Pioneers on the Playground

As most of you know, I am a native Utahan. I love my home state and miss it often—especially at times like these. July 24 is known back home as “Pioneer Day” and is the anniversary of the day when the original Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 after months of an arduous journey pulling handcarts and wagon teams across the frontier. I am an original descendent of Mormon Pioneers who left their homeland and migrated to unknown territory in the west in search of religious freedom and better opportunities. I cherish this heritage and am proud of my ancestors for their sacrifices and great examples.

Outside of Utah, members of the LDS church often commemorate this anniversary by celebrating the “pioneer spirit” exemplified in our members who have sacrificed or been modern day pioneers in other ways for their religious choices. As I have been reflecting this week on “pioneer spirit”, I had an idea to write a post to honor the lives of a couple pioneers in the field of blindness whose influence and hard work has made an impression on me and the lives of many blind and low vision individuals.

The first pioneer I’d like to recognize is Louis Braille. Of course, this may seem like an obvious choice and he’s probably one of the first “pioneers” you’d think of with respect to blindness. I am very appreciative of his creative mind and diligence in creating what we know today as the Braille code. Louis Braille definitely faced his own share of nay Sayers and doubters. Braille (the medium) has opened up so many opportunities to me with respect to literacy. I drug my feet for a long time in learning it, and will admit I’m not the fastest or best Braille reader, but I’m grateful for this method which opened up the world of literacy to me again in new ways . Yes, I may be able to read very, very large print, use magnification, or even audio sources for reading, but there is truly a different part of your brain which is engaged when you are engaging in “active” reading and taking the words on the page and interpreting them yourself. I love the ability to be able to read aloud to my daughter from a Twin Vision book in Braille, or be able to write notes for a presentation. I also love that Braille allows my husband to read aloud to us when we read our scriptures as a family, or that I can go to a meeting and read an agenda along side my sighted peers. Thank you Louis Braille.

The second pioneer I’ve chosen is Jacobus tembroek. This is probably a lesser known individual to most, but I chose him for his work in orchestrating the first organized blind movement. Whether you’re a member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), American Council of the Blind(ACB), any other blindness group, or none at all, your life as a blind or low vision person has been impacted in some way or another by advocacy work of blindness organizations. temBroek’s work as the founder of the NFB in 1940 blazed the trail for advocacy for and by the blind. We as blind people today enjoy many more rights and civil liberties as result of organized blindness groups. For example, the right to carry a cane, better employment opportunities through anti-discrimination laws, access to educational opportunities, and so much more.

Lastly, I’ve chosen Joann Wilson, the founder of the LouisianaCenter for the Blind. Her influence may not be as far reaching or broadly known as the former two individuals; nevertheless, it has had quite an impact on the lives of hundreds of blind individuals and innumerable ripple effects. Wilson founded the LCB in 1985 as a rehabilitation and training center for blind and low vision individuals. Her center was based on the model of training used by Kenneth Jernigan (another pioneer in the field of blindness in his own right) originally at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in the sixties and seventies. The style of training and methods implemented at the LCB was vastly different from conventional training methods used in traditional rehabilitation programs at that time. Because of its high expectations, structured discovery learning methods, and philosophy based on empowerment and independence, the LCB has flourished over the years to become one of the top , if not the top training and rehabilitation center in the country with alumni from across the country and other countries . Many state and private training agencies around the country model their training practices after the practices of the LCB, even sending instructors there for professional development and training. The LCB also established a partnership with Louisiana Tech University under Wilson’s guidance and now has several teacher training programs which help train orientation and mobility specialists and teachers of the blind in the philosophy modeled at the LCB. I too am a graduate of the LCB and of the teacher programs at LTU and have a strong testimony of the practices used there to teach blindness skills. This model truly surpasses conventional approaches to training in blindness skills. I could go on for hours pointing out the differences, and giving examples of individuals who initially received conventional training, but whose lives and abilities were changed by the training they received afterward from the LCB. I know personally the confidence and empowerment this model of training can have on the lives of someone who is blind or low vision. Mrs. Wilson’s work continues on through the actions and examples of all those who pass through the doors of this center. Thank you Joanne Wilson for your hard work and dedication in establishing this center.

I know there are dozens of other individuals about whom I could go on who have exemplified a unique “pioneer spirit” that has greatly impacted the lives of many blind and low vision individuals. I hope this pioneer day you will join me in honoring the pioneers in our lives who have blazed trails, overcome adversity, and who have made sacrifices to improve the quality of life for those with vision loss. Whether it be developing new technologies , breaking ground in new arenas where the blind have not been before, , or leading by example, I am grateful to these individuals for their time, talent, and confidence in the abilities of the blintwin vision books,teacher of blind students trainingd.

I’d love to hear whom you would recognize as an individual who demonstrates the “pioneer spirit.” Please leave a comment with your picks and reasons why.

