What it was like to grow up with a blind parent

Growing up with a parent who is blind

Meet Paige Gorshing and her mother, Christian. Paige works as a marketing intern for NewView Oklahoma, and Christian serves as NewView’s accounting manager. Today, Paige is sharing what she’s learned from growing up with a parent who has a visual impairment.

Throughout life, it seems many parents make it their goal to embarrass their child one way or another—at least, that’s how it went with my parents. They’ve always been goofy and outgoing. But one thing is certain: When it comes to my mother’s vision, I’ve never been embarrassed.

My mother has a form of macular degeneration. Make two fists, put them in front of your eyes, and try looking around them. This is what my mom deals with every day. I grew up the same way as other kids. (Or at least I thought I did.) But they didn’t realize the wide white headbands I wore during my basketball games were to help my mom find me on the court or that we sit on certain sides of the table to help her adjust to lighting in restaurants. Some would ask me why my dad always drove our car or why my mom and I typically walk with our arms linked together. I would often get the same response, “Your mom isn’t legally blind. She doesn’t use one of those canes or wear sunglasses inside.” Of course, when you’re in middle school, some kids aren’t so nice. Sometimes I would get angry, especially when I’d see an unmarked curb, people making jokes, or Braille not being in the proper locations. I couldn’t understand how the community we lived in could be so inconsiderate to those with low vision and visual impairment. Then I realized most people aren’t aware of these issues because they can see! I wanted to help the people I was around to become more aware. But as a young kid, how was I supposed to help?

When I was ten years old, my mom found the Oklahoma League for the Blind (now known as NewView Oklahoma). She had gotten herself a job with an organization that wasn’t nervous about her “disability.” Instead, they were excited about what her “disability” could do. She was encouraged to be herself, become more independent, and grow along the way. My mother is now the accounting manager with NewView Oklahoma.

That ten-year-old me was able to be a part of their summer camp, Oklahomans Without Limits. I was able to be a buddy for children who have visual impairments just like my mom. Over the course of being a buddy for six summers, I learned how to speak up and raise awareness for those with low vision and vision impairments. Because of my mom and my friends from camp, I know firsthand that what we say at NewView is true: It’s not what you can see, it’s what you can be.

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