Through her work as a blogger, volunteer, advocate and Perkins parent, Amber Bobnar has a singular goal: to make the world a more inclusive place for families of children with blindness and other disabilities.
Bobnar’s multifaceted contribution to that cause was recognized in April by the Watertown Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC), which honored her with the Marilyn Micco Parent Award. The award recognizes a parent who has “gone above and beyond” to help the district offer support and services to all children, regardless of disability.
“Amber (is dedicated) to turning everything she has learned to help her son into a resource for other parents,” said Michelle Martin Fallon, one the Watertown SEPAC's founding members. “She continues to provide a vital service to families through her advocacy. She is a maverick, a force in motion and an inspiration.”
Bobnar became an advocate for inclusiveness because of her son Ivan, now 10, who was born with a rare disease that causes blindness and other disabilities. Ivan has been a student at Perkins since 2007.
Ivan inspired Bobnar to start WonderBaby.org, a blog that offers information and resource to families of children with disabilities. The blog, which is supported by Perkins School for the Blind, has more than 90,000 unique visitors per month.
In Watertown, Bobnar works with local organizations to make activities and events accessible to children with visual impairments. She helped National Braille Press develop picture books for children who are blind and partnered with MAPVI to launch the Beeping Egg Hunt at Perkins – a festive event that’s fun for sighted children as well as those who are blind.
The event, now in its sixth year, exemplifies Bobnar’s commitment to inclusivity.
“If a family has two siblings, one who’s visually impaired and one who’s not, you don’t leave one home,” Bobnar explained. “The egg hunt is something that everything can do and have fun with.”
Although much of her work takes place on the Perkins campus – Bobnar and her husband are both Perkins employees – Bobnar hopes that her efforts will touch students across Watertown. Receiving the Marilyn Micco Parent Award was both an honor and a reminder of the importance of collaboration in supporting children with special needs, she said.
“A lot of kids in Watertown Public Schools are also visually impaired,” she said. “They’re very similar to Ivan, they have similar issues, they’re just in the public school system. That doesn’t mean that we can’t relate to each other and support each other.”