“Making it on the Playground” began as an attempt to keep my foot in the door in the field of the education of blind children, something I am passionate about. As a certified teacher of blind students, orientation and mobility specialist, and former director of education for the National Federation of the Blind, I wanted to find a way to continue my work in improving the quality of education for blind children after leaving my career to start my own family. My posts were aimed at providing instruction to parents and teachers of blind children. The premise was that children need to learn to “make it on the playground” first in order to learn skills that will help them become successful, independent blind individuals and “make it” in the real world later on.
One day as a new mom, I took my daughter to a playgroup at a local park with some moms from my church. My daughter was less than a year old, but it was a great opportunity for me to get out of the house and make some “Mom” friends. As I sat there watching all the other moms monitor where their children were on the playground, tend to their needs with ease, and pack everyone back up neatly into their SUV’s and minivans, I felt extremely overwhelmed and thought to myself, “How am I ever going to make it on the playground?” These ladies seemed to epitomize the quintessential mom and I wanted to be like them, only I wasn’t. I was a blind mom. I couldn’t sit back and scan the playground to see where my child was, or jump into my SUV after the park, drop off overdue library books and pick up a few groceries all on the way home. To top it off, my husband is also blind, so we were going to have to overcome some hurdles. I had a lot in common with these moms, and I knew I could learn a lot from these more experienced parents, but where was I going to learn how to be a blind mom? Resources for blind parents were few and far between.
Not long after this experience, I found myself feeling a greater need to write about my experience as a blind parent. So, this site became a platform for that. I soon realized that I wasn’t going to do everything in the same way as other moms did, but this was okay. I didn’t have to. I now have three children and a bit of parenting experience under my belt, but there is still a lot that I have to learn. I constantly have to remind myself not to get caught up comparing my parenting experience to that of other sighted parents. We each have different strengths and challenges. As long as I’m doing the best I can, providing for my children, and giving them the love that they deserve, it doesn’t matter that we don’t own a car, or that I use braille books to read stories to them.
As I continue to develop this site, I hope that it will be a resource for other blind parents as we share the experience of living with blindness. Sometimes the posts are instructional or advice driven. Others are about funny blind moments. And some are just me sharing my feelings as I work through the hard times’ blindness can often present. In any case, I hope that those of you who drop by will find something that aids and inspires you in making it on your own playground.
About the Author
My name is Mary Jo Hartle. I am a full-time stay-at-home mom to 3 children and wife to my wonderful husband. Our family resides in Maryland. Outside of caring for our growing family, I produce a podcast entitled: Everyday Blind Parents, serve as an adjunct professor, and often volunteer in my children’s school. I grew up in Utah and have been blind since the age of twelve when I lost my vision due to an allergic reaction to some medication which resulted in a condition known as Pseudo Tumor Cerebri. By profession, I am a certified teacher of blind students, and an orientation and mobility specialist (NOMC.) I received my Masters in Education (MEd) and have a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Development. Prior to having children, I served as the Director of Education for the National Federation of the Blind at the NFB’s Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, MD.
I enjoy spending time with my family, teaching my children, writing, traveling, organizing new projects, and being “anxiously engaged” in too many good causes.