Dean Owen

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Paying it Forward

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Back in 2013 I came across a fabulous project launched on Kickstarter.  The project was a watch for the visually impaired, inspired and named after Lt. Brad Snyder, a heroic bomb disposal operator who unfortunately lost his sight from an IED explosion whilst serving in Afghanistan (think "The Hurt Locker" but for real). Brad went on to win two Gold medals and a Silver at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London for swimming and currently holds the world record for the 400m and 100m freestyle for full visually impaired. 

Failing to raise funds through traditional sources, a talented group of individuals headed by a recent MIT Sloan School of Management graduate, Hyungsoo Kim, turned to Kickstarter for funds. Within a couple of weeks of launching, the team blew past their initial funding goal of $40,000 needed to initiate the project, raising more than $500,000. Needless to say I made a pledge and my reward would be delivery of the watch upon completion of the production run. 

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This watch has no glass face allowing the wearer to "feel" the correct time through the use of magnetized ball bearings. The ball bearing on the dial of the watch indicates the minutes, with the ball bearing on the side, the hours. The watch comes with raised hour markers, enabling the user to easily read the time. The movement is Swiss Quartz, and the timepiece is waterproof to 50m. Needless to say that the watch can also quite easily be read visually. 

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The watch is brought to you by Eone Time.  This particular piece though, was not for me, much as I'd love to keep it in my collection. When I took part in the funding, I promised myself to donate this watch to the first visually impaired person I met on the streets of Shanghai.

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As mentioned, I got this watch with the intention of giving it to the first visually impaired person I came across in Shanghai.  Unfortunately after wondering the streets in search of someone, I resorted to driving the streets in search of a massage parlor. You see many of the visually impaired in China might find it difficult to find work, but this is one industry where there are jobs a plenty. Blind masseuse may have more talent in their sense of touch than those with the sense of sight. And so many legitimate massage parlors will have a roster of visually impaired on their staff roster. So finally driving around a cold winter Sunday, we came across one parlor, and went in. 

I did not realize this would be so hard, as at the reception we were confronted with a board with pictures of many of the masseuse, and how to choose just one ? I had my partner explain to the reception staff, and ask which one of them was kind hearted. An odd and rather discriminatory method of choice I know. In the end, the receptionist just told us to choose from the pictures on the board. 

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We chose number 5, and within a minute, this nice gentleman was led out to the reception area to meet us. I took his hand and led him to the sofa, and we explained that we wanted to gift him this new watch.

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I had him touch the braille on the package, not knowing whether or not Chinese people can read Western braille.

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He actually spent a couple of minutes reading the braille on the package, and then on the booklet inside so we assumed they could. It turns out that Chinese braille is quite different so perhaps he was just being kind, or even curious. 

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I strapped the watch on, taking it off again to adjust the strap size, and once back on explained how to read the time. He quickly got the hang of it, and we wished him a nice day, and told him to contact us if he had difficulties, or if he wanted to replace the battery. 

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Unfortunately I didn't get his name. Let's just call him the Amazing Number 5. 

About a week later I got a call from someone I assume managed the massage parlour. They told me that the masseuse was so delighted with his gift, especially being able to time his sessions. They also asked if I could give them any more for the other masseuses. Unfortunately as a bootstrapping entrepreneur, I do not have the luxury to be able to order more, but perhaps one day, when the business takes off...

Thanks to those cool guys and girls at Eone Time for making such a special watch.

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Dean Owen

Dean Owen

5 years ago #1

#1
Thank you for reading Emilia. Hopefully the story does not end there.

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