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Visually impaired DJ at home behind microphone

By ALLISON MILES
Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.
Updated Sept. 16, 2010 at 4:16 a.m.

A braille display pops up information about the next song on a play list for Jimmy Podsim, also, known as DJ Jim, a  legally-blind disc jockey who produces a three-hour Internet radio show every Monday night from his home studio in Yorktown.

ON THE AIRJimmy Podsim - or "DJ Jim," as he's known on the air - airs his show, "Jimmy's Place," Mondays at 9 p.m. Visit 2020TheBlink.net to listen in.

WHO IS JIMMY PODSIM?Jimmy Podsim has been legally blind his entire life. And, while he admits it's meant some hurdles to overcome, his condition has also been a blessing.

The Yorktown native said he's accepting of others.

"I know I've given people chances a lot of people wouldn't because I can't see how they're dressed or what they look like," he said. "I judge them by how they are."

YORKTOWN - One night a week, Jimmy Podsim cranks up the tunes as he transforms into DJ Jim, a radio personality for online station 2020 "The Blink."

But Podsim's set-up differs from that of many DJs.

A clothespin taped to the microphone keeps him from getting too close and garbling the audio, while a computer program speaks the names of programs as he scrolls over them. A long, thin bar sitting just past his computer keyboard - a braille display - raises small bumps so he can read through songs' names, artists and lengths.

Podsim has been legally blind his entire life.

The on-air role was a long time coming for the 44-year-old Yorktown native. Although he's harbored the dream to be a DJ for years, he never got the chance.

Podsim graduated Yorktown High School in 1983 and moved on to Bee County Community College. Since he hoped to enter the radio world at higher-than-DJ level, he took mid-management level courses.

"I looked all over, and no one would hire me on," he said, explaining companies said they didn't want to bother with putting braille on their albums and the like. "I finally gave up."

Podsim's parents opened a meat processing plant, where he worked for 20 years, until it closed. His break finally came when he reconnected with Buffy Rackley, an old friend, through the social networking site Twitter.

"She found me," he said of Rackley, a broadcaster and station manager for 20 20 The Blink.

The Blink, which touts itself as "the station where you hear the vision," began about two-and-a-half years ago and started out geared toward the vision-impaired community, Rackley said.

Its three owners are blind, and all but two of its many DJs are either vision impaired or blind, Podsim said. Its name, "The Blink," is a slang term for a blind person.

Podsim began listening to the online station and, soon, Rackley said the station knew Podsim well.

"He used to be on there all the time," she said with a chuckle. "He's a very nice guy."

The duo had been friends for 10 years or so, and Rackley said she wanted to help him get his start in radio.

And he caught on quickly.

When they first sat down about four months ago to begin working with programs, Rackley said he had no idea how to work with the software, set up to broadcast, etc. Within about three-and-a-half hours, however, he was up and running.

In a week's time, Podsim said he was ready for his test, which typically lasts about an hour and would determine whether he had the job.

His show opener played, and about three songs in, the messenger system listeners use to make requests lit up.

"I got six messages in a 30-second period," he said. "As soon as I got all their songs played, they said, 'You're in.'"

Podsim said that, with his fairly new role as DJ, he's growing his music collection and expanding his knowledge of music.

"It used to be that, whatever song came on, I could tell you who sang it, what the song was called, everything," he said. "Now I'm relearning the music because, when I got out of it, I gave up hope."

Now, you'll catch DJ Jim at 9 p.m. on Mondays, playing a mixture of country and rock 'n' roll. He said he aims for a "small-town dance hall" atmosphere.

Country artist Kevin Fowler is one of his favorites, he said, but there aren't many restrictions on what he's allowed to air.

He spends much of his time at a desk inside his home, perusing the station's website and maneuvering around his three dogs, Shane, Daisy and Barney. In his down time, he also works with Ham radios and plays with his iPhone.

"I love technology," he said, explaining the phone's voice setting. "I love technology."

And, as for the future? Who knows?

Podsim said he'd like to move on to a paying position with radio or grow the current Internet station. Although it got its start with the vision-impaired community, Rackley said The Blink would like to reach out to the sighted world.

In the meantime, Podsim said he's content.

"I hope somebody from a radio station will show up and accidentally hear what I'm doing," he said with a smirk. "But I love what I'm doing."

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