Hello everyone! This is my first time on reddit, I'll be here answering any of your questions. To sum it up, While working as the head mechanic of a transportation company in May 1997, I was involved in an industrial accident that caused me to lose complete vision, smell, and taste. At the age of 31, I had to relearn how to live.

I went through rehabilitation and one day I realized, even without sight, I was still able to do what I loved most, work on cars. It was always my dream to be involved with drag racing in any way, and after much hard work, and teamwork, I turned my dream into reality. Now I try to inspire others to accomplish their goals through the Power of Positive thinking, I have been around the country to speak to people and try to inspire them to follow their dreams, If I can do it, they can.

The Follow a Dream team competes in the Top Alcohol Funny car Class in the NHRA. The car is a Chevrolet Impala SS, Carbon fiber body, mounted on a chrome molly tube chassis, with a 526 cid Hemi which makes about 3500 horsepower. The car accelerates from a standing stop to over 260 miles an hour in 5.50 seconds.

My website is www.followadream.org Look forward to answering your questions!

edit 1: Steve(Jay's son) here, my dad is a busy guy, and constantly has people calling or stopping by, also, we have to unload the trailer as well. I will make sure all your questions get answered though, I promise! Also check out www.permatex.com we want to thank them for all their support! And my dad's always looking for more sponsors, so if any of you enjoy this AMA, spread the word!

EDIT 2: Going out to unload the trailer, check back in a while.

EDIT 3: Thank you so much everyone, my dad loved answering your questions! Check out his twitter page: @jayfollowadream www.followadream.org and www.facebook.com/FollowADreamINC thank you guys all so much!

Comments: 442 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

Reeferoni160 karma

How do you know when to stop wiping?

JayBlakeFAD263 karma

You just know.

fa5380 karma

You're a very positive influence. Does humor about your blindness help you?

JayBlakeFAD130 karma

I use humor about my blindness to make people around me more comfortable, I am not offended by blind jokes.

fa5364 karma

[raises hand for follow up] :)

They say your other senses become more acute when you lose eyesight. In a sport that is so loud, are you more worried about your hearing than you would have been before your eyesight?

JayBlakeFAD118 karma

My personal opinion is your other senses do not get better, you get better at using them. I have always liked very loud music(classic rock etc) and loud cars most of my life, so my hearing is not the greatest to begin with, but I do take precautions to protect it around the race car.

scourgez58 karma

Having met Jay in person I can honestly say he is an inspiration. Watching him move around and know exactly where everything is is truly amazing.

JayBlakeFAD44 karma

Thank you so much!

revzblove57 karma

This will seem like a dick question, but what do you do if a bolt or nut falls, since you can't see it. I'm guessing the magnetic wand type thing most people use?

JayBlakeFAD77 karma

I listen to where it drops, and then I will look with my hands. Basically, my eyes don't work, so I use my hands to see.

16dots36 karma

I find that really dangerous for a mechanic, you never know what you'll be grabbing onto.

JayBlakeFAD68 karma

I don't reach into running engines. I try to be very aware of where my hands are going.

FuriousLoki19 karma

Do you find that your other senses such as your touch have improved since blindness?

JayBlakeFAD45 karma

Yes, you use get better at using your other senses to compensate for your loss. For instance, I will feel something, to see what it looks like.

kweb102341 karma

Honest question. How does that work? I mean I would think you would need to see things in order to make decisions as a crew chief?

JayBlakeFAD68 karma

its all about team work. My eyes don't work, but other peoples do, so by working together we accomplish all that we need to.

ambivalentanglican30 karma

What was the hardest adjustment to make when you became blind?

JayBlakeFAD93 karma

The hardest adjustment was dealing with not being able to see my kids, people, and not being able to drive.

NaveGoesHard29 karma

Not to be rude because what you have accomplished is pretty spectacular, but what stops your team from finding someone who does have full vision?

JayBlakeFAD207 karma

I own the team, I'm the boss!

LukyNumbrKevin21 karma

Do you ever feel you hold back the team?

Do your coworkers/employees feel you hold back them team?

And if so, do you ever feel resentment from your coworkers/employees because they feel they could do better with a crew chief that could see?

JayBlakeFAD38 karma

No I don't feel so, and if they weren't happy on this team there's plenty of other teams out there!

coastertrav27 karma

Are there any tools in motorsports to help the blind? I know most data acquisition systems are graphically intensive and a lot of tuning a car comes from visual clues. How do you get around these difficulties?

