Outrunning the Night - a life journey of disability, determination and joy.
Audio: Dr Scott Hollier interviewed by Kenneth Phua on Vision Australia Radio
The life of Dr Scott Holier is not what you’d call typical – he is well-educated, has a good job, is a husband, father, legally blind, loves computers and gadgets, goes to church and enjoys travel, spending time with friends and following his favourite football team. For most people, the atypical part of this description is ‘legally blind’, but from Scott’s perspective, it’s his traitorous support of a football team outside his home state of Western Australia which makes him stand out from the crowd.
For people with disabilities everything listed above should be typical yet for a variety of reasons the pursuit of education, embracing the benefits of technology, finding a good job, finding a partner and ultimately getting outside the front door can be challenging for many. While Scott can relate due to having a degenerative eye condition that has nearly extinguished all of his sight, his story looks less at what society should do to help him, but rather what a person with a disability can do to give back to a joyous and generous world.
Outrunning The Night is an autobiography whose purpose is to provide support to people of disadvantage, whether its daily challenges, disability-specific or supporting someone in need. The book does not feature anyone the pinnacle of sporting achievement or a brilliant mind, but rather it’s intended to be a celebration of life, happiness, joy, overcoming difficulties and ultimately explaining that making it in this world does not mean you have to climb Everest, but overcoming the little things to achieve the everyday things
The book follows Scott’s early life, critical decisions made by his parents to provide support, studies, career, family and the significant impact of computers and Internet-related technologies that continues to make a profound difference in his achievement of independence. While it’s unlikely that Scott will be able to outrun the night that is blindness, his achievements to continue running – whether its skydiving, studying a Doctorate, raising two children or just getting outside the front door – make his journey an important one to learn about.
The book contains the following chapters:
- Early Years and Diagnosis: discusses the discovery of Scott’s eye condition, diagnosis of the eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa and family reaction.2
- The Truth from A Teenager: Scott discusses life as a teenager including excerpts s from his own autobiography written at the age of 16.
- University Life, Friends and Music: Scott talks about study, friendships, humorous situations and the freedom of university life.
- Showing The World I’m ‘The Man’: with University life complete and Scott’s eyesight changing, this chapter talks about the challenges of finding employment and includes excerpts from Scott’s writings at the age of 26.
- University Life Revisited and A New Beginning: an unexpected opportunity leads Scott to return to study and undertake a PhD.
- Family And The Joy of Responsibility: Scott talks about family life, having children and the role of disability in the family context.
- Giving Back: What can people with disabilities do to give back to the world that provides so much support to them? Scott discusses his need to make a contribution.
- Career Phase 2: With Scott having completed his PhD, the next big question is ‘what now?’ This chapter looks at Scott’s work in the not-for-profit sector and how he became and internationally-recognised specialist in digital accessibility.
- Getting Out the Front Door: Achieving big things is only possible if the little things are overcome. Scott discusses the disability-related issues he faces daily and how overcoming those has led to such achievements as travelling to all seven continents and carrying the Olympic torch.
- Advice for the Rest of Us: Scott provides advice to individuals, parents and carers as to how education, technology and a bit of determination can help to navigate the wonderful and challenging paths of life with a disability.
Scuba diving in shark tank
Formats and editions
The book is available now in several different formats:
- Paperback edition
A standard paperback edition can be purchased directly from this website or from Amazon.com. The initial book launch also featured a full-colour limited edition paperback.
- Kindle edition
The book can also be purchased as a full colour Amazon Kindle e-book.
- Audio book
A professionally narrated audio book has been created by VisAbility and is now available from this website or from Audible. People who purchase the audio book from this website will also receive bonus HTML, PDF and ePub digital editions.
To purchase the book, please follow the links at the top of the page.
Sydney 2000 Olympic torch relay
Scott & Fat Cat
Family in New Zealand
Sample chapter - Prologue
The following is a sample of ‘Outrunning the Night’: the prologue.
Audio: Outrunning the Night - Prologue
In May 2014, I boarded a flight from Melbourne to Perth. I was returning home from a conference where I had given a presentation on how social media can be used to support people with disabilities. As a legally blind traveller using a white cane, I found the staff at the airport a fantastic help as usual. From the moment I set foot in it, a staff member spotted me and provided assistance, guiding me to the gate, then from the gate to the plane, and then the cabin crew guided me to my seat. While the flight itself was uneventful – and in my opinion that’s the best kind of flight – it did lead to a rare moment of quiet contemplation.
