Posted on 5 Comments

Mainstream Assimilation In Education Lights the Way

Mainstream Assimilation In Education Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Doreen never lets the perception of others prevent her from living a rich, fulfilling, and productive life.

~Bold Blind Beauty

Mainstream Assimilation In Education Lights the Way

Mainstream Assimilation in Education image description: Colored alphabet braille blocks used for learning braille.
Colored Alphabet Braille-Blocks

One of the best things about advocacy is highlighting the work of fellow blind and visually impaired (B&VI) persons. This work is critical in the mainstream representation of B&VI persons.

Sharing stories through Women On The Move, Blind Beauty, and Cane Enabled shifts the focus from disability to ability. Mass media portrayal of blind people performing extraordinary accomplishments are remarkable, yet we cannot dismiss the importance of advocacy. Advocacy with more representation of B&VI people will promote opportunities and light the way for others.

Recently, a good friend of mine introduced me to Doreen Lundgren – an advocate and Woman On The Move. Doreen, a newly elected President of ACBW (American Council of the Blind – Wisconsin), is a Milwaukee-based adaptive technology specialist. As a multi-talented, person, she is an educator, singer, and certified expert in Unified English Braille Code or UEB. Also a voice-over artist, Doreen creates live sound effects with her voice.

The Introduction

Three qualities I noticed on my initial call with Doreen was her wicked sense of humor, candidness, and sense of adventure. At four years of age, she developed a love for downhill skiing which she continued into her adulthood. In answering my question what was the most daring thing she’d ever done? – skydiving topped the list.

Doreen was born totally blind to parents who are blind. She is one of four siblings. People are amazed at how well Doreen functions in a sighted world, not realizing for her, blindness is her normal. What makes her outstanding is her natural singing talent, intelligence, and her wide variety of interests. The most unique one was learning that she’s an old-time radio enthusiast. She listens passionately to “ Old Time Radio Drama ” on Wisconsin Public Radio, “The WGN Radio Theater,” and “When Radio Was” on WBBM, both out of Chicago. Recently she attended an old-time radio conference in Chicago.

Teachers engage attentively with presenters Carla & Doreen Lundgren in early literacy methods class
Teachers engage attentively with presenters in an early literacy methods class

Advocacy Blossoms From Thirst For Knowledge

Doreen, who attended Pius XI Catholic High School, advocates for the assimilation of B&VI persons into mainstream education. Her passion for history, math, and English evolved at Pius, which led to her interest in the theater and music worlds.

Possessing a wide vocal range, Doreen is a talented singer. She performs as a soprano and an alto in a variety of a cappella, choral, classical, and popular music ensembles. And, if you need to know anything about the 80’s rock band, Queen, she is an authentic ‘Queeniac’ and the unofficial world authority on everything Queen!

Doreen studied computer technology at Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) where she became a skilled computer professional with a particular focus on assistive technology. A sports fanatic, her active participation in cheerleading, swimming, baseball, and basketball, developed her enthusiastic love for, and encyclopedic knowledge of professional sports.

Sharing Her Voice With Bold Blind Beauty

Since Doreen is a voice-over artist, we thought it would be cool for her to breathe life into Abby. Abby aka Abigale is our bold and stylish fashion icon who always walks in confidence with her white cane.

Meeting Doreen couldn’t come at a better time. We’re working on multiple projects and refining our focus to better support our mission. The prospect of hearing the voice of Abby doing product reviews and sharing beauty fashion and style tips is exciting.

Doreen never lets the perception of others prevent her from living a rich, fulfilling, and productive life. I can’t think of a better person who epitomizes Abby!

Mainstream Assimilation In Education Featured Image Description:

A photo of Doreen Lundgren (seated at a table) one of the featured speakers at Alverno College, in Milwaukee. Her presentation was about literacy learning from the perspective of being blind.

Additional Images:

  • Colored alphabet braille blocks used for learning braille.
  • A photo showing the teachers engaged attentively with presenters in an early literacy methods class at Alverno College.
Posted on 7 Comments

Sight Loss Story Is More Than Meets The Eye

Sight Loss Story More Than Meets The Eye featured image description is in the body of the post.

When I succeed, I am proud of myself but don’t take it as a blind girl win. When I fail, I forgive myself and think of an alternative way to succeed.

~Jenna Faris

Sight Loss Story Is More Than Meets The Eye

My sight loss story has no true beginning or end as I was diagnosed with congenital blindness at four weeks old. For reasons unknown to anyone, my limited vision declined steadily throughout my life. Blurry shapes and contrasts I could make out at five years old are now mere memories. Perhaps what little I can see today will one day be a memory, as well.

