High school student interviews us about blindness and youth

We received a welcome inquiry from a high local student in Livingston County who wanted to know what it’s like working as a professional teacher for blind and low vision children. Here are some questions and answers you may enjoy reading. The questions were answered by Ms. Morrison.

Question 1: What is your role in the agency? 
Answer: I am one of the 3 teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired working during the summer youth program. I also work with the different workshops and activities involving school-aged children.
Question 2: I discovered that diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause for acquiring blindness in young adults in the United States. Do you work with anyone who has had this disease? 
Answer: I work mostly with children in K-12 but I know that more adults have Diabetic Retinopathy. Only if a child is type 1 diabetic of becomes Type 2 may it cause Diabetic Retinopathy.
Question 3: What are some other causes of blindness in the people you work with? 
Answer: Most children’s Visual Impairment of Blindness is congenital. They were born with various conditions such as Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), congenital Glaucoma and Cataracts and Retinitis Pigmentosa . There are diseases or developmental conditions of the optic nerve such as Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, or Atrophy, Microopthalmia. There are conditions like Anaridia, Color Blindness, Rod and Cone Diseases, and syndromes that can cause blindness such as CHARGE Syndrome, Best Disease. I have work with students with these conditions and many more.
Question 4: What are some ways teens can protect their eyes to prevent blindness?
Answer: Teens without visual impairments can best protect their eyes from sun damage by using protective eye wear during sports activities. If a teen is wearing contacts please make sure you wash your hands and keep the lenses sterile.
Question 5: What is the difference between being legally blind and totally blind?
Answer: You are considered legally blind if your acuity is 20/70 or less — less meaning your vision is worse. Your acuity normally is 20/20. If you are visually impaired you can be anything more that 70. These students are considered low vision because they may have some degree of sight. A totally blind student has no light perception so there is no vision in either eye.
Question 6: What are some programs you know of that assist blind teenagers in public schools?
Answer: The programs are through the districts’ special education department or through their intermediate school district. Within the schools there are: Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired in classrooms or resource rooms,  Visual Impairment Teacher Consultants, and Orientation and Mobility Specialists who provide services to those students. They also get ancillary services such as Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy.
Question 7: In your opinion, is it okay for a blind student to go through school without any assistance programs?
The services a student receives is very individual. Through many assessments and evaluations students get the services that will allow them to succeed in the public school setting. The degree to which the services are rendered also varies due to the degree of vision loss. A totally Blind student will always get services.
Question 8:  I discovered many ways the federal government has helped handicapped students. Do you think our government has enough involvement when it comes to helping the handicapped?
Answer: There are programs for different disabilities and the federal government cannot meet everyone’s needs. They are subject to the laws in the American Disabilities Act. The state and local governments play a larger role in providing or requiring programs for the disabled. Many times the programs are there, however the funding is not.
Question 9: In my research, I came across something I had not heard of before: White Cane Safety Day. Can you tell me what this day is all about?
Answer: White Cane Day promotes the knowledgement of what a white cane is and how it’s used by Visually Impaired people. That day is to recognize the many achievements of blind and visually impaired citizens and the white cane as a tool in promoting independent travel.
Question 10: Do you have any ideas for programs that would be helpful in schools?
Answer: Knowledge goes a long way to support Blind and Visually Impaired students. The inclusion of these students in everyday school activities and functions is a big step.  Conducting Professional Development workshops for school staff,  classroom in-services and assemblies to teach students about Blindness and Low Vision, and what a visually impaired student needs from fellow classmates to successfully function in the school setting are necessary.
Question 11: What are some ways students can spread awareness about the blind?

Answer: (a) Volunteer at the Greater Detroit Agency for the Blind and Visually Impaired; (b) Get to know a blind student in your school and you will learn a lot; (c) Attend functions for the Blind that are held in your area; (d) Volunteer in school, or tutor a Blind or Low Vision student.

Thank you.
If you would like to learn more about blindness or GDABVI programs and services, please contact us. We’d be happy to help! (313) 272-3900  information@GDABVI.org
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