Noteworthy blind and visually impaired individuals who continue to make a difference

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In honor of White Cane Safety Day we celebrate the achievements of blind and visually impaired persons at home and abroad!


Helen Keller - (1880 - 1968)
Helen Keller – (1880 – 1968)

Helen Keller – (1880 – 1968) – Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. She was not born blind and deaf; it was not until nineteen months of age that she came down with an illness described by doctors as “an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain”, which could have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes.

Stevie Wonder - (born May 13, 1950)
Stevie Wonder – (born May 13, 1950)

Stevie Wonder – (born Steveland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, name later changed to Steveland Hardaway Morris), is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. Blind from infancy, Wonder signed with Motown Records as a pre-adolescent at age twelve, and continues to perform and record for the label to this day. It is thought that he received excessive oxygen in his incubator which led to retinopathy of prematurity, a destructive ocular disorder affecting the retina, characterized by abnormal growth of blood vessels, scarring, and sometimes retinal detachment.

Rebecca Sieruga (GSSGC Girl Scout)
Rebecca Sieruga (GSSGC Girl Scout)

Rebecca  Sieruga – Ever since Becky was diagnosed with Stickler Syndrome, a disease that has slowly taken away her hearing and eyesight, Girl Scouting has been right there with her. In fact, it was Becky’s enthusiasm to attend Girl Scout camp in kindergarten which led to a physical exam that alerted doctors to her condition.  Her Gold Award mission was to educate the public and increase awareness about better communicating with deaf individuals.

James Thurber - (December 8, 1894-November 2, 1961)
James Thurber – (December 8, 1894-November 2, 1961)

James Thurber – (December 8, 1894-November 2, 1961) James Thurber was a comedian and cartoonist most known for his contributions to New Yorker Magazine. While playing with his brothers William and Robert, William shot him in the eye with and arrow while playing a game of William Tell making him almost completely blind after the loss of an eye. At school James could not play sports with his friends due to this accident so he decided to work on his creative mind, putting his skills in writing.

Andrea Bocelli - (born 22 September 1958)
Andrea Bocelli – (born 22 September 1958)

Andrea Bocelli – (born 22 September 1958) Andrea Bocelli had become blind at the age of 12 years old following a football accident in which he was hit in the head. At 6 years old Bocelli was taking piano lessons before also learning the saxophone and the flute. His family would always ask him to sing, bocelli once said “I don’t think a singer decides to sing, it is the others who choose that you sing by their reactions”. Bocelli has also sung with other great singers such as Pavarotti.

Esref Armagan- (born 1953)
Esref Armagan- (born 1953)

Esref Armagan – Turkish painter Armagan creates oil landscape using his fingers as brushes.  His rich use of color and perspective characterize his work. Born without sight to an impoverished family, he taught himself to write and print. He has painted using oil paints for roughly thirty-five years. He has displayed his work at more than 20 exhibitions in Turkey, Italy, China, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. He has appeared several times on television and in the press in Turkey and has been on programs on BBC and ZD.

Molly Burke (18-year old speaker)
Molly Burke (18-year old speaker)

Molly Burke – Molly is the Youth Ambassador for The Foundation Fighting Blindness.  At 18, Molly is already an accomplished athlete, and performer, as well as a former Miss Teen Canada contestant. When she was just 4 years old, Molly Burke’s world began to darken: she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a retinal disease causing loss of vision. Drawing from deeply personal experiences, Molly brings audiences, especially students, a uniquely young and current perspective on issues many of them face each day. Her message—that any challenge in life, whether it’s bullying, mental illness or a loss of vision, can be overcome—resonates powerfully.


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