JayBlakeFAD38 karma

The race car is tuned by Tom Howell. Yes the data acquisition system is very visual and graphic so Tommy concentrates on the computer and the tuning as there are many other aspects that I have to focus my attention on.

TJBAM22 karma

Loads of admiration from Texas. Keep up the good work friend.

JayBlakeFAD15 karma

Thank you!

DougDoesLife21 karma

Good for you for doing what you love. My (ex) brother in law is blind since birth, and earned a PHD in theoretical chemistry. He worked on developing software to run a reader that translates downloads and websites into braille. Do you use this or something similar? If so, does the reader translate images in some way? I guess I should have asked my brother in law, but I didn't...

JayBlakeFAD30 karma

Your ex brother in law is quite an amazing guy. My brain hurts just thinking about it. I do not read braille very well at all. So I have nothing that translates TO braille. I do use JAWS which translates the computer screen to voice, basically a screen reader.

carpy2219 karma

What was the industrial accident?

JayBlakeFAD62 karma

I had a divided wheel and tire assembly explode in my face (A bad day at the office)

Hugo_5t1gl1tz18 karma

I used to race late model dirt cars full time, and still do when money/schedule allows, I also work at a trucking company, let me tell you, I've never had an accident, but working with tires has always made me uneasy. One minor fault that you don't notice, and like you, you can have a very bad day.

Stay Awesome!

JayBlakeFAD13 karma


long_wang_big_balls5 karma

a divided wheel and tire assembly explode in my face

If you don't mind me asking, what caused this to happen?

JayBlakeFAD9 karma

4 of the bolts snapped that held the wheel together and the tire had pressure in it.

Pacmantis17 karma


JayBlakeFAD21 karma

Yeah I do, there aren't many where I live but when we're on the road we stop there.

ElmoAids16 karma

Who is typing for you?

JayBlakeFAD48 karma

My son Steve is typing for me, but I am capable of typing myself, I have a program called JAWS which is a screen reader, and is designed for the blind.

TakeOffYourMask28 karma

Hi Steve!

JayBlakeFAD59 karma


immerc9 karma

How easy is it to use a screen reader for the web these days? My guess is that with all the nested CSS elements, the AJAX trickery, etc. that it must be hard for a screen reader to cope.

Do you know of any resources that can help web designers know if what they're creating is going to be easy for a blind person to use?

JayBlakeFAD12 karma

Your terminology is way above me. You could try orginizations such as the Carroll Center for the blind, American foundation for the blind, National Federation for the Blind.

BiggerBangTheory13 karma

Wow man talk about overcoming obstacles, that's hugely inspiring.

That you can do anything to a car at a professional level is amazing but what task do you find most often has other crews or crew members shocked that you pulled it off?

JayBlakeFAD68 karma

People are amazed by the simplest task because as a sighted person we all assume you need your sight to accomplish that particular task. I often hear the comment that its hard to tell who is the blind guy, until they see me walk in to the side of the trailer. haha.

TankHandsome13 karma

Hey Jay, are you able to envision what is going on around you, ie colors, scenery, being that you were able to see for your whole life?

JayBlakeFAD29 karma

Generally yes. I can picture it in my head, it's nothing like seeing it, I may not be 100% accurate, like if you said "That's a beautiful blue Camaro parked on the lawn." I can picture what you're talking about, but the colors, after 16 years of no color, have kind of dulled.

kziv11 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA and showing that a disability doesn't have to prevent you from doing the things you love! A couple questions:

1) A lot of people are asking questions about the loss of vision, but what about the loss of smell and taste? How has that affected your life?

2) I once spent a day with a friend listening to a CD of the 1992 Monaco GP on repeat and by the end of the day I started recognizing the cars' different sounds and other subtleties. After so many years with cars both before and after your accident, I can only imagine how skilled you must be at separating out sounds. Have you been able to use that for anything outside of car work and just getting around?

JayBlakeFAD16 karma

Thank you so much! It makes eating semi-bland, you would think I should eat nothing but healthy vegetables and such, but that unfortunately is not the case. I enjoy crunchy things, and if something is spicy I can taste that. and yes, I use my hearing for so many things all the time, whether I'm watching tv or walking across the parking lot or at a restaurant/party and trying to "see" whats going on around me.

TheLighterDr11 karma

I admire you and your situation. Good for you. Funny thing: a former (?) pro golfer named Jay Don Blake is big into drag racing. Weird huh ?

JayBlakeFAD14 karma

Really? Wow, do you know him? I'd love to get in contact with him and maybe invite him to a race.

