In June, I posted about Vision Research Awareness Month—today, I’m kicking off August early on the blog. For Children’s Eye Health Month, which starts tomorrow, I’ve interviewed my friend Gerry, who is also among the goalball players I coach (he’s also the one who got me coaching and consequentially got me hooked)! Gerry has two kids, a son, and a four-year-old daughter who is visually impaired (and also adorable). As someone who understands both sides of both living with and having a child with vision loss, I’m happy to introduce Gerry!
Gerry: I am a father of two great children and have been married over eight years. I have recently graduated from the University of Winnipeg with my degree in Business Administration. I enjoy running, biking, and playing goalball. I am also visually impaired, and have been all my life. This has posed its challenge but I have met them head on. Also, for the last eight years, I have had a guide dog named Marcus who has increased my independence.
Random but important note, Marcus’s favourite treat is carrots. Also Gerry wants to come bug both Marcus and I at once by poking me with a carrot and/or throwing them at me. Anyways….
Why is Children’s Eye Health Awareness Month important to you?
Children’s Eye Health Awareness Month is important to me because I have two children of my own, and my daughter is visually impaired. Also, growing up with a visual impairment, I have learned how important it can be to have the full use of your eyes.
From growing up visually impaired, to now having a daughter who is visually impaired, what have you noticed is different about your experiences?
Probably the biggest difference is the technology that is available. For example, I didn’t have an iPad when I started kindergarten. There will be an app on hers that will allow her to see what is being shown on the projector screen. Also, I think there are more supports in the education system compared to when I began school. When I had started school it was suggested that I attend the school for the blind in Brantford, Ontario.
You mentioned biking earlier—tell us more about that (because I’m sure a few people have this mental image of you stuck in a bush or something).
Yes, I had enough vision [when I was younger] to be able to ride a bike on my own. I don’t recall ever ending up in a bush at any time, but I did run into the back of a car. In my defense though, it was parked where it wasn’t supposed to be. It was a dark coloured car parked under a bridge, so when I came from the bright sun light to the shade of the bridge, my eyes didn’t adjust in time and Wham! I was fine but my bike was not. I decided to stop riding on my own when I hit a pole and had to get stitches just below my eye.
Now my wife and I have a tandem bike, and it is much safer.
How has it been dealing with other adults regarding your daughter’s vision? You’ve also told me before that, of course, your daughter wants to do everything her big brother does—such as playing soccer. What do you wish her peers’ parents understood better?
As for educating others, it hasn’t been too hard. I think because she is very independent people forget she has a vision problem. She had no issues at daycare. We just tell people to treat her like all the other kids. Also we tell them to let her do things on her own, don’t do them for her. [… M]y daughter does want to do everything her brother does. She played Tim Bits soccer this year, and also rides a bike. She doesn’t let anything stop her. I am sure she will end up with her fair share of bumps and bruises, but that is not going to slow her down.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Gerry! To learn more about children’s vision health, check out this article from KidsHealth.org. To learn about vision loss, visit CNIB, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind.