How the Struggles of a Blind Man Launched the Blindness Revolution

Esoteric Quality wearing a black shirt

This post was written by Esoteric Quality, a blind musician and activist.

In order to explain how the struggles of a blind man launched the blindness revolution, it is necessary to start from the beginning of my life, so that readers will understand the context and purpose of the song and my music.

My legal name is Clayton Alexander Jacobs.

I was born on August 21, 1987, in Iowa City, IA, to then Stacia and Danny Jacobs.

I was diagnosed with bilateral optic nerve hypoplasia, my type of blindness, at birth.

Growing up blind was not easy, but not because blindness was hard, but because I encountered rampant discrimination in every area throughout my life.

I also grew up in a dysfunctional and a chaotic household, in which my father was hardly present, my younger siblings were mentally ill, and respite workers came and went around the clock.

To add to the instability, I was constantly moving, having to adjust to new cities, towns, schools, navigating unfamiliar areas, revisits to my individualized education plans, (IEP’s), new friends, sometimes new enemies, and having to readjust to the momentous chaos.

Hope is always existent, even in the piques of turmoil, and I discovered it in music and in books.

When I was two years of age, I started teaching myself how to play the piano and sing.

I also began my instruction in braille with a teacher of the visually impaired, Kathy Davis, who was one of my most influential childhood mentors.

I was a rebel from the outset, because I was tired of the educational system trying to dumb me down, and setting low expectations for my goals.

As my braille literacy skills improved, I became fascinated with reading history, particularly about slavery, the Civil War, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson, Ray Charles, Rachel Carson, and a host of other influential historical figures who overcame obstacles and fierce opposition and accomplished their dreams.

In 1999, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in a local invention convention.

I designed an accessible version of paper currency, by using a tracing wheel to create shapes on dollar bill denominations.

I tested the denominations in vending machines, and the design implementation was successful.

My invention was selected for entry into the state convention, and I won a certificate at the state convention.

Shortly after my triumphant victory at the state convention, my parents separated, and my mother moved me and my siblings to Mesa, AZ.

Arizona felt like home the moment I arrived. 

However, my father filed for divorce, and the judge ordered me and my siblings to return to the state of Iowa.

I felt terribly alone and isolated.

My parents battled for custody, and forced me and my siblings to choose sides.

My father was later incarcerated in 1999.

During my teenage years, I witnessed the arrests of my siblings, and the chaotic mayhem of the legal system.

When I was 15, I began composing music and poetry regularly.

In 2003, my mother was awarded custody, and me and my siblings moved back to Mesa, AZ.

By the time I was 16, I was beginning to lose morale, and my grades in high school began to plummet.

When I was 17, I began to write music about the instability of my life, and my angry lyrics portrayed the intensity of the dysfunction in my family life.

By the time I was approaching graduation in my senior year, I was expelled from Mountain View High School, due to the controversial nature of my lyrics, which my teacher of the visually impaired, Mark Feliz, discovered on a Braille Note I was borrowing to complete assignments.

I finished the necessary requirements to complete my degree, received my diploma, and then moved out of my mother’s house.

As an angry adult, who felt unloved and forsaken, I made a host of reckless decisions.

I involved myself in unhealthy relationships and marriages.

When I was 21, I was arrested for assault, the officers did not read me my Miranda rights, and I never received a braille copy of the criminal complaint against me.

I was unable to make a defense at my pretrial conference, and I did not believe that the public defender assigned to me would advocate for my Civil Rights.

The charge was a misdemeanor, and I pleaded guilty to the charge to avoid incarceration.

I was sentenced to unsupervised probation and anger management classes.

My experience with the criminal justice system was a wakeup call for me to straighten out my life, and I did not want to face the same fate as my father and siblings.

In 2009, I moved back to Iowa, because I felt that neither of my parents was honest with me about the reasons they divorced, and I wanted answers from my father.

However, the relationship between me and my father soured, and I had to discern the truth from the lies, in order to construct what happened between my parents.

In 2010, I started attending college at the University of Phoenix.

