A lifetime of struggles with vision and hearing loss has not discouraged Kat Bottner from pursuing her ambitions. In fact, her experiences have inspired the 30-year-old Newark, Delaware, woman to help others.
Thanks to new equipment from the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program – known as iCanConnect – Kat is continuing her education through Hadley School for the Blind, a nonprofit distance learning school. Her goal is to gain certification to teach braille.
She’s also starting her own educational consulting business. “I want to fix (for other people) all that stuff that I had to go through,” she said.
Born premature, Kat is a triplet; one of her sisters is completely blind and the other is sighted. Kat has total blindness in her left eye, after her retina detached twice, but her right eye still has some vision.
“The best way to explain it is that if a sighted person can see something at 700 feet, I have to be at 20 feet,” she said.
Kat also has only about half of her hearing in both ears. She struggles with low tones and hearing in noisy environments, so she wears hearing aids when she goes out. “I call them my fun little ears,” she said.
Full of humor and optimism, she views herself as highly capable despite her vision and hearing loss. “I like to call them exceptionalities, rather than disabilities,” she said.
Through conversations with her representative at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, Kat learned about iCanConnect. She applied, and has since received a Focus 40 Blue braille display from Freedom Scientific. Later, she received a Braille Sense US that allows her to link to her cell phone, receive private (Braille) information for transportation, store and upload notes, and maintain more extensive contact information.
In the future, she plans to become more active on social media to keep in better touch with friends and family. She also uses her new equipment to correspond with other members of the National Federation for the Blind in Delaware, and uses her braille display to complete her Hadley correspondence courses and email assignments.
“It has made my life easier,” she said, of her new equipment. “It has definitely opened up doors for me. I love this program. I would definitely recommend it to other individuals who are deaf-blind.”
Kat appreciates iCanConnect so much, she said she’d love to train others who are deaf-blind to use new technology. A former coordinator for a program that paired mentors with adults who are visually impaired, she’s also interested in working with children in a school setting.
“Helping people is really what I like to do,” she said.