It might come as a shock to you, but there are about 165,000 blind veterans out there, according to the Blind Veterans Association. In addition, 13% of the wounded troops pulled off the battlefield suffer some sort of vision impairment. Those who lose sight late in life are referred to as “newly blind.”
No one who cannot see has it easy, but it is tougher for those who suddenly lose their sight after a lifetime of relying on their eyes for just about everything. Imagine losing your vision right now. You have no life skills, no ability to rely on other senses to compensate – at least not right away.
Then imagine going to college. How do you do math? How do you know what is being written on the blackboard? Most colleges and universities provide services such as digitizers, recorders, and note takers once the students get into the classroom. Until then, however, the newly blind veterans must fend for themselves to prepare for school.
Blind organizations can train them to use equipment specialized for the visually impaired, but there are very few organizations who can prepare students before they step into the classroom.
I know this because of an organization that provides training and education for severely wounded veterans called the Wyakin Warrior program. Three of its students are newly blind. The following news report tells the story: “Recently blind veterans use new invention for college prep“.
Featured in the story is Vic Hill, a veteran and college professor who has developed a tool to bridge the gap between blind students and sighted teachers. It is specifically designed for math, the consensus pick for the toughest subject for blind students to master. He thought up the idea, built it, and is using it to prepare newly blind students for school. Once he perfects it, he plans to share the idea with other visually impaired veterans.
The capacity for veterans to dedicate their time and effort to help other veterans is a phenomena that never ceases to amaze me. It shouldn’t surprise me by now, but it always does. Well done, Vic. You’re our hero of the week.