Gordon Gund is a 75-year-old business and investment mogul. He is the head of Gund Investment Corporation and is the former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He also has been blind for most of his life.
After graduating from Harvard, when he was beginning his promising career in business, Gund started to lose his vision. After seeing a doctor, Gund was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that causes the retina to degenerate over time. Five years later, Gund was legally blind.
No longer able to do everyday tasks like drive, and unable to see the face of his newborn child, Gund was disheartened. He couldn’t see a way to live the life he had always dreamed of anymore. He felt that his independence had been taken away and had no idea how to go on after losing his eyesight.
Leaving stereotypes of blindness behind
Gund is not the only one who has had to face learning how to work in a world he could not see. According to the National Foundation of the Blind, over 6.5 million Americans ages 16 through 75+ experience significant visual impairment. To put it into perspective, that’s more than the number of people living in the Dallas metro area.
Yet, in 2012, only 37.7% of working age adults reporting significant vision loss were employed. Many attribute this statistic to the stereotypes that are placed upon blind people in our society.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, a former leader of the National Federation of the Blind, said “it is no longer theory but established fact that, with proper training and opportunity, the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business—and do it as well as his sighted neighbor.”
Blind people can live independent lives. They can be parents, lawyers, engineers, teachers, or whatever they aspire to do.
In 2012, Christine Ha, a blind chef, won the third season of MasterChef USA and showed that you don’t have to be able to see to be at the top of your game. There are blind bloggers who show that the visually impaired can still be tech savvy. Visually impaired authors publish the stories of their vision loss, and their voices are heard across the world.
Living life to the fullest
How do they do it? How do blind people win cooking competitions or become successful CEOs?
Well, for Gordon Gund, the answer came while lying in a Russian hospital after a last-ditch effort to cure his blindness failed. Gund decided that his blindness wouldn’t keep him from pursuing his lofty goals. He realized, “sitting back and feeling sorry for yourself just isn’t worth it.”
Gund’s decision to not be held back by his blindness not only helped him become one of the most powerful businessmen in the United States, but has impacted the lives of people with visual impairments throughout the world.
With the help of his wife, Lulie, Gund founded the Foundation Fighting Blindness in 1971, which is devoted to researching ways to treat and cure retinal diseases. The Foundation’s work has brought about incredible medical advancements (like gene therapy and retinal cell transplantation) to help people regain their sight.
Though a cure for all retinal diseases has not yet been found, Gund is proof that physical limitations do not have to keep you from living an amazing life and making a difference in the world.
Learn more about his story by watching this video.
To experience what it is like for people with retinal diseases, check out Marc’s story below.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Video 1 courtesy of YouTube.
Video 2 courtesy of YouTube.