Undaunted by Blindness
Author, Clifford E. Olstrom
Ask the typical person to name some famous people who are blind, and chances are they’ll mention Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder and perhaps a handful of others.
But for Clifford E. Olstrom, the challenge when writing Undaunted by Blindness wasn’t coming up with enough worthy people who are blind to fill a book of biographical sketches, but winnowing down his immense list to make it fit.
In the end, Olstrom chose 400 people – ranging from statesmen to singers and popes to poets – to include in Undaunted by Blindness. Olstrom offers concise biographies of these individuals who “refused to let visual impairment define them.” He profiles people throughout history, from ancient Greece to modern times, many of whom will inspire or astonish the reader.
“I thought there were many interesting persons, who happened to be blind, that most people weren’t aware of,” Olstrom says. “The people in this volume are but a small sample of the many thousands of notable blind persons in history.”
Empowering people who are blind to achieve their potential is Olstrom’s life’s work. Since 1971, he has served as executive director of the Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind, a non-profit rehabilitation agency. The agency teaches people who have lost their vision how to live independently and maintain their employment through the use of assistive technology.
Olstrom became interested in helping people who are blind after meeting a blinded veteran from the Korean Conflict in college. “He encouraged me to check into the Blind Rehabilitation Program at Western Michigan University,” he says.
Olstrom went on to earn a master’s degree in Blind Rehabilitation in 1968. He later worked at the Bureau of Blind Services Rehabilitation Center in Daytona Beach, Florida and as an Orientation & Mobility Instructor at a public school in Tampa, Florida.
Olstrom started compiling the list that would become Undaunted by Blindness more than three decades ago. In order the keep the book at a manageable size, he profiled only those people he thought would be of “the greatest interest to the reader.”
Readers will find a fascinating array to choose from, including Jacques Lusseyran, a leader in the French Resistance during World War II; Homer, the Greek poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey; Sonora Carver, who performed a high-platform horse-diving act for a circus in the 1930s; Joseph Pulitzer, a newspaper publisher who established the prestigious Pulitzer Prize; and Alicia Alonso, widely considered one of the greatest ballerinas of all time.
“Hopefully,” Olstrom says, “Undaunted by Blindness will encourage readers to delve more deeply into the lives of these interesting persons.”