Blindness Opens Doors

Blindness Opens Doors

By Randi Strunk

Too often when people think about being blind they consider all the doors closed to them, all the things they will no longer be able to do, and how life just won’t be as exciting since they can no longer see.  As I look back on my life, however, I notice an opposite trend. 

I was born blind; I have had the same vision my entire life.  I grew up on a farm in Nebraska and went to school in a small town where my class had 36 people.  I didn’t think I was blind.  I struggled with school, only learning to read large print at a snail’s pace.  I was always apprehensive about going new places because I didn’t use a cane, and my participation in extracurricular activities was very limited and filled with anxiety.  I loved sports and tried to participate, but it never quite worked out the way I wanted.  When I graduated from high school and went off to college, I wasn’t confident in my abilities and I wasn’t accepting of my blindness.  It seemed like there were many closed doors.

Something happened during my freshman year of college when one of those doors cracked open and what I saw inside would help me unlock far more doors than I could ever have imagined.  I attended a college workshop put on by the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and there I heard Peggy Elliott talk about her life, her struggles and successes, and — most importantly — the National Federation of the Blind.  This workshop made me think there was more out there for me.  I met blind students who were successful in college studying a myriad of subjects, and I wanted the confidence they all seemed to have, even though they were blind.

Once I got home, I began scouring the internet for articles Peggy had written; I read them all and then began reading other articles in the Braille Monitor.  I contacted the Nebraska Association of Blind Students and eventually joined at an NFB of Nebraska state convention.  As my interest in the National Federation of the Blind grew, I decided to transfer from the small state college I was attending to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  UNL was my dream school and I thought I should really try it.  Little did I know, the door to what was possible would be thrown wide open through the Federationists I would meet because of this decision. 

I had been corresponding with a few members of the Nebraska Association of Blind Students and they welcomed me to Lincoln with open arms.  As a result, I began attending NFB meetings, using a long white cane, and using JAWS for Windows to complete schoolwork.  I was traveling more confidently, being more efficient with my studies, and becoming ever more involved with the NFB.  Doors were opening. 

After graduating from college, I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) in Ruston.  I was finally able to gain the alternative techniques and confidence I had been wanting for so long.  While in training at LCB we went white-water rafting, rock climbing, and horseback riding and I participated fully in all of these events — no apprehension, just doing, a far cry from the constant worrying of just two years prior.  LCB wasn’t all fun outdoor activities.  I learned how to travel with a white cane, use JAWS, read braille, and add alternative techniques to my daily living skills.  I even built a china cabinet in shop class, and I put all four doors on myself. 

The National Federation of the Blind has given me training and confidence through one of its centers.  It has allowed me to make professional connections that have taken my husband and me to the beaches of Waikiki, the heart of Texas, and now to the lakes of Minnesota for employment, and it has given me friendships that have taken me on cruises to Mexico, the Caribbean, and three city baseball stadium tours.  These things were never in my wildest dreams ten years ago, but they are my reality today thanks to the NFB and the impact the Federation has had on my life.  I can’t wait to see what’s behind the next door!