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Lufkin Residents Teach Visually Impaired How to Be Handy Around The House

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from the Lufkin Daily News, October 27, 2002.

It's truly a case of the blind leading the blind.

Lufkinite Phil Parr, who is totally blind, teaches other blind folks how to fix things around the house as a part of his weekly internet radio show, "The Blind Handyman," recorded in Lufkin and broadcast around the globe.

With the help of fellow Lufkinites Don Shaw and Don Patterson, who also are visually impaired, and Tom Houston--"our token sighted guy," as Parr jokingly refers to him--the foursome tape their one-hour radio show from Parr's home recording studio once a week. The show airs Mondays and Tuesdays on the American Council of the Blind's radio website: www.acbradio.org

With listeners from 70 countries around the world tuning in, Parr and his friends talk about how to build and repair "from a blindness perspective," as Parr puts it. "Mainly, how to keep from cutting our fingers off!" he emphasized.

Parr said they also have a guest on each show--"someone who's done woodwork or a special project"--to talk about such issues as how they measure and what tools they use.

ACB Radio features four separate channels: Radio Mainstream, which airs "The Blind Handyman," in addition to shows like Cooking without Looking"; Radio Cafe, which showcases blind musicians; Radio Treasure Trove, for classic drama and comedy; and Radio Interactive, with blind cyber-radio personalities playing requests.

Prior to a recent taping, Houston gathered some last minute emails from the show's listeners to address on-air while the show's hosts assembled in Parr's kitchen to shoot the breeze, providing a fascinating glimpse into the world of the visually impaired.

When Patterson asked, "What time is it?" Shaw pushed a button on his watch and it intoned the time. When Parr's phone rang, a talking Caller ID let him know who was placing the call. And Parr's JAWS (Job Access with Speech) screen reader enables him to navigate his computer and surf the web.

"We get together every week anyway," Parr said of the group. "And we actually stand a chance of disseminating some useful information. Who knows? Once we start, we just do it. And if we have a problem, we just go on."

A few minutes before taping for the show was scheduled to begin, the group trekked through the back yard to Parr's studio across a wooden walkway he constructed with help from Shaw. "It looks like a couple of blind guys built it!" Patterson yelled. "It's a little crooked," Parr admitted, "but what the hell. It's a good blind handyman's project."

The comfortable studio is outfitted with a couch, a player piano, a coffee/wet bar and a few guitars, in addition to a state-of-the-art mixing board and four microphones for the show's hosts, whom Houston introduced before heading to the mailbag.

One listener had written in to thank the show for sharing their tips and tricks before detailing the enormous project he had recently undertaken--renovating a condominium. Another email was sent by a listener who had purchased a storage building and wondered "if a blind person could put a window in it."

Shaw had pre-recorded the interview with their guest, Steven Stewart, who builds birdhouses out of cedar picket--"a pretty blind-friendly project," Parr said.

He added that previous guests have discussed such projects as unstopping drains and replacing the innards in a toilet tank.

Following the interview, Parr instructed listeners on how to install storm doors and Patterson closed the show with a few fall fireplace maintenance tips. Before signing off, Parr offered this parting shot to his listeners: "'I see,' said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw."

"The Blind Handyman" airs at 9 p.m. Monday, then replays every other hour through Tuesday, at: www.acbradio.org The shows also are archived in the website's "on demand" section.

sfaison@coxnews.com

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