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People Always Ask: Is Kai Really Blind?

Kai skimboarding

Blindness has changed our lives and has forced us to see the world in a new way. As a mom, I’ve had to constantly reevaluate what I “think” about blindness and replace my outdated thoughts with our new lived experiences.

~Kim Owens

People Always Ask: Is Kai Really Blind?

Hi, I’m Kim Owens. I am a wife, blogger, watercolor artist, swimmer and I’ve been fighting a tough autoimmune disease for the last 9 years. I’m also the mother of 2 boys–Cash an avid rock climber and college junior studying geology and Kai a sponsored skimboarder and drummer in a local rock band. Kai’s also held the highest GPA in his class for the last 5 years and accomplished all of this while going blind from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).

Family of 4 sits around a table enjoying a meal.

People are always asking “Is he really blind?” When we say, yes, they typically reply, “I don’t know how he does it. He’s amazing! If I were blind I would never leave my house.” To which we say, “Yes, he’s amazing, has lots of support, and we don’t allow ourselves to project our fears about blindness onto him.”

Blindness is one of the most feared conditions in the world. If this fear is allowed to propagate unchallenged, it will create a barrier between blind and sighted people.

Blindness Is Just Another Way Of Seeing

Blindness changed our lives and has forced us to see the world in a new way. As a mom, I constantly reevaluate what I “think” about blindness and replace my outdated thoughts with our new lived experiences.

For example, my fear may say: “No, he can’t go into town with his friends. Who will make sure he’s safe when crossing the streets?” But my voice of experience overrules these outdated thoughts with: “He is probably safer than his friends who are walking while staring at their phones. Kai is highly trained in orientation and mobility and as long as he uses his cane then I will allow him to go.”

Kai began skimboarding when he was 3 and fully sighted. As a blind teen, he’s continually improved his skills and has graduated from sand skimming to skimming the big waves. Kai typically meets up to skim with other local skimboarders early in the morning before the beach is crowded. So when he wanted to compete in an out of state skimboarding competition, my fear said:

 “There is no way he can compete against sighted skimboarders, on a crowded, unfamiliar beach.” But my voice of experience spoke up and said: “Maybe I just need to look at this differently…”

Kai

With Creative Thinking There’s Always A Way

  • What if there is a cane tip that can be used in the sand? YES! Check out the Dakota Disk.
  • What if competition organizers were open to the idea and able to offer a sighted guide? They were thrilled, they agreed immediately, and several pros offered to assist.  
  • What if he had the opportunity to compete and change public perceptions of what is possible for blind kids? Event organizers asked him to give a live interview in front of the crowd and he provided the audience an opportunity to try on simulation glasses. Many beliefs about blindness were changed that day.

Do you see the difference in these thought patterns? It’s a mind shift that starts with awareness of our thoughts. In my blog post “A New Way to See” I describe the exact moment I became aware of the disparity between my thoughts and reality – and it was a life changer.

Kai’s Achievements & Continuing Success

For me, it all boiled down to realizing that my internal thoughts were limiting my ability to be fully present to my son’s real-life experiences. In the last 6 years Kai:

  • learned to read Braille and Nemeth code
  • became proficient at using assistive technology 
  • learned how to navigate busy city streets with a cane
  • continued to skimboard and skateboard
  • became a drummer in a rock band that does gigs all around town  
  • is attending honors courses at our local high school

In addition to everything Kai has already achieved, his short-term plans include learning to snowboard and applying for a guide dog. Thankfully, his dad, brother and I have been fully present and able to support his journey toward independence.

Chances are that your visually impaired child is not interested in skimboarding, but no matter what their passion, please don’t let your own fears become a barrier to your child’s success.  

Featured Image Description:

Kai is skimming a wave creating a large spray of water in his wake. He’s wearing a black wetsuit and bright yellow jersey that reads Blind Athlete.

Additional Images:
  • The family of 4 sits around a table enjoying a meal.
  • Kai as a 3-year-old skimming the whitewashed sand, and his 8-year-old brother Cash is holding a skimboard in the background.

8 thoughts on “People Always Ask: Is Kai Really Blind?

  1. I follow Kai on instagram, my son is Cairo Zion. You have an incredibly inspirational son! He is a joy to watch. 🙏🏼 good job mom!

    1. Thanks for commenting Brit. I’ll pass your message onto Kim.

    2. Oh, wow! Thank you! He loves meeting people on Instagram — especially SKIMMERS. Please ask your son to send him a private message if he ever wants to chat. We sincerely appreciate your support. #skimmunity

      1. Will do! 😍❤️🙏🏼 can’t wait to meet you guys someday.

  2. I really connected to this. I was born with RP, like many of the other women in my family. I was declared legally blind in my teens, while the majority of my family didn’t lose sight until much later. Now that I’m a college graduate and mom of two, I’m constantly being asked if I’m “actually blind.” I used to get offended. Now, I shrug or laugh it off. I love reading your posts!

    1. Hi Jenni, thank you so much for visiting, reading and commenting. I’m happy to hear that this post resonated with you and will pass your message on to Kim. When you have a moment would you be able to email me at smccoy@boldblindbeauty? I’d like to run something by you. Thank you!! ~Steph

    2. Hi Jenni, thanks for reading our story and taking time to respond. As a mom, it is so nice to hear that you’ve gone on to higher education and have a fulfilling family life. I know you’ve faced and overcome many challenges along the way and you give me hope as Kai heads toward college and even greater independence. Thank you.

      1. I’m sure Kai will do incredible things and have a wonderful journey!

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