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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals

By: Ann Foxworth, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Alumnus

Abstract: Enjoy reading about this blind adult’s journey through life and how her family supported her to become independent and have a full and fulfilling life.

Keywords: blind, school, employment

Floyd and Mary McMullen rejoiced as they welcomed their third daughter into the world. But, after four months, they sat in the pediatrician’s office and were filled with fear and dismay as they listened to the doctor telling them their new baby daughter, Ann, was blind, and there was no procedure to restore her sight. Their hearts were heavy as they grieved for the loss of a normal life for their youngest child.

Floyd and Mary came from hard working families and they had excellent problem-solving skills. They made a decision to raise Ann using the same techniques they were using with their older daughters.

And so, Ann began her “normal” life, that her parents loved her enough to give her. They allowed Ann to find her own way through exploring her surroundings, always watchful, but never, ever hovering. She learned to roller skate, ride a bike and swim. Ann was enrolled in kindergarten at age five, and successfully and happily completed the program. At age six, Ann was placed into a contained classroom for blind children, in a public school, where she completed first through fifth grades.

The family was forced by changing circumstances, to move out of Fort Worth and the decision was made for Ann to complete her education at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), in Austin. Floyd and Mary’s hearts once again breaking, on Ann’s behalf, made the 200-mile journey to Austin and settled Ann into her new life as a student. As they returned home to face the imminent death of Floyd, due to a lung disease, they grieved for their little girl, just eleven years old, 200 miles away from them. But they kept that hope for a “normal” life for Ann at the front of their minds and worked through their grief.

Ann was happily settling into her new school; making friends and learning how to live in a community of peers. She received the news of her father’s death just three months after leaving home. Ann learned, many years later, just how desperately her father had longed to go to Austin and bring her home again, and how he had quelled that longing by reminding himself that Ann was learning to be independent and adjusting to life as a blind person.

Ann enjoyed seven happy years at TSBVI, where she studied hard, grew into a young adult, and found dreams of her own. Ann graduated with honors and set out, with a positive outlook, into the world. She entered the Business Enterprises of Texas program, where she managed cafeterias for over seven years. She married and welcomed her son, and seven years later, a daughter. Her life was full, and that “normal” life her parents hoped for was a reality. Her days were filled with raising her children, and all the challenges and rewards found in parenthood.

When her children were independent adults with their own lives, Ann, at age 43 decided to start a new career. She became the first blind person to hold a position as Rehabilitation Assistant at Division for Blind Services (DBS). She worked in this position at Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center for five years. During that time, Ann was often requested for substitute teaching needs across several departments at the Center. After five years, Ann was offered a position as a Rehabilitation Teacher, where she developed and administered a program for skills integration for students about to graduate from the Center’s programs.

Ann found another opportunity with Division for Blind Services as a braille transcriber. Her love for teaching and producing braille made this work a perfect fit for her. After two years in the Braille Unit, Ann was presented with yet another opportunity to live her passion to promote braille as literacy for all people who are blind, in a position as Statewide Braille Consultant. She developed and administered a program for providing DBS Field and Center Rehabilitation Teachers the skills to teach braille. She wrote several manuals for use by teachers of braille, which proved invaluable to the agency’s seventy Rehabilitation Teachers across the state.

Ann is an active member of the American Council of the Blind, an organization that promotes independence and self advocacy for all blind Americans. She is active in her church, serving on boards, committees, and community outreach programs. Floyd and Mary’s dream for their youngest daughter to have a full, productive and “normal” life, has been realized. They gave the greatest gift they could; the gift of loving support, and letting go.