Q&A With Kit: Can a legally blind person enjoy fireworks?

Hello! This is Kit, and this week I am coming at you with another Q&A video. Next week I’ll talk more about my time at DeafBlind Citizens in Action Young Adult program but today is the 4th of July! Woooh! Ok, so every year the general public is stunned that a blind (and deaf) person can enjoy the festivities of the 4th of July. Particularly Fireworks. Yes, that’s right I love fireworks. I am a ridiculously huge fan of fireworks actually. I try not to miss a display if I can avoid it. One of the most magical moments of my life was riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney World and watching the colourful explosions above me on the ride. And really Disney is the most magical place on earth and I’ll tell you why in another video.

Anyway, how is it possible for a DeafBlind person to enjoy fireworks? Well, I’ll tell you. For me, my biggest problem is light sensitivity and the contrast of the black sky with the colors, bright fiery colors, actually is perfect for me. Unless it’s the big bright ones which tend to hurt my eyes. But fireworks tend to be in that range of perfectly dim enough for them not to hurt, and bright enough that they’re very clear for me. And my vision is such that the little dots in the fireworks actually look like little tiny exploding stars, because I get a halo effect.

It’s not true that every blind or deafblind person is going to enjoy going to fireworks. But in general, I find that most people who have some level of usable vision will enjoy a firework display because they’re pretty easy to see. Now that’s not to say that everyone will enjoy GOING to a fireworks display. Whether they can see them or not. Fireworks have a lot of crowds, and people who are a blind tend to be a little more nervous in crowds because it’s very difficult to navigate. So, it almost always means that you’re going to be relying on a sighted guide, and if the person you’re going with is not a good sighted guide, that’s just the way it is and you might not want to go.

You also can’t take a guide dog with you, because it’s not really a guide dog friendly event. I’ve only taken one dog to a firework display show, that was my first dog because I was going to Disney World, and I knew she was going to need to work through a display. Other 4th of July celebrations can also be kind of daunting for people with low vision. Large BBQs can be difficult to navigate, if you’re DeafBlind it’s hard to hear. Or, just navigating an unfamiliar space. Someone with low vision may or may not be comfortable playing with sparklers. I hate water gun fights, I don’t like being surprise squirted by water guns… and I’m not comfortable. So, I do what I’m comfortable with, leave what I’m not, and I try to communicate with my friends and family who are with me that day.

Public service announcement: don’t leave your blind or DeafBlind friends, standing where you’re going to be setting off fireworks. Just… Don’t do that… [laughter]

Everyone have a happy and safe 4th of July! And I will see you in another video.

Q&A: Who is Kit Anyway?

Hello! So, I’ve been making these videos for about a month now, and thought it was time for an introduction video.

As you know, my name is Kit Englard, and I am DeafBlind. I moved to New Jersey about a year ago from Pennsylvania, and the first thing every single person I ever meet wants to know about me is my blind and deaf story. Ah, so real quick:

I was born low vision, but it wasn’t caught until I was 12 years old. My prescription changed every 6 months and the doctor finally eerily told my parents that was slowly going blind, but he didn’t know why. I was later diagnosed with Intracranial Hypertension after I woke up one day in extreme eye pain. So, my vision is unstable, it is slowly getting worse, because I actually have two eye conditions. One makes it unstable, and the other one just makes it steadily get worse.

Last year I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, which is a disease in the ear. It causes balance issues and it also causes vertigo spells. I have bilateral Meniere’s disease, meaning I have it in both ears.

So how much can I see and hear, is the second most popular question I get asked. I am legally blind, meaning I have 20/200 vision. I am also severely photophobic actually I’m facing a window right now, and it is really hurting my eyes. And I have low frequency, mild-moderate hearing loss. Depending on which ear.

I do travel with a seeing eye dog, which is unusual for someone with my level of vision. Sometimes people think I have “too much vision”, I don’t. I have a Seeing Eye dog because I am severely photophobic and I am completely blind in sunlight and at night. I refer to her as O’Hara on the internet, because in college I had an issue where people knew the name of my dog. Even people who didn’t go to my school, and people would yell at her from across the street and it almost caused accidents and I almost died. So, here on public forums I call her O’Hara. She is a golden retriever, and she is almost 5, and I love her.

I am an active member of the orthodox Jewish community, I do a lot with the Deaf Jewish community as well. This June I’m excited to be going to my first DeafBlind Jewish weekend event, which is called a DeafBlind Jewish Shabbaton. So, modern orthodoxy means that I am observant I dress modestly, I keep the laws of kosher, I’m Shabbos observant—meaning I keep all the laws for the Jewish sabbath and holidays. I try to be involved in study groups stuff like that to learn more about Torah and more about Judaism, that’s what I do.

I started this blog to help parents, and students, and anyone else out there looking for resources on how to get better connected in the science field. People with disabilities make up a very tiny portion of STEM students and professionals. I know growing up I didn’t know about resources and my mother didn’t know about resources, and I don’t want a lack of awareness to be a reason why children and young adults don’t get opportunities in the STEM fields because I think everyone deserves equal access to science and mathematics education. If that is something they want to pursue.

There are also a lot of myths around people with disabilities, and what they can and can’t do. I know as a student in math and physics, I was constantly told that I couldn’t go on to be a researcher, and that I needed to focus on becoming a teacher for the blind—even though I didn’t want to be a teacher of the blind. And I don’t want that to be a barrier either. People with disabilities are perfectly capable of going into the sciences computer science, what-ever you want, because we can do that too! I am trying, to sort of fight that stigma as well.

So, in my spare time I enjoy reading, and writing obviously, I like knitting… I enjoy… I play D&D in my spare time. I am part of an ASL D&D group. I also enjoy hula hooping and I enjoy running.

Well, that was today’s video. Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments. I’m happy to answer questions about blindness, or DeafBlindness, or finding a good D&D group, ahhh, science and math resources for kids, braille, ahhh, hearing aids, I don’t know what-ever. What-ever’s on your mind, ask about it in the comment section I am happy to give you an answer if I can. I will see you later.