Readers will notice two stories on children who have visual impairments in the Friday, May 29 edition of the Quad-City Times.
You will meet Emily Groves, of Bettendorf, and Kyle Simmons, of Delmar, Iowa.
Emily starred in a commercial for a computer operating system that, among other things, makes movies accessible to the blind. The giant Comcast Corp. produced the commercial and it was televised during the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony. The seven-year-old is in the second grade at Pleasant View Elementary School and lives with her parents, Katie & Tyler Groves, and five siblings in rural Bettendorf.
Kyle, also seven years old, is the child of Stacy and Dan Simmons, and lives in Delmar. This is the hometown for his parents, and his grandparents live nearby. Kyle won the 2015 Brailler Award (a Brailler is called a typewriter for Braille) and several family members, from the different generations, attended the event on May 5 at Delwood Elementary School in the Eastern Iowa village.
Kyle has quite a cheering section and he is an active boy who loves snakes, snails and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I knew about the Brailler Award ceremony because of Mike Hoenig, a wonderful Davenport resident who has been blind since his youth, lived and was educated at the Iowa School for the Blind, Vinton. Mike advocates for people with disabilities in his job at the University of Iowa. Mike’s mother established the Brailler Award several years ago; the device costs around $700 and it given annually to an Iowa child who wins an essay contest.
Mike got in touch with me about the Brailler Award, and, separately, I was able to contact Katie and Tyler Groves. Hence, in May, I enjoyed spending time with the Simmons family in Delmar, and with the Groves family, who live near the Pleasant View school in Bettendorf.
This was an extraordinary experience: To start, both children are adept at using devices, and I was scrambling to keep up with what technological implement is used for which purpose. I can’t remember another story where I had to continually stop writing, check on a fact with a Google search, and then continue writing.
The challenge also exists because some of the language is different. Brailler? That was invented in the 1950s by the Perkins Products operation. This manufacturer is related to the Perkins School for the Blind, where Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, were educated. The historical links are present … throughout the stories.
A second observation I can make: Each person I spoke to for the stories was gracious, kind, responsive and attentive to my questions. I can’t remember another community of people who are so well-spoken and kind. None of my questions was considered “dumb,” (I don’t think!), and the aim of all sources was to educate, educate, educate the public about people who have vision impairments.
An estimated 8 million Americans are affected this way.
I hope you enjoy these two stories and the related information included, as well as the photos. I so enjoyed researching, and writing them!