July Men In Motion | Ryan Maxwell

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Men In Motion | Ryan Maxwell

Contents:

Editor’s Note:

It is an honor to introduce you to Ryan Maxwell, July’s Man In Motion. In addition to being this month’s featured Man In Motion Ryan is also one of our summer interns. Recently featured in our latest podcast episode, Ryan is participating in our Virtual Work Experience Program.

An extremely intelligent and charismatic person, I believe Ryan is destined to do great things and we are so fortunate. Enjoy! ~Steph

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover features a full body profile photo of Ryan's form as he pulls back  bow string to shoot an arrow. He is wearing a black tee with blue jeans and white sneakers. The text reads: “Ryan Maxwell | Confidence in his blindness leads to a drive for advocacy and positive change for PwDs  | Men In Motion.”

Men In Motion YouTube Video

Introducing Ryan

A frontal headshot of Ryan a black male in cornrows, with a mustache, goatee, and eyeglasses wearing a blue shirt.

Hi, everyone. My name is Ryan Maxwell. I’m 18 years old. I live in Brooklyn, New York. And I’m so proud to say that I’m legally blind.

A few weeks ago, I graduated from Brooklyn College Academy High School. And in the fall, I’m going to be attending Binghamton University as an integrative neuroscience major. 

I was born legally blind, so my experience is a little different than some people who lost their vision later in life. Around the age of two or three, my parents noticed some issues with my vision. And so, they took me to the doctor, and my pediatrician recommended me for several tests, including a CAT scan. After all those exams, I was diagnosed with several conditions, including optic nerve atrophy, nearsightedness, nystagmus, and night blindness. 

What these conditions really meant for me and still do mean to me today is that I have difficulty reading, recognizing faces, identifying colors, and navigating in the dark. 

Discovering Joy In Music School

A full-body profile shot of Ryan walking. He's wearing black jeans, a black tee, and gray sneakers.

My childhood was, I would say, not very different from other young people with a disability. It was at first difficult thriving in the education system with a disability. I found that I had to learn to advocate for myself and my need in the public school system and that I had to get over a lot of hesitancy and fear I had about being confident in my blindness.

One thing that I encountered was a sort of strange situation when it came to hobbies and extracurricular activities. My parents made me participate in several extracurriculars, they really believed in having a well-rounded son.

At first, I participated in extracurriculars and hobbies in a “mainstream normal setting.” These were instructors and teachers and facilitators who did not have experience helping low-vision students.

I played tennis, I went to track and field, I swam. However, it was difficult to enjoy myself in these fields because of my disability. I was able to do good, I was able to do as good as my actual abilities permitted and as good as other students. But it was just a challenge to have to try to explain myself to instructors and trying to communicate with instructors who had never worked with a person with blindness before. 

And then around the age of eight, I was very excited to be recommended to a music school called the Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School, which was a community music school that only taught low-vision and blind students. And I was just really overjoyed to be able to participate in that. Because music has always been such an integral part of my life, I was raised on music. And I’ve finally you know, was able to face the epiphany that I did not have to suffer in “mainstream” activities anymore, I no longer had to worry that instructors would not understand my disability and understand how to adapt those hobbies to fit me.

After that, I fell in love with the arts. And I have been playing classical piano for about 10 years now. I was able to begin to express myself fully as a person with a disability.

Self-Advocacy & Gratitude

Frontal headshot of Ryan wearing a black facemask, eyeglasses, and a white hoodie. His dark hair is styled in long coiled curls.

As I grew, I did participate in other hobbies and extracurriculars that were not necessarily tailored directly for people with disabilities. And I think that definitely had its merits because I was able to understand what it’s like actually functioning in a sighted world. 

A lot of my friends went to a school specifically for people with low vision in New York City. And I believe that their experience has been difficult coming out of that school because it did not teach them to advocate for their needs and understand the real challenges that come with having a disability. It is unfortunate that we have to go this extra mile and deal with these struggles, but I am somewhat grateful that I had the opportunity to learn about those struggles and those hurdles early on so that it was not a rude awakening for me. 

I did participate in dance and theater and so many other arts in middle school and high school. Unfortunately, I found a great disconnect with sports because many sports leagues and little leagues were not adaptive to my needs. And so one of my hopes as I go off to college is that I can start trying new things that have not felt accessible to me in the past.

Taking Advantage Of Advocacy Opportunities

Graduation photo of Ryan wearing a blue cap and gown with a black facemask as he strides to collect his diploma.

Another thing that I started to discover as I got into high school was other extracurricular activities that were related to activism and advocacy. In my sophomore year, I joined the Ditmas Examiner, which is a local community newspaper based in Brooklyn, that focused all on youth. It was youth-run, it was run by all high school students in the Brooklyn area. That was a great opportunity not only for me to discover my voice and flex my writing muscles. But it was also a great opportunity for me to understand really what outreach is, and what it’s like to really get your hands dirty, and get into the community and understand community building and uprising and social justice movements. 

From that moment when I was working with the Examiner, I really fell in love with activism and advocacy. The next year, I joined Middle College National Consortium. And we were working for about a year on trying to combat climate change. We organized a lot of outreach events and fundraisers to try to spark legislation and awareness for climate change and gentrification in New York City.

I think both of those experiences really helped me not only as a person, but as a person with blindness, to understand how important activism is to life today, and that politics is not something that’s far away, happening in DC, but it’s really happening here. It’s in the streets, it’s in our homes, it’s in our souls. 

Joining Bold Blind Beauty

And that has led me to my next volunteer experience with Bold Blind Beauty. This summer, I’m going to be working as an intern with Bold Blind Beauty’s Virtual Work Experience program. I’m just really excited to start doing this. 

One of the things that drew me to Bold Blind Beauty was that our values really align when it comes to empowering people with disabilities and starting important conversations online. 

I am really grateful for this opportunity to learn what it’s like working in a corporation, what it means to do outreach, to interact with the community, and really what it means to be a self-actualized blind person. 

I want to thank Bold Blind Beauty for this opportunity to have this internship and to share my story with all of you and I’ll see y’all on the other side of the revolution. Bye.

Connecting With Ryan:

Image Descriptions:

  • The header photo is identical to the one indentified in the second bullet.
  • Beyond Sight Magazine Cover features a full body profile photo of Ryan’s form as he pulls back bow string to shoot an arrow. He is wearing a black tee with blue jeans and white sneakers. The text reads: “Ryan Maxwell | Confidence in his blindness leads to a drive for advocacy and positive change for PwDs | Men In Motion.”
  • A frontal headshot of Ryan a smiling black male in cornrows, goatee and eyeglasses wearing a blue shirt.
  • A full-body profile shot of Ryan walking. He’s wearing black jeans, a black tee, and gray sneakers.
  • Frontal headshot of Ryan wearing a black facemask, eyeglasses and a white hoodie. His dark hair is styled in long coiled curls.
  • Graduation photo of Ryan wearing a blue cap and gown with a black facemask as he strides to collect his diploma.

3 Comments

  1. Thank you for commenting Zelma. We are so proud of Ryan and were honored to feature him as a Man In Motion. He is going places. ~Steph

  2. Congratulations cousin Ryan. You have a remarkable biography. Keep working hard. I’m proud of you and your accomplishments. Keep pressing forward as you embark on new chapters in your life. Stay resilient in your efforts and know you have the support of your family. I love you and God loves you best. Keep pressing on. Your cousin Zelma Mills

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