TheLighterDr12 karma

No, don't know him personally, but I watch a lot of golf and have seen stories about his racing. Don't think he's in the NHRA pro catagories, probably just Sportsman. Here is his twitter thingy https://twitter.com/jblake7266

JayBlakeFAD20 karma

Thank you so much! I will try and get in touch with him!

iesvs10 karma

Have you ever tried using echolocation? I always wondered how effective that really is.

JayBlakeFAD18 karma

I know very little about it, but I tried to kind of do it I think...it doesn't really work for me.

[deleted]10 karma

How many fingers am I holding up?

JayBlakeFAD37 karma


Quellman7 karma

In a sport where analysis and hands on is important Can you share with us a little about your path in becoming a crew chief in terms of making accommodations for your blindness?

Additionally, which meals that Maura makes is your favorite?

JayBlakeFAD10 karma

I started the team and its my responsibility to organize and run the team, Tom Howell tunes the car, orginization is key to help with the blindness but all professional teams use the same orginization for speed and efficiency. So it works on both sides. And I love Maura's meat loaf!

cjpett126 karma

What makes you better than crew chiefs that can see?

JayBlakeFAD37 karma

I'm not better than crew chiefs that can see, just different.

monieshot6 karma

what is your favorite blind joke?

JayBlakeFAD9 karma

Hmmm...not sure, why do you have any good ones?

monieshot11 karma

Why can't Ray Charles read?

JayBlakeFAD8 karma


blazingdarkness5 karma

What is it like being blind? Do you see 'darkness' or something like that?

JayBlakeFAD11 karma

Yes, I see nothing but black. Sometimes the black will lighten to like a gray but basically it never changes. I have two prosthetic eyes, so there is no sense of light at all.

sofkt5 karma

Do you find that you can now hear the subtleties in a running engine and diagnose certain tuning issues better than you could before the accident? If so, do you mind elaborating? Perhaps, tell us a real account of a time this made a difference?

JayBlakeFAD9 karma

Honestly, I don't really know, I do hear things and can tell by listening. Unfortunately, I can't remember a specific instance to tell you though, I'm sorry!

W3llD4mn5 karma

How are you reading and replying to these questions?

JayBlakeFAD6 karma

My son is helping me, but I do have a program called JAWS that reads the screen for me, so I could do it, I'm just not super efficient on computers.

Jacobmv5 karma

We met once. I actually interviewed you for a school project 6 or 7 years ago after I came to one of your races.

How have things changed in the funny car business/your career since then?

JayBlakeFAD7 karma

Where did you interview me? They haven't changed much, we are building a new car this winter. Todd Veney is our new driver, he's been driving for us the past 3 years and we're getting ready for next season! Do you still come to the races?

dave_MD4 karma

Have your other senses adjusted to provide feedback on your environment now that your eyesight is gone?

JayBlakeFAD6 karma

Yes. I believe you get better at using your other senses to compensate for your loss of senses.

bluescholar904 karma

Everyone is talking about your profession.... I'd like to ask, and sorry if this is a bit offensive, but how do you cope/deal with being blind?

JayBlakeFAD13 karma

There are good days and there are bad days. I am incredibly lucky to be alive. I never forget that. We all have something, something that is a struggle that we have to deal with. It's how you deal with them that makes the difference. You can't let your bad days ruin every day. Always remember just how fortunate we are.

jkfdrums4 karma


JayBlakeFAD8 karma

My son is helping me with this, but I do have a screen reader called JAWS which would read the questions. I am just not super efficient with a computer. (Steve here, he had no idea what reddit was haha)

Stofficer24 karma

As someone trying to make it in the world of racing. Specifically motorcycle road racing, whats the best advice you can give in one sentence?

JayBlakeFAD7 karma

You are absolutely out of your mind! I don't know how you guys go so fast with nothing around you, good luck to you. In order to make it in todays world, you need sponsorship. Try and put a program together to show a company how you can give them a return on their investment.

Patagucci4 karma

What is your dream car, I mean out of anything ever made!

JayBlakeFAD7 karma

A Nitro funny car, A top fuel dragster, a '69 Camaro, '34 3 window coupe.

DPancoast4 karma

Wow, this is amazing. I love working on cars as well and knowing sounds and vibrations is a must. I can't imagine what you can pick up with your hearing.

I read an article the other day about the invention of a bionic eye and that they had a breakthrough with it being able to detect changes in light.

If they were to perfect it tomorrow, would you have them installed?

JayBlakeFAD8 karma


deejay_13 karma

Do you know Lanny Miglizzi? (track specialist for JFR) My gf's dad. I was at the pomona speedway last weekend. I wish I would have known about you earlier to shake your hand.

