Seeing through the eyes of the blind
Sixth-grade students at Waynesville Middle School had the chance to ‘see’ what it’s like to be blind on April 12 through several group activities.
Industries for the Blind presented the Blind Side program. They chose Waynesville Middle because of sixth-grader Sam Chandler, who has participated in the organization’s third-grade summer camp.
According to Sam’s mother Melody Chandler, Sam was born with Microphthalmia, or “small eyes,” meaning his eyes didn’t fully develop before he was born. He now has very limited vision after a cornea transplant in his right eye, but he still uses a cane to get around and reads braille.
Melody said she hoped the blind side program would help educate Sam’s classmates on the challenges associated with being visually impaired.
“This is wonderful for Sam and his classmates because sometimes he feels they don’t understand or they think he can’t do something,” she said. “But he can do anything — he just does it in a different way.”
Because of his visual impairment, Sam is in the Early Intervention Program, a state program designed to serve “at-risk” students. But he also is an Academically or Intellectually Gifted student.
“He loves school and education and loves science,” Melody said.
Sam’s classmates had a new found respect for what he deals with on a daily basis after participating in several learning stations, including walking blindfolded with a cane and trying to throw darts blindfolded. Students also watched an educational video on how to approach a blind person. Sam said the video was his favorite part of the program.
Anastasia Powell of Winston-Salem has been blind for more than 10 years. She used her braille machine to type students’ name in braille so they could learn basic letters.
CT Welch brought his seeing-eye dog Joan to the classroom and talked to students about her abilities. He told students that guide dogs are workers when their harness is on and need to concentrate on their job of helping the owner.
Tim Lacroix helped the students learn how to throw darts blindfolded, which takes real courage as some of the students came close to hitting Lacroix instead of the target. Students had to rely on memory after trying to familiarize themselves with the dart board and estimated distance.
Chris Flynt, director of outreach programing for the Brighter Path Foundation, said the Blide Side program was in its second year in the North Carolina School systems. More than 2,500 students have participated in the program. The goal is to educate people about what it is like to be visually impaired and live in a world where sight is so important.
“It’s important that Sam’s classmates be able to walk in his shoes,” Flynt said. “At this age, they’ll remember and tell their family about it when they get home. It’s an ‘eye-opening’ experience.”