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Flying Blind: Legally Blind Man Learns to Fly

Author: Jason DeCamillis : Contact:

Published: 2015-08-26 : (Rev. 2018-05-04)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Special education teacher who is legally blind learns to fly, challenging traditional assumptions of disability.

Main Digest

Jason DeCamillis of Ypsilanti, MI, has wanted to learn to fly a plane ever since he was a child. However, he never thought that it would be possible because he is legally blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive condition which slowly affects his peripheral and night vision.

"I have about 20 degrees of central vision now, which some refer to as 'tunnel vision'," Jason DeCamillis, special education teacher and advocate said.

Earlier this year, he saw a video online of a pilot who had lost his license due to the same condition, but kept on flying by taking flight lessons.

"I thought, 'Wow. Maybe I could do the same thing.' I had just never thought to ask," DeCamillis said.

He contacted a local nonprofit flying club in Ann Arbor, MI. and not only did the club agree to take him up for a discovery flight, but his instructor, Dr. Alex Arts, encouraged him to pursue flight instruction.

Man and plane
Man and plane

It's been a few weeks now, and DeCamillis has logged over 8 hours of flight time even though he can't ultimately get his license.

"I see this an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. It's not about overcoming disability; it's about living my life. I've seen so many people forgo their dreams as a result of traditional notions of disability, and I want to share what is possible when we work together across ability; doing so isn't charity or inspiration, it's life," DeCamillis said.

In the air
In the air

Jason DeCamillis holds a visual impairment special education teaching certificate in the state of Michigan, and recently graduated from both Eastern Michigan University's Special Education Teacher Preparation Program (BA '14), and the University of Michigan's Educational Leadership and Policy Program (MA ' 15).

Flying blind
Flying blind

DeCamillis is currently working on an independent documentary film of his experience titled "Flying Blind" , to be completed in 2016, and is raising funds via Indiegogo in order to complete the project.

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