Off The Grid

By David-Elijah Nahmod, December 2015 Web Exclusives.

Earlier this year, journalist Robert W. Kingett accepted a dare go off the grid and document his experiences living without the Internet for 30 days.

Robert W. Kingett. Photo courtesy of facebook.com-robertkingett.

This might seem like a simple enough challenge at first, one that could be conducted by just about anyone. But it’s not.

What made this experiment worth documenting is the fact that Kingett is blind and also lives with Cerebral Palsy. And his new book, Off The Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet, chronicles his very first experiences – from battling with an FM radio to hooking up a landline phone – without the conveniences of the World Wide Web

"It was an experiment, actually," he explained. "While offline, I wanted to document my adventures, thoughts and feelings because I wanted to look back on it later and see how my feelings changed at the end of the month. I'm curious like that, and I love self-reflection. I think it's really healthy so I did it to preserve what I did and how I felt."

From Off the Grid:

   "I immediately go still, my brain unable to process what he has just said. A month without using the Internet? A month without Email, Spotify, Pandora, news, Twitter and online conversations? A month without sending any work in except, well… I don’t even know how to send in my work without the Internet. 
   “A month?” I squeak, my fingers gripping the fry harder than intended. I’m so stunned that I don’t even fight back as Marcus gently takes his fry and pops it into his mouth, chewing as he nods. He’s lucky I can see him at the moment. 
“I NEED the Internet. Literally!” I say, wondering why there can be so many ordinary park sounds around me and this conversation. 
   “I know you do, Robbie.” he says, putting a hand on mine that’s resting on the table. “That will be the fun of it, the challenge of it. Don’t use the Internet for a whole month, and write about it. Keep a live diary of your journal entries and even write down what you see, hear, and experience. Do a running cometary of life without the Internet. Write it all down.”

In Off the Grid, Kingett writes of "seeing" people and explains that many blind people do have some vision.

"I am legally blind so I can see a tiny bit," he said. "I have very limited vision in my left eye, so I can see things if they are extremely close to me. I can see through a tiny tunnel in my left eye."

Today, the Internet offers adaptive technologies that allow computers verbally "read" websites and emails to blind users. Such tools have become essential for the visually impaired and allow them to remain connected to the world.

In this age where the web reigns supreme, Kingett feels that his memoir will attract people's curiosity.

"I hope it opens people's minds and perceptions," he said. "I want people to dive in and experience what it's like. I hope people will take this experience and remember it. I hope people will realize there is another side to everything.

Between bylines and blog posts (at blindjournalist.wordpress.com) Kingett's working to improve disability awareness within the LGBT community.

"Disabled people are discriminated against more than any other minority," Kingett said. "I don't have the numbers but I've seen it in real life. Time and time again, I've seen employers refuse to hire disabled people, especially blind people, simply because of a belief about their disability or a liability fear."

The author also stressed the important of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was passed 26 years ago.

"The ADA is beyond crucial for disabled people, especially in the area of employment and transportation," Kingett pointed out, adding that without the ADA he might not be writing for the various papers that currently publish his work.

Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet, written and published by Kingett and narrated by T. David Rutherford, can be purchased in e-book form at Synergy Books, and Audible offers an audio version.

For more information, visit facebook.com/robertkingett.

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