I caught up with Andrew and his family this past February at the South Point Hotel and Casino; my husband, Courtney, and I were attending the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas. Andrew is a high school student who is blind and has been participating in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) at his local high school. Using the foot-locator/tripod that Courtney built for him, Andrew has been competing alongside his sighted classmates at the NASP State Tournament for the past several years. I got a chance to sit down and talk with him after he shot on that Thursday morning. I hope Andrew’s love for life and learning new things will give you a broader perspective on how those of us who are blind “see no limits.”
Q: How old are you?
A: I’m 18. Of course, it’s not my fault if you assume I mean years instead of decades or centuries.
Q: What grade are you in?
A: I am a senior in highschool. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting all alone at a lunch table as a freshman. Now, in my senior year, surrounded by friends who are all pretty cool, got an awsome girlfriend and just… Living life as I go.
Q: Are you totally blind?
A: I can see light, but, light doesn’t help me play video games, gawk at “hot,” girls (I honestly don’t care about looks, but it’s always fun to tell people I like gawking at hot girls just for the laughs and watching them try and figure it out in their head.) In fact, lots of people told my girlfriend the only reason I was dating her is because I’m blind. Let this be a public service announcement, by Joe Smoe, looks aren’t everything, personality and sense of humor go a long way.
Q: How did you loose your sight?
A: I like to tell people that I looked at the sun, just to see them be all, “Really?” Then I tell them that I have a highly contagious disease. I lost my sight because of Retonapathy of Prematurity, a disease I’ve had since I was born. If you want to know more, you can Google it, all the info is right there, somewhere on the internet.
Q: Besides archery, what’s your favorite thing to do at school?
A: I don’t think sleeping counts. Hmm, I love english and history the most among all my classes. I enjoy hanging out with my friends and my girlfriend at lunch, talking about what-ever comes to mind.
Q: Besides archery, what’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at school?
A: I love listening to music. As of late, I’ve been digging into the rich Tradition of the Irish, at least, as far as music goes. Haven’t found any Irish pubs around that’ll let a young lad like me drink. I actually have picked up the tinwhistle and mandolin. Sure, the mandolin isn’t really a traditionally Irish instrument, but it’s tuned the same as a fiddle so it can be used just as well. It’s murder on the fingers, though. I play a little guitar. I only know a few chords, but, playing guitar before the mandolin has definetly helped in not having bloody fingers. I love it. I listen to everything from Traditional Irish music, to heavy metal. I have some wide musical preferences.
I love reading and talking with friends. I read lots of fantasy, science-fiction. Lord of the Rings were probably some of the first books I picked up and read on my own. The Hobbit really snared me into reading. I love learning things, but, things that interest me, as opposed to, say, Algebra.
Q: When was the first time you got to shoot a bow?
A: The first time I shot a bow was at summer-camp. At first, my Mom was worried I’d shoot somebody, or something, but after trying it, I loved it. I even came home and told Mom and Dad that I wanted to buy a bow. They turned me down, afraid that I would shoot the neighbor’s dog. I know they’d of enjoyed that, though, that dog always was loud…
Q: What did it feel like to shoot a bow?
A: It was very enjoyable. I had a bit of sight at the time, but not much. It was an entirely new experience for me, but I loved it.
Q: How often do you get to shoot archery?
A: It really depends on my schedual if I have lots of homework, not at all. Sometimes my Dad and I go down to the range for practice and I can shoot until I get tired.
Q: Do you wish you could shoot more?
A: I wish I could do lots of things more, shooting is definetly among them, along with read, sleep, hang out with my friends and the list goes on.
Q: What part of archery is the hardest?
A: The hardest part of archery is seeing the target.
Q: What part is the most fun?
A: The most fun part of archery, for me, is realising that I hit the target without missing, shooting somebody, so on and so forth.
Q: What special equipment do you use to help you aim the bow?
A: I use a stand that Courtney made for me.
Q: Do you ever get to shoot in archery competitions or tournaments?
A: I shoot in compititions when they come around. I have only shot in the compitition that my school goes to, though.
Q: What have you enjoyed the most about competition?
A: I just enjoy shooting, doing well really doesn’t matter to me as much as it does some people. I try to do well, sure, but, it isn’t everything to me.
Q: Have you ever shot with other kids who have trouble seeing?
A: Yes. A year or so ago, the summer-camp I go to decided to do archery. When they heard I do archery, they gave me a Genesis bow to shoot with, rather than the “kid” bow they were having everybody else shoot with. One girl was a bit discouraged and she believed she couldn’t do it. I tried helping her out as much as I could.
Q: Why should other kids who are blind/visually impaired consider trying the sport of archery?
A: I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, no, never. What is the point of shooting what you can’t see? You might poke your eye out or something. To be honest, I’d recommend it if only for the experience. Some like it and do it again, but others not so much. It’s always nice to do something sighted people think you can’t do. Not really a slap in the face, but more of a “hey, we’re not as different from you as you think,” type of thing.