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PODCAST #26:

Blind Love

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-sarah-wedding

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-left-eye-squareJeff-right-eye-square-2

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.

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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.”

Jeff also very much relates to fellow blind dad Ryan Knighton’s writing in Cockeyed and C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark.

Got other resource suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

Wedding photo: Beth Kates

8 thoughts on “PODCAST #26: Blind Love

  1. I am a blind stay at home mother to two, and feel like I so rarely see confident successful disabled parents depicted in the media– so just loved this!
    When I was pregnant with my first daughter I got some great advice from Through the Looking Glass (lookingglass.org) and from the National Federation for the Blind’s blind parents’ email list serve — like sew bells on your children’s shoes and safety pinning parts of matching outfits together right when they come off your kid and before putting in the laundry. Little things like this help, but it does not change the fact that parenting blind, like parenting in general, can be hard sometimes… when I just can’t find those damn baby wipes, or my most recent favorite… when people stop me and my kids on the street to ask me– where am I going, do I need help? Do I know it is icy on the sidewalk… and then when I politely decline their help and further inquiries they lean down and tell my daughter that she has to be a big girl and help mommy do such and such. Doesn’t really make you feel great when a stranger tells your kid that they need to take care of you, that child’s parent…

    But then there are the funny things too… like when my daughter was two, and was trying to get my attention by acting out. She was not getting the reaction she wanted fast enough apparently because she started hollering “Mama! I’m dancing on the table naked!“
    And so she was…
    You really can’t beat that.

    And one last thing… can I say? I love the naming of the cane… “Stanley”… fabulous! I am going to have to name my cane now… I am thinking it will make me feel a lot less old to be saying… “where is Stanley?” or whatever rather than “where is Mama’s cane?”

    1. Sarah, thank you so much for leaving this comment. I love the dancing naked on the table story! I’d love to know what you name your cane once you decide…

    2. hi Sarah, sharing our story with Hillary was a bit scary but we were in good hands, and are happy to know others enjoyed it. Thanks to Hillary of course, but you too for sharing your experiences as a parent with vision loss. It’s important to relate our experiences that can be so different at times, to know that it’s just different, and not wrong, selfish, bad or neglectful. I belong to a (closed) FB group for parents with vision loss facilitated by the local branch of the CNIB (formerly Canadian National Institute for the Blind), it’s a quiet group but I’m sure they would welcome you: https://www.facebook.com/groups/414409108586159/

  2. Thank you for this episode. I recently learned I may lose some vision (also from the periphery in). I haven’t let my mind start to contemplate parenting with visual impairment just yet (I have a 2-year-old), and this was a gentle but informative way to start that thought process. Thanks to you, Hillary, and to Jeff and Sarah for sharing your story.

  3. I realy enjoyed this program. My son has choroideremia and he is a couple of years older than Jeff. Fortunately, he has been doing quite well with the disease, being careful to protect his eyes from the Florida sun, taking vitamins, exercising and watrching his diet. I believe each of these activities help him! The recent advancehmennet is scientific research to stop the progression of this disease and hopeful helpf individuals regain sight is inspirational!

    Stuart

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