Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Leadership lived: Blind student aims to educate others about disabilities


Like many other outgoing University of Illinois Springfield students, English major Raven Wilson thrives on leadership.

On campus, she is heavily involved as chair of the Student Activities Committee (SAC), sings in the gospel choir and works as a tutor at The Learning Hub.

Nothing holds her back, including her blindness.

Wilson was born with a rare degenerative disease called optic nerve coloboma. The disease caused both of her optic nerves not to fully form.

“When I was little I had some sight and could read large print, I could see color, but as I got older it lessoned and now I can only see light and shadows,” said Wilson.

In February 2016, she helped to start a student organization called AREA (Awareness Respect Education Ability), which aims to spread inclusionary attitudes about people with disabilities, often by trying to teach them how it feels to have a disability.

“At the end of the day, people who have disabilities want the same things,” said Wilson. “They have the same abilities, they just have to do it in a different way. It’s just trying to get people to understand that different doesn’t mean less abled, it doesn’t mean anything bad or negative. It just means a different way of doing things.”

Wilson says she’s grateful for all of the leadership opportunities she’s been offered at UIS, which have had a large impact on her life.

“I think being able to have these leadership opportunities has broken me out of my shell,” she said. “I feel like I’m getting a lot more about of my college experience.”

Following graduation from UIS, Wilson plans to become a writer. However, she’ll never forget her time in Springfield and the friends she’s made on campus.

“I would still choose UIS because it’s a community, it’s more than just a school,” she said. “It’s a community where people are allowed to grow and develop.”