Radio Talking book brings us 4 articles related to Blindness. The Radio Talking Book Network is part of State Services for the Blind and you can get the complete RTB broadcasts at www.MNSSB.org/RTB and the password is RTB.
The following podcast was recorded for use by customers of Minnesota’s State Services for the Blind. You can get more information about State Services for the Blind and the services it offers by going to www (dot) mnssb (dot) org.
I’m Stuart Holland.
Travelers in the Dark
This is written by By Eleanor Lew and appeared in the New York Times January 25, 2016
At 5, whenever my mother turned off the bedside lamp, an inexplicable terror catapulted me out of bed. Crawling on the floor, I checked to see that everything still existed.
Now it is like that again. Walking into a dimly lit restaurant, I panic when daylight switches instantly to pitch black. Descending a staircase, I fall when the handrail stops short of the last two steps. Emerging into bright sunlight, or confronting a computer screen’s glare, causes me to shield my eyes like a vampire.
I was told I had hereditary degenerative myopia at age 8, and now in middle age, I also have macular degeneration in one eye and fast-growing cataracts in both. My ophthalmologist worries about my visual acuity. But because I don’t yet qualify as legally blind, he doesn’t give me a referral for any kind of vision rehabilitation. “But doctor,” I protest, “I’m blind in the dark and bright light, and have lost depth perception.”
A year ago I heard about a low-vision immersion program offered by the LightHouse for the Blind. I was reluctant to go at first because, being partially sighted, I could not identify with the word “blind.” A year of tripping and falling has convinced me otherwise.
The training camp sits on 311 acres of rolling hills and steep trails about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Eleven blind and partially sighted “travelers in the dark” range in age from 28 to 80 and come from diverse backgrounds.
On the bus ride there I speak with another traveler who lives the way I do — in fear because Damocles’ sword hangs over our heads. Like me, he became partially sighted in one second, and we anticipate that the rest of our sight could vanish the same way. Urgency drives us.
On arrival I notice how broken and reluctant-to-be-there we look. No time for self-pity. Lessons begin an hour after arrival. When I step outside my cabin an instructor greets me and introduces me to my white cane, the dreaded object I fear will make people see only it and not me. But once it’s in my hand and I’m taught how to hold it, I feel steadier and stronger.
We partially sighted folks are forced to face our worst fear right after dinner when we are asked to put on sleeping shades and have our first lesson on coping with daily life in the dark. I’ve often thought about what I would do if I were to drop a sewing needle. The instructor intones the answer in a gentle voice: “Listen for the direction and how far from you it has fallen.” Obvious? Not to me.
In the days that follow we marvel at the unimaginably long list of inexpensive, low-tech gadgets that make doing everyday chores easier, from talking clocks and calculators and dollar bill readers to my favorite, the sock lock that keeps a pair of socks from separating in the wash.
Together we strategize ways to solve problems, like using a rubber band to differentiate a bottle of shampoo from one of hair conditioner. For the fashion-conscious, a fellow student informs us about a color app that “talks,” able to distinguish black from navy or brown.
Sleeping shades on, we clean, cook and shave. I am humbled by my attempt at putting a dab of toothpaste on a toothbrush. I forget to take the cap off.
We test an array of brown, red, purple, green, blue goggles — every pair of eyes is different. I find amber ones help me deal best with bright sun, and yellow are ideal for evening, softening the glare of lights and, with the aid of a small flashlight, allowing me to venture out at night.
Our four days are filled with lessons, both group and one-on-one. Some of us want more extensive help with assistive technologies, especially those that magnify or read text out loud on our smartphones and computers, others with white cane training, cooking, lighting or Braille. My tech instructors, all partly sighted or blind, get a nervous-about-technology me up and running in no time.
Learning how to cross a four-lane street and navigate stairs requires a visit to town. Blindfolded and relying on our ears, we distinguish “parallel traffic” from “perpendicular traffic” to determine when it is safe to cross. I guide myself and two instructors straight into a pile of dog poop.
For me an invaluable part of the curriculum is learning to teach others how to maneuver me safely through narrow passages, dark theaters and boisterous crowds. At last I’ll be able to help my family and friends feel less helpless!
Introducing us to the scope of low-vision rehabilitation services so that we can live independently and maintain quality of life is the purported reason for the camp. But the healing power of connection is what surprises us.
