Guided by the blind: Butler University will soon debut a campus guide app to aid visually impaired students

Although my son did not attend Butler, the university is an example of what a just released study by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. on higher education.

Panos Linos, Butler University professor of computer science and software engineering, and one of the student developers. Linos started developing GuideDawg 1.0 in 2015, an app to guide Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired students around their building. Students at ISBVI and other campuses usually have to be accompanied by someone to navigate campus until they memorize their route. (Butler University)

As a Mom of a blind son who attended a few colleges/universities until he found the perfect fit, the Indiana School for the Blind and now Butler University app resource is appreciated. With a $19K seed grant, Butler University students who are visually impaired, will have an app to help guide them around campus. This is a novel idea that should be duplicated throughout the world’s university and college campuses.

Although my son did not attend Butler, the university is an example of what a just released study by Moody’s Investors Service, Inc. on higher education. The leading credit rating and risk analysis firm also upgraded the higher education sector from negative to stable over the next year to 18 months, based on the large, “comprehensive universities” strong financial performance from endowments, gifts and related non-tuition dependent income.

From Moody’s (Dec. 10, 2019):
“Over the longer term, social risks will continue to transform the US higher education sector, with demographic changes presenting both challenges and opportunities. While traditional-age enrollment may decline, expanding online programs and growing workforce needs will provide new types of learners with access to higher education. Governance will remain a key differentiator among higher education institutions, Moody’s says. Those that are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and take appropriate action where necessary will fare better than those that remain reactive.”

New types of learners and non-traditional students will serve as the largest group of college and university students. Take heed, university and college administrators, faculty, alumni, students and parents. There has long been a hashtag for individuals to #staywoke. This same hashtag is relevant for university and college administrations. I say 🔗 the dots. Connect the dots!

After the 1.0 version of the app was developed in 2015, Panos Linos, Butler University professor of computer science and software engineering, and a team of students are developing second version o…THEBUTLERCOLLEGIAN.COMProfessors, students develop GuideDawg 2.0: a mobile app designed to help blind or visually impaired students 

Mother’s Day 2019 article that appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper

Once counted out to survive his birth trauma, John received his bachelor’s degree in psychology during Mother’s Day weekend 2019. He is now in graduate school.

My blind son opened my eyes to the world | Opinion

Ann Wead Kimbrough, Your TurnPublished 4:00 a.m. ET May 12, 2019 | Updated 11:58 a.m. ET May 12, 2019CONNECTTWEETLINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE

John Charles Kimbrough graduates this weekend from Lindenwood University.

John Charles Kimbrough graduates this weekend from Lindenwood University. (Photo: Ann Kimbrough)

It was the darkest day in the life of young John Charles Kimbrough. Literally.

During a creative activity at the Southwest DeKalb Summer Arts Camp, John told his twin sister, Jocelyn Cheryl, that he could not see. They made a pact to finish the camp day by walking arm-in-arm and sticking together until his sight returned.

Jocelyn, now a minister, recalls their faith was based on a Bible verse. The camp counselors uncovered the 8-year-olds’ secret after John gained a few bruises from walking into doors and tripping over children while he was changing into his dance clothes.

Seven eye surgeries later, in early August 1995 the surgeons declared John would not regain his eyesight. The after-effects of the meningitis that crept upon him at 3 months old severely damaged his retinas.

The news of the inevitable hit me in the midsection and I landed in a familiar, uncomfortable hospital chair. John was asleep in his hospital bed with bandages covering his eyes.

Our pastor arrived and asked his dad, Wendell Kimbrough, Sr., and me if we believed John would see again. Realizing his question was spiritually metaphoric, I replied, “Yes.” I did not know then how much John would open my eyes to a world of focused, sightless individuals and their advocates.

This Mother’s Day weekend, John will receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lindenwood University in Southern Illinois. With his twin sister as his guide, John will be bestowed with magna cum laude honors, and will begin graduate work in June.

John’s big brother, W. Earl Kimbrough II — a math teacher at Rickards Hi­gh School and Ph.D. candidate at Florida A&M University — and I will join John’s grandparents and more family and friends to witness what some doctors and ­­therapists suggested would be next to impossible.

It is in the impossible that John has guided me to live. His infant brain grew at a rate faster than his skull could withstand, and he was scheduled for life-altering surgery. He suffered from seizures and was at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The seizure medicine was addictive and the weaning process was like that of an adult addict. It was horrible, but necessary, for a 3-year-old.

Medical insurances dropped John’s coverage because of pre-existing conditions, so the hospital stays and doctors’ visits were out-of-pocket expenses.

John was developmentally delayed by 18 months compared to his twin; he lost hearing in one ear and learned to walk much later than she did. 

Today he is in the early stages of prepping for a kidney transplant, as the harsh medicines that saved his life cost him an organ.

Yet John has thrived and so have we — during periods of financial, emotional, physical and spiritual challenges. He is a skier, golfer, goal ball player and a track and field competitor. John was named a Helen Keller scholar and spent a week in a leadership institute in New York.

He has helped with hurricane relief while a student at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, and received accolades and scholarships during his high school graduation. He married and is the father of a 5-year-old daughter Jazymyn, who lives in Ocala with her mother. Eventually, he returned to Lindenwood to finish his degree.

It is because of John that Florida legislation was signed by former Gov. Jeb Bush to streamline and facilitate the process for disabled students to take the then-FCAT. I asked state legislators to mandate the Education Department to offer John a Braille test. The governor’s office staff, initially incensed with me for my advocacy, created a statewide task force and placed me on the committee.

I’ve been trained as a blind guide, participated in “Dinner in the Dark” fundraisers, taken elementary school field trips as John’s chaperone. The most memorable was a camping trip when John and I laid on the cool grassy knoll and I described the stars in the sky. John, whose memory became nearly “steel trapped” after he his lost sight, explained the configuration of the constellations.

FAMU professor Ann Kimbrough

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FAMU professor Ann Kimbrough (Photo: Democrat files)

There is not enough space to describe the insults I’ve endured, tears I’ve shed, miles  I’ve traveled and the sleep that will never be returned, all for John. His siblings and other family members have shared in the joys and pain.

This Mother’s Day, we count it all joy.

Dr. Ann Wead Kimbrough is a professor at FAMU.