FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Peter Haig is an actor. But the track he records in a studio is not for a movie. The words he is reading, are illuminating another world, painting a picture for those who can’t see.
Thousands of books, stories and magazines are recorded at Insight for the Blind, and then sent to the Library of Congress and the National Book Service, so visually impaired and other disabled people can listen to them on devices they get through their local libraries. Haig’s friend, Steve Gladstone, is one of them.
“It opens up that whole imaginative process when you read, and you can create stories in your mind as you read,” said Gladstone. “But for me, listening to a book, as I often listen to movies, gives me access to that phenomenal world that I otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Volunteers take on a range of tasks, from reading and operating the recording equipment, to monitoring quality and pronunciation.
Haig reads as a way to exercise his acting muscles, but given his decades-long friendship with Gladstone, it is about much more.
“I like to know there’s one place I can go during the week and make some kind of contribution,” he said. “And also, the people here who you work with are very interesting people.”
Gladstone was not born blind. When he was 17, he complained of night blindness, so his mother took him to the doctor, and they discovered he suffered from Retinitis Pigmentosa.
“I could still see,” said Gladstone. “I was driving cars, chasing girls, playing basketball.”
By the time he was in his early thirties, the degenerative disease robbed him of his vision completely.
“If you’re born blind, it’s a different thing,” he said. “When you go blind, first you’re in denial.”
He learned to use a cane and got a guide dog. He adapted with the help of technology and the refuge of his imagination, sparked by the writings of William Faulkner and James Joyce, delivered by voices like Haig’s.
“I really miss the sensation I get when I see colors,” said Gladstone. “For example, when I dream, sometimes I dream in color, and it’s very exciting. But I remember everything—the blue sky, clouds, people’s faces.”
Gladstone is also a writer and actor. His blogger handle is “The Blind Dude.” He and Haig met through acting all those years ago, and Haig supported him even when he doubted himself.
“He encouraged me to get onto the stage,” said Gladstone. “I said, ‘When I left acting, I could see. Now, I’m a blind guy, how am I going to do it,’ and he said, ‘Well, you won’t know if you don’t try.’”
Insight for the Blind has about 100 volunteers, but they are always looking for more, as well as financial support. Click here to find out more.