Not much is known about my family’s rare hereditary condition. It doesn’t have a name, and there is no cure for it.
With half of us blind, and the other half sighted, my family is split down the middle.

Since I was legally blind at birth, I never went through that difficult transition period of growing accustomed to sight loss. But, that is not to say my journey has been without challenges. Instead of facing the realities of vision loss, I had to face my sighted peers’ perception of blindness. I was raised in a family where blindness was simply viewed as a personal characteristic, like hair color or favorite food. It was a shock to find that the majority of the world viewed blindness differently. Many see it as a great limitation, a heavy, shameful burden, and an insurmountable barrier that would affect every aspect of my life.

More Than My Disability

Throughout my teenage years, I struggled to prove that I was just as good, worthy, and capable as my sighted friends and siblings. I battled bullying, an eating disorder, and blind brothers who were arguably better at being blind than me. Failure, I felt would prove everyone right, and success would prove everyone wrong. So I went out of my way to oppose stereotypes because I hated being known as the blind girl. It was important for me to break the mold and to stand out for anything other than my lack of sight. Making a point of wearing makeup, and refusing to wear sunglasses. I made a point of wearing makeup, absolutely refused to wear sunglasses, and I threw myself into my education. My urgent approach to my studies could only be described as obsessive because I wanted to be known as the:

  • A+ student
  • Starbucks-obsessed-freshman
  • chick in the blue shirt

Any title would do, as long as it did not center around my disability.

I can’t recall freedom from the gut-wrenching feeling of failure when someone referred to me as the blind girl. Maybe it faded around the time I connected with cool blind people my age. All I know is, one day the words didn’t make me feel bad anymore. I am a blind girl however I am not ‘the blind girl,’ but maybe to them, I am. The phrase no longer makes me feel less than what I am, it merely reminds someone of who I am. While I know my blindness doesn’t wholly define me, if this characteristic stands out to most people, that’s fine. I know I am more than my disability, and if they get to know me, they will too.

Empowerment Gained Through Acceptance

Today I refuse to wear sunglasses not to prove a point, but because they limit my vision and light perception. I now wear makeup when I feel like it, because it makes me feel good inside. And I achieve in school because I know this will further my career. When I succeed, I am proud of myself but don’t take it as a blind girl win. When I fail, I forgive myself and think of an alternative way to succeed.

I recently graduated with a bachelor of science in food, nutrition, and health from the University of British Columbia. This summer I’m working part-time as a server while scoping out further career options and working on my book series. I’m just your average twenty-something dreamer with a whole life of possibility ahead.

My sight loss journey may never truly be over, but I’m okay with that. I hope it continues to help me become the human I want to be.

Connect with Jenna:

Sight Loss Story Is More Than Meets The Eye Featured Image Description:

Jenna stands at the back of a cruise ship. She wears a deep blue shirt that matches the ocean and sky behind her. Her dark brown hair streams down her back as she smiles serenely at the camera.

Posted on 4 Comments

We Can Change – The Power Of Community

We Can Change – The Power Of Community

“Life has changed me from being fearful and insecure, into now working to help others find themselves and reach for the resources and tools they need to thrive.”

~Carrie Morales

The Struggle of Growing up with a Visual Impairment

1. We Can Change – The Power Of Community image of Carrie and her son description is in the body of the post.
1. Carrie Morales

Growing up being legally blind with Aniridia was an immense challenge. Aniridia is the lack of an iris and the underdevelopment of the eye. In my case, it also comes with glaucoma, cataracts, microcornea, and nystagmus.

I struggled with insecurity, lack of confidence, loneliness, and a general sense of un-belonging. Though surrounded with other family members who were also blind or visually impaired, I felt disjointed from the rest of my peers. As a result, I was never able to fit in despite all my efforts.

I struggled and concealed my depression and hurt with rejection, when people avoided or gossiped about me, and asked things such as “why do your eyes move like that?” or “what’s wrong with her?” Because of microcornea, my eyes appear smaller and nystagmus causes my eyes to constantly and uncontrollably move around.

I wasn’t “normal”.

My defense was to emotionally detach. I was shy and became shyer and there would be days that I didn’t speak to anyone unless forced to by a teacher.

What brought me out into the proverbial light was the help and support I found through community.

