How Tech Helps Justin Thrive [Insider Story]
Hi, Justin! Let’s start with your job. Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
I work on the back end of designing modules and course structure for online courses for an organization called World Services for the Blind. It’s kind of like vocational training for blind and visually impaired people.
So I work with the instructors to find out how they want to design their course online. I make sure that the content is uploaded in an accessible form. I oversee about twenty courses right now, all across the U.S.
How did you get started in that field?
I’ve been blind since birth. It’s just one characteristic; it doesn’t define me. It’s “Hey, I’m Justin, and I happen to be blind.” I went to a training center in Louisiana, where I spent nine months in an apartment-like setting, and I learned different skills—cooking, clothing care, woodshop, using every type of power tool. We had to build a final project and learn how to cut and design and measure. The only thing that was adapted was something called a click ruler, which we used for measuring. And we went on outings—we went rock climbing and went to Mardi Gras.
At World Services, I got my Network+ and my A+ certifications, and then they hired me, so now I work for them, helping other people.
And you’re also a drummer?
Yes! I started playing when I was four years old. My grandpa noticed that I had rhythm and I was banging on pots and pans, and he pushed me to play the drums, and it took off. I was self-taught and I still play—it’s my outlet and my stress reliever. I love incorporating technology into it, so I have a hybrid kit that uses electronics and regular drums at the same time.
What drew you to Sleep Number in the first place?
I wanted adjustability. My wife, Katie, likes a softer mattress and I like it firmer—just by a little bit—and if we experience some pain or soreness, we can adjust it on the fly. We’ve had a queen-size Sleep Number i8 bed for just over a year now.
I also heard that I could use the SleepIQ app to control the bed with my phone. I’ve been blind since birth and I use an iPhone with a voiceover screen reader—so my hope was that the SleepIQ app would be accessible, so that I could use it to control the bed. Basically, the way it works is that every iPhone comes with a screen reader. Every element on a screen—checkboxes, links, everything else—are spoken when touched or navigated to. For example, if you open the weather app and you go to the hourly forecast, it’ll announce the hourly forecast, and then you flip to the right and you get the next hour, and so on. It’s super intuitive.
How do you wind down at the end of the day?
My brain is always going, so I like to find something on Netflix to wind down with my wife. Just something that helps me relax.
If you could sleep anywhere in the world, where would it be?
It would probably be a log cabin somewhere up on a mountain, where I could experience nature and be close to the stars. Obviously, I’ve never been able to see the stars and I would really love to. I want to see my wife and my parents, but if there’s something else in the world that I could see, it would be the stars and the planets. I would want to look through a telescope and see it all. I can’t even imagine it, because my brain isn’t wired that way. And it would just be so amazing to see, because that’s the universe.
Finally, what’s your Sleep Number setting?
I’m normally around a 45 and Katie is around 30 most of the time.
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