We see, hear and understand one another and relax into gentle teasing and laughter while sharing our stories. In successive days, when any of our blind colleagues master the circuitous trails from their cabins to the dining hall without assistance, we rejoice with them.
The big test comes on our moonless last night. We are to make our way through an unexplored wooded part of the camp to a bonfire. The steep path is less than two blocks long, but I imagine straying off it and wandering alone. My blind roommate and I hook arms and help each other find the trail rope that sporadically disappears in places, and we make it there and back, triumphant.
Once home, I ask again: Why don’t more ophthalmologists refer patients to low-vision rehabilitation services? The costs are typically covered by grants or insurance, but most people don’t know such services even exist.
With knowledge about these services and the help of one, a sense of peace has replaced my childhood terror. Should I ever become blind, I know that my world will not vanish into a black void.
Again, that article was entitled “Travelers in the Dark.”
Deafblind High School Teacher Making a Difference in Many Ways
Jim Franklin, Special Education Teacher at Elm Street Elementary, Rom, Georgia, and Creator of Slid-a-Round Math Manipulatives.
Dana Tarter, Special Education Teacher at Model High School in Rome, Georgia.
Dana Tarter, a high school life skills teacher at Model High School in Rome, Georgia, continues to put her philosophy of education into action by going to work every day with the belief that all students can learn. Teachers often share various reasons with parents, colleagues, and administrators as to why they chose their profession. Dana, for example, believes that it is a privilege to be a teacher and stresses the importance of setting daily goals to help her students move in a positive direction in life by focusing on important rigorous academic standards. Additionally, Dana focuses on incorporating valuable life skills in her lessons that cannot be taught from old school textbooks and are not included in the Common Core State Standards.
At age 18, Dana continued her education and became an interpreter for a high school student that was deaf. To better serve the student and become a more effective teacher, she earned a Master’s in Education degree. For many years, she had been a deaf professional who had taught a wide range of students with physical, emotional, and academic deficits in inclusion, resource, and self-contained settings.
In 2011, at age 38, Dana was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, which is a relatively rare genetic disorder that is a combination of hearing loss and visual impairment. Despite the setback, Dana continued to serve her students despite being legally blind and deaf. In her classroom, Dana has always been proactive in solving her day-to-day professional demands and meeting her students’ physical, academic, and/or emotional needs. Dana’s disabilities are significant challenges that most people will never face. With her vision rapidly deteriorating, Dana voluntarily put herself on the fast track to learn Braille. Many people often say that life is about choices. In Dan’s situation, however, she never contemplated the “wait ‘til tomorrow” approach to learn Braille. There was an extreme sense of urgency to learn Braille for communication purposes AND to still be an effective teacher.
In June 2012, Dana attended the 2012 Georgia Assistive Sensory Project Conference in Cave Spring, Georgia. With her friend Barbara, who was also her SSP, Dana attended the conference to help improve her instructional methods as well as find useful assistive technology.
Dana and Barbara approached an exhibiter table, which was the first one on the right in the exhibit hall. Barbara began to sign in Dana’s hand to inform her that the math manipulatives for her students to use were also available in Braille. With Barbara’s assistance, Jim Franklin, an inclusion special education teacher from Elm Street Elementary in Rome, Georgia, and creator of Slide-a-Round Math Manipulatives, introduced himself and gave the background information of his math manipulatives.
At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, Jim’s assistant special education director asked to observe his 4th grade math inclusion class. He welcomed the upcoming visit but wondered if any new strategies/interventions had been successfully implemented by other teachers with the concept of rounding whole numbers. He asked other math teachers in his school and searched for ideas on the Internet. He only saw blocks, dry erase markers and boards, and number lines. Other than those options, paper and pencil were the last resort. The last thing he wanted his visitors to observe were towers being built out of blocks, or off-task drawings on dray erase boards. He could not use a number line for his lesson because the longest one available only went to 100; his class was working with numbers greater than 100. Although all four options have been used for years and have had some success, he wanted math manipulatives that could make an immediate impact on education performance and not be considered a toy by his students. Then he had an idea…
Incorporating movable, interchangeable slides, he created a number line system that can round whole numbers up to 10,000,000. It can round numbers to the nearest 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000, and 1,000,000. When he began to show this concept to his colleagues, the response was overwhelmingly positive! Teachers began to ask him to help create manipulatives to address other mathematical standards as well. Eventually, he developed manipulatives that involve weight, capacity, elapsed time, decimals/money, and fractions. During this process, he consulted with math teachers and specialists, administrators, parents, and students from several different schools and school systems. He also consulted with an occupational therapist, a hearing specialist, and vision-impaired specialist. Of all the stakeholders with whom he worked throughout the initial part of the developmental process, he most valued the student input. After all, they would be the ones who would use these manipulatives as a vital part of their classroom instruction. Because he believed all students can learn, he was able to make some of his manipulatives available for students who are blind, and all of them for students with low vision.
