What a year, huh? The good news is that, even with everything that’s happening out there in the real world, we have a strong, supportive community to help us keep it together and keep going here in the #BlindNewWorld.
As always, we wanted to take an opportunity to reflect on and highlight all of the incredible stories that have been shared with us this year. 2020 brought us personal insight from artists, musicians, athletes, innovators, actors, scientists, content creators, professionals, bright young adults, chefs, rock-star parents – as well as an actual rock star!
And while they’re all very different – from different parts of the world, with different abilities, of different ages – they all have one thing in common. They’re sharing their stories and lifting their voices to show that disability is not inability. Inclusion, accessibility and interdependence matter – and when the barriers that too often get in our way are removed, we can get the job done.
So, if you missed any of the stories or want to share with someone who could use a good read, click through the collection here. And if you’re feeling inspired? Reach out to us and we’ll share your story, too!
There’s a new year on the horizon, and we’re hoping things get better from here. In the meantime, we could not be more grateful to have you as a part of our community, and we are sending best wishes for a warm, safe, healthy and happy new year with people you love. Thank you so much for being a part of the #BlindNewWorld!
“There are and will always be challenges, injustices and generally dark times, the only way to handle it is to put your head down and keep driving forward. There will always be a newer, brighter day, if you can just make it through till the morning.”
Casey is the keyboardist and founding member of X Ambassadors. He’s also visually impaired. In “On Me,” he shares how he went from being a regular kid to real-life rock star.
“I am proud to be vision impaired as it has allowed me to have a different outlook on life. I can appreciate much more and I just wish that everyone will be more inclusive, accepting and understanding of people with a disability.”
Karlee Symonds is a 17-year-old blind sprinter. Though she’s young, she’s already smashing records – and has her sights set on the Paralympics. Read more about what keeps her running.
“The blind community has incredible potential for working in the audiovisual industry – not just as sound technicians, musicians, producers, mixers and sound developers, but also as programmers, data analysts, marketing staff, game designers, scriptwriters, translators, voice actors and more.”
myTrueSound makes accessible audio games, including the very popular AudioWizards. In his post, David Oliva, the company’s founder, talks about how it all got started, the challenges along the way – and why he kept going.
“Working hard, having a positive attitude, learning braille, using the long white cane and advocating for your needs are all helpful skills that all blind and visually impaired people should learn and apply to their lives.”
In “What It Takes: Four Ways to Become More Independent as a Visually Impaired Young Adult,” our friend and frequent contributor Jasmyn Polite shares insight into what independence means to her and why, as a visually impaired young adult, it’s a priority for her.
“I was so proud to be the first deafblind actor in a movie. It made me feel like I made it! It was a dream come true.”
Robert always wanted to act. He was born deaf and later lost his vision, but never stopped dreaming of acting. In this post, he talks about what it’s like now to be the star of Feeling Through – and the first-ever deafblind actor to have a leading role in a movie.
“My intention behind my mostly autobiographical comic strip, ‘Life is Blurry,’ is 1) to present the ironies of the world through the perspective of a visually impaired visual artist such as I am, so that the disabled community can laugh along with me, and 2) to educate the able-bodied using the most effective means I know: humor.”
Sometimes, you just have to laugh. That’s why Marieke Davis, a visually impaired visual artist, takes a humorous approach to confronting ableism and life with a disability. Get to know her in her post, Taking a Humorous Approach – Because Life is Blurry.
Jerry Berrier and Kate Katulak
“Regardless of ability or disability, we need to remember to be kind to one another. Uncertain times can bring out the worst or best in ourselves. We may not be able to be the best versions of ourselves all the time, everyday, especially now. But we can choose compassion and kindness over intolerance and animosity.”
We can all agree that this year was crazy. And during the early days of COVID-19, social distancing and all the rest, we checked in with two members of our community to find out What It Means to Be Blind in a Pandemic to talk about the day-to-day challenges they were dealing with – and how sighted people could help.
“This is my journey. I want to, or rather, I have to prove to myself that I can do it on my own. There is nothing sweeter for me than the taste of freedom and independence. (Even if that means I get lost a few times along the way.)”
Most of us couldn’t travel anywhere this year, but we were able to live through Mona’s adventures. In Planes, Trains, Canes – and Me, the Holman Prize winner introduces us to her globe-trotting mini-series that demonstrates what it’s like to travel around the world as a blind person.
“I want to raise awareness about sports and recreation for the blind to educate the world that blind people can be athletic, competitive, and can have fun.”
With his Eyes Free Sports podcast, Greg Lindberg hopes to create an “ESPN of blind sports.” In Eyes Free Sports: Scoring Big Doesn’t Require Seeing, he takes us into the world of adapted sports – including everything from beep baseball to audio darts.
“Not everyone who is visually impaired needs or wants help. This is not meant to be a battle cry to suddenly drop wine on the doorstep of every blind person you know (although, would any of them complain? Probably not!). What it is meant to do is get us thinking about everyone on our teams, and how we can support them in ways we might not already be thinking about.”
In 10 Things You Can Do Today to Support Blind and Visually Impaired Colleagues Working Remotely During COVID-19, Deana – who works on the Career Launch program at Perkins School for the Blind – shared ways that she and her visually impaired colleagues have made it easier for everyone to work effectively while working remotely.
