Men In Motion
But it’s all just about finding what you like, and not letting anyone hold you back or other people’s notions about you hold you back.Kai Owens
The above sage advice from Kai Owens, today’s Man In Motion, is one Bold Blind Beauty proudly supports. At 18 years of age, Kai is a phenomenal role model and we are so honored to feature him.
When Bold Blind Beauty talks about changing perceptions it begins with one person. We hope that by sharing the sight loss journey of one person we can change how blind people are perceived. To date, we’ve shared the stories of over 200 people who are blind or experiencing sight loss. We’ve also shared stories of allies who are just as committed as we are to break barriers.
In 2021 we will be introducing you to incredible young people like Kai Owens who are doing extraordinary things. These young people are extraordinary because in spite of the barriers they encounter daily they persist. Many have learned from an early age to self-advocate and the strength, resilience, and tenacity they possess will change perceptions.
Below Kai’s video introduction is the transcript. Enjoy!
Hey, everyone. I’m Kai Owens, I’m 18, a senior in high school right now, and I just wanted to tell you guys a bit about my story. And thank you Bold Blind Beauty for featuring me.
So I was totally sighted until about third grade when I started having some vision problems. I then was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa and have recently I’ve been re-diagnosed with autoimmune retinopathy. And yeah, so that’s kind of how my vision is, I’m currently legally blind. I have a lot of blind spots, essentially around my central vision, and pretty bad acuity. It’s like 20/250 or so. But yeah, so I want to tell you guys about what I do and kind of who I am.
So I started playing drums in fifth grade. And I kind of have taken that really is as much as I can and I’m going to keep going with it. I’m in a metal band right now and I started playing gigs with different local rock bands and stuff in ninth grade and all the way up through now, which has been really great. And I’m actually planning on studying drum set performance in college.
So I’m looking at the University of Miami and the University of Southern California. And yeah, I’m in the middle of just pretty much waiting for my college applications to come back. And I’m super excited for that next step.
Outside of music and everything, I’ve been doing that I also do a lot of athletics, especially board sports. So I started with board sports when I was a little kid, basically trying to keep up with my brother on a skateboard. And that kind of sparked my love for it.
So then I started to pick up skimboarding which out its basic form is like the little wood boards along wet sand. Then as you get more advanced, you’re basically on like a carbon fiber and like foam board kinda like a surfboard, but thinner without fins. And you slide out to the waves and then basically surf it back in, which is a super fun sport, and it’s extremely difficult.
One of my biggest influences in that area is World Champion skimboarder Austin Keen, who actually grew up on the same beach that I skimboard at called Tybee Island. And he kind of took an interest in me at a skimboarding camp that he hosted and ended up lending me a sponsorship with one of the companies that he rides for called Exile Skimboards, which is one of the top few skimboarding manufacturers in the world. So that’s been super cool. He’s been a big help to me and really pushed me to kind of go further with the sport.
And then outside of skimboarding, I’ve recently gotten really into surfing and started taking that pretty seriously. And then throughout the years, I’ve also learned how to snowboard and wakeboard. And I tried to wake surfing, but that one still hasn’t stuck for some reason but I’m sure I’ll get it eventually.
But yeah, so I plan on just keeping going with everything. One thing that I found that’s helped me the most throughout the years is just learning all the skills that I can like right off the bat, like:
- cane skills
- how to use technology, like a screen reader
- Braille Display
- Braille Note Touch, anything like that
Really, the more things that you can learn how to use, I found the easier it makes life for you much. Because there’s always going to be issues with accessibility, unfortunately. Hopefully, that gets a little better over the years.
But the more ways you have to access something, the more likely you are to be able to access it really. And also, my mentor Joe Strechay, who worked as the head of accessibility for Pennsylvania. Then started working with TV companies such as Netflix and Apple to basically train people for specific roles on how to look and act blind basically, and how to make it seem realistic. So he even taught the guy who played Daredevil how to actually travel around with a cane, which is really cool.
He’s [Joe Strechay] a great guy. He’s kind of shown me how much blind people are able to do in terms of independent travel and life, jobs, everything. And one of his big things is there’s really no shortcuts and you just kind of you just have to put in the work and put in the grind for it which has really helped me just to be able to keep working at something because these things aren’t always easy, but if you really put in the work for it, you’ll get it done.
I’m in all AP classes right now, or as many as I can take in my high school. I’ve been the highest GPA in my class for six out of the past seven years, and I’m on track to be valedictorian of my school. So yeah, it’s just really found that blind people or visually impaired people can do as much as they’re willing to put in the work for pretty much and I mean, everyone’s different.
Everyone has their different interests. But it’s all just about finding what you like, and not letting anyone hold you back or other people’s notions about you hold you back. So I hope everyone has a great 2020 hopefully it gets a little better than or great 2021 hopefully it gets a little better than 2020. And yet again, thanks so much Bold Blind Beauty for featuring me.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
- Skate: https://www.instagram.com/p/CGOsjs6BYtu/?igshid=1mbltlqzj2fgu
- Skim: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDZldevh33B/?igshid=m4y5x2rryg53
- Drum: https://youtu.be/sm6189PYTBY
Connecting With Kai:
- Instagram @kai.owens
- The featured image is a surf photo of Kai smiling while standing on the beach in a black wet suit holding his skimboard. His long dark wavy hair is pulled back in a ponytail.
- The Beyond Sight Magazine cover features the same photo of Kai mentioned in the first bullet. The masthead is teal with the title in black text. The dot on the ‘i’ in ‘sight’ is an illustration of an eye. There are 6 lines of white text that say “Kai Owens Skimmer, Skater, Surfer, and Drummer.” In the bottom left corner is A teal circle with an illustration of a blind man in motion with arms raised and his white cane in his left hand. “Men In Motion” is yellow text arcing under the circle.