The first manipulative Dana wanted to try involved teaching the standards of elapsed time. Dana gently extended her fingers and then reached towards the 24” Braille Elapsed Time manipulative that had tactile dots. With Barbara’s interpreting in Dana’s hand, Jim patiently explained how the slides represent hourly increments and the minutes were in between the hours on a horizontal line. He added that one tactile dot equals one minutes and all five-minute increments have five vertical dots. Dana, who was fairly fluent in Braille at the time, initially began to read the Braille labels on the slides. Dana quickly grasped the design concept because she used self-discovery to learn how to use the manipulatives. The longer Dana used the manipulative, the less Barbara had to communicate.
Dana seemed satisfied with the design concept and instructional potential of the Elapsed Time manipulative, especially since there were smaller versions for her students to use while she taught with the Braille version in a small group.
Dana was intrigued and inquired about the other math manipulatives that she could try and then considered using them with her students. Because Dana focuses on teaching life skills in her resource room, Jim recommended his Money manipulative. Barbara explained to her that the Money manipulative has two slides and a similar design as the Elapsed Time manipulative. Jim added that Braille labels are on whole dollars and on increments of five cents. In between the increments of five cents, tactile dots represent one cent and are counted every time one is touched. He explained, while Barbara interpreted, that the manipulative is used to round to the nearest dollar as well as find correct change. Dana carefully touched the Braille with her fingers, with her body leaning over the table and her head about six inches above the slide on the left, orally reading the Braille numbers. Her fingers continued to slide across the Braille on the main piece, while “whisper” counting by five cents and then by dimes until she touched the next dollar on the right slide. She did not expect a full explanation in how the manipulatives were used. As a matter of fact, when Jim began to discuss how the manipulative could help the students add and subtract with regrouping, Barbara looked at Jim with a smile and quietly laughed, “Just let her do her thing. This is who she is, and she will eventually figure it out.”
Dana continued to seek other instructional aids to help her students with math. Because Jim was a teacher and knew how his own students struggled to master their fractions’ standards, he offered to demonstrate his Fractions 16th manipulative. Dana knew exactly where her students were in terms of their ability level, based on recent assessments and performance on classwork. She openly stated that her students were eventually going to learn fractions, but they were not ready for that standard.
Jim quickly assembled the Fraction 16ths manipulative by sliding the appropriate slides into the main piece before he put it on the table. Dana immediately began to follow the same steps to use with this manipulative as she did with other manipulatives: find the Braille whole numbers on the slides first and then find the fraction in between the slides on the main part. Dana initially slid her fingers left to right on the main part and then paused. She tried again, grinned, and then requested a more detailed explanation.
Jim began his demonstration of the manipulative by stating the students in his inclusion regular education classroom often have difficulty realizing that there are fractional parts between whole numbers. After Dana briefly examined the 24” manipulative, she asked to use the 32” Fractions 16th manipulative because she thought it would be easier for her to use because there is more distance between the fractions and whole numbers on the slides.
Jim thought of a foundational part of teaching and understanding fractions that he emphasizes with his students, such as comparing fractions from least to greatest and/or greatest to least. By having Barbara continue to assist with communication, he related the fraction number lines on the manipulative to Dana by imagining them as string cut into halves, fourths, eighths, and sixteenths.
Jim asked Dana to rank the fractions ¼, 3/16, 7/8, and ½ from least to greatest. Dana used her fingers to find the fractions on the number line from the sample math problem Jim gave her. Once she found the first fraction, she anchored her left pinky finger to that fraction. Next she proceeded to find the other fractions with her index fingers until she had her other fingers on the other three Braille fractions on the number lines. Finally, she proudly stated, “the fractions are in this order: 3/16, ¼, ½, and 7/8.” It is important to note, while Dana was comparing the fractions, she realized students could simplify and find equivalent fractions as well as add or subtract mixed numbers with different denominators without paper and pencil. Jim stated, “Dana, you are correct. In my opinion, great teaching is when you teach the students when they do not know they are being taught.”
