• Marki Wilber, Vicki Mellino

Student Humphrey ‘urges’ more focus on issues pertaining to people with disabilities


Freshman Jeff Humphrey, majoring in sociology and anthropology, dreams of being a civil or disability advocate. While discussing people with disabilities and how they are often neglected in society, Humphrey said, “Something does need to be done.”

Although he believes education of the struggles facing minorities is important, he urges that there needs to be a stronger focus on the issues disabled people face on a daily basis.

Why?

For one simple fact: Jeff Humphrey is blind.

From Warren, 22-year-old Humphrey was born completely blind, and after years of surgeries, he now has extremely limited, partial use of one eye. He is able to vaguely make out shapes and colors; so, if a person approaches Humphrey he can make out an indistinct outline of the figure.

When Humphrey was about a month old it was discovered that he had Peter’s Anomaly. This condition is described by the National Library of Medicine’s website as an abnormal “development of the anterior segment... leading to incomplete separation of the cornea from the iris or the lens. As a result, the cornea is cloudy (opaque), which causes blurred vision.”

In addition to Peter’s Anomaly, Humphrey also deals with glaucoma. This affected his chances of wrestling at Olivet College. After a few weeks of participating in this sport, his doctor informed him that his glaucoma would worsen, causing him to lose any eyesight he had gained through surgeries.

Despite these struggles, Humphrey is an ambitious individual and adament toward achieving his short-term goal to complete his degree in anthropology and sociology at Olivet College within four years. He also plans on attending Cooley Law School in Lansing after graduation. Humphrey stressed that a law degree will enable him to pursue a career in either criminal law or as an archeological resource lawyer.

After earning his juris doctorate, Humphrey hinted that classmates may someday see his name on an election ballot, as one of his long-term goals includes running for Congress and landing a Senate position. “I want to change the world and make things better,” Humphrey said.

For now, Humphrey’s focus remains on the present, emphasizing the need for a large support group to bring awareness to the challenges that face the handicap and disabled community, beginning with changes that need to happen not just at Olivet College but in society in general.

Humphrey explained that he does not want to be known as “the blind kid,” or any label for that matter.

“I want to be me. I want to be me and recognized for the God-given things I can do,” Humphrey said.

Although Humphrey faces challenges others do not normally have to deal with in their everyday lives, he does not allow these to hinder his involvement on campus. He is a tenor in the campus choir and active in several college organizations.

According to freshman Kylie Garnsay, who is also a member of the Olivet College choir, Humphrey sings by ear as opposed to reading sheet music. He is able to listen to those singing around him and memorize the songs.

After having lived in the city all his life, the decision to attend Olivet College was clear to Humphrey. “When I came here I pretty much fell in love with the place,” Humphrey said, adding that he enjoys the country and small-town atmosphere.

Humphrey lives in an apartment in town along with his father, Jeff Allen Humphrey, who provides him with transportation to and from campus.

What does the future hold for Humphrey? For now, he enjoys his campus involvement and classes, particularly his philosophy course with Dustin Byrd because of the way Byrd lectures.

Humphrey also looks forward to finding a job on campus next year, possibly through office work.

Humphrey would like to see a change in how society views the disabled. He said he strives for a perfect world where people are seen as more than their disability and for all of the great things they are capable of.

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Humphrey’s Campus Involvement

  • National Organization for Women (NOW), which brings attention to the issues and challenges that face women

  • Student Government Association (SGA) freshman representative, where he attends meetings, votes and keeps his ear out for students and what they need, while working with the Sustainability Committee, which is in charge of recycling and works directly with Physical Plant

Humphrey’s Tools for Everyday Life

  • Kindle for reading books out loud

  • $3,000 machine that reads books out loud, page-by-page (but not text books)

  • Bluetooth keyboard

  • Cane (not called a stick)

Hobbies

  • Collecting rocks and precious gems, reading and online gaming

  • Gamers Guild (favorite games include Tactical Base, Magic the Gathering and board games such as Risk)

  • Sci-fi fanatic (Loves Dr. Who)

*Photo by Vicki Mellino

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