This article, by Steven Johnson, was posted to the Indiana Daily Student site on January 12, 2014.
* * * * *
Robin Kyle was 18 when she lost her sight to retinitis pigmentosis, a degenerative hereditary eye disease.
“At that time, I felt my life had come to a complete halt,” Kyle said.
Now 47, Kyle is one of 15 students across the country to receive a Learning Ally National Achievement Award. Kyle earned the award through academic work and her tireless advocacy for students like herself — those without the means to learn and read conventionally.
“I decided to use my college classroom as a platform to educate and speak on diversity and inclusion of students who are blind or visually impaired,” Kyle said in her application essay.
The journey wasn’t easy. Through 29 years of blindness, Kyle raised three children as a single mother and worked multiple jobs. After filling a childcare position at her church, she found her passion for teaching.
“I took a big leap in faith and returned to school, working two jobs at times,” Kyle said.
Last year Kyle graduated with a B.S. in education and music minor from IUPUI.
Kyle plans to become a kindergarten teacher. She said she believes no learner should be left behind because of forces outside of his or her control. To that end, she said, she believes every published work should be accessible in audio, Braille, digital and large print formats.
Learning Ally is a 65-year-old nonprofit organization that works toward those same goals. Its programs and audiobooks help those who cannot read by traditional means. Its annual Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards, started by a private endowment in 1959, awards $3,000 in cash to visually disabled college seniors and graduates who excel academically.
“For someone like Robin, who’s 47 and has raised kids, to show the determination she’s showing is incredible,” said Doug Sprei, Learning Ally’s national director of communications. “We couldn’t ask for a better person to represent our
Kyle’s ambitions are matched by her effort to achieve them. She was the oldest student in her class at IUPUI, and the only blind person in any of her classes. She has advocated for blind rights in Washington, D.C., and supplemented her education with professional workshops.
“My blindness...is just one more aspect of the many things that make up who I am,” Kyle said. “As a blind individual, I believe that it is my moral responsibility to advocate for the cause, and I would be proud to give my voice for this purpose.”