A young woman practically blind from birth is doing things that amaze and inspire those around her, especially the younger ones. She’s helping other kids see what they can achieve.

The braille club at Forest Lakes Elementary School in Florida meets every few months. The visually impaired children delve into dots of dialogue, but the highlight of their day? Michelle Yongue. She’s their braille mentor and she’s legally blind.

“Given her challenges, she overcomes them,” says Susan Yongue, Michelle’s sister.

The 15-year-old honors student was born with rod-cone dystrophy. Her vision was never perfect and it gets worse and worse every year. She only sees shades of color and can’t decipher details, so she relies on her imagination and visual memory.

“I’ve done all these things and it kind of shows that you can do anything if you kind of put your mind to it,” says Michelle Yongue, a visually impaired student and mentor at Forest Lakes Elementary School.

When Michelle was in elementary school she says she didn’t want to learn braille or use her cane. Now she wants to be a doctor.

Michelle tells Ivanhoe, “I had to realize that if I wanted to be independent I had to do these things and really go out there and try it.”

Teacher Andrea Wallace says the vision students need each other to stay focused. Michelle is their inspiration.

“It’s really important they have mentors and older students that they can look up to,” says Forest Lakes Elementary School Teacher, Andrea Wallace.

“I can function the same way as a perfectly sighted kid can do,” concludes Michelle.

Michelle tells us she has an iPad, iPhone, and computer. They have screen readers which read everything on the screen, but pictures can still be a challenge.

 

LIVING WITHOUT SIGHT

 

The World Health Organization separates vision function into four categories: normal, moderate visual impairment, severe visual impairment, and blindness. So visual impairment can mean a slight loss of vision or total blindness in which the person is unable to see at all. Some vision loss can be corrected with simple aids such as glasses or contacts, but other impairments may require surgery, medicine, or may be too severe to help. It is currently estimated that 314 million people across the globe have some visual impairment and close to 45 million are blind. (Source: www.scripps.edu

 

Causes: Vision loss and blindness can be gradual or happen all at once depending on the cause of the impairment, although not all vision loss will lead to total blindness. The most common causes of vision loss and blindness include:

·         Injury to the Eye

·         Macular Degeneration

·         Diabetes

·         Cataracts

·         Glaucoma

·         Blocked Blood Vessels

·         Optic Neuritis

·         Premature Birth Complications