I just read that blindness is the third most feared physical condition after only Cancer and AIDS. I’m blind, but I’m not scared. Most kids with blindness are not scared. I’m sure that number would be completely different if you only surveyed those with blindness.
However, fear is a pretty powerful thing. And feeling the fear of others – parents, relatives, teachers, and friends can be very limiting for a kid with blindness.
I had a conversation last year with a super well respected leader in the blind community. He is in his 70’s and we were talking about sports and what we do for fun. We shared stories of skiing out west in the mountains. I talked about all kinds of things, but soccer stuck out to him. He told me that I should be careful – soccer is dangerous. I thought ‘soccer?’ This is a guy who is completely blind AND who in his 70’s regularly skis in the mountains out west – yet in his mind, soccer is the most dangerous. He’s a super successful guy who I really look up to, but it just shows that we all have things we believe are dangerous and we need to be careful not to transfer our fears to others.
I am 16 years old and I just founded a non-profit called Louie’s Vision to help kids with blindness live a life that is adventurous, boundless, fun, courageous and confident. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people who have encouraged me, pushed me and at times gotten out of my way so that I could try things – sometimes failing but all the time experiencing life. It is in those experiences that I have learned the most about me and the world around me. I ski, I am on my high school swim and track teams, I hike and I give most things a try. Nothing comes easy, but almost everything is possible.
It is in that possibility that I see hope. Hope for me, hope for other kids just like me. My mission with Louie’s Vision is to provide visually impaired kids with opportunities to expand their life experiences and empower them to reach their fullest potential. Specifically, I am focusing on awareness, confidence and accessibility. In the end, we are just kids – blind or sighted. Kids learn by trying things, making mistakes and sometimes doing stuff that others would see as dangerous. Some things just have to be experienced.