Marketing Genius is a series created by BuzzFarmers to give virtual high fives to anyone who develops a unique (and brilliant) marketing idea worth talking about.
My brother Brandon just turned 30 years old the other day. He’s two years my junior, or seemingly just one year in January and February. Well, seemingly, he’s many years my junior because Brandon is blind, has cerebral palsy, and is developmentally challenged—which I refuse to call mental retardation because nobody knows how to use that word correctly anymore.
Until he and I are a billion years old, I’m his big sister, and I protect him fiercely.
I always tell people that Brandon is the happiest kid you’ll ever meet, even though at thirty years old you should probably stop calling people “kid.” It doesn’t make a difference to him though, cause the only things that make Brandon sad are a lack of mashed potatoes in the house, and not having enough time to do a full cycle of the dishwasher before he goes out.
Since Brandon can’t see with his eyes, he sees the world in other ways, through every type of music, and the sound of a dishwasher going through the soak, wash and dry cycles. Interrupt those and you’ll get a long, “awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Dangit!”
People sometimes say, “oh did Brandon see that new movie whateveritscalled? …. Oooohhh … I said see, uh, I mean… Did Brandon hear it?”
For goodness gracious, yeah, he saw it. He doesn’t say he went to go hear a movie, he says he went to see a movie, gosh. Basic human language doesn’t change just because his eyes got short-changed in the development process.
When I was younger, I barely noticed Brandon was blind, other than people pointing it out in the ways mentioned above. In fact, it made him the best bestie ever, because he was a great pawn in all of my makebelieve shennanigans. He was happy to sit still for me and let me style his hair, he’d sort-of-kind-of play barbies, be an eager student in all of my classes (his diaper boxes made excellent desks), and repeat anything I told him to; everything except swears because he knew better. We’d read The Monster At the End of This Book and he’d laugh hysterically every time I’d shriek at the top of my ten year old lungs, “You Turned Another Page!” every time he did.
As a kid I used to wheel around the house in his wheelchair with a blindfold, so that I’d know what it was like to be him. I learned quickly that it’s really hard, and knuckles are not to be taken for granted when wheeling around door frames.
And when we were out in grocery stores, I’d close my eyes to see what it would be like when Brandon was grown up, old enough to go grocery shopping with his wife at the grocery store. In my childlike naivete, I assumed Bran would be able to walk by then – when he grew up and his legs worked.
Brandon spent almost twenty years in school at Perkins, the best School for the Blind that exists. Helen Keller attended Perkins and learned to sign and speak through Anne Sullivan, a Perkins teacher. At Perkins, which looks like a castle by the way, he swam every day, he sang, he learned shapes, smells, sounds, he learned braille, he gardened in their greenhouse, and he made pottery (my favorite Christmas gifts).
Despite all of the physical therapy and lifeskills that Perkins offered Brandon, he will never go grocery shopping by himself with a wife anytime soon. He requires full-time care for all aspects of his life.
Not to say Brandon hasn’t had himself a few ladies, Brandon still giggles when I talk about Crystal, an old flame from Perkins.
My point here is that when I saw the video for Be My Eyes, I cried for a few minutes, then I told Patrick about it and cried some more. I thought about Brandon and how fortunate he is to have always been surrounded with such amazing support every day of his life, because so many blind people don’t. Some of the kids that attended Perkins with Brandon were shipped off and hadn’t seen their parents for years. When they became too old to attend Perkins anymore, they simply got transferred into the system.
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And the system can be both kind, or unkind, depending on your luck of the draw.
I spent several years working for the system, in a group home working with five mentally challenged women and I know how how big of a heart is required to get through some more challenging days in that line of work.
I don’t know anyone more passionate about humans and human rights than those who defend and protect people like my brother every day in their careers. And they get paid barely more than McDonalds workers to do it – often with less benefits.
Be My Eyes is for everyone with that same big, selfless heart who has ever wanted to help someone in need, that didn’t know how, or hasn’t been able to.
In our Marketing Genius series, we usually try to tackle something cool a company is doing in their marketing, but today I just wanted to use it as an excuse to talk about a company that I’ve held close to my heart since I first heard about them. I want you to know about them, and I want you to sign up to donate your eyes to those who could use them.
To be more clear, Be My Eyes is an app that connects those who can see, with those who cannot.
For example, yesterday I got a request from a guy who wanted to know which flavor of Pringles he was about to put in his shopping cart at the grocery store. It was Sour Cream & Onion, which we agreed was the best flavor.
Use the app, and whenever someone needs help seeing something, you’ll get an alert. They only just launched in January and there have already been 30,000 requests fulfilled. Watch the video below to get the whole picture:
I know what you’re thinking – blind people are so badass. They don’t need us!
And it’s true, they navigate entire cities on their own, blind! They walk up escalators and know exactly when to get off without taking a digger (even I can’t do that sometimes.)
Brandon has such supersonic hearing that he knows what we’re whispering three rooms away! (He’s a bit of an eavesdropper, that one.)
But even though Brandon and his friends basically have four supersonic senses left which practically make them superheroes, they’re not Sherlock, and their super smell won’t tell them the date on a milk carton.
Do you have time to help with something like that? How about more? For those blind adults who don’t have a support system like every human deserves, you’ll be showing them that they matter, that they aren’t invisible, or alone, and that someone in the world is listening if they happen to need it.