Blindness can’t hold Chad Rohr back
IOTA SIGMA (Central Missouri) — It’s not possible to meet Chad Rohr (Central Missouri ’09), a 20-year-old Lee’s Summit resident, without meeting Caddy, his golden retriever for the past three years.
During that time, Caddy has accompanied Rohr to classes at the University of Central Missouri, where he has been working toward a degree in social work. And this summer, the dog has been by Rohr’s side at work.
That’s because Caddy is a guide dog, and Rohr has been totally blind for almost eight years.
An all-terrain vehicle accident that occurred shortly after Rohr’s 13th birthday caused a traumatic brain injury that left him in comas – one was drug-induced by his doctors – for 17 days. And when Rohr finally woke up in a hospital bed, he thought it was nighttime.
After learning he was blind, Rohr recalled, he went through a period of despondency. But by the second semester of that school year, he was back in class at Bernard Campbell Middle School. He also went on to compete in shot put and discus for Lee’s Summit High School. He earned his Eagle Scout award. And, with help from Caddy and others, he entered college and the workforce.
“For a while, I asked ‘Why me?’” Rohr said. “But since then, I’ve just tried to stay positive. No one wants to be around someone who isn’t positive. If you’re going to have a pity party, you are going to be the only one there.”
Rohr was speaking from behind his desk at Alphapointe, a Kansas City nonprofit that serves about 4,000 Missourians who are blind or visually impaired. Rader, who has received employment and college-preparatory training at Alphapointe, recently received a paid internship from the organization. In that capacity, he is teaching clients adaptive technology, which allows them to use computers through magnification or, in the case of blind clients, keyboards that speak.
“Chad is an exceptional young man,” said Clay Berry, Alphapointe’s director of education and rehabilitation. “Often, even the congenitally blind struggle to keep up. But despite Chad’s vision loss at a young age, he stayed on grade level and graduated with his (high school). I think that says a lot about him as a person and the support he has received from his family.”
The son of Dean and Kim Rohr, Chad first met Berry when Chad enrolled as a 15-year-old in the Student Transitional Employment Program, an eight-week program at Alphapointe. The training allowed him to hold down his first summer job, a summer internship at Powell Gardens, where he did everything from potting plants to working in the administration building.
“The next summer, we did some college preparatory work with Chad that centered around adaptive technology to ensure he could use the computer effectively,” Berry said.
Rohr, a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, will be a junior at UCM in the fall. And as he enters the stretch run toward his college diploma, he is thinking of changing his major to communications. “I’d like to do what I’m doing now, helping people with adaptive technology,” Rohr said.
His fingers flew across the keyboard as he gave a demonstration. And that was another demonstration of how far Rohr has come since the ATV accident, which also left him partially paralyzed on his left side. “Right after the accident,” he said, “my left hand was affected so much that I had to use a one-handed keyboard.”
In addition to becoming a proficient typist, Rohr also has mastered Braille. He demonstrated that skill last month at a Kansas City Library branch, where he volunteered to read for a group of amazed children. About his only regret, Rohr said, is that he has to depend on others to get him places. But he prefers to dwell on positive aspects of his life. It easily could have been cut short following his accident, which required surgeons to temporarily remove a chunk of his skull until his brain swelling went down, he said. “Really, I’m a lucky guy,” Rohr said.
*Photo courtesy of Rob Roberts / The Journal