Dana started to get the attention of other exhibitors and conference attendees because they were impressed by her interest in finding the right manipulatives for her students and the wide range of questions that she asked. Barbara informed her that they had to leave because they were about to miss a session at the conference. Dana thanked Jim for his time and shared her email address with him because she was interested in receiving complimentary handouts and additional information about his manipulatives.
In late October, 2013, Dana sent Jim an email because she had some additional questions about his manipulatives. Dana told him that she was very interested in using some of his manipulatives to meet the needs of her students’ challenging learning and processing deficits. Dana informed Jim that she wanted to get some of the 11” regular student manipulatives for he students first because she felt that their needs were a top priority.
At the beginning of April, 2014, Dana invited Jim to her classroom for a quick refresher during her planning period on how to use the manipulatives more effectively with her students. In addition to Dana, her interpreter, and Jim, she felt that it would be beneficial for her paraprofessional to be present. Jim seemed to find this setting more conducive to explain his manipulatives to her team rather than in an exhibit hall at the conference. The demonstration lasted about 30 minutes and all of the professionals asked Jim impressive first-time questions about the Fractions 16th manipulative.
Dana believes that her classroom revolves around students meeting their goals and objectives, and it is a team effort for students to achieve success, regardless of the subject. She is responsible for her students’ services and planning challenging, but appropriate, lessons for all of her students. Dana has an interpreter and paraprofessional to help increase her students’ academic achievement. All of the professionals in the classroom have specific roles to ensure academic success and structure.
Dana’s interpreter primarily assists Dana with her communication needs, so she can provide valuable instruction and communicate with the parents, professionals, and students. The instructional model for all of her lessons resembles a triangle: teacher to student to interpreter to teacher. Her students are expect to provide answers such as “I understand” or “I do not understand because…” Students are not allowed to give simple statements such as “I don’t get it” or “I do not know”; they are expected to provide the reason why they do not understand the standard, directions, or question.
In math, for example, Dana usually provides instruction for a small group of 2-3 students or works individually with a student to focus on critical academic skills. Dana uses the Braille math manipulatives while her students use the standard student versions. Because many of her students exhibit strengths in visual processing as well as mild to moderate learning disabilities, Dana initially models how to obtain the correct answers with her manipulative. When the students have their turn, several important steps occur. First, the students work to solve the problem with their manipulative. Then, they have to explain their answers to Dana’s interpreter. Students not only learn their math standards, but they also must consistently work on their communication skills so that their explanations are concise and accurate for the interpreter to translate to Dana. As a result of better communication skills, Dana believes that their math and writing will improve and hopefully help them at their jobs during and after high school.
Because Dana’s classroom is multi-grad level and has students at many different academic ability levels, her paraprofessional frequently assists Dana by providing additional individualized and differentiated instruction for other students. Because Dana and her paraprofessional understand the versatility of the manipulatives, as well as the tendencies of their students’ mistakes, they are able to ask specific questions such as “What are the numbers at the beginning or end of your number line?” and “Is your finger to the right or left of the line in the middle of your manipulative?”
In addition to providing the best possible lessons and high-interest activities for her students, Dana takes her special education paperwork very seriously. As with all special education teachers, paperwork is an ongoing process that requires organization, and she if focused on meeting each students’ education, social, and behavioral needs. Dana uses the same computer program as the other special education teachers in her district to develop her Individual Educational Programs (IEP). Because the program is not accessible for her to use independently, Dana and her interpreter use the program together. Dana has a unique organizational system to meet her time lines. She prints Braille labels to clip on the top of her forms immediately after they are printed, to help her differentiate them. Depending on the form, she may type Braille on the top of the page in addition to the Braille labels.
Prior to a meeting, Dana contacts and schedules a convenient time and date with her student’s parents for all of her meetings. Then she invites the necessary teachers, personnel, administrators, and vocational rehabilitation counselor. During the school year, Dana frequently administers appropriate assessments to measure her students’ present levels of performance, and then analyzes the results. She also provides updated progress on her students’ goals and objectives with their report cards.
