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Over the years, Mel Scott has amassed a good-sized collection of workout DVDs in her quest to remain fit. There’s only one problem: She can’t see them. Diagnosed at age 7 with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa , Scott, now 56, is legally blind. While some sight remains, it’s not enough to allow her to follow along with the televised instructors. "I couldn’t get past the menus because I couldn’t see what was going on on the TV," Scott said during an interview at her home in Doylestown, as guide dog Jingles lounged in a corner. "And when I got to the exercise, I couldn’t do them. It would say things like, ‘Make sure you have a good view of the TV so you have your form correct. Or it would say, ‘Let’s do 10 of these. I’d say, ‘Ten of what?’ Frustrated by her inability to follow along, Scott decided to do something about it by developing her own line of descriptive audio workouts for the visually impaired. "If you want it," Scott said, "create it. Scott has never been one to allow her disability to slow her down. A North Carolina native, she was enrolled in graduate school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill when she discovered a passion for massage therapy. She quit school (by this time, her eyesight was so poor that reading had become almost impossible) and devoted herself to the practice, turning it into a successful 30-year career. The idea for BlindAlive Eyes-Free Fitness came to her, Scott said, in an "energy flood" while she was exercising on her stationary bike. Within a day, she had assembled a team of family and friends to help create a website and social media presence and develop workouts. Emmy Award-winning composer Doug Katsaros composed her company jingle. The first set of six programs – which range from cardio and stability ball exercises to a "boot camp" workout – are narrated by New York City fitness instructor Shana Maleeff , whose mother is blind. Scott herself is narrating a new set of 20-minute workouts geared toward seniors or those who are more sedentary. The workouts, which can be done while seated, will air on a radio reading service for the blind. "I’ve done exercises all my life, and I have some vision," Scott said. "I know what the moves are supposed to look like. But some don’t know what you mean when you say, ‘Put your arms in the letter T. They don’t know what the letter T is. Pilates instructor Edye Fisher-Discount holds classes for breast cancer survivors, back rehab patients and even those with multiple sclerosis. But working with Scott to develop exercises for the blind, she said, has opened her eyes to new ways to help her own clients. "When you’re paying attention to every detail, the exercise is more intense," said Fisher-Discount, who lives in Lower Makefield. "It opens up a world for me that I didn’t know about. I bring that now to all the classes. Scott said she’s tried to hire others who are blind, including Maleeff’s mother, Lynne, a longtime friend who works as her sales rep, and Visionary Media , a media firm for the visually impaired that composes her workout music. The workouts have been downloaded between 200 and 300 times, Scott said. While it’s not enough for her to break even in the business, she said she’s gaining ground. "The market is a challenging market to reach," she said. "I can get to Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and YouTube and email, but the people that I’m wanting to reach might not be there. I need to reach senior centers, blind associations, the Veterans Administration, etc. It’s challenging. I’m starting to get traction. It is starting to happen. I know it’s just a matter of time. Each digital download, available online at BlindAlive.com, costs $19.10, a price chosen because it’s the year her father was born. The workouts are also available on compact disc. Scott also offers additional descriptions online for those having trouble following along. "I want everybody to have the choice to do exercises," she said. "I don’t want anybody to have the excuse to sit on their rear end on the couch. I want to lift that barrier, lift that excuse for not having the ability to exercise.
Want to know more?
To learn more about BlindAlive Eyes-Free Fitness, visit www.BlindAlive.com.
Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2015 3:30 am | Updated: 4:49 pm, Tue May 19, 2015.
By Crissa Shoemaker DeBree Staff writer
From “Bucks County Currier Times.”