My Name Is... Julie Deden

Head of center for blind is voice for positive outlook

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Challenged to live normally

I grew up in what’s now Centennial. I was born blind, as was my brother. It took a while for my parents to get used to the idea that they had two blind kids. They pushed us and challenged us to live as normally as possible.

I was the first blind student at Littleton Public Schools. Back then, blind kids went to a school for the deaf and blind in Colorado Springs, but my mom went to the school board and asked for a teacher to work with us on Braille and other things. They went for it, and I always went to public school.

Getting their lives back

I’m so fortunate to work as the executive director of the Colorado Center for the Blind. I love it more than you could imagine. It’s wonderful working with students who don’t believe in themselves, and watch them discover how capable they are. Some have recently lost their sight, and they think they won’t get their lives back. We teach them to do things independently.

Thanks to the center, I’ve gotten to go skydiving, skiing, rock climbing and whitewater rafting. I get to do so many fun things lots of average people don’t get to.

Blind people now know we can speak for ourselves and be in control of our lives. It’s not a tragedy to be blind. We live full and productive lives. There are far more blind people working, going to school and owning homes now than ever before.

‘We can do everything, just in a different way’

Still, one of the largest obstacles for the blind is unemployment. Around 70% of blind people are unemployed. It’s crazy. We still have a long way to go in educating the public that we are productive and competitive. We can do everything, just in a different way.

Covid is very isolating for a lot of people. But for those who can drive a car up to the mountains, you can do that. For us as blind people, it’s either taking the bus, and hoping everyone has masks on, or Uber and Lyft, which can be expensive. It’s especially hard for the elderly.

For me, my philosophy is the glass is always half full. We need to appreciate what we have. A positive attitude is critical for all of us. We need to view our world that way.

If you have suggestions for My Name Is, please contact David Gilbert at dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com.

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