This morning (March 2nd, 2017) marked the beginning of the American Foundation for the Blind’s Leadership Conference in Crystal City, VA.
Here I sit on your behalf. My goal is to gather relevant information and resources for parents and family members of children and teens who are blind and visually impaired. My hopes are high, as I’ve only attended the first general session and my fingers have feverishly typed three pages of priceless counsel from blind and visually impaired adults who have significantly advanced in their careers.
One of the panelists from this session included Denna Lambert, Project Manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, who shared she was born totally blind due to congenital cataracts. She discussed her time in school as challenging due to low expectations of school personnel.
Heads throughout the room were nodding in agreement as she stated, “[For far too long] I allowed others’ doubts about my ability become my doubts of my ability.”
But what changed? Might I remind you, Ms. Lambert (at age 35) is working with NASA. (Mic drop.)
She continued, and I want to make sure parents and family members of children and teens with visual impairments recognize both the issue of adopting others’ expectations and how to counteract low expectations, “It has taken a journey of meeting with other blind and sighted individuals who were able to sit and talk with me about that challenge. We’ve discussed how we wrestle with those doubts; how we get the courage to move forward. These mentors were formal and informal relationships; even a simple conversation over dinner when I could ask ‘How did you do this…’. That inter-generational network, my wide network of mentors, has been vital.”
Ms. Lambert addressed a crucial component of raising and teaching children and teens with visual impairments: mentorship from blind and visually impaired adults who are well adjusted to blindness and pursuing their own interests and occupations. Without this evidence of “successful” adults who are also blind, low expectations become ripe for the picking.
And so I ask you today to learn more about role models and mentors who are blind and visually impaired. Learn why they’re important for young people with visual impairments, and learn how to find the right role model or mentor for your child or teen.