Limited Sight; Unbounding Vision
Disability often cripples one’s dreams and breaks their wings, but there are people who see beyond their disability and rise like a phoenix from the ashes. White Cane Day celebrates such people with limited sight but enormous vision!
Like Louis Braille who wanted to read since his childhood, prompting him to invent the Braille system of reading and writing for the blind when he was only 15, or Helen Keller who broke all shackles to become the first visually challenged person to earn a degree and then become an advocate for people with disabilities. There are numerous people among us who have achieved success despite their vision impairment. They have shown the world that being visually impaired is not a hurdle to reaching your goals and accomplishing great things.
Listed below are 6 famous people with visual impairments including total blindness, sight conditions, or blindness in one eye.
The legendary Bollywood music director, Ravindra Jain, was born blind. His father spotted his musical talent while he was still young and arranged for him to be formally trained. Ravindra Jain overcame his visual impairment and gave us iconic music, memories of which are imprinted in the minds of music lovers across generations. He became one of the most notable music directors of the 1970s with innumerable hits to his credit, including Saudagar, Chor Machaye Shor, Chitchor, Geet Gaata Chal, Fakira, Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se, and many more. He was also awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award of the Republic of India in 2015 for his contribution to the arts.
A visually impaired cricketer and former captain of the India National Blind Cricket team, Shekhar Naik regained 60% vision in his right eye after a successful surgery. In 2000, he was enlisted into the Karnataka team and in 2002 into the national blind cricket team. In 2010 Shekhar Naik went on to captain the Indian team. Under his captaincy, the team won the T20 Blind Cricket World Cup in 2012 and Blind Cricket World Cup in 2014. In 2017, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. Apart from playing and coaching, Shekhar works as a sports coordinator for an NGO called Samarthanam, which funds the Cricket Association for the Blind in India.
A singer-songwriter, musician, and producer, Stevie Wonder is often considered a musical genius and a pioneer in many musical genres. A child prodigy, he lost vision due to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). However, his disability did not stop him from making it big in the music industry. From teaching himself to play the harmonica when he was 5 to learning to play the drums by mimicking the rhythm from the radio when he was 8, Stevie Wonder became the youngest solo artist ever welcomed into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he sold more than 100 million albums and won 25 Grammy’s!
More famously known as Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Johnny Depp is blind in one eye and near-sighted in the other. It wasn’t until a 2013 interview in Rolling Stone magazine that he revealed his visual impairment. “I’ve never had proper vision,” he said. “Everything is just very, very blurry.” Depp has long been one of Hollywood’s biggest and quirkiest stars. In addition to the successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, he starred in Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hollow, and Edward Scissorhands. Apart from being an actor who has won many accolades, he is also a musician.
The first visually impaired person to join the Indian Administrative Service, Pranjal Patil, was born with weak eyesight and completely lost vision by age 6. She appeared for the UPSC exams twice - in 2016 and then in 2017, her rank in 2016 was 744, but on her second attempt, she secured an All-India rank of 124. Pranjal Patil never took coaching for IAS preparations. She used special software that dictated the books out loud to her. Even though one of her senses was not available, she used the advantage of her hearing ability and cracked the challenging UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) exams. After her first attempt in the civil services exam, she tried to secure a job in the Indian Railways Accounts Service but was denied the job due to her impairment, this only made her resolve to get into the services greater. Pranjal Patil is currently posted in Kerala and is currently the Sub-Collector of Thiruvananthapuram.
A two-time Olympian and two-time Paralympian in Track & Field events, Marla Runyan, was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration that causes central vision loss and legal blindness, at the age of 9. In 1992 and 1996, she represented the U.S. in the Paralympic Games, winning five gold medals and setting numerous world records in the T13 classification for athletes with visual impairments. Despite her limited vision, Marla Runyan went on to qualify and compete in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials in the heptathlon where she was placed 10th against fully sighted athletes. In 2000, she made history when she earned a spot in the U.S. Olympic Team - the first time a visually impaired athlete and Paralympian had qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team. Marla Runyan is considered one of America's most versatile athletes in U.S. Track and Field history.
As we commemorate White Cane Day, we at S.R.Gopal Rao would like to salute every visually impaired person who has broken the mould and persisted in moving upward. Every one of you has the potential to reach for the stars and we are sure you will!