JayBlakeFAD2 karma

Yes I know Lanny, not well. An amazing guy. We were not in Pomona, as we were at the SEMA 2013 show in Vegas. We will be in Gainesville. If you see Lanny, tell him the Follow A Dream guy thanks him for his assistance this year.

mgr863 karma

I heard a story about a man who had lost his eye sight on NPR's Snap Judgement, I believe. He tells a story about competitive down hill skiing. Sounds awfully dangerous. But what I found fascinating was that he was able to have surgery that partially restored some of his eye sight. He mentions how the blind community had some not so pleasant reactions.

Would you have such a surgery if it was an option for you?

edit: link to story

JayBlakeFAD10 karma

Absolutely. I have 2 prosthetic eyes, so at this time there is no option except total blindness. Anybody that can restore their vision should take advantage of that opportunity.

LadyKa1 karma

What do you mean by 'prosthetic eyes'? Are those glass eyes, like Columbo had? And do they do anything for your perception, or are they just to...make it look like you have eyes?

JayBlakeFAD3 karma

They are plastic, and yes, they do nothing but make it look like I have eyes.

DoesTheMathCheckOut3 karma

How are you doing this AMA, ya know, with the whole blind thing you have going for you? (serious question)

JayBlakeFAD17 karma

My son is reading the questions to me and typing. We're bonding.

StandingByToStandBy3 karma

Question for you and Steve.

Its often overlooked here. How are you guys doing today?

JayBlakeFAD9 karma

Steve here, in the literal sense of today, we're doing well. Just got some nacho's for lunch. About to unload the trailer in a bit. As far as our relationship, it's better than ever. We've had our rough times, my mother and he got divorced a few years after the accident, and it was really tough on all of us. That being said, me and my dad are really closer than ever today.

StandingByToStandBy3 karma

Thats good to hear.

I know how the divorce shit goes. Do yourself a favor though, both you and your dad. Bury the hatchet before you have to bury a body.

I didn't get to fix things with my pop and had to bury him in 2006.

JayBlakeFAD5 karma

That's a true tragedy. I'm so sorry. As far as our situation goes, it's not perfect, but I am doing the best I can to move on and not dwell on the past. Life is too short, and my dad is really an amazing guy, he inspires me on a daily basis. It's insane how far he's come. I never could have imagined this when the accident happened.

donutroller3 karma

As a fellow crew chief for several dirt cars, mad props for you following your dream. It's hard enough being able to see. I don't know what I could do with my vision taken away.

How hard is it for you to work on chassis setup when you cannot see what the car is doing? How many people do you relay on for your information?

JayBlakeFAD9 karma

With the funny car there is no chassis setup but there are 6 of us that work on the race car. Tom Howell makes all the tuning decisions. Good luck to you with your dirt cars!

Benthenerdpyle3 karma

How are you reading this?

JayBlakeFAD3 karma

My son Steve is reading for me today but I have a program called JAWS that is a screen reader for the blind, so I'm fully capable of using the computer myself.

defiantmango3 karma

Hey thanks for doing this ama. As a professional mechanic, would you ever consider getting magnetic finger implants?

JayBlakeFAD13 karma

ehhh...no, I'd be stuck.



Thanks for doing this AMA. I know your buddy Alan pretty well and he told me how amazing it is to work with you. What really gave me goosebumps was when he told me how "in tune" you were with the vehicle.

I completely admire your attitude and wish you, your team and your funny-car the best.

JayBlakeFAD4 karma


forever_atone3 karma

Since you've gotten better at using your other senses, are there any stories where you've been able to use them to find things wrong with a car that others couldn't? For instance, hearing a car run funny and know there's something wrong with it.

JayBlakeFAD4 karma

Yes, I've been able to hear things with the car which later helped diagnose a problem.

HopefulWisdom3 karma

Hey Blake and Steve, thanks for doing this!

My question: Since you formerly had the ability of to see, how would you now describe colors? Also I heard that the loss of vision is not a "blackness" but more of just empty space. Like picturing what the area behind your head looks like. Is this true?

JayBlakeFAD3 karma

No, in my opinion this is not true. It is total black all the time. Somebody who has never had sight, does not know what "black" is. So you may get another definition.

fully_torqued_2 karma


Good afternoon, guys! I used to race Super Comp and Top Dragster in the Northeast a few years back, but have since pulled away in other pursuits. My question isn't so much about your day-to-day operations, as I'm quite familiar with the Follow a Dream team, but, how are things in the Northeast going? Tracks, records, etc?

