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Licia Brehn takes to Reddit and YouTube to show blindness need not be a handicap.
Licia Prehn is a woman on a mission. Make that multiple missions.
Suffering from a rare, hereditary eye disease that causes near-blindness, Prehn wants to prove to the world that the common image of the visually impaired is wrong. The Pennsylvania-born woman, now living in Finland, has taken to YouTube to prove her point “that blind people don’t fit the sunglasses/cane stereotype.”
Prehn went to Reddit with her message after reading many threads that argued legendary singer Stevie Wonder was not blind. This courageous woman knew she had to set the record straight about the mistaken limitations of sight loss. Brehn posted a video to Reddit that showed how she was able to participate in the online community despite her inability to see much beyond a few inches. While the video proved her point and landed more than 100,000 views, she took it down after receiving numerous nasty comments and unwelcome harassment.
A message from a group of Web developers changed her mind, though. After they contacted Prehn telling her that they appreciated her video (it allowed them to understand how to optimize video and displays for the visually impaired), Prehn was empowered by their support: Not only did she re-post her original clip, but she now plans on creating a video per week to show that her handicap does not interfere with her having a fulfilling life.
“Since these Web developers liked seeing how I used the computer,” Prehn told the Daily Dot, “I decided to show them how I do other things.”
Out of the gate, the 24-year-old tackles the challenges of cooking with limited visual acuity. Prehn’s 17-minute video, “How Blind People Cook — Tortillas,” is less a cooking show and more of a testament to her perseverance. Along the way, she gives some insight into her eye disease and talks about her newborn who is afflicted with the same condition and the others in her family who have been forced to cope with this serious form of cataract and eye-receptor damage.
Prehn’s other mission is to use crowdfunding to help with the ancillary costs of her infant’s upcoming Jan. 13 surgery. Recent medical research showed that a child born with this condition can have its impact somewhat mitigated if the surgery is done before the child reaches 12 weeks of age. Prehn’s GoFundMe site has a goal of $2,000 and is just over quarter of the way there. She is fortunate, to some degree, that Finland does have government-funded medical care, but extra expenses like travel to and from Helsinki mount up.
Once her baby daughter’s treatment is complete, Brehn will face surgery to remove the cataract that has taken over her left eye—a result of her recent pregnancy—reducing her to near total blindness in that eye. With it all, Brehn’s spirit—which shines through in her YouTube clips—remains undaunted.
She sums it up rather simply: “Blind life is what you make it.”
Screengrab via Licia Brehn—/YouTube
Allen Weiner has been a market research analyst in the area of new media and technology since 1994. He’s worked as writer, publisher and newspaper executive. He is the co-founder and publisher of Kombucha Network and the former managing vice president of Gartner.