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Lara Sowell is a mother of four children and the wife of Mark Sowell, a podiatrist. She also happens to be the President of the Lone Star Chapter and Chairperson of the Scholarship Committee for the National Federation of the Blind of Texas.
Lara gradually lost sight as she was growing up, but noticed significant vision loss around the age of twelve. She remembers being very accident-prone, and—at one time—even thinking that she could see air. This ended up being blind spots in Lara’s vision, but it was enough to spark concern for Lara and her family. She was later diagnosed with Stargardt’s and severe retina damage.
Despite Lara’s loss of vision, she continued to push forward and even began working in a pharmacy. During this time of working in store and hospital pharmacies, Lara developed many skills on the job that helped her work with her low vision. After having her first child, and then subsequently becoming a single mom, Lara worked as a waitress to support herself and her young daughter. Fast forward a few years, and Lara married Mark, whom she met while working in a pharmacy.
Life before the Federation was fine, but Lara did not know many other blind people to whom she could relate.
“I felt all alone in a world of sighted people,” she said. “I felt kind of trapped between the world of sighted people and blind people. When I got to the Federation the philosophy was you’re either blind or not blind.”
Lara was first introduced to the Federation when she read an article given to her by her stepmother. On a whim, she and her family were able to attend the NFB National Convention in 2011. For Lara, it was love at first sight in the exhibit hall, Lara knew she had to join.
Unfortunately, at that time, the nearest meeting was two hours away from her house. Thankfully, in January of 2012, the Texas affiliate president invited her to attend an At-large Chapter, which met by conference call. She’s been a member ever since.
“When I went to the National Convention in 2012, that’s when I decided that I needed to start doing things the way blind people do them,” she said. “I went to a breakout session with Ruby Ryles about Braille literacy, and she convinced me that I had to learn Braille. So, I signed up for Hadley School for the Blind’s course.”
Since being married and having children, she and her husband have started a school with a few other families. Lara taught herself Latin in order to teach it to the enrolled students. Even with Lara’s active lifestyle, she is incredibly involved with the Federation.
“It was really great to find people who had the same philosophy of blindness as I did,” she said. “Yes, blindness can be inconvenient, but it is not the end of the world and life will go on. In the Federation, we’re super willing to help each other, people accept you for who you are, and we have common interests. It really does feel like a family from the start.”
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