Kelvin’s DeafBlind Story
My Toddler Years
When I was 2 years old, my mom realized that my speech was not developing correctly. She was concerned I could be having development delay issues or could be hard-of-hearing. My parents brought me to a doctor, and he tested me. The doctor said I was hard-of-hearing, but he didn’t know what had caused it. After several months of fighting with insurance due to the high cost, my parents were finally able to get me my first pair of hearing aids. Contrary to what you may think, I liked having hearing aids. Especially when I could take them out and give them to my mom and say, “Take these. I don’t want to hear anymore.” Due to my hearing loss, I also had a speech impediment, which caused me to sound differently from other children. Because of this, my struggle to fit in would later become a challenge I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with.
My Elementary Years
“Why do I have to wear hearing aids? Why do I have to wear glasses? What’s wrong with me?”
These questions led me to despise myself as a young child. I did not understand why I was different from other kids. Having a hardened heart, I really hated it when kids would pick on me. When I felt bullied, I would act out by giving them a nice “knuckle sandwich”. I was so angry, and every day I wanted to kill myself. As a second grader, I threatened suicide twice and once more in third grade. All three times, I pulled a knife out of the kitchen drawer and held it to my head. While I was crying, my parents would pray for God to intervene and cause me to drop the knife. In third grade, after I had beaten up a kid who was picking on me, I was sent to the principal’s office at my Christian school. After I received my punishment, I asked the principal if I could accept Jesus into my heart. I didn’t like how angry and hardhearted I had become and believed there was a better way to live. The principal read Romans 10:9 aloud and prayed with me. After inviting Jesus Christ into my heart, I desired to change my behavior.
My Middle and High School Years
After that day, I still struggled with anger and still got into fights, but not as many as before. Life continued to be difficult for me. For years I excelled in sports, even making the all-star teams in baseball and premier level soccer. At thirteen years old, I was playing goalie at a night soccer game when the lights went out on the field. I yelled to my father, “DAD! I can’t see! I can’t see!” Scared, my parents took me to the eye doctor right away. It was not an easy trip and would drastically affect my future. The doctor informed me that I was losing my vision due to Usher Syndrome Type II, which was also the reason I had been hard-of-hearing since childhood. Due to this disease, I would one day be completely blind. This was the hardest day of my life. Shocked and devastated, I was changed forever.
After learning more about this disease, I realized I would eventually have to give up sports, but didn’t know how soon. Due to the progressive loss of my peripheral vision, I had to walk away from baseball almost immediately. When I became a sophomore in high school, I began having difficulty seeing the soccer ball and consequently gave up the sport, along with my dream of playing world cup soccer.
After High School Graduation
Despite my anger, the Ushers Syndrome Type II diagnosis, and the surrendering of my childhood dreams, I kept my faith and worked diligently at being the best man I could be. At age nineteen, I was declared legally blind and was forced to turn in my driver’s license. Life as I knew it had changed. Again. During this time, I was doing everything I could to remain independent and support myself while attending Bible School. Although my vision was failing, I was stubborn and refused to use a blind cane. One morning after breakfast, I walked toward the dishwasher area and discovered, the hard way, someone had left his chair out. I walked right into it. Tripping over the chair, I spilled food all over myself. On my knees, I was crying and broken inside. I threw up my arms and said, “Amen. I will rejoice in my suffering.” It was no longer about trying to fight who I was or wishing my circumstances would change. Despite these challenges, I could still enjoy life and live it to the fullest. From that day on, I would use my blind cane everywhere I went. The cane became my eyes and my best friend. We traveled over two hundred miles hiking through Israel as a part of my Bible school outreach, as well as New York City. This new companion opened doors for me and allowed me to meet people, who I never would have encountered before.
Realizing I Need More Help
While I was in New York City, I attended the Helen Keller National Center, where they taught me necessary skills to cope with my blindness as well as how to make pottery by touch instead of sight. I also went to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, where I received my first guide dog named Jerry, a male yellow lab. At first, I did not like the dog’s name, because it was the same name as my father. However, after meeting him for the first time, we fell in love with one another. We became the hottest and sexiest team around. The girls loved Jerry too. After finishing guide dog school, we came home, learned how to use public transportation together, and began attending San Diego Mesa College, where I worked towards my degree in Communications. While at Mesa College, I competed with the speech and debate team and modeled in the Mesa College fashion show. Unsuccessfully, I attempted to become the kicker on the Mesa College football team. My life had changed so quickly and dramatically, but I still chose to enjoy each day.
In 2009, I received a true gift from God that changed my life forever—my future wife, Abigail. She was one of my best friend’s sisters. We dated for about a year and a half—going to baseball games and church group, having long talks about spiritual aspects of our lives, sharing our hopes and dreams as well as our challenges, and learning to depend on one another for support. On New Year’s Day in 2011, I took Abigail on a ferry boat ride to Coronado Island. There I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She said yes. We were happily married on July 9, 2011 and make an amazing team. She is truly a gift.
Beginning My Career
In the spring of 2011, I transferred to San Diego State University and by May of 2014, I had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with a Minor in Fine Arts (Ceramics). A week after my graduation, I applied to the State of California’s Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) for the Employment Coordinator position. I got the position and started job developing for people with visual impairments. In my two years of working with DOR, I became the leading job developer for the visually impaired for the State of California, finding employment for over 25 individuals. At this point, I decided to go out on my own and start developing technology for blind canes. I had been hit by a car 3 times, so I wanted to help other visually impaired individuals travel safely and independently so this didn’t happen to them. I created a start-up company called Smart Guider and a few years later, I invented the See Me Cane. It is a lighted blind cane that allows visually impaired individuals to be seen by nighttime drivers up to 50 years away.
2020-A Difficult Year
Then two devastating events happened in 2020—COVID hit, which caused me to loose all of the funding for my business, and I lost the clarity in my vision. This wrecked me. I wasn’t sure how I would go on at this point. Then a friend suggested I should get back into pottery, since I had been too busy while developing my technology. I couldn’t believe how much healing I experienced when back on the potter’s wheel. I was finally able to work through my pain. Then in December, after putting a few of my pottery videos on Tiktok, I hit over a million views. Ten hours after that first video was posted, the idea of the DeafBlind Potter was born. I had found a way to share my pain and joy with others to encourage them while creating unique masterpieces.
What Am I Doing Today?
Currently, I am creating pieces and merchandise to support the See Me Cane. I’m trying to raise $200,000 so I can begin manufacturing this cane. At the same time, I’m posting at least 3 weekly videos on my social media accounts to keep my folowers up-to-date on my deafblind story, my pottery, the See Me Cane campaign progress, and my challenges and successes. If you would like to help me raise money to keep a blind individual safe when traveling, go to deafblindpotter.com. Together, we can make a difference one life at a time.
Follow me on TikTok (@DeafBlind Potter), Instagram (@DeafBlind Potter), Facebook (Kelvin Crosby or Deafblind Potter) and YouTube (DeafBlind Potter) to see what I am doing today.