Beginning to Find Myself

My TVI (teacher for the visually impaired) told my parents about a summer camp for the blind. That camp literally changed my life as I thought I was alone, the only one struggling, but I wasn’t. It was through that program and others, I met fellow peers who shared my struggles. Attending these programs while in high school and transitioning to college taught me so many things. I learned independence, life skills, assistive technology, social skills, and leadership.

What’s more, I saw other people who were blind and visually impaired being successful. I met and interacted with those who were living their dreams and striving toward their goals. This is what I wanted to do; to be like them, to have confidence and show that I was able. To reach past what society said I could and could not do and surpass even my own expectations.

As a teenager, I stumbled and fell, was reckless, and made bad decisions. But life continued and led me to eventually move with my family to North Carolina. It was here I took a job at a company that hired many blind people.

Starting out in manufacturing, I was promoted to being a receptionist. Eventually, I began working at the low vision center that was part of the company. NC is quite different from New Jersey which is where I mostly grew up. In the northeast, people generally mind their own business and didn’t speak to strangers.

Well, North Carolina is the opposite. People would ask how I was, about my life, what I liked to do —all in the first interaction! Oh my, it was such a culture shock, to say the least. Yet, it pried me out of my shell and changed me.

A Force of Change

I went from being anti-social to not being able to stop talking. Over time, I gained more confidence and learned how to present myself.

I’ve always loved technology and had a thirst for knowledge. Through my time working at the low vision center, I learned so much. I gained experience in:

  • services,
  • resources,
  • government agencies,
  • available technology,
  • and met countless people with differing amounts of vision and needs.
2. Pablo & Carrie image description is in the body of the post.
2. Pablo & Carrie

Along the way, I met my then to be husband, Pablo; we moved in together, got married, had a son. Due to the high costs of childcare and transportation, I decided to stay home with our son. Becoming a stay at home mom allows me the opportunity to invest in him completely as my father did for me.

With Little Pablo being the first child, it was so exciting learning and enjoying him. This new life, a whole bundle of potential is everything to us. We found out that he has aniridia like me. Though it hurts because we all want the best for our children, he’ll be okay. I know that he will grow up with all the resources and support he will need.

As life went on I grew accustomed to the new way of life with a little one. Settling into my routine, I began to have more time. It was in a moment of looking for something to do besides the day-to-day tasks, I had an idea. I decided to start an organization to share what my husband and I have learned and give others encouragement. Afterall, we all have it within us to continue, to move forward, and to reach for our goals.

A New Journey

3. Big Pablo & Little Pablo image description is in the body of the post.
3. Big Pablo & Little Pablo

I grew up visually impaired, but my husband, Pablo, went from fully sighted to totally blind.  None of us have the same exact stories. We have our own journeys, but we still face similar struggles and we can support and help each other.

I began my youtube channel (Live Accessible) and website (http://liveaccessible.com) on November 1, 2018 and am amazed at the growth we have had.

Our mission through our YT channel and website is to share hope, encouragement, community, resources, tips, and technology to help others who are blind, visually impaired, and sighted supporters. Along the way, I’ve made many friendships, met so many amazing people, and have learned so much from my viewers.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back to this community. Together, we can make this world into a better place where we can tear down invisible barriers in society and in this world through raising awareness, mutual support, technology, and creativity.

We can all live accessible.

We Can Change – The Power Of Community Featured Image Description:

Outdoor selfie of Carrie Morales smiling. Carrie’s long black hair frames her pretty face. She is wearing a black leather jacket and a black top embellished with silver accents on the neckline.

Additional Images:

  1. An outdoor selfie of Carrie and Little Pablo. Carrie is holding Little Pablo with her right arm and she’s wearing a blue long-sleeved sweater. Little Pablo is wearing a red fleece jacket.
  2. Big Pablo & Carrie share a sweet embrace. They are standing outside and sunbeams are illuminating Carrie’s hair.
  3. Big Pablo is standing on a lawn holding Little Pablo in his arms with his white cane tucked under his right arm. Both are casually dressed and wearing sneakers. Little Pablo has on a red puffer jacket and his dad has on a navy blue jacket.

Connecting With Carrie:

Posted on 4 Comments

Blind CrossFit Athlete Is Empowered & Unstoppable

Blind CrossFit Athlete Featured Image Description is in the body of the post.

Today’s Woman On The Move, Kimberley (Kym) Dekeyrel, was recently featured as a cover model on the March edition of CAPTIVATING! An edited version of the following article also appeared in the magazine however we have some exciting news to share! It’s amazing what this woman has achieved in two years after a major lifestyle change.

