Hamilton raises white cane awareness

Aydan Rolph

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Freshman Lexie Hamilton recently transferred to the Newton school district from Halstead, and is one of few visually impaired students to have ever attended public school in Harvey County.

Andrea Regier, teacher of students with vision impairments in Harvey County, said that Hamilton may not be the first visually impaired student in school history. There have only been three visually impaired students in Harvey County the past eight years, since Regier started her tenure.

Lexie has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease in which retinal cells slowly erode. This affects her field of vision. Most people with retinitis pigmentosa are legally blind by age forty.

“[She has a] very tiny field of vision, about the size of your fist if you hold it up. It’s about ten degrees,” Regier said.

Hamilton has made several adjustments since moving to a new district.

“It’s different. People in Halstead knew my vision, they understood. Now, going to Newton from Halstead is a big step for me,” Hamilton said.

While Halstead students were acquainted with Hamilton and the unwritten rules involving her cane, Newton students are not yet aware of the special requirements she needs in the hallways.

“The most important rule that people should respect is the cane. If I’m shaking it, don’t jump over it or kick it. It could fall out of my hands, I could slip over it, or I could hit someone,” Hamilton said.

Although students have yet to learn about her needs, Regier agrees that Newton has overall been respectful of Hamilton and her white cane.

“Generally from my perspective, watching her maneuver, I think there are things we can do to be proactive, like leaving (class) early. But for the most part, I’ve been quite surprised at how well people have handled it. I do think that when you’re the one with the cane, Lexie does have concern about accidentally hitting someone with her cane and them getting mad,” Regier said.

Hamilton has a few tricks to get through the hallways.

“I think a lot of times, especially right there, she’s a freshman, so coming up [to her classroom], she uses the hallway by the bathrooms a lot more because that’s easier for her to get through than going through the crowd,” Regier said.

Despite her retinitis pigmentosa, Hamilton follows the traditional common core standard, including math, English, history, and two science classes. A passionate basketball enthusiast, Hamilton hopes to be able to play in the special olympics in the future.