Happy Pioneer Day!

Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up this summer

Pages from the Hartle Playbook: Catching up

From time to time, I like to post “Pages from the Hartle Playbook.” These are personal posts which are more about me and my family and our goings-on. These posts are meant to give followers of this blog a little insight into our lives; and also as a way to share some of the situations we encounter as a family with two blind parents.

It seems like this spring and summer have been flying by for us. I’ve neglected my blog a lot lately as result. One exciting piece of news which I haven’t yet shared yet is the expected arrival of our second child, a little boy due in September. WE are very excited, and maybe a little apprehensive about all the new changes to come for us. The pregnancy has been going well—despite a few months at first where I was sure this baby was going to make a vegetarian of me, and joked with my husband that we’d have to move as I couldn’t go up and down the stairs in our house without feeling completely and totally exhausted. We’ve also been struggling with several bouts of sinus colds—at least one of us has been sick with one off and on for about four months now and we just keep passing it around. I’m blaming it on our daughter being exposed to more “bugs” at church nursery and playgroups, and my immune system being a little susceptible from the pregnancy. In any case, it seems like the weeks between the colds have been spent catching up on all the day-to-day business. . But, overall, we are doing great and enjoying the warmer seasons.

The past few months have been full of fun projects for me—planting our first garden(and trying to keep it alive),working on some preschool things with my daughter, and taking on some part-time work contracting with the NFB Jernigan Institute. (I’m helping to manage some conference calls with the nine new states hosting Braille (BELL) summer programs this year.) I’ve also enjoyed going to playgroups with my daughter, attending mom circles and seminars, learning to grill on our new gas grill, and lots of water play on the hot days. I also got a little bit of a crash course in home maintenance a few weeks back when we re-stained our deck (thanks to my dad for being such a big help and basically doing all the work), and learned a bit about plumbing when our kitchen sink leaked and caused a leak through to our basement ceiling (thanks to our neighbor Donna for providing assistance with this repair.) My husband isn’t one of those “fix-it” types when it comes to home repairs, so I tend to wear the tool belt in our house, and rather enjoy this role. By the way, there is a post in the works hopefully about dealing with a plumber who tried to take advantage of my being unfamiliar with the trade and a blind woman. He seriously underestimated my intelligence and lost the bid. J

Our family also just returned from spending two weeks in Orlando, FL. Jesse has been counting down the days and hours for weeks now. WE attended the NFB convention there during the first week, and then headed over to Disney World for the second. I had the opportunity to present to a group of parents of blind children during the National Organization for Parents of Blind Children’s (NOPBC) pre-convention seminar. I especially enjoyed getting to meet a mom of a ten-month-old little boy who is blind. I love seeing parents get involved in providing their children with good skills and philosophy from the start. I truly think the thing I enjoy most about attending the convention is getting to catch up with friends and being able to share our experiences with one another. It’s nice sometimes to commiserate with, learn from, and brainstorm solutions with someone who “gets” what you deal with on a daily basis as a blind person. I also enjoyed getting to catch up with some of the youth with whom I have worked with over the years. They are all growing up so fast and make me feel so old! It’s crazy to realize that some of the youth I worked with as teens have already graduated from college and even grad school in some cases and are these up and coming professionals now.

Disney of course, was the highlight for us. We are big fans of Disney and enjoy going there every year. This was our first year as members of the Disney Vacation Club (yes, we’re just that nerdy) and so we were able to stay at a much nicer resort than usual. Sadly, we were a little disappointed with our room and the resort itself, but we still had a good time. It was fun for us to take our daughter too who is a big fan of Mickey and gang, and of many of the Disney Junior characters. She is still a bit too young for it all, and probably won’t remember most of the trip, but she did have a lot of fun being there and was sad when we said we had to leave. I hope to write a post in the next week or two about some of our experience this year (Some good, some bad) at Disney as we do manage to get a lot of stares, whispers, and questions about being blind. All in all though, it was a much more laid back trip than usual for us given that we had to work around a toddler schedule this time, and being seven months pregnant also brought some limitations . But, we really enjoyed the family time together, taking our daughter to our favorite spots, hitting some of our favorite rides and shows, and of course, eating some of our favorite treats! We also got pics with all of K’s favorite characters. It was so fun watching her be so excited to see them and then getting so star struck when it was actually her turn to meet them. She had two really fun experiences: first, she got to hold Mickey’s hand and lead a little parade at one of the character dining breakfasts we went to. Second, she got a special visit by Captain Hook (one of her faves from “Jake and the Neverland Pirates”) while watching an afternoon parade. He came up to her and gave her a big hug. Wish I would have got a pic of this as it was so adorable and she just beamed!

Well, I could go on for pages more with fun stories from our trip, but I’ll spare you. In any case, that’s the latest from us for now. Hope you enjoyed the little insights.