Last week, I had the opportunity thanks to a program called “Teachers of Tomorrow” to attend the National Federation of the Blind convention in Dallas, TX. It was the first time in my life I had been anywhere where the people who were blind outnumbered those that were sighted. I went to multiple classes and meetings, but learned the most through observation, and by getting to know some adults that happen to be blind.
I am in awe of the people I met, and what they have accomplished. I am not saying that those who impressed me were amazing “for being blind.” They were simply amazing, regardless of being with or without sight. There were university professors that I could’ve spent days listening to, some sighted, and some blind. There were workshops geared toward children with multiple disabilities, which were led by phenomenal teachers, some sighted, and some blind. I ate meals daily with lawyers, experts in technology, heads of businesses, parents, and students…some sighted, and some blind.
There were a group of students who were visually impaired that had earned college scholarships. We were able to hear a little bit about each one of them, and what they had accomplished in their lives. They also spoke of their future aspirations. Some were working on graduate degrees, some were raising families while attending school, and the range of future professions was across the spectrum. Many of those students made me feel like I had been standing still all my life. From community service to educational achievements, I was in their dust.
Like most parents, I often wonder what the future will be like for Eddie. After this convention, and the examples I learned from, I don’t worry about him being blind. I never did much anyway, but I’m even more convinced that it will not hold him back. Yes, I worry about the autism, and other medical conditions he has, but not his blindness. Last week, I saw an entire cross-section of the population of blind adults. Not all of them were without other disabilities, but all of them had a level of independence that I respected.
As a parent, and a teacher, it is very important for me to be involved in multiple organizations, with multiple people that rejuvenate my passion for educating children with visual impairments. I left there filled with stories of success, and to be honest, stories of failure. I learned that not every child with a visual impairment is given a good education, or given access to tools they need to succeed. I want to make sure I provide those tools. Not only to my students, but most importantly to my son. As we all know, our parents are our first educators, and I aspire to be nothing but the best for him.