I am a visually impaired person. Soon after graduating from Purdue University West Lafayette, I lost a significant amount of my vision due to a disease known as rod-cone dystrophy. Although I have been legally blind now for nearly 40 years, my circumstance has not deterred me from enjoying and participating in many of the same activities as a person with sight would experience.
Although adapting to blindness has been both frustrating and challenging, I have found much success when I focus on the things I can do as opposed to those that I cannot do. Choosing this positive and realistic attitude enables me to live and work as normal as any of my sighted friends, family and business colleagues.
I am happily married, and my wife, Lexi, and I live a comfortable and contended life. Lexi is my closest confidant. I rely on her for anything from help with my daily activities to assisting me with critical business decisions with my company.
I am the founder and president of The Ross Group in Portage, a diversified commercial construction firm. I am proud of the accomplishments of my associates and the good reputation we have earned.
I do not consider having a disability to be a sign of weakness or impairment. I embrace my abilities to “read people” and to make decisions using nonconventional approaches.
Are there challenges for me? Of course, but I have learned to rely on the compassion, care and expertise of others to help me to meet them. I am a person created by God who will hopefully inspire others to do great things.
Often, people do not know how to interact with a visually impaired person. The following list was created by an organization known as Sightcare, and I hope it will be helpful to you.
- Do go up and introduce yourself to the person and speak directly to him/her.
- Do feel free to take photographs of the person.
- Do offer your arm for assistance.
- Do let the person know when you are leaving a room.
- Do use high-contrast items like black and white when possible (example: place settings for meals).
- Do use the clock method when telling the person where food and other items are located.
- Do remember vision can be affected by weather conditions (it might be easier to see on cloudy days).
- Don't shout when speaking to the person or use hand gestures when talking.
- Don't leave out words like “see” and “look” when talking to the person.
- Don't fill glasses or cups to the top.
- Don't leave the person standing alone in an open space.
- Don't move personal items or rearrange furniture or leave cabinet or closet doors partially open.
I consider National Disabilities Awareness Month to be a time to celebrate. Every person contributes something special to this world, and we should all embrace ourselves and each other for being exactly who we are.