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To All You Mothers of Blind Children, Thank You

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the mothers of blind/low vision children out there for all the things they do to help their children have access to the things they need to be successful.  Being a mom on its own is hard work a           nd one of the most challenging jobs ever—though certainly the best in my book.  The additional challenges blindness sometimes can bring though can really make for a full plate.  This isn’t to say that dads are chopped liver; we love dads and they have their own special role, but moms definitely appear to take a lion’s share of the load when it comes to things like advocating for their child, making sure educational goals are met, and ensuring their child gets the skills and training they need—at least from my experience.  Moms also often carry the emotional burdens of their family.  Many have feelings of guilt, sadness, worry, or a loss themselves upon learning their child has some kind of vision loss.  Then there is just the strain of always feeling like you’re in battle, fighting discrimination, or barrier after barrier of low expectations placed on your child by society.

I know several moms who learned Braille so they could teach their child or just to be able to communicate through written means with their child, moms who have gone back to school to get a degree in teaching blind students or orientation and mobility because there was no one to teach their child, moms who travel great distances to meet other blind people to learn from them  or who regularly attend conferences about issues related to blindness and low vision, moms who move to other parts of the state, or even other states just so their blind child can receive services—the list could go on and on.

If you point this out to a mom of a blind child, she’ll probably just tell you that she isn’t doing anything more than any other parent would do for their child, regardless of their eye sight, but I still think these moms deserve a little pat on the back and recognition for some of the extra things they face.

I’ve had many a conversation with a frustrated mom who is trying to get an IEP enforced, accessible materials for her child, Braille instruction, or just trying to figure out what her child needs.  It truly inspires me and my heart goes out to them when I hear their stories of frustration at barriers they encounter so often in meeting their child’s needs.  Thank you to all you moms who fight for high expectations and equal opportunities for your children.  I want to pay special tribute this Mother’s Day to my mom for all she did and continues to do for me to help me be a successful blind person.

Since I  lost my vision just shy of my thirteenth birthday, blindness was a little bit of an adjustment for our family.  My mom was a single mom of three children at the time, with me being the oldest.  I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for her to find out that her daughter was going to be blind, and then also having to deal with all the day-to-day things of caring for my two siblings and also trying to be at the hospital with me for those couple of weeks while I was undergoing different tests and surgeries.  To me, she just seemed to put on her game face and say, “Well, what do we need to do to deal with this?”

When I first returned back to school after a two month absence, my mom went to school with me daily for about two weeks until the school figured out what to do to accommodate me and connected me with anitinerent teacher.  At the time, this was a little awkward since I was in seventh grade and having your mom come along with you to class wasn’t exactly the “cool” thing a girl wants, but I appreciated having her there as it allowed me to keep up on my school work, and gave me a little moral support as I made the adjustment back to school now as a “visually impaired” student.   My mom has earned herself a special place in Heaven for all the long hours and late nights she spent reading homework to me and typing all my papers from the middle part of seventh grade until I finished high school.  My dad (I should mention that my mom married my step-dad about a year and a half after I first lost my sight) worked for our church’s property maintenance group and one day brought home a wall-size chalk board from one of the classrooms at a church that was being remodeled.  He installed it on our kitchen wall and this became the place where I worked out all my math problems in large print each night for several years as my mom then transcribed them onto paper for my teacher.  (See, dads have a special place too.) Usually these homework sessions went well into the night as I’d have to wait until she got done making dinner or helping my siblings with something, so I’d do as much as I could with other methods like audio books, and then she’d help me with the things I couldn’t read.  (I should note here that Braille and accessible technology opened up so many doors to me, but those things were unknown to us at the time.  In any case, I’ll save talking about those topics for another time.)

Things got a little easier when I got to high school and got to bring a CCTV home with me, but there was still a lot which she helped me complete.  I know I was less than pleasant to be around at two in the morning when we’d still be typing a paper and she’d critique my writing, or when I’d fall asleep as she was reading a chapter from a science class, but she put up with all of that.  I know she would get frustrated with me sometimes, but I never remember her uttering any words of complaint.

