Meet Kyle Romain, one of the 10 outstanding kids selected to be a TFK Kid Reporter this school year. Kyle is 10 years old and lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. He spends his free time playing video games and basketball, and wants to be a scientist one day.
Finalists in the TFK Kid Reporter contest were judged on a number of factors. One of their assignments was to write an article about a hometown hero. Kyle’s story is about David Green, who runs a tandem-bike program for the visually impaired. You can read it below. We’ll be introducing the rest of the TFK Kid Reporter squad throughout September.
One Saturday a month, the sighted world and the visually impaired world meet. The common factor: a bike. David Green works at Lighthouse Louisiana, an organization that provides jobs to people who have disabilities. He runs a tandem-bike program for the visually impaired.
“Before losing sight, I always rode a bike,” Green says. “It was one of my favorite pastimes. After riding a tandem with a sighted friend, I thought, ‘Wow. I lost my sight and I can still get the sensation of riding a bike.’ I wanted to share this gift with other people who are blind.”
Green lost his sight to a degenerative condition called Retinitis pigmentosa. It’s a hereditary eye disease that affects the retina and causes night blindness and peripheral vision loss.
Green may not have sight, but he has a vision. He challenges individuals with visual impairments to live an active lifestyle. For each meet, Green orchestrates a different route for riders to enjoy.
When participants arrive, they can expect to explore the city using many sensory skills. Green chooses locations where participants can encounter what the city has to offer by touch, smell, and hearing. “I make sure to create routes where we stop at local landmarks that our riders with visual impairments can meaningfully experience,” he says.
Elizabeth McDonald is a veteran pilot for the program. She met Green through the app Be My Eyes, which assists those with vision loss by providing verbal descriptions in real time.
After McDonald connected with Green, he invited her to ride one Saturday. “It opened my eyes to an amazing opportunity for people with visual impairments,” she says. “I met so many amazing people with vision loss who were getting on a bike, something I didn’t consider would be possible.”
Besides giving those with visual impairments the freedom to ride, Green advocates to make city streets safer. He is the face of self-determination. “It would have been easy for David to be insulated after he lost his vision,” McDonald says. “But he used it to think about challenges to his new community and enabled others through his work.”
Green is a true hometown hero for the city. He makes the visually impaired in New Orleans feel as if they can do anything on two wheels. Jemell Marsalis, an experienced participant who’s blind, expresses his enthusiasm for the program: “I love being able to get out and ride just like everyone else.”