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The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Producer Joe Strechay Advocates for People With Disabilities in the Entertainment Industry

Stretchy+speaking+to+attendees
Jada Mills
Stretchy speaking to attendees

A blind Huntington native has claimed his corner of the film and television industry despite the challenges that he has faced and has dedicated his life to advocating for and teaching others with disabilities that the world of TV and movies is not off limits.

Joe Strechay is a co-executive producer for season three of the show “See,” which is available on Apple TV+. One of his goals for the show was to change how blindness is seen by the world.

“I create accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision on sets,” Strechay said. “When creating the set of ‘See,’ the writers told me that we have to create an atmosphere of respect around blindness and disability.”

Strechay has also been working on the new Netflix show ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ which will be released on Nov. 2. He is an associate producer and blindness accessibility consultant on that project.

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Aria Loberti, who plays the lead role as Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind French girl, in ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ was born with the rare genetic eye condition achromatopsia, which is characterized as partial or total loss of color vision.

“We got to cast Aria and teach her how film works. We also created accessibility for her needs on set,” Strechay said.

To ensure accessibility, he evaluates the accommodations for actors and background performers with all types of disabilities. He also recruits actors through his connections and networking.

“Nothing about us, without us,” said Strechay. “I want to make sure people with disabilities have opportunities. Utilizing and representing communities is important.”

Thirty-five actors who are blind or have low vision were brought onto “See” by Strechay, and most have recurring roles.

“As we were building the show, I got to build in parts of the blindness community,” Strechay said. “There are little details about blindness that some people will never understand but hopefully pick up on in the show.”

Throughout his career, he has written scripts, trained actors for roles, produced, trained individuals who are blind or have low vision for everyday tasks and cast people for parts; the list goes on.

“We all want to be represented in film and television; it’s part of popular culture and culture, in general,” Strechay said. “I didn’t feel like I was represented.”

Strechay and his mother both have an eye condition that deteriorates their vision from the outside in.

In high school, his vision began deteriorating, and he was told he would be completely blind by age 25.

Strechay graduated from East Carolina University, where he lost most of his vision within the first semester. His vision closed in like a tunnel where he could only see 10% of what everyone else could see, he said.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was depressed,” Strechay said. “I didn’t know people who were blind.”

As a result, he began counseling and said that mental health is important, and counseling changed his perspective tremendously. “Like how I see myself, but also how I see life, and how I interact with it.”

Strechay lived in Huntington from 2009 to 2015 and currently resides in Fayetteville, WV, with his wife, who is from Beckley, WV.

While living in Huntington, he worked for the American Foundation for the Blind, where he wrote curriculum for a program that focused on employment skills and career exploration.

In his free time, while also working, he began writing about popular culture in television and film. He was passionate about this topic and started getting contacted by documentaries and commercials as they were casting people who were blind or experienced low vision, which brought him to where he is today.

“The most successful people are self-aware; you know what you’re good at, and you also know what your weaknesses are,” Strechay said. “Know your sales pitch: who you are, what you can do and what you can bring.”

Strechay encouraged everyone who wants to get in film to do it and said West Virginia is on the up and rising for film and production.

“West Virginia is really investing in television and film, thanks to the economic development department and film commission,” Strechay said. “These tax credits are some of the best in the country now, and I think you are going to see more and more projects.”

Strechay does not plan to stop living out his dream anytime soon and encourages others to, “Make it happen; don’t let others tell you that you can’t.”

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    Andrew ZulaufNov 3, 2023 at 9:13 am

    Thank you for covering this. My youngest son is attending MU and has XLRP. My wife and oldest son also have the disease. We need more powerful stories like this to continue to inspire our young folks who have physical and emotional challenges. Well done!

    Andy Zulauf

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