Kai is Kinda Proud that he has learned to define himself, rather than allowing his sight loss to define him

Do you have an ‘Eye Inspire’ story of #Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss you’d like to share?

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Or contact: yvette@syncinspire.org

Kai Owens from Georgia in the US is determined to be the best version of himself he can possibly be; being classed as legally blind doesn’t stop him setting his sights on dreams that many sighted people don’t even hold; what an inspiration he is at only 17! Hear what Kai gets up to below …

            I am a legally blind action sports enthusiast. I surf, skate, and I am sponsored for skim-boarding. I am also a musician; I play rock and blues locally, but spend most of my time practicing extreme metal. I also have had the highest GPA in my grade for six of the past seven years (one year of those six was a tie). I refuse to let anything stand in the way of my goals and dreams. I believe that anyone can accomplish anything if they are willing to put in the time and work.

I started losing my vision in 3rd grade at the age of 10. My parents knew something was wrong because I started having super bad anxiety for the first time ever, and we began the trips to doctors trying to figure out why. My mom then realized that it was something to do with my vision when I was writing on a paper and kept starting in the middle of the page. So we went to an eye doctor and they could not fix my vision with glasses, so they sent us on the journey to several other eye doctors where I was eventually diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. But it was seemingly unusual. And now, I am back to doctors once more trying to figure out what it is exactly. I am now 17 and have very little central vision except for a small spot in the center of each eye, and I still have some of my peripheral vision.

I grew up doing board sports from as young as 3 years old. My older brother liked skateboarding, so I learned quickly. By age five, I was dropping in on five foot quarter pipes and trying to shred.   I also began skim-boarding at around age 4 on our occasional beach trips. Jumping forward several years, I attended a skim-boarding camp on my home beach with World Champion Austin Keen. He was impressed and very supportive and ended up helping me get sponsored by the company that he rides for, Exile Skimboards. I began attending competitions which ended in varying levels of success but definitely surprised the audience when they were told I am legally blind. In the middle of all of this, I learned to surf, wakeboard, longboard, and recently, I learned to snowboard. I met many challenges in these sports but none were impassible. I always found ways around my obstacles. In skateboarding, I usually skate with my cane, and just make sure I know the area and spot I am skating. In skim-boarding, I learn how the waves break at whatever beach I am at and find the placement and timing of the waves with my remaining sight, but if the glare is strange on the water I can have a friend call out when to go for a wave. In snowboarding, I had a guide wearing a vest calling out turns while riding in front of me, so I could follow his path, and we would sometimes go over the basic route of the run before starting down the slope and stopped when I needed more information on the slope.

I began my journey in music at age 12 on drum-set. Now, I have been playing for nearly seven years and have played many gigs and learned tons of songs. I am especially interested in progressive metal and technical deathcore, where the drumming is insane. From odd time signatures to nested tuplets and metric modulation, I am fascinated with advanced rhythmic concepts. Out of this love for drumming came an interest in all music theory and all types of music. I now plan to attend college for music theory and composition with plans to be a performer and possibly a professor.

In school, I have also had my challenges and successes. I had to learn braille and assistive technology to be able to access material for honors and AP classes, and braille has been one of the most important things I have ever learned. I also use a cane for all my travel and have been approved for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes and am awaiting a match. Learning the hard things and putting in the extra work is what I had to do to be successful. As someone with a visual impairment, there are no shortcuts; it is all just grinding out the work that needs to be done and learning the necessary skills.

Nothing is easy if it is worthwhile. Learning and perfecting a skill takes time and no matter what your physical abilities are that stands true. So along with this ideology, I had to accept my vision loss quickly and fully, because I had goals and refused to be left in the dust. I am legally blind, and I would rather be the best visually impaired version of myself than be in denial pretending like everything was okay while being a fake, unsuccessful person acting sighted. Refusing to accept your situation will never make it better, and if I hadn’t accepted myself, I would not have accomplished anything near what I have now. Being blind/VI is one part of a person, do not let it define you; define yourself.

Follow Kai at: https://www.facebook.com/navigatingblindness/ 

Do you have an ‘Eye Inspire’ story of #Emerging Proud through Eye Sight Loss you’d like to share?

Please GET IN TOUCH HERE

Or contact: yvette@syncinspire.org

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