PROFILE — Manitoba teen’s website helps visually impaired kids feel less alone
Taliah Braun said next step is to launch an app
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Claim to fame:
Growing up, Taliah Braun remembers she was a super confident kid, despite being blind in one eye.
When she’d meet new friends at the park near her house, she wasn’t shy about showing her prosthetic eye from the get-go.
“I remember saying: ‘Look, I can pull out my eye!’ A lot of people would gawk and say: ‘That’s so creepy’ or whatever, but I didn’t really let that affect me,” she told CBC Kids News.
Despite her unwavering confidence, she found it lonely being the only kid she knew with a prosthetic eye.
She wanted to make sure other kids like her didn’t have to feel that way.
“I wanted kids across the world to stop feeling as alone as I did.” - Taliah Braun, 15
Last year, she launched a website called Vision Village, which connects kids ages 6 to 16 with vision impairments with one another.
She has helped dozens of people from around the world feel less alone with their visual difference.
Taliah’s visual difference
Ten days after she was born, Taliah was diagnosed with a rare eye disorder called pediatric congenital microphthalmia, which caused her left eye to not fully develop.
It means that she’s completely blind in that eye.
Since then, she’s had to wear a prosthetic eye, which is an artificial eye that is placed in a person’s eye socket.
The eye doesn’t help her see, but helps make her face symmetrical.
“Growing up, I was aware of my challenge and difference. Putting in my prosthetic eye was sometimes uncomfortable, and sometimes it wouldn’t quite work,” she said.
When she’d play baseball, for example, she’d have to be a left batter so she could see when the ball was coming.
Over the years, Taliah said she began to feel more and more lonely with her challenges not knowing anyone else like her.
The vision for Vision Village
Taliah began looking for online spaces where she could connect to other kids with vision impairments, but couldn’t find anything.
“I went to my parents one night and just told them how alone I felt and wished there was a space for other kids like me,” she said.
“But something in me just kind of clicked. I said, ‘You know what? If I can’t find a place like this, I want to create it myself.’”
In January 2020, when she was 13, she and her dad began building the concept for Vision Village: an online space where kids could sign up and be connected with a virtual pen pal who also shared a visual difference.
“I wanted kids across the world to stop feeling as alone as I did,” Taliah said.
Vision Village launch and success
In June 2021, Taliah finally launched the website.
Since then, the site has grown to 30 members who have been paired with one another.
“A lot of people have contacted me to say that it’s changed the way they view their visual disability, and that they’ve now seen others in their community and know they’re not alone,” said Taliah.
Taliah said some people have even sent her money to help grow her website.
She said the next step is to get a Vision Village app.
“Now our goal is to go to some donors and businesses and ask for funds so that we can create an app that more easily allows members to connect,” she said.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: submitted by Taliah Braun