A collage of the 24 community members who have shared their stories in 2019. Text on the image reads: #MyBlindStory: A Look Back and the BlindNewWorld logo appears at the bottom.

Your stories are jhe foundation of the #BlindNewWorld community – and there is no limit to who can join us here.

Our 2019 contributors came to us from all over the U.S. – and around the world.

They’re stars from Hollywood and hip-hop. Champion athletes. Savvy young adults. Internationally recognized gamers. Eloquent bloggers. Published poets. Accessibility-minded inventors. Talented craftspeople. Passionate artists. Innovative businesspeople. Determined doctors! Staunch advocates and committed allies.

And above all, they are change-makers. These are people who are willing to share their voices and their stories to show the world what’s possible.

To close out the year, we’re bringing together the full collection of 2019 #MyBlindStory posts so you can get to know each and every one of these incredible people.

And if you’re feeling inspired – reach out to us and we’ll share yours, too!

With a new year (and a new decade!) on the horizon, we want everyone in this community to know how much we appreciate and value you. Best wishes for a warm and happy new year with friends, family and people you love – and thank you for being a part of the #BlindNewWorld!

Derek Rabelo smiles while hugging his guide dog, Serenity, and holding a surfboard on a beach.

Derek Rabelo

“Tired of being told I couldn’t do something, at age 17, I decided to make my father’s dream come true and took up surfing. I wanted to show everyone what a blind man can do.”

Derek is a professional surfer. In his post, Surfing and Finding Serenity: What We Can Do When We Have Faith, he talks about what it took to get there.

Blogger Ashley Bernard smiles for the camera

Ashley Bernard

“Don’t be the bird in the box. Don’t close yourself off from the world based on misinformation. For goodness sake don’t do the Bird Box challenge. Challenge yourself to stay accurately informed.”

Earlier this year, when people were caught up in the (ill-advised) “Bird Box Challenge,” Ashley from Short Shady Blog recommended some constructive, meaningful ways for people to challenge themselves to understand blindness in her post, Don’t Be the Bird in the Box.

Jasmyn smiles at the camera while holding her cane.

Jasmyn Polite

“At the end of the day, you know what tools in your life will help you be safe! In my heart, my cane keeps me safe from everything: wet puddles, poop from dogs, cracks, and cars. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved to travel, and now that I know how to use my cane the right way, I enjoy traveling more, but safely!”

Jasmyn contributed twice in 2019, both times with helpful, encouraging advice. Read her posts about why she loves her cane and her top five reasons that everyone should learn braille.

Nathan smiles for the camera while riding the bus. His guide dog, a black lab named Maisie, sits in his lap and looks at the camera.

Nathan Tree

“These days, my disability has become part of my identity and I am inherently more confident and happy than I have ever been. Overall, I feel well equipped to deal with my vision loss no matter what happens.”

Nathan’s post had everything from blind hockey to a guide dog trained to sniff out Whoppers at Burger King (really!). What else can we possibly say? Just read it!

A close-up, black and white shot of TJ the Blind Gamer wearing headphones and focusing on a game.

TJ the Blind Gamer

“I played video games my whole life, everything from Halo to Call of Duty. I have been blind since the age of 15 and now spend my time playing video games without any vision, doing what I can to help others like myself experience the joy of gaming with friends.”

TJ The Blind Gamer has gotten international attention for record-setting accomplishments in Call of Duty, a game that many people assume requires sight. In his post, he offered tips and resources for gaming while blind – and how to get started.

Elin stands smiling on a path in the woods. It's fall - she's surrounded by fallen leaves and she's wearing a warm, puffy orange coat.

Elin Williams

“Even though our disabilities are a part of who we are, it is not all that we are and I hope that one day, more non-disabled people start to realize that.”

In Welcome to My Blurred World, Elin talks about her experience with retinitis pigmentosa – and how her blog helped her find her voice, both online and in the real world.

Alexandra smiles for the camera - she's standing outside on a campus holding a bookbag and wearing an ID badge.

Alexandra Adams

“If I had simply taken the ignorant advice of others, I would never have known where I could’ve been today.”

Alexandra is deafblind. She’s faced “demoralizing, frustrating and upsetting” discrimination and is accustomed to hearing “no.” But now she’s in her third year of medical school – and almost halfway to becoming a doctor. Get to know her in her post, Setting my Sights on Medicine – Insight from a Deafblind Medic.

Hilda along with her son Ashton, her two daughters and her husband, huddling together outdoors for a family photo.

Hilda Dunford

“Navigating his world of braille and touch and seeing the world a completely different way than I ever did has taught me so much.”

