Blind student shares story at elementary school

Students learn disability doesn't mean different

Ryan Uhle uses his ears to keep from bumping into walls.

"Normally, I can just hear the sounds of my footsteps bouncing off the walls," he told fourth- and fifth-graders at A. Brian Merry Elementary School.

Ryan, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Schofield Middle School who has been blind since age 21/2, spoke to the students as part of the school's yearlong diversity program.

Ryan, assisted by his mom, Keisha, was asked by the school to make a presentation after officials learned of his recent first-place finish in the junior varsity division at the South Carolina Regional Braille Challenge.

On Monday, Ryan answered a broad range of students' questions, including whether he plays video games, how he does his homework and whether he'll be able to drive one day.

Ryan said he's mostly an outdoorsman but enjoys playing Nintendo Wii sports games, memorizing skills and judging his movement based on the sounds he hears.

He told the students he likely won't be able to drive, but he rides a bike, swims and has participated in jiujitsu.

To show how he does homework, Ryan brought a Braille typing machine that he uses to take notes. He also uses a laptop computer that has a program that reads aloud to him. His mom quickly added that Ryan is an all-A student.

Ryan said he's like many students in that he has his own chores, having to clean his room and bathroom and take out the garbage.

"I can basically do anything else y'all do," he said.

"He just does it differently," his mom added.

Ryan's mother said he lost his sight as a result of a condition called retinoblastoma, which resulted in tumors involving his eyes.

He began learning Braille soon after he lost his sight. He'll find out in May whether he will advance to a national Braille competition in Los Angeles based on his recent regional win.

After the presentation, fourth-grade student Naiya Butler said she had learned that "just because he's blind it doesn't mean he's different."