Freshman shares story about life-altering genetic deficit

Most people take their everyday skills for granted without realizing that not everyone has the same abilities.

A category of dispositions that is most commonly taken for granted is the five senses. Most people do not think about what their life would be like without one of these five senses. For freshman Owen Norris, being without one of these senses is a reality.

Norris has been declared legally blind at birth due to a genetic disease. While this is a very difficult and unfortunate condition for someone to live with, Norris still tries his best to make the most out of everything life throws at him.

Norris describes his condition as “being able to see most things, just not as clearly or as easily as most people can.”

Norris, because of the loss of the use of his vision, relies mostly on his hearing. Instead of seeing and taking notes, he has to listen to the reading of the notes aloud and usually records the teacher so he can replay it in case he misses anything.

Most tasks a normal student finds tedious or annoying, such as taking notes, is something that proves to be essential and helpful once that task cannot be done. Norris would like to be able to see and take notes and do other things of this sort, but instead, has to find ways to get these notes besides reading them.

Located in the library is a braille printer which Norris frequently uses to take tests and complete homework. Norris learned to read and write in braille when he was only in third grade.

Although everything in school is slightly more difficult for him, Norris has learned to work with his condition and still does very well.

“I think even though school is more challenging for me, I still have the same amount of stress that most students my age do,” Norris said.

To help relieve the stress from school, Norris likes to play the guitar which he has been playing for four years now.

Norris’ mother explains that “Owen has a great ear for music. He plays keyboard and also the guitar both by ear. He loves most types of music and has enjoyed music since he was very young.”

Upon being asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Norris said he would like to be a sound engineer; however, along with this career, he wishes to prove to everyone that he can do things just as everyone else does.

Norris is unsure of where he would like to attend college, but wishes to go somewhere with good programs for music producing and sound engineering.

Norris’s mother explains the gene her son has that causes his blindness.

“The gene, NF or neurofibromatosis, which caused Owen’s loss of sight was inherited through my family. No one else  in my family has a loss of sight, however. There are two types of  Neurofibromatosis: NF1 and NF2. One can cause deafness and the other tumors and rarely sight problems,” Mrs. Norris said.

Often times Norris’s mother worries about people judging her son. Not only does this judgment come from peers but also from some adults who are afraid of getting to know a person with vision problems.

He is frustrated at times to find places where he feels that he fits in. Norris is unable to play sports which eliminates finding friends on a team.

Not being able to see as well as most of his peers and other people in general is the only world Norris has ever known; therefore, he has not had to learn to cope with his disability. He has simply learned to grow with/through his condition.

Hiking is one thing Norris and his family enjoy doing together that has also become a little trickier for them.

“When we hike now, we choose trails that are mostly clear. Our family loves being in the woods, but we are more aware of trails with tree roots and large rocks, but we work around it easily. We watch for the word ‘accessible’ now,” Norris’s mother said.

There is one person who inspires Norris the most according to his mother: his brother Matthew.

“Matthew works with the homeless in Denver at below poverty level pay himself.  Matthew’s work ethic in giving of himself regardless of whatever job needs done inspires Owen to try his hardest at school and all things he must do,” Norris’s mother said.

Norris does not want to be excluded out of anything most other kids do just because of his condition. In fact, his condition has taught him to try new things, even if he is unsure of the outcome.

While being as impaired as he is, Norris has learned to be strong and has actually benefited from his condition instead of letting it bring him or his family down.

Norris said, “ I want to prove to everyone everywhere that people with disabilities can do all the same things every other normal person is capable of doing.”


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