I was lucky enough to get a good friend of mine to be a guest author on my blog. His article is very impactful and encouraging and I strong suggest you all take the time to read this blind father of four's story! Enjoy!
Zachary and Dad go to
“Junior Science Academy”
By: Kevin Ledford
I have been involved with the National Federation of the Blind since 1996 when I attended the Colorado Center for the Blind. I have been blind or what some people would classify “visually impaired” since birth. Although I was raised in a home where both parents were blind and our family was heavily involved in the blind community, I did not receive any encouragement to accept my blindness as a part of my overall character. Due to this lack of education and understanding, I was not taught Braille as a child and was not an avid or even independent cane traveler until I was much older.
I am now a proud father of four rambunctious and sometimes crazy boys, three of which are blind. Three weeks ago, my oldest son Zachary, who is nine years old and just started the 4th grade, and I attended the National Federation of the Blind’s “Junior Science Academy”. During these four days, Zachary had the opportunity to learn from blind mentors and instructors that science can be cool and accessible to the blind. Zachary was in a pod or team with two other youth his age and was able to engage in experiences not widely available to kids or even adults that are blind. Zachary learned about and helped build simple machines. Along with his pod, he learned how to play beeper ball which is a form of baseball that has been adapted for the blind. Hey also had the opportunity to go to a local amusement park where they enjoyed various rides and learning about safety while having fun.
Zachary made some new friends but most importantly, he learned that there are kids just like him who are also blind and that being blind is ok and he is just as cool as anyone else, regardless of visual acuity!
As a parent of blind children, who just happens to be blind himself, I have learned over the years how to adapt my lifestyle and the way I do things as I am progressively losing the remaining eyesight I have. Growing up in a home where both parents are either blind or visually impaired you would think my parents tried to prepare me as best as they could for what my future would hold. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I am 37 years old and barely know the first few letters of the Braille alphabet. However, I cannot hold my parents solely responsible. The school systems that provided my education are predominantly responsible for my illiteracy. Yes, I am able to read print but with much distress and strain. I should know and be using Braille on a daily basis but because I was not given the opportunity to learn Braille as a child, I am now struggling as I am inching toward total blindness.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to attend the Junior Science Academy with Zachary. Had I not experienced this along with him, I would not have had my lack of proficient Braille skills brought to the forefront and forced me to admit that I MUST learn and use Braille immediately! If not for myself, then for my children!
Over the last 14 years, I have wanted to prove not only to myself but to others that I am a competent blind person. My immediate goal and dream is to read, write and completely understand Braille along with my children, friends, and NFB family! Once this day comes, I can then stand arm in arm with my blind colleagues and say, I am truly helping to change what it means to be blind!
I am overwhelmed with this unique gift we were given from the National Federation of the Blind. I met some wonderful parents that are in the fight right alongside us and strengthened my relationships with my fellow NFB family. This experience has changed our lives in ways we never imagined. It is my desire to share not only my strengths but also my weaknesses so that I can help others as we open our eyes to a brighter future. May we walk down our chosen road while tapping our canes towards greater independence and acceptance!