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Darrel's Story

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      A headshot of Darrel Kirby

      Written by Darrel Kirby

      A boy awoke one day consumed by an immense cloud, stuck and absolutely afraid. The boy is me, Darrel Kirby, and that immense cloud was blindness. In the prime of my life as a 20 year old University of Iowa junior studying psychology and working at a bookstore, I was completely unprepared and devastated when the cloud struck. Diabetes, diagnosed at age four, had now, sixteen years later, delivered the additional fate of blindness, and nothing could stop its progression. After seven months filled with surgeries, painful tears and growing anger, I was left totally blind. I was suddenly in a world I could neither understand nor navigate.

      I withdrew from college and the world, moving back to my parent’s home in Colesburg, Iowa in the hope they would have some answers for me. I soon realized they had no solutions. They knew no more about what to expect from or how to deal with blindness than I did. Hopes for my future quickly dwindled. I started to accept what I saw as my fate and lowered my expectations.

      At the time, I thought that dark cloud ruining my life was blindness. I now realize it was fear of the unknown. Fear of failure drained my hopes and turned off all belief in myself. Without a belief in my inner strength and ability, I could not move forward. To me, belief in its simplest form is all we need to find the strength to move on.

      I found my strength from the belief of others who understood the truth about blindness. These people who challenged and pushed me came from two arenas, the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Both share a philosophy that says it is our attitude, and the attitude of others, that holds us back. Knowing the truth, that blindness need not be equated to tragedy or broken dreams, allowed me to once again have hope for my future success.

      Along with attitude, success requires fundamental skills to navigate a world designed for the sighted. I received these skills from the Iowa Department for the Blind when I attended the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center in 2003-2004.  At first I ran from Braille, the cane and computers. I wanted something more familiar, something easier.  I was afraid I did not have the inner strength or ability to learn these things. But, as I came to know and accept the truth about blindness, I began to gain back belief in myself and my ability to succeed. I began to routinely remind myself that everyone, blind or sighted, has the right to try and fail as well as the right to try and succeed. I hope all blind people eventually find their future success. Mine is a result of people believing in me and my abilities. That is the reason I applied to graduate school, received my Master’s degree in Social Work and have been working full-time for nearly four years as a substance abuse counselor.

      Through the National Federation of the Blind I am surrounded by others who believe in the rights and abilities of blind people. I regularly attend and participate in meetings of the NFB, because the organization provides positive belief reinforcement and solutions to issues I may encounter, whether they are in the area of technology, attitudes or advocacy.

      It would be great if I could provide an exact recipe for how to find success as a blind person, but the recipe is as individual as blind people. That being said, there are some basic, main ingredients. Success will require blindness skills, a support system, and effort and belief in oneself. I have discovered that technology can be very important, but it is not the technology itself so much as the willingness to try new things and find the best way to get the job done that spells success. So, how do you succeed as a blind person? Surround yourself with people who believe in you and won’t allow you to settle for less.