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Student's Will to Survive with Visual Impairments Brightens School Halls

By Timothy Hatch, Student, Flour Bluff, Texas

Editor's Note: Toward the end of last school year, one of the Outreach staff shared this article with me written by Timothy Hatch. It was originally published in the school newspaper of Flour Bluff High School near Corpus Christi where Timothy, a student who has low vision, was a freshman.

The bell rings. You step outside the door and hear a rush of people come by. Nothing is recognizable. You can only see light and dark or your vision is so bad you don't recognize your friends across the hall at their lockers. This is what life is like for sophomores Shannon McGinnis and Marion Webb.

"I can only see five feet in front of me. My vision is 20/1600," Shannon said. That means that Shannon can see at 20 feet what a sighted person can at 1600 ft.

Getting around school can be very frightening when you first lose your vision, but after Orientation and Mobility training, it's not any harder than being sighted. Orientation and Mobility is learning to become familiar with your surroundings, and navigating through your world with a visual impairment.

"Teaching visually impaired kids is different because I have to put myself in their shoes," vision teacher Michelle Hartig said.

With the help of her friends and Orientation and Mobility training, Shannon can get around school with no help. Unlike Shannon, Marion has to deal with getting around in a wheelchair, as well as a visual impairment.

"It's sort of easy because people help me with my wheelchair and they like my monocular," Marion said.

As for me (Timothy), I'm the one always wearing a hat or visor which helps me see. I have 20/80 vision, so it's hard to see fifteen feet away. The hat helps me by eliminating glare.

It may be hard to tell if Shannon is visually impaired if you don't watch closely. Blind people who are very outgoing adapt to their impairment faster. However there are times when people notice Shannon's visual impairment.

"Some people think I have no feelings and that they are better than me," Shannon said. Marion said that she rarely gets teased.

In a survey, 63% said they would be able to adapt to their visual impairment if they were blinded. The survey also showed that blind and visually impaired have the same capabilities as sighted people.

"Visually impaired students aren't any different from sighted people. They can see, just not through their eyes," said freshman Jonathan Valk.

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Go to Fall 1998 Table of Contents.