Jeff and Sarah Overmars started dating in 2004, when Jeff was two-thirds of the way toward his certain fate of blindness. (Their courtship was off-the-charts romantic. I don’t want to give it away; just listen!)
Jeff has Choroideremia, a rare eye disease that causes a person to see flashing lights and patches of darkness until, eventually, they can no longer see anything at all.
These are scans that Jeff’s doctor took of the backs of his eyes in 2007. The dark spots show areas where Jeff’s eyes were not capable of processing images. Today, Jeff is pretty much blind in his left eye, and you can see, that eye has more darkness.
Jeff and Sarah decided to have kids sooner than they might’ve otherwise, so that Jeff would have a chance of seeing them at least a little bit before he lost his vision.
Parenting, under the best of circumstances, causes tension in a marriage. In this episode, we explore the fate of romance when, on top of everything else, one partner can not see.
Jeff’s Favorite Resources for Visually Impaired Parents
The Choroideremia Research Foundation Canada and its U.S. counterpart, The Choroideremia Foundation, are funding research toward treatment treatment for people with the condition that Jeff has. Jeff says the clinical trials are looking promising.
For a couple of years, when Jeff lived in Toronto, he worked for Balance for Blind Adults in Toronto, a non-profit that helps visually impaired adults live independent, active lifestyles.
Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness by John Hull was the first book that made Jeff consider the idea that he might not see his children’s faces.
The Difference That Disability Makes by Rod Michalko was a transformative book for Jeff in terms of defining himself as a disabled person. Rod and his partner Tanya were sociology professors who taught at the university where Jeff studied for his undergrad degree. Jeff says, “Rod was completely blind, a big personality, blues-loving, former football playing, thoughtful and sometimes cantankerous down-to-earth friend. He left a big impression. Studying under him and Tanya, I gained insight into how disability is a manifestation of personal definitions and social constructs, plus the physical environment. They helped me be critical of any barriers I encountered, whether they were create by me or someone else, and not to shy away from challenging those barriers or conventions.”
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Wedding photo: Beth Kates