JayBlakeFAD3 karma

All is good in the northeast, they have taken New Jersey away from the alcohol cars, so no E-town, and no ATCO. The only national event we can go to is Maple Grove, but the northeast is doing well. Do you still have your cars? Are you going to race again?

lordfairhair2 karma

I imagine losing your sense of smell would be very disheartening in the motor sports world. I worked as a crew chief on fighter jets, and I very quickly fell in love with the smell of fuel, running engines, burnt tires, and just maintenance in general. I guess what I am trying to ask is, have you noticed or replaced some sensations for others, or fallen in love with some aspect of your job that you previously took for granted?

JayBlakeFAD6 karma

Thank you for your service! Yes, I miss some of the smells, but I just love being in the environment. It is truly my dream come true.

TalkingBackAgain2 karma

How can he be a crew chief when there is so much he does not see?

Also: kudos for finding a way to keep doing what you love doing best.

Also also: you have a great son! Don't tell him though, it'll get to his head and you don't want to give the rascal any ideas!

JayBlakeFAD5 karma

Thank you! I borrow other peoples eyes as creepy as that sounds. It's a team. We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses, by working together you create one. (Steve here, too late!)

ryan9242 karma

You are a true inspiration. Thank you for doing an IAma!

JayBlakeFAD4 karma

Thank you for reading!

silentkill1442 karma

Hey Jay thanks for doing this AMA!

I was wondering what your plans are for actually getting in a dragster, and driving it yourself? I believe I heard you were planning on doing this.

I actually have met you a few times at some races, I'm one of Clay's friends actually. It's cool to see you doing an AMA here.

JayBlakeFAD8 karma

Hey whats happenin? I am still planning on going to Bonneville someday.

ForgivenOstrich2 karma

I really hope you are still doing this.

One of my DREAM jobs is to become a technician/crew chief/anything dealing with a large scale motor sport. I am at the ripe age of 25, working at a Toyota/Lexus/Scion dealership as a service technician.

What can you tell me to get me on better track to become a part of such a crew as the one you manage day to day? Any guidance would be AMAZING in pointing me in the right direction.

JayBlakeFAD4 karma

Where are you located? If you want to do this full time or part time depends on how you would go about it.

TakeOffYourMask2 karma

I can see and I still have trouble finding the spot on the underside of the car where the jack goes. Is this a problem for you too?

JayBlakeFAD6 karma

No not really, fortunately I can reach to see most of all the places a jack would go on what I work on.

Frajer1 karma

Did you find it true that losing some senses heightened others?

JayBlakeFAD2 karma

I believe you get better at using the senses, they don't get better.

gadabyte1 karma

there's not really a tactful way to ask this (nor, perhaps, an easy or straightforward answer), but of the 3 senses you lost, which do you miss the most?

i'm also curious - similar to the way our brains can produce sensation from phantom limbs that have been amputated, do you ever get phantom senses? like a smell, or a taste somehow registers in your brain despite the fact that your body can no longer actually perceive those things?

thanks for your time!

JayBlakeFAD5 karma

Thats easy...sight. There were some phantom visions at the beginning, but those are long gone. Sometimes when I dream, I still dream in color, when I do it's really cool.

westborobabtist1 karma

How are you able to still enjoy racing?

JayBlakeFAD2 karma

I enjoy the environment, the mechanical challenge, the competition and the comradery of the participants.

shewolfromulus1 karma

Hey Jay, just wanted to say your story inspired me and I'd love to go to one of your events.
What are your favorite parts of a car to work on/fix/diagnose? Also, but of a personal question...im working on restoring a 1965 ford ranchero, if it were you what's one thing you would want the finished car to have?

JayBlakeFAD2 karma

I like working on the whole car, and just learning new things. As far as your restoration, I couldn't really tell you, just make sure its true to you. Check out our schedule I'd love to see you at a race/event!

GreatWhteHype1 karma

Do you strictly stick to GM cars, or do you get involved with Fords? Grew up near Rockingham NC, love watching Chevys blow Fords away.

JayBlakeFAD10 karma

I am a Chevy guy. We are working with Chevrolet right now getting ready to debut the first modern Camaro Alcohol Funny Car in March. Gotta love those bow ties!

ryansouth211 karma

You mentioned that you see nothing but black. Considering how closing our eyes and darkness equates people with eyesight that it's bedtime, how has your sleep been affected by your blindness?

JayBlakeFAD2 karma

I could sleep anywhere when it's time. I have to generate energy to keep myself going, because of just that reason. Its very dark and you can go to sleep SO easily.