“Did you know my seeing eye dog went blind?” legally blind Paralympic alpine skier Danelle Umstead asked. “Yeah, because it’s contagious,” she said laughing.
|Danelle Umstead competes in the women's visually impaired slalom during the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games on March 14, 2010 in Vancouver, B.C.|
After talking with the three-time Paralympic bronze medalist you can start to understand how humor and fun play a big part in her life. Two traits that seem to have been passed down to her and her husband (and skiing guide) Rob Umstead’s son, Brocton.
Understanding is another family trait. And something their 7-year-old displayed when he asked his mom — who can only see up to about five feet if the lighting is good — to not tell him what he was having for dinner.
“Because I’m going to blindfold myself and see if I can figure it out,” he said to his mom. “I want to know what it’s like for you and other people who have visual imparity.”
According to Umstead, “Brocton grew up not looking at a person by their color or their disability. He likes people the same way his mom does.
“I can’t see them, so I like a person for who they are, not what they look like or what they have. I think that’s the special gift I’ve been given without sight. And I think that’s a special gift I’m betraying to my son as he lives with sight and around people with disabilities.”
That gift is evident as this wasn’t the first time Brocton had done something like this.
“I had a friend come over for dinner this past summer who is missing an arm and a leg,” Umstead said. “Brocton tried eating his dinner with only one hand by putting his arm inside his shirt.”
An ambitious goal considering the family was having corn on the cob and steak for dinner.
This time the menu was a little less challenging: pasta and asparagus. After setting the plate in front of her blindfolded son, Umstead said he “reached for his fork and his hand went right into his plate.” Even telling him where his food was located on the plate by comparing it to a clock didn’t help.
Umstead couldn’t see it but her husband was giving her a play-by-play, telling her that their son was getting food “all over his nose and his mat.”
Afterwards, she said, “it made more sense to him why people tell me the potatoes are at noon, or the green beans are at four o’clock — because he experienced it for himself.”
Half the time, she said, “I don’t think Brocton even notices my disability — except for maybe when I poke his eye out or trip over him because I didn’t see him. But that’s become normal to us. We laugh.”
Just like she did when he asked her when he could eat blindfolded again. She told him, sure, but this time she said she would be the one getting the last laugh.
“Next time I’m going to put stuff on his plate that he doesn’t like!”