Facing College as a Visually Impaired Student- Through My Eyes

Facing College: Diverse Student Voices from Michigan State University

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Hey, guys. My name is Charlie. I am a freshman here at MSU and I’m majoring in finance or accounting. One day, I want to work at a large company, maybe EY or Deloitte, and work my way up the corporate ladder to become CEO.

When I have free time, I like going swimming, hanging with friends, going to sporting events and spending time with my family. Many people think I can’t do certain things because of my disability, but I can do just about anything anyone else can do…except drive, of course!

I was born with Leber Congenital Amaurosis (I call it LCA, don’t ask me how to spell it) which is a retinal disease. So, yes, I am visually impaired. I can see outlines of shapes and figures, I can tell if you’re blonde, and I do have to use a cane around campus, but it’s usually so people know I’m blind if I bump into them and they don’t think I’m just being a jerk.

I have two sisters, Taylor (who is a junior at MSU) and Lily (who is a sophomore in high school). I am very close to my family. It gets hard being away from my parents, especially at night, but I never get homesick. I just miss them. They’re back home in Chicago.

But I love college! I get up early, go get breakfast with my friends, go to class, do homework, get dinner, and then I go to swim practice. I love swimming.

All of my life, I have been told that I can’t do this or that, and it is just SO annoying! I can do just about anything any of you can do. Anyways, it motivated me that much more to prove myself in the sport of swimming and I did. Throughout high school, I won ten state titles. It was a competition specifically for visually impaired individuals, and I did well.

Like I said, people used to bully me all the time, and coming to college…Yeah, people are more mature, but I still get those people who just don’t understand. They tell me that I can’t do something, that there’s no way I could longboard, there’s no way I could ride a bike. But guess what? I can do those things, I’ve done them all of my life. Once people actually get to know me they see that I’m just the average Joe—I can go to class, I can eat by myself, I go to parties, I play sports, I do my homework. I might do things a little differently than other people, but that doesn’t change who I am.

People have asked me, “If you had the choice to be able to see now or when you were born, to live your life differently where you could see, would you do it?”

Why not? It doesn’t really matter to me whether I can see or not. It doesn’t make me incapable of doing any of the things I want to do. Here at MSU, I live a pretty normal day like anyone else. The only things I really have to do differently are that I read Braille, use my cane, and get help if I want it for studying.

One of the main reasons I chose MSU was because of the amazing Disability Office.  They are able to accommodate me in any way I need.  For example, there is a tutoring organization through the Disability Office called Tower Guard. I usually have someone come and assist me in any school assignments I am struggling in or any school subjects that are confusing to me. To reiterate, this program is  one of the main reasons I decided to go to MSU. They have one of the best Resources Center for Persons with Disabilities programs in the world. I knew I’d have a great support system here and that is why I am glad I chose this school.

This story originally appeared in Facing College: Diverse Student Voices, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

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