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Technology Sheds Light On Fort Worth Rodeo

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Chelby Farley is a high school senior from Saginaw who loves coming to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. But Farley experiences the stock show differently from most.

Sitting in the bleachers overlooking a small show arena, Farley scanned the huge livestock barn peering through her powerful monocular — essentially a handheld device that looks like one side of a pair of binoculars.

“I can see….” Farley said slowly as she scanned the barn full of people and pens full of sheep. “I can tell where the cages are for the animals. And then figures I assume are animals but I can’t tell exactly.”

Farley is visually impaired. Using the monocular, she can make out figures of people but can’t tell male from female. Watching something as fast-moving and complicated as a rodeo and understanding what is going on is practically impossible.

But Friday Farley and more than 40 blind or visually impaired young people were able to “see” a rodeo.

They used pairs of headsets strung through a section of stadium seats to hear a special narrator.

“They’re Palomino horses ridden by beautiful young ladies,” the narrator said as horses circled the arena as part of the opening ceremony. Farley said she uses the narration combined with other background noises to paint a picture in her mind.

The heavy gate swung open with a loud clank and the first of the bareback riding cowboys was launched out of the chute on the back of a bucking bronco.

“And, he’s out of the chute!” the narrator exclaimed. “He’s laying back on the horse and he’s got a good grip on it! He’s got to hold on for eight seconds and make sure he doesn’t have any penalties.”

“I can make mental images of what’s going on around just from what I’m hearing right now,” Farley said.

Steer wrestling gave the listeners a fast-paced description of the action, which often times lasts less than five seconds.

“He’s on the back of the steer,” the narrator said. “But the steer is really running him around the arena. And now he’s on his side.”

“It’s extremely important,” Farley said of the narration in her headphones. “If I didn’t have that I would hear the announcer and hear the people but I wouldn’t get the in-depth view I get with the description.

“It made me feel ecstatic!” Farley said of her rodeo experience. “I just love the feel of not knowing what’s going to happen next and not knowing if they’re going to make it and how they’re going to do. I just think that’s really cool.”

The program is sponsored by Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth and the AT&T Pioneers volunteers and has become a Stock Show tradition after more than 30 years.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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