“I love all animals, but with horses, it’s different. I don’t actually have to ride very often to be happy, but I do need to be able to touch, smell, and interact with them. Horses feed my soul and ground me.”
Nikki has loved horses all her life and has owned them for more than 30 years. Now, she’s building online communities to empower and connect other blind and visually impaired riders and enthusiasts. Get to know her in The Blind Horse Rider Blazing the Trail for Other Visually Impaired Horse Enthusiasts.
“It’s not going to be easy – but neither is not being able to see. I just keep in mind that things may not always be easy, but they’re always possible.”
Giorgio Taverniti runs Frank’s Pizza House, an award-winning pizzeria in Toronto. Read his post to learn more about what it’s like to be Working Through Sight Loss While Pursuing a Passion for Pizza.
“Art is my life – from an early age, all I ever wanted to be was an artist.”
Clarke Reynolds is a blind visual artist who uses textiles, sounds and smells to create tactile art designed for people of all abilities to experience. In Seeing Without Seeing: Visual Art from a Blind Artist, he reveals how he got started – and where he hopes his work will take him.
“My challenges have made me stronger and allowed me to become confident. I may have lost my vision, but I never lost sight of my goals. I am proud to be a blind young woman chasing after my dreams and breaking down barriers.”
Meet Gabby Mendonca, A Digital Content Creator Defined Only by Her Dreams.
“My dream is to talk to people, reach out to human beings, relate to them, and hopefully save them. I have realized that once you hit rock bottom you have nowhere else to go but up: because you cannot dig through concrete.”
At just 17, Ashley hit rock bottom, believing her life was over. In her post, she talks about what it took to rise up – and to rock the road to recovery.
Trigger warning: this post contains mentions of drug/alcohol use, suicide and self-harm.
“After graduating from therapy, I discovered the saying: “You either run your day, or your day will run you.”
Patrick, a visually impaired personal trainer, initially struggled with confidence issues and anxiety related to his sight loss. In Run Your Day, Or Your Day Will Run You, he talks about how he worked through his insecurity – and learned how to run his day.
“I look forward to what’s still to come for technology and accessibility as it continues to enrich the lives of those who use it – and open the eyes of sighted people to see the ways we use technology.”
Kristy went viral when she tweeted a video to demonstrate how she, as a blind person, uses her phone. In “The Woman Who “Broke the Internet” Demonstrating that #BlindPeopleUsePhones,” she discusses how the video came about – and how she plans to build on the momentum of her viral moment to serve as a champion for accessibility.
“Live the life you want by following your passion and you will be amazed at how worthwhile your life is to you and those around you!”
Award-winning musician Joey Stuckey is blind, and has overcome the odds many times over. In Blind, but Not Beaten, he celebrates his passion for music and the feeling of being “gloriously alive.”
“In the end, being visually impaired definitely shaped my life – but I refuse to let it limit me.”
Growing up visually impaired as a result of aniridia, Carrie struggled with self-doubt. But with the help of family, colleagues and her husband, she became motivated and confident. And now, she’s the force behind Live Accessible, a resource to help others in the blind community thrive and succeed. Learn more in Aniridia, Acceptance and Building the Live Accessible Community.
“I know that I will be blind eventually and my doctors say that it will occur in my early 40s. This is terrifying for me. Being resilient and having a special support system has helped a lot.”
20-year-old Ruqaiyah is Living with Retinitis Pigmentosa – and Learning to Accept What’s Coming Next.
“When my number was finally called, I didn’t struggle with the concept of being a blind parent. What I did struggle with and do to this day are the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad attitudes I tend to encounter. These microaggressions, as we ‘woke’ folk call them, can swallow me whole at times.”
Writer Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a blind mom doing her best – maybe getting stuff wrong, but definitely having fun along the way. That’s why she and her friend Stacy Cervenka started the Bad Blind Moms project, a safe space for blind parents to be honest and transparent in discussing everything from accessibility and virtual learning to mental health and different parenting choices. Read more in Becoming a Bad Blind Mom (and Why it’s a Good Thing).
“I am employed full-time as a Senior Software Engineer – a job I couldn’t do if I hadn’t learned braille. I am also married and a father to two young children, both of whom are sighted. Because I can read braille, I am able to read them bedtime stories and pass along to them my love for the written word.”
Seedlings Braille Books for Children helped Jared develop literacy skills that enabled him to become a software engineer. And now, as a father to two sighted children, he’s able to share those same books – and his lifelong love of reading – with his kids. Here, he talks about Why Braille Books Matter – for Blind Kids and Sighted Kids.
“Bringing diverse backgrounds and people together fosters an environment of inclusiveness.”
Bryce was inspired by his lifelong love of sports to co-found The Beautiful Lives Project, a nonprofit that helps others with disabilities live their dreams – in sports, performing arts, visual arts, nature and beyond. Learn more in his post.
“There are quite a few blind parenting podcasts and blogs that focus on the logistics of feeding and diapering babies, helping children with their homework, and traveling with children on public transportation. These are critical resources for countless blind parents… however, we wanted to do something different.”
Stacy Cervenka and her friend Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter are Bad Blind Moms – and they know it. That’s why they wanted to create a community for other blind parents that felt “…authentic, not motivational… vulnerable, not persuasive. Something that feels like a conversation, not a class.” There’s no topic big or small that this “virtual mom squad” won’t tackle.