Blind Spot Shines a New Light

Chris and Nicole Carr are hoping to raise awareness and support for the blind community
A group of people sit at a table having a meal while wearing blindfolds

It was a long 18 months for Chris and Nicole Carr, as they waited to learn exactly how much vision their third child, Mac, would have.

Diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia — a disorder that can range from partial to complete blindness — Mac was born without the ability to see, something his parents discovered through his unusual eye movements and the way Mac reacted when someone would pick him up as a newborn.

Nicole Carr (B.S.N. ’06) had three degrees in nursing, but she was unfamiliar with the diagnosis. Chris Carr (B.L.A. ’08, MBA ’17) shared in her concern as they waited to learn the severity of Mac’s ailment. In this case, Mac was lacking almost all of the nerve cells required for sight.

Chris had never met a blind person; Nicole had only once, at a nursing home when she was 16. Regardless, they met the unexpected challenge head-on. In the process, they not only helped their son, but found ways to aid the blind community through Blind Spot, the nonprofit they created together.

After Mac’s diagnosis, Chris and Nicole got involved with Kansas City’s Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired. Mac began working with specialists. In the meantime, Chris and Nicole searched for community resources that could help them parent Mac.

“That’s when we kind of realized there isn’t a whole lot,” Chris said. “You’re visually impaired; you go one of two routes. You either take the school for the blind route, or you go the route of full, regular-world integration. That’s the way we went.”

Chris and Nicole wanted to do something for CCVI and asked about a gala-type fundraiser they could help with. Upon learning there wasn’t one, they decided to start their own. Chris leaned on his network— including his connections at the Bloch School — and the Carrs secured a deal from The Monarch Bar and Lounge on the Plaza to host an event. Chris and Nicole raised more than $40,000 for CCVI. They held the event again the next year and raised nearly $150,000.

Then came the idea for Blind Spot — which Chris credits Nicole as the brains behind. The nonprofit aims to help the visually impaired reach their highest potential and to teach sighted individuals how to be good allies to the blind.

Chris remains active in the UMKC community, serving on the Bloch Alumni Board and mentoring current students. His networking and business knowledge also help him manage the organization, securing federal identification and handling the financial aspects.

“He gives a very compelling speech, too,” Nicole added. “Blind Spot would not exist [without] the work he has put in. ... I have these crazy ideas. He’s kind of amazing how he’ll never sell me short, and he’ll never shut me down.”

The Carrs held a launch event for Blind Spot on Nov. 4, 2021. They kept the event simple, aiming to build empathy with sighted members of the community by showing them what it’s like to not be able to see.

“At the launch event, we provided an opportunity for those in attendance to become a little bit vulnerable through an immersion experience,” Chris said. “The mission of Blind Spot and specifically the launch event was to enlighten the Kansas City community to how life for someone who is blind is different. Since blindness as an exclusive diagnosis is rare, there isn’t a lot of awareness with the general population on the abilities of the blind or how to become a good friend to the blind.”

Hands-on learning experiences continue to be a focus of Blind Spot.

At another recent event, attendees sat in a restaurant and experienced a meal while blindfolded. One of the challenges Nicole recalled was simply having difficulty hearing the person in front of her.

“It’s pretty amazing how your vision can help localize your hearing,” Nicole said. “I never knew that, and it really helped me understand why Mac struggles so much when he goes to birthday parties.”

Looking Ahead

Mac turned 5 in March and starts kindergarten in the fall. The Carrs’ plan has always been to help Mac be as independent as possible. Chris and Nicole have even had some support from Mac’s sisters, Nora and Aubrey, in helping him adapt to everyday life.

In fact, Nicole started to believe things would be OK while watching Nora and Aubrey guide Mac through daily activities.

“It was so simple and easy when they were articulating exactly what Mac needed to do in just the simplest way,” Nicole said. “It was so natural to them.”

The Carrs are also thinking about the future of Blind Spot. The nonprofit has partnered with the RoKC climbing gym and is planning an event with AMC Theatres where participants will experience a movie through a headset, among other events to come. A special moment, however, continues to be the first dinner, after all the guests removed their blindfolds and looked around.

“It sounds cliché,” Chris said, “but the eye-opening experience that it brings is just astounding when you do something like that.”

Learn more about Henry W. Bloch School of Management

Published: Jul 20, 2022

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