Seven-year-old Ashton has septo-optic dysplasia – and is surrounded by (sighted) family committed to navigating the world right alongside him, including learning braille. Get to know him in Our Blind Side, written by Ashton’s mom Hilda.

Aishwarya stands at an art exhibition holding her painting, Happy Blossoms

Aishwarya Pillai

“My aim … is to bring them and the sighted community together to bridge the gap between the two so that everyone can enjoy art. I am also looking to connect to other blind artists so that we can exchange ideas and share our experiences.”

As an artist and an art-lover, Aishwarya wasn’t satisfied with what was available to her when she lost her vision later in life. Now she’s helping other visually impaired people in her community not only learn how to create art, but also touch and experience it. Learn more in How I Became a Blind Painter.

John, sporting a dark beard and long dark curly hair is wearing a dark sweater and holding a large wood bowl. The bowl is dark with a light colored stripe through the middle. Bowl is made of Black Walnut, Padauk and Ash woods.

John Furniss

“Teaching community members to fight assumptions held toward the blind has been imperative to public edification as well as to my own progress. Educating a sighted populace on the myth of limitations has been a favorite theme of mine.”

John Furniss lost his sight as a teenager. Now, he says that the journey in his wood shop has mirrored his journey through blindness. Learn more in his post, The Blind Woodsman.

 Laura and Tom walk together - Tom is holding onto the black strap of the orange Ramble Tag fastened around Laura's arm.

Laura Maclean and Tom Forsyth

“We were having a giggle and I was like, ‘Tom!! You need something better to hold on to!’ and he replied something like, ‘We’ll stick a handle on you!’ Lightbulb moment!”

Neighbors Laura and Tom enjoy walking together – but traditional guidance methods didn’t work. Their dogs pulled them in different directions, and they found themselves bumping into each other or getting separated. So they invented Ramble Tag Guidance Aid. Find out more about their “lightbulb moment” in Necessity is the Mother of Invention: The Story of Ramble Tag.

Brian and his guide, John Lesperance, jog together on the race course. They're both holding on to a rigid tether that keeps them together and in sync.

Brian Switzer

“Being in a race that is typically run by strong, able-bodied people, brought a great deal of awareness to the capabilities that a lot of people who are blind possess.”

Brian is a published author, salsa dancer, former high school math teacher and current assistive tech instructor for Career Launch @ Perkins. And in his spare time, he’s an ultra athlete. In Rucking – While Deafblind, read about the race that took him and his team on a 38-hour, 220+ mile journey through all 15 towns on Cape Cod. All while wearing a 30 lb. rucksack.

Gina Marie, holding a wooden walking stick, stands amid construction inside her tiny house.

Gina Marie Applebee

“Yeah, so it was pretty weird, a real trip, a genuine mind-melting, consciousness-expanding, perceptual phase change. I wouldn’t trade it for 20/20 vision and all the money in the world!”

When Gina Marie lost her eyesight, she gained a kind of non-optic sight that allows her to perceive color and light in a “technicolor wonderland.” As she works with neuroscientists to understand more about her perception, she also hopes to find others who might have similar experiences. Learn more in her post, Blind & In Technicolor.

At the 2019 ISPS HANDA VISION CUP set at Portmarnock Links in Dublin, Ireland, Chad NeSmith is about to sink a 15-foot putt with the help of his guide, Andy Church, who snaps his fingers when the ball is lined up and ready to be putt.

Chad NeSmith

“What many people do not realize is the amount of sacrifice and patience it takes to guide for a blind golfer. Without my knowledge, Andy practiced his own golf game with a blindfold on for over a year to get a better understanding of the necessary techniques it takes to golf blind.”

In Fore! Moving Ahead Thanks to Golf, Chad credits his wife and his golf coach/sighted guide/best friend Andy Church with getting him into golf – and helping him become an international champion.

Lachi, wearing dangly earrings and a cropped black sweater with a hot-pink zipper, stands in front of red metal scaffolding and greenery in New York City. She's looking confidently at the camera.

Lachi

“…I get it now. That need to step outside the box society has set for you, and to step into the box you’ve set for yourself. To proudly self-identify. To win, to lose, to learn, as YOU. Unafraid.”

Lachi is a legally blind recording artist, writer and producer. Her track Unafraid was inspired by her journey to self-acceptance. In her post, Unafraid: How I Overcame the Ultimate Fear, she takes you “behind the music.”

With the guidance of a teacher, a child touches the tactile illustration in a Beyond Braille book.

