Future Reflections Special Issue: Low Vision and Blindness 2005
Raising kids is very much like hiking up a mountain. Sometimes the path is clear; sometimes not. Sometimes the way is easy and pleasant; sometimes rocky and perilous. Sometimes an unexpected glimpse of the summit gives you heart and hope to keep going; and sometimes you wander lost in a fog, not sure if you are going forward or around in circles.
In 1979, my husband, John, and I embarked on such a hike into largely uncharted territory. We began the task of raising our adopted, two-year-old, and partially sighted son with the compass of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) philosophy to guide us. I say “uncharted” because at the time, only a handful of parents of very young blind children were active in the NFB. The overwhelming majority of parents had either never heard of the NFB, or had heard about it from professionals who warned them to stay away from that “radical” group. If parents employed the Federation philosophy (and some did) it was out of a common sense approach to life in general, and not a deliberate philosophical choice backed by the loving support and mentorship of organized blind adults and other parents.
There were many times when I wondered if what we were doing was effective. Would it work? Would it make a difference? In a sense, this special issue about low vision and blindness marks for me a personal summit. Our son is now an independent adult with a job and a life of his own. Best of all, he is a man who is at ease with himself; whose use of visual and nonvisual techniques blend seamlessly into a way of functioning that is as natural and automatic as breathing.
The Federation philosophy made a difference for our son, and it can make a difference for your child or student, too. In this issue, you will find a practical road map, travel guide, road sign warnings, and directions, and a glimpse of the summit in the stories and suggestions provided by parents, teachers, and blind adults. Because a correct understanding of the Federation philosophy and approach is so important to understanding the perspective of the articles in this issue, I strongly urge readers to begin with Kenneth Jernigan’s “A Definition of Blindness” and Barbara Pierce’s “Low Vision, Blindness, and Federation Philosophy.” However, feel free to read the article at the back of the issue, by Minnesota parent, Carrie Gilmer, at any point, just be sure to read it!