As some of you might know, my eyesight is limited. With visual acuity of 20/1600 in my left eye, which I don’t use at all, and 20/200 in my right eye. I also have nystagmus, making my eyes move rapidly from side to side uncontrollably. Luckily, my brain doesn’t show me things moving side-to-side most of the time, as it most likely adjusted to this when I was younger. It has returned on and off during the Fall of 2021 due to some trauma. I’m classified as being “legally blind.”
Being legally blind prohibits me from getting a driver’s license. I do wear some very powerful bifocals for reading. They are the most powerful magnifying lenses you can get in a set of eyeglasses. I believe they are a magnification of 10.
So, where am I going with all of this? I want to share a story about my elementary, junior high school, and high school years that helped shape the person I now am.
My parents recognized early on that I had problems with my vision. I remember my dad using the wooden letter “E” painted white to get me to mimic the position of the “E” he was holding up. Once it was determined that I had limited vision, the eye doctor at Columbia Presbyterian in NYC hooked my parents up with an organization known as the Industrial Home for the Blind (IHB), which is now known as the Helen Keller Institute.
The Industrial Home for the Blind helped shape me by doing two things. The first is providing an aide that came to my school 2-3 times a week. This person was Mrs. Henrietta Goldstein.
I remember bracing to hear Mrs. Goldstien’s voice come over the classroom PA system, as frankly, I was kind of embarrassed. “PLEASE SEND BRUCE DOWN TO THE OFFICE” is what I remember. I would then head down to meet Mrs. Goldstein, where we ate lunch and talked, and she helped me with my school work.
I was fortunate enough to have worked with Mrs. Goldstein from 1st grade until 11th grade. Several events throughout the year gathered other blind and low vision students from around Long Island for picnics, sporting events, and other outings. It was a chance for me to be with other kids like me.
Mrs. Goldstein passed away in 2004, and I want to express my gratitude for spending time with me each week, helping me navigate life, and being a “different” student.
The second thing that impacted me was another service offered by the IHB. Every Saturday, I would head to Patchogue, NY, and spend 3-4 hours at an IHB center with other blind and low-vision kids. A gentleman named Tom Jasikoff ran it. It helped me figure out how to socialize with other kids with low vision, navigate society, and be an inspirational individual.
I am also highly thankful to the IHB for providing me with handheld telescopes. I used to see blackboards, large-print books, eyeglasses, and many other things.
And of course, I need to also express gratitude to my family for the support they provided.
More on life as a low-vision person is coming soon. Thanks for reading.