Blind But Not Incapable

How one ISU student isn’t letting her disability get in her way.

By Emily Blobaum

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Paige Maystadt, junior in animal science, rides a quarter horse named Oliver at Stage Coach Stables in Ames Sept. 27.

AMES, Iowa- Take one look at Paige Maystadt and you’d think she’s just another student. Ask about her life story and she’d say otherwise.

Maystadt was born with Bardet-Biedl syndrome, a disease that causes deterioration of the retina, ultimately leading to loss of vision.

But it wasn’t until sixth grade that she began to notice it. Bardet-Biedl syndrome is progressive, meaning it gets worse with every passing year.

Now nearly ten years later, Maystadt can only see shapes, shadows and silhouettes. She has no depth perception, and can’t see at all in extreme light or dark settings.

“I can see you sitting [in front of me], but I can’t see your face,” she explained.

While Maystadt is well aware of her lack of vision, she feels as though she isn’t different from anyone else.

“I don’t really notice it [anymore],” Maystadt said.  “I have a disability but I’m not disabled. I can still do things, I can do most of what other people can do, I just have to do them in a different way.”

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Paige Maystadt, junior in animal science, touches a quarter horse named Oliver at Stage Coach Stables in Ames Sept. 27. Maystadt’s vision has been deteriorating since the sixth grade, and is considered to be legally blind.

Like other students, Maystadt uses a laptop to do her homework. She owns an iPhone. The only difference between her and other students is that she uses a screen reader, which essentially reads aloud anything her mouse hovers over.

As an animal science major, she’s enrolled in anatomy, a class known for being visual. She does the same exercises as everyone else; she just sits up front and receives lecture notes in advance.

She still participates in sports.

“I can play volleyball, I just got a beep volleyball,” she said.

The ball, which Iowa State Recreation Services purchased for her last semester, makes a loud beep when turned on, allowing Maystadt to sense where the ball is.

She loves to ride horses.

“I get a horse high every time I’m on one, it’s very therapeutic,” she said.

She walks across campus to her classes every day. With her guide dog Charlie by her side, she doesn’t slow down for anyone either.

“I can get across campus in 10 minutes. Usually if [other students] walk slow I have to go around them.”

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Paige Maystadt, junior in animal science, plays with her guide dog Charlie at Frederiksen Court in Ames.

“Even though I can’t see, I can still do things just as everyone else, and it might be difficult but it just teaches you to go on and do things even though they’re hard,” Maystadt said.

Her roommate, Lauren Berglund, a sophomore in child, adult and family services who’s also blind, agrees. Both Berglund and Maystadt prefer empathy over sympathy.

“Would you rather have someone order for you at Caribou or have them read the menu aloud and order yourself?” Berglund asked.

“Definitely read the menu aloud,” Maystadt responded. “I want to be the same as everyone else, just with a little help.”

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