“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” - CS Lewis
Those of us who raise and teach blind children know that one of the most problematic aspects of their lives is the difficulty they experience finding lasting relationships with age related peers. This is not the fault of the blind child, nor their sighted peers, rather it speaks to the unique demands of living life in a sighted world.
Arctic Vision,llc began as a question among vision professionals years ago; Is there a way to use an online platform to bring visually impaired and blind children and young adults together, from anywhere in the world, to build the kinds of connections and friendships that only those who wonder, “Am I the “only one?” understand?
To test the feasibility of remote consultation for visually impaired and blind children Sarah and John designed something of an experiment. They decided to bring together 6-8 rural blind middle school students, from different states, to meet once a week, for 4 weeks, to discuss topics around Orientation and Mobility (the art and science of being orientated in space and knowing how to travel safely between points) using the tenets of Cooperative Learning. Their project was set to start in mid March and then COVID-19 hit and their carefully laid plans fell by the wayside. Sarah and John talked about it and decided to throw caution to the wind and used Facebook to invite any and all blind middle schoolers who wanted to meet just a few days later, using Zoom ( an online conference platform easily accessible for persons with a visual disability). Sarah and John had absolutely no idea what to expect. Imagine their surprise when at 9:00 AM (Alaska time) they opened ZOOM and found 40+ visually impaired and blind middle school students from both coasts, and everywhere in between, waiting for something to do, to make new friends!
By any definition, that first session was pure chaos and a whole bunch of fun! Within minutes of beginning, Sarah and John knew that not only was their concept viable, but that it was meeting that critically important need for connection that we all share.
Meetings were held and the decision was made to come together every Thursday for the next 4 weeks. A weekly parent group was constructed along with a teacher group to facilitate support during this challenging time. It became increasingly clear with each session that this was an effective format to facilitate learning for the children, parents and teachers. Arctic Vision, llc was born. Arctic Vision, llc is a safe, healthy learning environment where young visually impaired and blind people can come and happily exclaim “What? You too?.”
Sarah Moreau, TVI, COMS, CLVT John Clare, TVI, COMS