Jody Peterson and I share some similarities; we both take action, we love involving our families in our pursuit of adventures, and we both happen to be blind. Like Jody, I also battled with accepting my condition as a teen and pushed away help. It wasn’t until I accepted blindness as part of my life that new paths opened up before me. Once Jody went through that same process he was able to dive in (pun intended) to new and exciting experiences:
“As a young person who was in the process of losing his sight, I struggled. I remember lugging around giant books of large print that wouldn’t quite fit in my backpack. I couldn’t see the board and missed information. I was afraid and embarrassed to read out loud in class when my eyes couldn’t process the data fast enough, and ultimately, I was just too ashamed to ask for help.
Some of my problems resulted from not being honest with both myself and others as to how my vision loss was progressing. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was going blind. As I got older and embraced my situation, I found myself being less stressed and anxious. In my adulthood, I could concentrate on finding solutions and enjoy life instead of trying to hide the fact that I am blind.
In 2015, after living in the cold Michigan winters for many years, my wife, Cherie and I moved with our kids to the Jacksonville, Florida area. It was the perfect backdrop to explore a sport I had always been curious about: scuba diving. As a blind person, I am interested in the sensation of freedom and weightlessness that you experience under water.
I signed up for a “Try Scuba” event at a local recreation center and found myself, alongside my family, at the bottom of the pool breathing through regulators and experiencing something new. One of the coolest things for me was that it was something that all four of us could do as a family, with the added benefit that it took all of us out of our comfort zone. I use specialized equipment for blind scuba diving – for example, I have a full-face dive mask that has wireless communications built in. This adaptation allows me to communicate underwater to my dive buddy, who can describe the fish, the landscape, and other details to me. I continue to look for new technology, like an accessible dive computer that would voice crucial data such as depth and air pressure remaining.
I am an avid believer in using accessible technology to enhance my life. I use a screen reader to do my job in the Information Technology field, an accessible voice-over iPhone in daily life, and my wife pilots our tandem bike on the weekends. Adding scuba diving to that list of activities has opened the door and sparked my interest in doing even more. I want to move technology forward to help people like me overcome obstacles and continue to push the envelope.”
Since that day in the pool, Jody and his family completed their training to become open-water certified and have done several dive trips, including a week-long trip to Cozumel, Mexico and a three-day trip to the Florida Keys. This year, they will be taking two international trips to Curacao and Roatan.
Jody continues to be an advocate for bringing other blind folks into the sport of scuba diving. Way to dive deep, Jody!