Noah Is Blind

Greta Rybus/AP Images

But he's also an avid runner, a licensed lobsterman, and a skilled musician. Find out how a 13-year-old navigates the world without sight. 

I remember the sound of my coach’s voice as we neared the end of the race: “Finish line coming up in 100 yards. Give it all you’ve got!” I heard my parents ringing a bell and cheering for me, as sweat and sunscreen poured down my back that hot, muggy June day.

As I completed my first 10K (a hilly 6.2-mile road race I’d trained hard for), my parents ran over and hugged me, and I was completely overcome with emotion. Ho-ly COW, I thought to myself. I did it. It would’ve been thrilling for anyone—but it was that much more exciting for me because I’m blind. 

My parents have always told me that I could do anything, so when I asked if I could start running cross-country in kindergarten, they immediately said yes. My dad held my hand as we ran, warning me as we approached curbs or turns, and as the terrain changed from gravel to tar to hills. For the 10K, a running coach guided me with a tether—a ropelike string that attached my wrist to his. It was so liberating to finally be able to move my arms freely and work on my technique!

SPECIAL DETERMINATION

Since I was born blind, I’ve always had a different perspective on the world than other people, and I’ve always been determined to not let my blindness hold me back. Running isn’t my only hobby: I love skiing and can handle double black diamond trails 

independently, with a guide calling directions into a radio-like device that I strap to my head. 

I also race motorized boats, steering as my dad yells out instructions: “Left! Right! Straight!” I ride horses and tandem bikes, and have done grueling 12-hour mountain hikes. Music is a big part of my life too: I sing and play guitar, drums, and piano—though it took my mom six years to find teachers who were willing to take on the challenge of working with me. Six years! That’s one of the biggest problems with being blind: Even well-meaning adults make assumptions about what I can and can’t do.

UNEXPECTED OBSTACLES

It isn’t just adults who make those assumptions, though. Sometimes friends do too. For example, I’ve had a great time at sleepovers at my house, but no friend has ever invited me to sleep at his house—even though I would make it happen if they did. And then there are the moments like the start of recess at school, when everyone goes sprinting out the door. It takes a good friend to remember to stop and walk out with me. 

People also put me in an awkward position sometimes by approaching me and asking “Guess who?” I don’t think they are trying to be unkind, but I wish that they would introduce themselves and say, “Hi, Noah, it’s me, so-and-so.” That’s a little step that would go so far toward including a blind person in the conversation. 

ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

After completing that first 10K, I ran another one in Canada, and I’m preparing for a major hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail. I also recently started a radio show on the local college station and began hosting an online gathering for teens who are blind or visually impaired. We have fun discussing everything from school to technology. I enjoy these activities and don’t think of myself as any different from other kids who have a variety of interests. 

And while I feel proud when I defy others’ expectations, I don’t do things just to prove myself to others. I’m trying to live life to the fullest. The only limit that you have is in your mind. If you say, “I can’t do this, I can’t do that,” well, no you can’t. But if you say “I can try,” then you’ve opened up a door, and you can keep opening doors rather than shutting them. 


3 THINGS NOAH WANTS YOU TO KNOW:

Everyone makes mistakes.

I’ve messed up so many times—I’ve fallen on skis and almost got thrown off a horse. Just keep trying.

2 We’re more alike than different.

People who are blind or visually impaired (or have any other type of disability) may need different accommodations, but they can be just as active as anybody else.

3 There really are no “stupid” questions.

I don’t get annoyed when people ask me things. I want to answer them! It helps enlighten people and get rid of stereotypes.

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