As the plane commenced its four-hour journey, I looked out the window and saw that the sun was just starting to set. As my vision is limited, I’ve grown to appreciate even more the times when I still have enough sight to enjoy visual beauty and I was amazed by the strands of pink, yellow and orange that stretched across the sky above the clouds with the fiery red sun. I was gripped by its beauty, both due to the landscape itself and the fact that it seemed to last forever – flying east to west meant that the sun set ever so slowly, with the transition of colours and light lasting for hours as the night gradually extinguished it. While a part of me wished the sunset would last the whole journey, I knew that the plane wasn’t fast enough to outrun the darkness, but it made for a spectacular trip along the way.
As a person born with a degenerative eye condition, now having lost most of my sight, I’ve often felt a bit like the plane. As my eyesight has deteriorated I’ve endeavoured to pack as much in as possible and continually try to outrun the night by experiencing and participating in as much as I can while my eyes continue to function. That’s not to say that it’s all over when I do finally lose the last bit – after all, my plane from Melbourne continued on its important journey home despite it being dark, and likewise the most important parts of my life journey will continue regardless of my sight.
A good way to explain this relates to a dream I had several years ago that’s stuck with me ever since. The dream took place at a ceremony known as ‘The Normal Awards’ where people with disabilities were being recognised for their achievement of a normal life despite facing challenges with their disability. The compere would be on stage, feeling the heat from the bright lights, microphone in hand, saying, “And the award for the person who stresses more about how his kids will turn out than his mobility impairment is…Bill!” The crowd cheer as Bill collects his gold statue.
When I woke up it occurred to me that winning a ‘Normal Award’ would be a tough process with the odds stacked against you. For a person with a disability, getting a good education for starters is statistically against you. Assuming you get through that, you’ve then got to compete against the nearly 60% unemployment rate to get a job. Last of all there’s the biggest challenge of the lot: succeeding in finding a partner you love, who wants to spend their life with you and is willing to share all the disability-related challenges. During times of unemployment and no relationship, these things had often seemed like unreachable goals to me.
Now, at a time in my life when my own needs pale into insignificance compared to those of my wife and children, and I’ve discovered the true meaning of responsibility, I think there’s a lot to be said for the ‘Normal Awards’. Not so much that there should be a formal awards ceremony for achieving everyday things, but more for the fact that all people with disabilities deserve to be acknowledged with a mini-cheer squad jumping out whenever any of us manage to overcome that small but profoundly challenging thing. For me, one of the hardest things is when I go to a conference and have to ask a complete stranger to help me find the toilet. This is profoundly embarrassing but necessary, and sometimes I think it’d be great if, after the fact, there were a few discreet streamers and party poppers to acknowledge that overcoming my fear at that time was a really big deal.
The key for me has been to accept that the feeling of fear in your stomach is not something that can be cured, or that it’s possible to ‘toughen up’ and lose that feeling. The trick for me when I’m in a difficult situation due to my disability has been to accept that you’re scared – then do it anyway. The endgame is overcoming enough small challenges to reach the point where disability is and will always remain an important part of your life, but it doesn’t consume it. It can also be about figuring out what gifts and talents you have that can make a difference to others, just as our friends, colleagues, family and complete strangers make a difference to us. I’ve found that once you get used to knocking off the small things, the bigger challenges like education, employment and relationships start to become possible.
When I was 16 I wrote an autobiography to share a few of my thoughts about this, and as you might expect from a 16 year old, most of it is about the music I liked and the school I was attending. However, I did also write a bit about what my eyesight was like at the time, and continued to write autobiographies every 10 years so there are also instalments from the ages of 26 and 36. While I’ve considered publishing them, for the most part they were written originally as private reflections on my life journey. Over the years, though, I’ve been approached by many who have heard my story – especially people with disabilities through my work and taxi drivers when I’m on my way somewhere – who reckon I have some good information to share that may be of help to others with needs or parents of children seeking some guidance on how to support a child with a disability. So I’ve put this book together to share my thoughts on disability from a 16-year-old perspective through to my life now aged 40.
While it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to outrun the night that is blindness, the combination of contracting sight, overcoming small challenges, working on the bigger challenges and trying to give back to the world have led to this point. This book is not about heroes or any particular achievement, but rather it’s about a life journey, experiences, laughter, embarrassment and pure joy along the way. Whether you have a disability or are supporting someone else, it’s my hope that the information provided here proves useful as we explore how to outrun the night together.