Capturing his Vision with Fauna by his Side
Ted Tahquechi didn’t decide to get a guide for 18 years after losing most of his vision. But the instant he was paired with Fauna, his life and career blossomed.
Ted has had impaired vision ever since he was diagnosed with Coats disease at the age of 5, but it was stable enough for him to go to college and earn a degree in Communication. He then found a summer job as a software tester at Atari, and slowly climbed the corporate ladder at Atari, Accolade, and became a Director of Product Development at Mattel Toys for the Hot Wheels division.
However, Ted’s career in the game industry halted after a terrible car accident in 2000 that left him completely blind in the right eye and with a 5% low-functioning vision in the left eye. “I was in denial for five to six years after the accident, and didn’t know what I should do in life”, says Ted. Eventually he decided to go back to college to study fine art and studio art photography, following a passion he held for photography since his high school years. Around the same time, Ted finally decided to use a white cane and get orientation mobility training which allowed him to be more active, but he still felt extremely restricted, stating, “I would just stumble through life using my white cane, and have many bruises and broken toes to prove it.” Yet, Ted refused to get a guide dog for years believing that “somebody else needed it more than me,” and began traveling and developing several projects after earning his degree in photography in 2014.
In 2018, Ted finally applied for a guide dog with GDB and was paired with Fauna, a female black Lab. “Getting Fauna has been completely life-changing for me. When I was in the games industry I traveled everywhere and that literally stopped overnight. But with Fauna by my side, we constantly travel and go on planes and trains” Ted remarks. Ted documents his many travels on his website, blindtravels.com, a disabled traveler resource he made soon after he lost his vision. “It started as a repository of information I gathered over the years so I can navigate places I’ve been before,” but the ease of traveling with Fauna allowed Ted to focus on providing people accessibility and guide dog tolerance reviews of traveling destinations. The website has evolved into a compendium of useful information for low-vision travelers. So far, he has written about his experience on the Amtrak California Zephyr, Couple’s Resorts Sans Souci, Yellowstone National Park, and many more venues.
Ted’s photography has also been enhanced by Fauna. In the past, Ted was completely reliant on another person, often her wife, to lead him to what they think is a good scenery for a composition. And, especially for landscape photography which requires exploring new environments, using a white cane was notoriously dangerous which limited Ted’s ability to go to certain destinations. But with Fauna, Ted felt like he was “ basically a passenger. I was literally along for the ride, so with the little vision I have left I can concentrate on analyzing the environment and picturing the compositions I can develop.” Even everyday tasks such as getting a coffee or going to a restaurant became a breeze because there was no risk of tripping or getting into an accident. “It became so much safer to navigate the world because you go from being completely responsible for every step you take to trusting your guide dog to do the majority of the work,” says Ted.
Other than his travel reviews and educational blogs on blindtravels.com, Ted has a collection of award winning photography projects; his most prominent being Fauna’s Adventures and Landscapes of the Body. Fauna’s Adventures is a collection of photographic work to promote legitimate service animals and educate the public about the important role real service animals play in our society. After experiencing numerous occasions where fraudulent service animals were behaving poorly in public situations, Ted hopes featuring Fauna will allow the public to understand the laws for service animal use. On the other hand, Landscapes of the Body is a internationally recognized collection currently on a two year solo exhibition at the Lighthouse for the Blind gallery. This portfolio features black and white photos of abstract forms, curves, and textures of the human body to convey the impression of landscapes and celebrate diversity in age, body size and physical ability of the body. Ted mainly depends on the reflection of light and shadows off of the subject to take his photos, and worked with a local company to create a tactile print that the audience, including people who are visually impaired or blind, can feel the textures of the body. Ted donates many of his work to organizations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, Lighthouse for the Blind, and Heather’s Camp – a nonprofit organization providing summer camps for blind and visually impaired children.
Ted plans to continue adding to his breathtaking collections of art with the help of Fauna, and travel to even more. He also loves to introduce Fauna to people and be an ambassador for GDB by sharing his wonderful experience with the organization and encouraging volunteering as a puppy raiser to provide a life-changing opportunity to many more individuals. “GDB has given me something I’ve been missing for a lot of years and given back my independence. There’s no real way to show my appreciation for the gift of having Fauna in my life.” says Ted.