Dana runs her meetings as would any other special education teacher. Her interpreter interprets the meeting for her, and Dana assigns another professional to take detailed minutes. Dana provides the direction of goals and objectives, services, and all other components of the student’s IEP. Then, the IEP team makes recommendations that are in the student’s best interest after analyzing all of the information. In other kinds of meetings, such as a reevaluation and redetermination of eligibility meetings, she provides results from recent assessments and other information to accompany other assessments conducted by her district’s school psychologist to complete the report. The information in her working draft and notes are in Braille. She encourages every member of the IEP team to contribute information and state concerns that need to be addressed to create a strong and useful IEP. Dana has also instructed her interpreter to provide visual and environmental information to her.
After the meeting, Dana’s interpreter reads the screens and inputs all relevant information that is given to her orally by Dana into the correct sections on each IEP form. When her paperwork from the meeting is complete, she provides hard copies to the student’s parents and her district’s special education office. Dana has a Braille and hard copy at her school.
Every day, Dana enjoys being a special education teacher and would not want to be doing anything different. When her colleagues praise her for overcoming her obstacles and putting her students first, she simply states in a matter of fact tone of voice, “That is very kind of you. I am really nothing special. I am just a teacher trying to teach my students.”
Again, that article was entitled “Deafblind High School Teacher Making a Difference in Many Ways.”
Chris Murphy Overcomes Disability Through Family Support and Perseverance.
This was originally published in the Maple River Messenger, February 18, 2016.
It is written by Barb Lake
In 1987, in Mansfield, Connecticut, Chris Murphy came into the world three months too early. At the time of his birth, his lungs weren’t fully developed and it was determined that he was partially sighted. He spent the next three months in an incubator receiving oxygen therapy. During that time, as the tiny infant worked to grow and develop while oxygen washed across his body and into his lungs, he lost the remainder of his eyesight, often one of the negative results of oxygen therapy on premature babies.
From the time of his birth, it was obvious that Murphy was a fighter. Even though he was not sighted, his parents and grandparents determined that he would live as much like any other child as possible. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Murphy was not kept out of sight. He was not protected or shielded from the world; instead, he was always right out there, experiencing whatever any other child experiences and then some. His family made sure of that. Murphy was a regular kid in every sense of the word, with the only exception being his lack of vison.
His maternal grandparents, Pat and Hugo John, of Mapleton, spent summe4rs traveling with him all over the United States in their recreational vehicle. Starting when he was just an infant, the Johns took their little grandson to see national parks, exploring the signs and sounds of the land. As he got older, he would sit up in the front of the RB, his Grandpa Hugo describing to him what everything looked like – all of the geography of the land, giving him the opportunity to experience things first hand. Chris traveled at least 40,000 to 50,000 miles with his grandparents, visiting Yellowstone multiple times, as well as Mount Rushmore, Jackson Hole, the Reptile Gardens and more. He and his grandparents talked about the things they saw tighter. Through their eyes, he viewed the many wonders the country had to offer.
When it came time for school, Murphy’s parents decided that he would attend a regular K-12 public school rather than a school for the blind. His parents wanted him to have “real world” experience and, as a result, he was mainstreamed in every class for all 12 years of his education. He was the only blind student in the school district, however his classmates grew up with him and knew him; Murphy related that most of the students were non-judgmental, though there were a few who were, in his words, “idiotic.” In general, he felt that he had it “pretty good.”
Students in Murphy’s classroom received training on orientation and mobility for the blind and how to break down a physical task so they would know how to help him and guide him. He was also provided with a paraprofessional to help him during the school day. When other students were learning to print, Murphy and his para were learning Braille. The para transcribed mathematics instruction and problems into Braille for him. Later, he was able to use a Braillewriter and note taker. He had to learn the QWERTY keyboard and was then able to word process. As technology advance, especially in the use of the Apple IIGS, he was able to utilize the talking typewriter and early Echo, which was a voice command programming, much like Apple’s Siri voice command programming. Echo is now available to the general public through Amazon.
Murphy believes that he always has to ask himself, “How do I deal with blindness? What can I do to overcome it? What do I need to do to be as capable as I can?” His determined attitude about life is most likely attributed to his family’s determination for him to grow up like any other child.
