According to a study conducted by the American Printing House for the Blind in 2017, (see highlights here https://nfb.org/resources/blindness-statistics) only 31.6% of American students that are blind or visually impaired graduate high school.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national graduation rate for American high school students is 85%. (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp)
So there’s that…
Do you see a problem? Do you consider this outrageous? Unacceptable? Me too.
This is a picture of my younger blind son, Mitchell. He is following his older blind brother’s footsteps and heading to college in the Fall. He is graduating form a very competitive high school and heading to Kutztown University of Pennsylvania to study Broadcast Journalism. His older brother, Michael, is a junior at Penn State University. I have TWO children that are blind and have beaten this and the other critical, some downright criminal, statistics in our blind community. And my guys are not the only kiddos I know that are beating the horrific statistics.
What’s the secret? How are some blind children excelling at or above sighted children, yet, all things being relatively equal, most others are not equipped to move forward in our education and employment systems? While there are several factors at play, from my 21 years in raising blind children I can tell you it comes down to one major, critical component that if it is not in check, our blind and visually impaired children do not stand a chance at achieving in school and becoming equipped with skills and tools to live independently and thrive.
The one single element is: perception.
Our perceptions of blindness are so screwed up that it is a wonder anyone is this world with sight loss is achieving anything at all! Did you know blindness is in the top three of the most feared things to happen to a person?! Does my Mitchell look like he fears blindness?
Most people have no idea how a person who is blind accesses the world around them. Because of that, the general, painful assumption is that a blind person CANNOT access he world. Those perceptions and assumptions cause parents to not push schools to do better, schools don’t give access to tools for success, employers do not give opportunities for jobs, and the statistics for blind folks get worse and never better.
Look, I was one of the ones with completely misinformed perceptions of blindness 21 years ago. I had no idea how a blind person could access the world let alone out-achieve sighted people. But I do now. And it is my mission to share what I know to change perceptions and open all the closed doors, minds, and hearts that are standing in the way of the young men I am so proud of and so many others.
Join me and my boys and a few other very cool folks that are succeeding without sight in the 5 Day Challenge to See Blindness in a New Light. I guarantee you it’ll be the most eye opening few days of your entire year! Sign up here and please share with your network. When you know better you do better (Maya Angelou) and it is time for us to do better for the blind and visually impaired community.
Kristin Smedley is a 2019 Champion of Hope Award winner. She is a two time Best Selling author, non profit leader and TEDx speaker. She originally planned to be a third grade teacher… and then two of her three children were diagnosed as blind. Kristin now shares her journey of raising her kids to not just survive challenges, but to thrive! She speaks internationally regarding blindness and resilience, and she just launched her new collaboration teaching people how to be Brilliantly Resilient. Watch her TEDx talk here and order her new book here. If you are interested to have Kristin speak at your upcoming virtual, live or hybrid event or would like information on the programs she offers, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.KristinSmedley.com