PROFILE — Manitoba teen’s website helps visually impaired kids feel less alone

Published 2022-11-25 02:00

Taliah Braun said next step is to launch an app

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Taliah Braun


Niverville, Manitoba



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.

A picture of Taliah as a toddler, showing her left eye squinting without her prosthetic in.

Taliah was diagnosed with her visual difference when she was 10 days old. (Image submitted by Taliah Braun)

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.

Six pebble-like artificial eyeballs shaped somewhere between a circle and triangle are displayed, each with a brown eye colour.

Taliah’s prosthetic eyes aren’t round like a marble. They’re more like a really thick contact lens that fills the space in her eye socket to make her face look more symmetrical.  (Image submitted by Taliah Braun)

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.

Close up of a girl's face focusing on her brown eye

Taliah Braun, pictured here, said she was tired of feeling lonely being the only kid she knew with a visual difference.  (Image submitted by Taliah Braun)

“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 girl standing against a pink wall, she is wearing a blue hoodie and holding the orange handle of a white mobility cane in her right hand.

Vision Village includes a section called ‘inspiration corner’ where Taliah spotlights the stories of some of her members, including a girl named Makaylee who co-founded a virtual choir for people with disabilities. (Image submitted by Taliah Braun)

“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.

 A screenshot from Taliah’s websites shows possible questions for pen pals such as favourite food or favourite animal.

On her website, Taliah includes tips for how pen pals can get to know each other better. (Image credit: Vision Village)

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

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