After graduation from high school, when he was barely 18, Murphy set off alone to Little Rock, Arkansas, to the Lions World Services for the Blind (WBS)/ Roy Kumpe, who founded WBS in 1947, is a Little Rock lawyer who lost his sight when he was eight years old. He realized his ambition to practice law through sheer determination and hard work. Later, utilizing the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936, Kumpe partnered with the IRS, which is also headquartered in Little Ro9ck, and set out to help other visually impaired people gain the skills needed to be employed, providing job opportunities to WSB graduates. After much hard work, WBS now has eight career path programs, and offers life skills training and assistive technology and college preparatory training for those who are visually impaired. Murphy trained at WBS in the Assistive Technology Instructor program, however he did not take the test for certification.
Ione month before he had planned to graduate from the program, his paternal grandmother in Connecticut passed away, and he found himself returning to his home. At that point, he decided to complete his college education and enrolled at Mitchell College in New London. Again, he broke ground at the college by being the first blind student to attend. The school, known for helping students with learning disabilities, became the learner, gathering knowledge from Murphy regarding how to adapt materials for visually impaired students. Murphy brought the Job Access With Speech (JAWS) programming that he had learned to use in high school and installed it into Mitchell’s programming.
At Mitchell, he majored in Liberal Studies with a Behavioral Science emphasis and minored in Criminal Justice Psychology. He had to work hard at his studies; things did not come easy. It took him extra time to complete homework assignments. He received aid from tutors in reading and writing. They helped him to understand and break down the work, to do the things that sighted students take for granted. Murphy was never shy about advocating for himself or asking for assistance in order to be successful. H has no problem with admitting when something is difficult for him.
Even though he was a bit nervous during his first months on campus, he began to adjust and feel at home with the assistance of a mobility instructor who met with him two times a week. Once he was able to get around on his own, he began to feel at ease. He made friends and went off campus just like everyone else. He was, for the most part, a typical college student.
While he was in college, he volunteered at the Lighthouse Vocational Education Center for people who have disabilities such as cerebral palsy or autism. It almost seemed natural for Murphy to want to help other, having relied upon the guidance and help of others throughout his educational career. He said that during his time at Lighthouse, he learned a lot about how to help others and how different their lives are. As a part of educational training, he also completed an internship at the school.
In 2012, Murphy graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Behavioral Science and an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. From there he had plans to return to WBS to complete training as a contact collections representative for the Internal Revenue Service but, again, family needs preempted his return to Little Rock and dampened his spirits. In need of recharging, he moved to the Mapleton home of his grandparents, the Johns, at the end of the summer of 2012.
He returned to Little Rock in 2013 to try to pass the test to work for the IRS but did not do well. This prompted him to change his course a bit and revisit the assistive technology program. He took and passed the test and became a certified nationally as a Microsoft Office Specialist, learning how to instruct others in the use of the Office suite. He then received certification for the JAWS program he had used in high school and college. He also learned how to instruct others in the use of IOS products with touch screens.
In 2014, Murphy graduated from WSB and was able to work in the field of Assistive Technology. Upon returning home after graduation, he enrolled in pre-vocational classes as Minnesota State University in Mankato where he began his journey to become an Assistive Technology instructor for the State of Minnesota. Becoming fully licensed to teach AT had several requirements: he had to do a technology teaching demonstration, showing his teaching and technology skills; complete an adult learning course; and receive certification in IOS devices. It took him sex months to become approved. It was not easy but he persisted and, in June, 2015, he became a private teaching contractor and by now had three clients of his own.
It might be said that, even though Murphy was born and raised out east in Connecticut, he has now found his home here in the Maple River area. He and his grandfather join in a fellowship of men at a Tuesday morning breakfast in Good Thunder and, on Saturday morning, they meet for brunch in Mankato with another group; Murphy is just another one of the guys. They talk, laugh, joke, and argue. They are his friends and teachers, and he, in turn, teaches them.
Murphy is also an advocate for those who are blind or have other disabilities. He was recently elected Vice President of the Riverbend Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and, as a part of his membership, he attended the national conference at the Rosen Hotel in Orlando, Florida. There, with 2,480 other people who are blind, he participated in breaking a world record for largest umbrella mosaic. The group posed outside the hotel with blue and white umbrellas, which, when opened and held aloft, created the logo for the National Federation for the Blind and spelled out “Live the Life You Want” – the organization’s tagline.