However, I encountered an accessibility issue when I took a Humanities class, Media and American Culture.

When I approached my enrollment counselor and academic advisor about it, they told me to file a request for accommodations.

However, they wanted me to print the form, and have a sighted person fill it out for me, and refused to accept the submission of an electronic form.

I dropped out of the university, after exhausting all attempts to be accommodated.

Two colleges flatly rejected my admission, on the basis of me being blind.

Those colleges were the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and Full Sail University.

In 2011, I began teaching myself the law, after being frustrated with Social Security, Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Iowa Department of Human Services violating my due process and other Constitutional rights.

I spent 13 to 16 hours a day, reading statutes, regulations, case law, law reviews, and legal encyclopedias.

My study of the law and the legal system helped me to understand why blind people have a 76% unemployment rate, why 90% of blind children are not learning braille, and the high rates of poverty, socioeconomic disparities, segregation, and isolation that affect blind people worldwide.

Armed with the knowledge of the law, I began to challenge various government agencies, both state and federal, and politicians, on decisions that were being made that were adverse to our Civil Rights.

In 2012, I co-founded an organization with another friend and fellow activist, James Buffum, called Help Iowa Braille School, to challenge the closure of the school and the embezzlement of state and federal funds by the school’s superintendent.

The efforts of Help Iowa Braille School were partially successful.

Five regional centers were planned to be opened, in order to better serve students in the public school system, with the Iowa Braille School as one of the regional centers.

In 2013, I began attending Kirkwood Community College.

Kirkwood failed to provide me with accessible materials in a timely manner.

Consequently, I had to drop classes, and I filed an ADA complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.

I then retained Disability Rights Iowa, the protection and advocacy organization, to represent me during mediation.

Although the complaint was successfully mediated, and some changes were made, Kirkwood continued to violate the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and the regulations.

In 2014, during the fall semester, I was so frustrated that the violations were continuing with impunity.

Frustrated one weekend, I began composing Struggles of a Blind Man, detailing my experiences and the discrimination that blind people continue to face globally.

On February 1, 2016, I formed my freelance writing and record label, Clayton Jacobs Media, LLC.

On February 5, 2016, I received news that my sister had been shot and killed by the police.

I flew to Arizona for her funeral, and then returned to Iowa.

Shortly after my sister’s funeral, my second marriage ended.

Angry with all that Iowa put me through, I moved back to Arizona.

I struggled to find stable housing for 4 months.

During that time, I resumed working with my now former music business partner, known by his stage name, King Swift.

King Swift and I disagreed about various music business dealings, and I decided to find my own connections.

I reconnected with an old high school friend and audio engineer, Corwyn Vega, Jr.

On March 31, 2017, I recorded Struggles of a Blind Man, at his studio.

Corwyn is blind also, and uses Audacity, an audio recording program, along with JAWS.

Another blind friend of mine, Brandy Ray, told me about another blind rapper, Rapper dVision.

Rapper dVision owns his own record label, called Regalia Music.

The team at Regalia Music designed my cover art for the single.

I released Struggles of a Blind Man on August 15, 2017.

I wrote Struggles of a Blind Man for several reasons.

I wrote it to give blind people a voice in a world that shuts us out, that excludes us, and that marginalizes us.

No one else in the music industry has chronicled the struggles blind people face like I have.

By pioneering music about our struggles, it is my hope that other blind artists will have the courage to come forward and share their stories with the world.

The purposes of my music are to become successful, so that I can invest in blind entrepreneurs and blind people seeking employment, in order to empower ourselves economically, socially, and politically.

Through supporting my music, blind entrepreneurs, and blind people seeking employment, blind people will become the proud owners of banks, realty companies, investment properties, all asset classes, and every type of business.

Blind people will also become known for owning their own homes, participating in every aspect of life, and thriving together as a vibrant, global community.

In short, my vision is for the blind community to be rich and powerful, and for the blind community to rule the world.

The blindness revolution has launched. Stand with me in unity, and in solidarity.

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