What My Sighted Child Is Learning from Our Blind Community
My husband Greg recently accepted the position of training center supervisor at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Lincoln, Nebraska.
So, at the end of April, we moved our family from Sacramento, California to Lincoln. This included me and my husband, who are both blind, and our sighted children Leo, who will be five this month, and Josephine, who will be turning one.
While we were looking for a house, the Commission let us stay in the training center’s student apartments.
People who are newly blind or who want to improve their blindness skills come to the center for six to nine months as students. They learn the skills they need to attend college, find employment, or re-enter the workforce after losing vision.
While they’re here, the students stay in a large apartment complex in downtown Lincoln where they occupy the entire third floor. Besides apartments, there are various communal rooms where students can hang out.
Because everybody on the third floor knows one another and attends classes at the center together, it kind of feels like a college dorm, with lots of camaraderie.
The apartment complex is also right in the middle of downtown Lincoln, with lots of restaurants and things to do nearby, so, when they’re not in class, everyone is always coming and going.
Although I am so glad to finally be in a house again, I’m very thankful that my children, especially Leo who is old enough to remember, had the experience of living in the student apartments for six weeks, and being surrounded by blind adults other than Mommy and Daddy.
This meant that throughout his first six weeks in Lincoln, until he started day camp, all of the adults in Leo’s world were blind. His neighbors were blind people from every walk of life including grandparents nearing retirement age, kids just out of high school, people from tiny farming communities, and a young lady who was originally from Haiti.
One student who was a grandmother, Brenda, was always baking and dropping off cookies at our apartment. A guy just out of college, Dominic, was often hanging out playing his guitar, or doing cardio by running up and down the apartment complex’s five flights of stairs. A former student, Laurie, who now works for the center as the apartment resource manager, brought Leo lots of toys that had belonged to her own kids.
Leo told one of his day camp teachers that everybody who lives in the apartments is blind except for himself and Josephine. I could tell that his teacher thought that this was kind of bizarre and mysterious, but I’m glad that Leo knows better, and that being immersed in the blind community is just part of his normal.
Because of our jobs and our involvement in the National Federation of the Blind, Leo will grow up knowing blind people from all walks of life. He’ll know other kids with blind moms and dads, and he’ll also have blind friends his own age.
As his friends from preschool, sports classes, and our neighborhood begin asking him more questions and making more comments, I’m glad that Leo will grow up knowing that blindness is just another facet of human difference.