It seems that Murphy has done just that – he has lived the life that he wanted so far. But life for Murphy, from the very beginning, has never come easy. He has had to be scrappy and tough in order to survive. He has had to work harder than his sighted peers to achieve his goals. He has had to rely on help from others and has had to understand when to ask for help and how to advocate for himself. He often is leery of meeting sighted people; Murphy says it is more difficult to get to know others when he is unable to observe them or see their faces respond to him. Yet through it all, Murphy has persevered. He has never quit, even when times were hard or when he experience failure; he kept on trying. He is a man who does not give up on himself, a man who is not afraid to ask for help or state his needs. He is wisdom beyond his years. And yet, like most young men his age, he still like to do what young men do; hang out with his friends, watch Netflix, dive into technology, travel and experience life.
Again, that article was entitled: Chris Murphy Overcomes Disability Through Family Support and Perseverance.
A campus vision for the visually impaired – Weatherford Democrat : Local News
From Weatherford College Special to the Democrat | Posted: Saturday, January 16, 2016 2:14 pm
The meandering walkways and rise and fall of topography on the Weatherford College campus create a pleasing appearance to the eye, but do little to assist visually impaired students like Michael Browne.
While Browne described his first visit to WC as disastrous, he and his fellow Phi Theta Kappa honor society members are working on a project to improve the campus experience for others with visual impairments.
The students started a project in the fall to create large print and braille maps of the college. Once completed later this semester, maps will be available for visitors or new students learning their way around campus. Additional maps will be located inside each building entrance which will provide detailed information from the person’s current location.
So far, the students have produced a prototype map of the bottom floor of the Technology Building with maps of other buildings to come. Each tactile map will go into detail about which entry a person has entered, where storm shelter rooms are located, what classrooms are on what side of the hallway and if there are any stationary objects to be wary of like benches lining the hallway.
Phi Theta Kappa member and close friend of Browne’s, Weston Decker, said this campus project was chosen in order to provide a more independent experience for those with visual impairments.
“Our decision for this project was to recognize and address issues for those who are far too often overlooked in society,” Decker said. “As a sighted person it’s hard for me and the others to go about our day realizing what it’s like to not see. That’s where Michael played the ultimate role in this project’s success. He has shown every single one of us how to see the world as if we were to never see it again.”
Browne, now 24, lost his sight during his sophomore year at Weatherford High School following a head injury. And although he has needed to redirect his life’s path, he approaches life with a robust sense of humor.
One of the first stories Browne will share with new friends is how he was a licensed and insured driver for a full year after he lost his sight since his first driver’s license arrived in the mail following his injury.
“Why do you think they have braille on the drive-through ATM,” he laughed.
Joking aside, braille and a walking cane have become integral parts of his life.
“When you lose your eyesight (at a young age) they teach you visual impairment skills for living in elementary through high school,” Browne said. “You also take O&M, orientation and mobility, and that teaches you to travel with a cane. So you are taught through all of those years. But I lost my eyesight my sophomore year in high school, so I only had about two-and-a-half years to learn all of those skills.”
During his senior year of high school his O&M teacher brought him to the WC campus several times but told Browne he needed more time to learn the campus layout.
Since coming to WC in 2011, Browne has had to be creative in navigating the campus. While he can continue to receive O&M services from the State of Texas, to do so he must maintain a full-time course load which he said is difficult due to the extra study time required when using braille books and re-listening to audio recordings of lectures.
“Every time I went full time my GPA dropped,” Browne said. “Many people can’t understand the time it takes a sighted person to study, for a visually impaired person it takes double or triple that time.”
Fortunately, the WC campus community stepped in to help Browne navigate campus. A variety of people, including the Office of Disabilities, the Campus Police Department and random students and staff have helped guide him from place to place. Lighthouse for the Blind, a non-profit that serves the visually impaired, is assisting him as well.
In addition to his studies, Browne is also a work-study student for Dean Michael Endy who said his office will work with Browne to extend this project to all WC campuses.
“Obviously, providing tools to increase independence for our visually impaired constituents improves the college for those individuals,” Endy said. “To me, the greater gain is in the investment of the students in the college, for the benefit of the college as a community. While the majority of our students will never need those tools and many will never know any more about them than that they exist, the fact that they perceived this need and chose to act to meet the need speaks volumes about these students and our institution. This is an immediate, real-world application of higher education in action.”
Again, that story was entitled “A campus vision for the visually impaired.”