air before I’m supposed to.
So anyway, we get to the place where we’re supposed to jump out of the plane. So you don’t actually jump out of the plane the way it is shown in movies and everything else. Because the plane is too little, it’s much smaller than the planes they show in on TV in the movies. What you do instead is you crawl out that opening. So your feet are on a bar, outside the plane over the plain’s wheels so you’re outside the plane. And you’re hanging onto this other bar, which is under the wing on one side of the plane.
So your hands on this bar under the wing, your feet on this bar over the wheel, you’re outside the plane, the engine is roaring, the wind is coming atcha you’re hanging on for dear life, and then it’s your turn to jump. So boom, you throw yourself back and up. You arch your back and you’re in the position and you’re falling like a rock, your just going and you’re just going down and you’re going down really fast. And it’s so exciting.
And the plane, meanwhile, you know you’re attached by that cord and it’s supposed to open your parachute right away. But that plane gets very, very, very far away. I mean, it’s a plane, it’s flying, you know. So it’s off in the distance someplace. And you’re thinking, wait a minute, what’s going on? Where’s my parachute? Why hasn’t my parachute opened? And you start thinking about opening the backup parachute. But all of this is going through your mind very quickly.
Where To Land?
First Eyeglasses Book Cover
Then, happily, very happily, your parachute opens. What a great feeling. You really, really enjoy it when your parachute opens, boom. Then I start thinking, Wait a minute, you know, I should have thought of this before I tried skydiving. I should have thought about the question of: Will I be able to see where I am supposed to land?
Well, I’m looking around, and it’s farmland all over the place crops and stuff, except, except one place, which was a dark rectangle. And I thought alright, hopefully, that’s it. So I steer for that.
And as I got much closer, and then I can see all right, wait, I think this is it. Because it’s a little airport, we took off from some little planes. And there’s a big circle of people. So that was it, that was the target. So you aim for the big circle of people. And when I got much, much, much closer, then I could see the frisbee size target in the middle of the circle.
In sports parachuting, you aim for this frisbee size target. So I got pretty close. I didn’t hit it. But I got very close, much closer than most people. So that was really good it was super exciting. I knew I wanted to do it a lot more. And actually, I became the captain after a while of my university parachuting team. And I thought to myself at that point, this is so great. I want to learn everything about this, I want to do it. It’s just really, really cool. What could go wrong?
Well, over my next few jumps, I discovered one minor and one really major thing that could go wrong, a very exciting experience. So that’s a little tiny taste, of the adventures I’ve experienced and related in the book.
Advantages Of Poor Eyesight
The other part of the book is about the advantages of poor eyesight and there’s a million of them. They’re scattered throughout the book. It’s very clear that good eyesight is better than poor eyesight. I agree with that completely. But it’s also fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and worth celebrating the advantages of poor eyesight.
These advantages can include all kinds of stuff: longer life, better balance, greater creativity, better focus, better concentration, better imagination, enhanced use of all the other senses, better presentation skills, and lots, lots more. There are all kinds of examples. And they’re fun, relatable examples.
4 Shared Commonalities
Another thing I’d like to talk about is, as you know, this video is going out to the Bold, Blind, Beautiful community. And what are the things that are in common between the Blind, Bold, Beautiful community and Positive Vision? Well, I think there are four things. Four things.
One is positivity. You look at all the videos on the Bold Blind Beauty community and articles and the thoughts and they agree with what it says in Positive Vision. Whatever your vision, whatever you want to do, give it a red hot go just go for it. If you don’t make it, you went for it. You know it’s still an exciting experience. If you go for it, and you make it it’s just grand. You should just go for whatever it is you want to do. Go for it. Some things are a ton of work. Most things that are worthwhile are a ton of work but go for it.
Second, in the Bold Blind Beauty, bold is the first word there so boldness. If you have poor eyesight, whether it’s slightly less than 20/20, or it’s practically blind. If you’ve any degree of slightly under 20/20 eyesight to some degree every step you take during your life, you’re going into a bit of the unknown. You don’t fully see what you’re going into. You develop your boldness, you’re used to going into a space that you don’t fully understand.
Well if you do that often enough or your whole life, in my case and in the case of many other people, then it’s only a little tiny step more from boldness to bravery. Bravery being: alright, you know there’s some challenge or danger or risk or difficulty that has to be jumped over or hurtled or, or attacked. You know you’ve got something and you know what it’s going to be.
If you spent your life being bold, it’s only a tiny step forward to being brave. So if you’ve got poor vision, you’re more likely to not only be bold but also be brave, which is pretty cool.
So then the next part of the phrase Bold Blind Beauty: blind. Well, okay, I can relate to that to a limited degree. I’ve had a big roller coaster of vision ups and downs during my life. I’ve had six eye operations, cataract operation in each eye, detached retina operation in each eye two other operations, and I was legally blind for many years.
Then, the fourth thing that the communities have in common, I think, Bold Blind Beauty. Beauty is worth thinking about. I think that’s an advantage we in the poor eyesight world have.
You take two people, any two people, one has great vision. One not so great, right? They’re looking at all kinds of stuff. They’re looking at beautiful mountains, meadows, forests, oceans, rivers, or manmade things. Beautiful, giant murals, huge statues. beautiful city scenes or small town scenes. They’re looking at people, handsome and beautiful people, right? Everybody’s looking at both of those, right? Okay, so far, so good.
But if you have 20/20, perfect vision, or 6/6 perfect vision in metric, then you might also see over here, you might say, “Oh, wait a minute, there’s a little litter.” Over here you might see “wait a minute some of that paint is chipped. Ah, there’s some rust on that bridge. Oh, that person has some scars. Oh, that person has some wrinkles.” Well: huh!
If you have poor vision you might not see any of that stuff. You only see the good parts. The world IS a more beautiful place for those of us in the poor eyesight community. How cool is that?
Lastly, I’d like to thank my wonderful friend Stephanae McCoy for inviting me to make this video and for showing it to you. Steph is the Brilliant, Buoyant, Barnstorming Beacon of Bold Blind Beauty. Thanks very much, Steph.
Connecting With Ken
The Beyond Sight Magazine cover features a photo of Ken a distinguished-looking white man smiling broadly. He has white hair and a white mustache and is wearing a gray jacket over a black tee. The text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight Magazine October 2021 | Positive Vision: Presenting Ken Brandt | Cane EnAbled.”
- Book cover has a blue, yellow, white text overlay that reads “Positive Vision: Enjoying the Adventures and Advantages of Poor Eyesight.” A photo of Ken is under the overlay with only his eyes clearly visible between the words Positive and Vision.
First Eyeglasses is a photo of Ken against a white background holding up his very first pair of eyeglasses, which he wore when he was a little kid, starting when he was two years old.