I was born on January 25, 1957 in Phoenix, Arizona. I was born with Glaucoma. I had 9 eye operations by the age of 2. I could see colors and light until I was around 12 or 13, but never enough sight to see print or faces.
We moved to Texas when I was almost 5. I attended Bryant School in Sherman from the first through the fourth grade. Our school transferred to the old Fred Douglass school building for the remainder of my elementary education. I had the same teacher for my entire primary grades…Miss Raney. She taught me so much, including braille at age 6. I attended Dillingham Junior High one year and SHS for my 9th and 10th grades. I transferred to the Texas School for the Blind for my Junior and Senior years. I graduated from TSB in 1977. I came in fourth place on the SATs in my senior class. I won the spelling bee for my school in the 8th grade when I attended Dillingham. I was the only blind student in that school at the time. I came in second in the city-wide spelling bee.
I have 2 brothers and 1 younger sister. My parents and oldest brother have passed.
My husband, Robert, and I got together in 1981 and have been together ever since! We were married in 1998, after I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which I beat! Robert is the leader and lead singer in a band he formed after graduating from the blind school. Blue Mist has been together for 40 years now! Several members of his band are also blind. They have a large following in the Austin, Texas area.
I started writing poems when I was 9 years old and I still have the very first poems I wrote in Braille in an old, old notebook.
My hobbies are reading books of all genres, playing board games on my computer, watching old Andy Griffith episodes, playing Jeopardy and cooking!
We have a 13-year-old cat named Jasmine that we lovingly spoil rotten.
Being totally blind is both a blessing and a curse! A blessing because I judge people, including perfect strangers, on their character and personality, and not on their appearance, skin color or gender. I believe every soul on earth has the same value as a human being, no matter their station in life. I don’t see skin color. I don’t see body size or facial features. I see a person’s heart with my heart!
A curse because I must constantly depend on others for transportation, grocery shopping and many of the things and errands that the sighted world takes for granted. I’d love to be able to grab my keys and jump into my car and run my own errands. A curse because some people in the sighted world feel superior to blind or disabled people and they tend to talk down to you, as though you’re not intelligent or perceptive.
If I could have the chance to see, I would decline that opportunity. I am me and I’ll always be me.
Juanita Wallis Kelley