Last year, Make48 held a city competition at the Kansas State School for the Blind, a first of its kind for both KSSB and Make48. The competition came through flawlessly, and our team learned how truly special this occasion was. KSSB has incredible relationships with the visually-impaired community. One organization in particular is working to make the world more inclusive for the blind. Blind Spot KC is a nonprofit that is creating a movement.
Chris and Nicole Carr are the founders who created the Blind Spot KC out of necessity. Nicole reached out to the community after they discovered their son, Mac, was born blind. While Mac was attending The Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired, Nicole inquired about fundraising for the school by putting together a gala. Over the next 2 years, the fundraiser “Illuminate”, raised almost $200k for the school. When Mac transitioned to the DeSoto public school district, Nicole and Chris started Blind Spot KC.
The mission of Blind Spot is to bring inclusion to the visually impaired community. Chris Carr said, “The blind is a forgotten class. We’re really trying to change how the sighted view the visually blind.” One of the ways they do that is through their immersion experiences. These experiences allow the sighted to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be blind. “The ROKC, an indoor rock climbing company, donated their entire space last year for the immersion experience. In the experience, the sighted climbed a 50 foot wall blindfolded. They got an understanding of what it's like to be blind and it showed the capabilities of the visually-impaired.”
Chris was a judge at the KSSB event and found the event to be right up his alley. Not only did he judge, but their foundation contributed to the event in a big surprise.
Blind Spot gifted each first-place winning team member an Eone Timepiece, courtesy of Eone.
These timepieces allow you to feel the time by touch. Using raised, magnetically moving markers, users simply run their finger over the markers where the ball bearings are located.
On top of the gift, Blind Spot generously handed out $1,000 to each of the teams who didn’t place first! Chris loved the event and has worked with our CEO to further the idea of bringing visually-impaired students to Make48. “When I spoke to Tom Gray about holding the event, KSSB had the fastest level of interest. As a parent, it’s tough to bring inclusivity experiences where both parties want to engage. I’m not surprised at how quickly spots (for the competition) filled up. There’s a lack of attention this community receives. It’s great how this competition showed that, with just a little help and coaching, these students can be just as good as someone with sight.”
All the teams at KSSB were led by a team captain, sponsored by a company. Most of the captains had never worked with the blind community, and left with a new outlook. A whole new set of meaningful relationships were born after just 48 hours. “It really shows that these kids are normal people too.” Chris noted. “Yes, they have a different ability. But let’s get behind them and show they’re not very different from us. My son Mac, who’s almost completely blind and only 5, can navigate our house by himself. You have to empower them.”
An annual gala is the Blind Spot’s main fundraising event. Their foundation counts on sponsorships and individuals to help bring awareness to the community and offer mentoring and training. According to the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS), approximately 547,083 children have vision difficulty in the U.S. Expanding knowledge, gaining perspective and creating opportunities about the blind are first and easy steps to make. I asked Chris what advice he would give someone, who is visually-impaired, on seeking career opportunities. “Reach out to organizations who help with the placement of visually impaired individuals or research accessible companies. Or even reach out to schools for the blind and use their resources.”
“There’s a lot of accommodations that can be made, and so much to be learned.” Chris noted. “I think a lot of employers run because of the liability. What if they fall? What if they hurt themselves? There’s a lot of education that’s missing. And part of the mission at the Blind Spot is we ask the companies who sponsor our events to come out and see it. We hope we can bridge that gap. The visually impaired and blind are intellectual people, and through adaptive technology (especially in today's world) they can work for you and do a good job. There has to be a WANT to do it, but also overcoming the fear of the unknown, if you will.”
Studies suggest that the benefits of hiring people with disabilities include improvements in profitability, competitive advantage, and inclusive work culture, to name just a few. Chris gave an example from his friend at Boeing. “My friend works at Boeing, and they have an entire department of people who are visually-impaired. They have adaptive (computer) software with screen readers & magnifiers. They're able to perform their jobs with as much accuracy as their sighted peers.”
Blind Spot KC has an array of experiences for both the blind and sighted. A few of their immersive events include a Blind Dining Experience, Pop-Up Happy Hour and Blindfolded at the movies. Thank you to Chris and Nicole Carr for their tremendous support at the KSSB-Make48 event. Their organization is changing the lives of the students and bringing attention to the visually impaired community. Learn more about this amazing foundation at the https://blindspotkc.org/