Nupur Agarwal

“I wished to bring the world of visuals to the visually impaired community and wanted to spark the love for reading that would last with them for a lifetime.”

Nupur Agarwal saw an opportunity to create better books for blind and visually impaired children – complete with illustrations that would come to life through tactile experience. Read about her journey in Beyond Braille: Seeing the Unseen.

Kym - wearing lava-red shorts and a black sports bra that says Savage across the chest - smiles for the camera after a post-workout, cool-down dunk in Lake Huron.

Kym Dekeyrel

“Life is hard… but hard does not mean impossible.”

Discovering adaptive CrossFit put Kym on a path to self-discovery as well. Read about her journey – and how she became the fourth-fittest standing adaptive woman in the world! – in Coming to a Crossroads and Finding CrossFit.

Dan Williams crouches on a sidewalk, smiling for the camera with his arm around Zodiac, his black Labrador Retriever guide dog.

Daniel Williams

“I was now a young man on a mission to prove that sight loss did not mean job loss.”

Daniel Williams went from denying his retinitis pigmentosa to founding an organization that works to increase inclusion and accessibility for those living with disabilities. Read more in his post, Look Forward and Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.

Roy Samuelson sits behind a podium and microphone in a sound studio.

Roy Samuelson

“While I know the general gist of the movie or TV show, I’m also along for the ride. My goal as a narrator is to get out of the way to not distract the audience from immersing themselves emotionally. In other words, if an audience is aware of me, I’m not serving the story.”

You may not know his name, but you might know his voice. Roy has narrated blockbuster movies and TV shows including Spider-Man, Jurassic World and NCIS. In Bringing TV and Movies to Life with Audio Description, learn how he got into the business – and why he’s become an advocate for accessibility.

Sinead, wearing a bright green t-shirt, black shorts and dark glasses, runs confidently toward the camera. She's surrounded by palm trees. Photo credit: Mark Conlon, World Marathon Challenge

Sinead Kane

“If, like me, you have a dream, think of ways to make it happen. Take the baby steps needed to get there. It may take years, but it is very worthwhile. Baby steps give you time to stop and smell the roses along the way and adjust to the new life you are building.”

Sinead has completed marathons on all seven continents and holds multiple Guinness World Records. But she still faces discrimination in her sport to this day. In her post,
Dream Big, Step Small, and Keep Going, she talks about why she just keeps on running.

In a professional headshot, Jim Kessler sits against a blue-gray backdrop wearing a suit and tie and smiles for the camera.

Jim Kessler

“The basic philosophy was that everyone should have the same access to all of the information at conference.”

Jim has been an ally and accessibility advocate for more than 50 years. Now, at AHEAD, his innovation makes navigating conferences easier for blind and visually impaired people. In his post, learn more about “wordmaps” – what they are, how he makes them and why they work.

Blake Stadnik, in character as Jack Damon in "Strangers," the first episode of the fourth season of This Is Us. He's sitting down and looking thoughtfully into the distance. Photo credit: Ron Batzdorff/NBC

Blake Stadnik

“If there is any child with a disability watching Jack Damon rocking out at The Greek, I want them to know they can absolutely follow their dreams, and there are scores of loving people to help them along the way.”

This Is Us fans will recognize Blake Stadnik as the actor who plays Jack Damon. In this exclusive #MyBlindStory, he talks about how he lost his sight – and how, with the support of people who are open-minded, supportive and inclusive, he found the biggest role of his career to date.

Emily, posing for an outdoor professional headshot, wears a purple blazer, black-and-white floral scarf and blue-framed eyeglasses, and smiles joyfully for the camera. Photo credit: Chelsea Whitman

Emily K. Michael

“When we negotiate about what blindness is, we get at the heart of our exclusion problem today.”

Emily is a writer – and wants to tell stories in which her blindness isn’t the main character. Get to know her in Will You Say Yes to My Blindness?.

 Louie, wearing a purple button-down and khakis, stands in his “red dot” on the TEDx stage

Louie McGee

“It’s strange, but my blindness has opened more doors than I would’ve had otherwise. While blindness can be a limiter, it has given me the chance to change my perspective, learn to do things in a new way, and help create something that is uniquely me.”

Louie is a frequent contributor – and one of our favorites. In Sharing My Story from the TEDx Stage, he walks us through (or maybe it’s more accurate to say he *paces* us through…) what it was like being the youngest-ever TEDx speaker in Minnesota.

How has blindness impacted your world?

Add your voice to #MyBlindStory. Send your entry to blog@blindnewworld.org or use our online form.