My mom became the squeaky wheel) or the parent that school administrators dread seeing) in my education as she advocated for me to get accessible books on time, have access to classroom materials and accccessible SAT’s, ACT’s, and AP test, and in demanding the school mark the steps on the campus so that I wouldn’t trip down them—something for which I was extremely mortified that she did.  Yes, all you grads of Millcreek Jr. and Woods Cross High can thank me for the bright “caution yellow” strips on the stairs.  (Keep in mind this was pre-cane days for me and apparently bright yellow paint was far less humiliating than carrying a white cane back then.  I’ve since seen the error of my ways and had a change of heart about the cane.)

I know it’s not uncommon for parents to drive their kids to places, but my mom’s chauffeuring days seemed to last a little longer than most.  Even when I was home visiting from college, or after graduating from college, it wasn’t uncommon for my mom to give me rides somewhere.  I know there were a lot of times before I learned how to travel independently using a cane where I would miss a bus or get off at the wrong stop and I’d call her to come and pick me up.  She always did so willingly and would listen to me rant about public transportation—I still call her sometimes now and rant about public transportation and how I wish she could pick me up even though I live 1800 miles from her.

My mom’s paper typing days are over—at least for helping me, but I still call her up sometimes and ask her to look up something online for me when I encounter an inaccessible website or am looking at pictures and need a sighted opinion.  This past Halloween, she helped me order a costume for my daughter, and last week she was helping me look at pics of houses for sale.  I guess that just goes to show that a mother’s work is never done.

I love my mom dearly and am so grateful for all that she has done and continues to do for me and my family now.  She never let my blindness be an issue and never doubted my abilities.  She continued to encourage me to do and be whomever I wanted regardless of whatever eyesight I had.  She’s pretty special to me.  I know there are a lot of other blind children out there today who have moms just like this who sacrifice and do so much to help their children be successful.  So, to all yougreat moms of blind children, I say thank you and keep up the good work.

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4 thoughts on “To All You Mothers of Blind Children, Thank You

  1. MaryJo,
    This is Jenni Anglesey. I love having this opportunity to get to know more about you and to get an idea of how you experience things in life. You are a great inspiration to me, and I am grateful for your friendship.

  2. 05/13/12
    Wouldn’t you know that this fantastic Mom would be the first to read your blog? But I am only a good Mother because I had a Great Mother, and I also Have great Children that have made being a Mother look so easy? My Children are like, skateboards at the top of a hill, You might have to encourage them to get up there, but then get out of their way, so they can be the very best that they can be! I Love you dear! HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO YOU AS WELL AND TO ALL THE OTHER MOTHERS & FATHERS THAT ASSIST IN MAKING DISABILITIES ABILITIES.
    NOW GET OUT THERE ON THAT PLAYGROUND & HAVE FUN!!
    Mom >:)

  3. I am a mother of a child with low vision and I am reading your post and I need a tissue. The mothers day one is realllllyy sweet. Thank you. My daughter is graduatin hied grade today on the A honor roll. We would not be where we are with the help o the Nfb and ipobc that’s for sure. We are attendin our first Nfb conference this year. Thank you

  4. Thank you for the wonderful letter to all of us moms who have blind children. And thank you for forging ahead for accessible tests.
    My wonderful son is 9 years old and totally blind. He was blinded by being shot by terrorists in Iraq when he was two . We have had him since he was 3 years old. I have learned so much from him, more than he has learned from me. He is a constant joy and blessing to our family. He is very bright which makes our job very easy. I tell him to be proud of who he is, that his blindness does not define him it is just a part of him.
    We always try to think of the great things about being blind. The most important being that he does not judge people by the color of their skin or the way they look. He judges them by their character and their heart. We expect the same things of him as we did for his older sisters.
    Our expectations are big and he is up for the job. To all you moms of blind children, dream big for your children and guide them so that it happens. Do everything possible to maje them independent. Get training for them in echo location. Go to the website “Worldaccessfortheblind.org.” We fully expect our son to get into a great college and marry and have a family. He already is very independent! Thank you again you sound like a wonderful daughter.
    Julie Robinett Smith, Snohomish, WA

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