Kristin Smedley’s mantra is “Life is funny… sort of.” Her fun-loving spirit and energetic personality guided her life in the direction of a career in teaching. Kristin fantasized that she would one day be an inspiring third grade teacher, and after earning her degree, she landed her first job in education.
But, fate had other plans, and Kristin found herself shockingly dealt a double dose of darkness. Her firstborn son, Michael, was diagnosed as legally blind when he was just four-months old, despite the fact that she was advised the chances of having a blind child were one in one million. In fact, only 300 children in the United States shared Michael’s genetic mutation.
Once known for her smile, Kristin found herself devastated and angry. Yet fate wasn’t finished. Three years later, Kristin received another blow when her second son, Mitchell, was also diagnosed as legally blind at four months of age.
Before the birth of her babies, Kristin had never known a blind person. The boys’ retina specialist informed her family that both children would need white canes to navigate the world, and that neither of them would likely ever attend a normal school, pitch a baseball, drive a car or be able to secure a great job. With no idea how to navigate their needs, Kristin saw little hope for their future.
Nearly suffocating from her own fears, Kristin knew she needed to overcome the anxiety, worry, and obstacles for the sake of her sons, but she had no idea how to proceed. Yet, knowing that Michael and Mitchell needed their mother to fight for them, Kristin began advocating for the tools her blind children needed.
As Kristin found and equipped her boys with the resources to help them thrive, they not only took on the world, but changed Kristin’s perception of blindness. With the right foundation and a multitude of resources and tools, her children have become popular, accomplished athletes, high achieving students, talented musicians, and International Braille competition finalists, as well as typical big brothers to their sighted sister, Karissa, both teasing and supporting her as big brothers do!
In 2011, Kristin launched a mission to fund research and resources for children living with the rare eye disease her sons have. In less than eight years, the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation has raised over a million dollars and achieved the first legislation in US history to be submitted in Braille; legislation that advocates for better resources for blind and visually impaired Americans.
In 2016, Kristin’s blog about changing people’s perceptions of blindness went worldwide and was followed by her 2017 TEDx talk on setting extraordinary expectations. She partnered with Comcast media to spread awareness of the inclusive X1 product. Kristin was one of twelve people in the world invited to testify before the FDA to advocate for the approval of the first ever gene therapy to reverse blindness. Kristin is currently the Pennsylvania Ambassador for the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD).
Kristin, Michael, Mitchell and Karissa now mentor families living with blindness, and Kristin’s public speaking engagements, book, and social media outreach teach others to move past their fears and obstacles to achieve extraordinary outcomes. You, too, can set extraordinary expectations and achieve your dreams.
The mission of Thriving Blind Academy is to solve the unemployment, literacy and financial crisis of the blind community. In 2022, Kristin teamed up with Charlie Collins, a successful speaker, author and entrepreneur - who is also legally blind, to create this groundbreaking community that will change the lives of those living with blindness and low vision. To join as a Member or Mentor, or to contribute to the mission, please visit www.ThrivingBlindAcademy.org
Kristin’s two sons are blind due to a rare genetic degenerative disease, CRB1 retinal disease. In 2011, Kristin found other families affected with this disease and founded the Curing Retinal Blindness Foundation to raise funds and coordinate research projects for CRB1. The CRBF is the only organization in the world for this disease. Find out more about this incredible effort at www.crb1.org
**The CRBF is currently in a race to raise $3M to Fund the Finish Lines and get this rare disease into clinical trials with 4 years. To contribute, visit www.crb1.org.
Life hits hard. Whether you feel like you are trying to push a boulder up a hill or just have little setbacks hitting over and over again, we get it. The Brilliantly Resilient show was created to give you access to people that have been where you are, and used their setbacks and sucker punches to uncover their brilliance. Tune in for fun conversations that give practical take-a-ways you can implement right away to move from feeling broken, to the path toward brilliant! You’ll find Brilliantly Resilient on all of the major platforms.
Kristin is collaborating with professionals in education of blind children, educational publishing, and braille production to produce a first of it's kind children's book that will change the perception of blindness for early readers and inspire blind and sighted children that succeeding without sight is possible! Stay tuned for the September 2022 launch! Get info on the book here!
Kristin is partnering with the highly successful and impactful Blind Institute of Technology's CEO Mike Hess to produce a first of it's kind short film that will change the negative bias of bias in employment. They have teamed up with award winning Director/Producer Tricia Brouk of New York City to tell the story of how reasonable accommodation + elite skills of blind workers = the competitive edge for companies and corporations. To Be Released 2023!