Blind CrossFit Athlete Is Empowered & Unstoppable

I want to show visually impaired people they can do anything. At the same time I’m showing my children there are no excuses not to be your best. At 37 I am the blindest I’ve ever been, yet I feel more unstoppable now than ever.

~Kym Dekeyrel, Woman On The Move
#1 - Kym, her husband and two sons photo description is in the body of the post.
#1 – Kym, her husband & 2 sons

My story of vision loss began before I can even remember. My parents received my diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) when I was five years old. I can only imagine their devastation when they were told their bright blue-eyed daughter would most likely be totally blind by the age of 18.

Without hesitation, they began to prepare me for life and I started learning braille and taking mobility lessons weekly. I learned cane travel and carried around ridiculously large print books all throughout school. Yes, I was made fun of. No, it wasn’t easy being the kid with the weird orange glasses that couldn’t go out for P.E. But my parents placed me in dance lessons and it became everything to me. I was a natural performer and never felt like the blind kid when I was in the spotlight.

Even though I was the poster child for RP, I was an anomaly to doctors. My vision loss didn’t progress like typical retinitis pigmentosa. I lost my central vision first and was left with scattered islands of peripheral vision. Because of this, I honestly never felt like I was understood by other visually impaired people. I wasn’t in denial of being blind, but when you mourn the loss of your vision your entire life it simply becomes a part of your day-to-day challenges.

Life’s Detour After Devastating Diagnosis

#2 - Kym and her husband photo is described in the post.
#2 – Kym and her husband

So my life carried on. I went to college and earned my degree in dance and kinesiology. After graduation, I went to massage school then later met my husband at my first job at a doctor’s office. It was about this time that life punched me in the gut with a diagnosis of lupus symptomatic of rheumatoid arthritis. The agony I suffered for three years made being blind seem like a walk in the park.

By this time, I had one son named Cooper and knew I couldn’t live a life worth living if I could barely move. After doing research my husband put me on an extremely strict diet that saved my life. Within six months of changing my diet, I was back on a treadmill and ready to have our second son, Easton.

I never returned to dancing but two years ago my husband brought me into a CrossFit gym, I was terrified. How could I do anything if I could not see anything? But by the end of my first class, I knew I had found my new passion.

Now, I am trying to become an empowered representation of the visually impaired in the adaptive CrossFit world. I want to show visually impaired people they can do anything. At the same time I’m showing my children there are no excuses not to be your best. At 37 I am the blindest I’ve ever been, yet I feel more unstoppable now than ever in my life. Being blind is hard, but if you live by faith and not by sight anything is possible.

CrossFit Games

CrossFit photo of Kym is described in the body of the post.
Kym doing her thing

@KymPossibleXoXo as she’s known on Instagram, found out last week that she qualified for the adaptive CrossFit games in July. Her Instagram exploded when @CrossFitGames shared one of her competition videos and get this, it’s been seen over 350K times!

I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive a message from Kym with her news. She even said that while we “technically” haven’t met, she was so excited to share this with me. And of course, I was probably just as excited to hear it directly from her.

The adaptive CrossFit games are held north of Toronto and Canada during the country‘s largest Functional Fitness/CrossFit Festival of the year. Over 1,000 athletes of all levels will participate but Kym is the first blind athlete to be invited as a part of the adaptive athlete division.

As having a visually impaired athlete in the competition for the first time, Kym is nervous and excited to educate the adaptive CrossFit community on how to best adapt movements for blind athletes. We are excited to stand by her all the way! We encourage anybody who would like to support or sponsor Kym through her journey to contact her. You can reach Kym directly via email at kymdekeyrel@gmail.com.

Like her Instagram alias, Kym is showing us that anything is possible.

Blind CrossFit Athlete Featured Image Description:

In the featured photo, Kym is doing what she loves, working out in the gym. She is squatting while holding 90-pound barbells straight over her head. Her workout ensemble is a black tank top with gray and black leggings with geometric shapes and pink sneakers. Kym’s long blonde hair is in a ponytail.

Additional Image Descriptions:

  1. Kym, her husband and two sons, Cooper and Easton, are posing together as a family. Mom, wearing a black dress, and dad, in a blue polo shirt, is standing behind the boys.
  2. Kym and her hubby are standing together looking sharp. Date night perhaps? Kym is wearing a sleeveless plum colored dress with taupe dress shoes and her husband is in a suit. He is holding his jacket over his right arm.
  3. In this photo, Kym is in mid-shot of tossing a big ball against the wall at the gym. She’s in the same outfit as in the featured image.