May 16, 2008
Opening others’ eyes
Blind professor helping UI students, doctors see
disabilities in a new light
By Diane Heldt
IOWA CITY — Blindness is thought by many to be a great calamity,
still viewed in 19th-century Dickensian terms, says University of Iowa
professor Steve Kuusisto.
But the reality, says Kuusisto, who has been blind since birth, is that
his talking computer, his guide dog and public transportation allow him to do
most anything sighted people can.
“It’s not an obstacle to having a good job and a full life,” he said.
“Nobody has to have a second-class life. Really, the sky’s the limit.” That
philosophy, the 53-year-old Kuusisto said, fuels a new vision of disability
that is emerging. That vision moves away from viewing people with disabilities
as “defective,” he said, to finding ways for technology and society to help
them lead the richest, fullest lives.
It’s a vision Kuusisto (pronounced COO-sis-toe) brought to the UI last
fall when he joined the faculty as an English professor with a joint
appointment in the Carver College of Medicine.
At the medical college he is a “humanizing agent” who helps educate
doctors about disability issues. UI officials hope Kuusisto bridges the goals
of disability advocates and health professionals.
“I’m probably the firstever poet named to a faculty of ophthalmology,”
Kuusisto says with a smile.