PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's a rare genetic disorder that is a leading cause of deaf blindness, affecting millions of Americans. But a USM student who was born with Usher Syndrome isn't letting his gradual loss of vision stand in the way of his dream of becoming a human rights attorney.
Even on a beautiful day this is where you'll find Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette.
In his apartment at the computer, working on a class project. Dylan is a double major in international studies and political science at USM where he maintains a 3.6 GPA. Pretty incredible for someone who is going blind.
"I have less and less peripheral vision as time goes on, and there are just certain areas in my field of vision that are just blind spots, basically which I don't see out of," said Dylan.
Dylan suffers from a genetic condition called Retitnis Pigmentosa or RP, which causes the gradual degeneration of the retina. Because he also has moderate hearing loss, Dylan has what is known as Usher Syndrome Type 2. He was fitted with hearing aids as a young child, but his vision condition wasn't diagnosed until he was 13. It took Dylan years to finally accept help from groups that work with the visually impaired, like the Iris Network.
That 'help' was technical assistance and equipment that allows him to do his course work. When he needs to read an article or access a chapter in a textbook he uses 'Zoom Text' softtware that reads out loud.
He uses Closed Circuit television to look up classes. It zooms n on the information at the right contrast. A stream reader which the size of a MP3 player allows Dylan to download and navigate text books.
That was a real big step learning how to utilize the equipment that was available to me to make it so I was on a even footing with everybody to make it that I could be successful,' said Dylan.
Dylan hopes to become a human rights attorney one day -- has also sponsored symposium at USM. Spotlighting mass atrocities going on in other parts of the world.
"If you want to cry, if you want to vent we are here and more than willing to because I didn't have that when Dylan was diagnosed," said Kristine Hedtler-Gaudette, Dylan's mother.
Dylan and his mother are also committed to helping families with retinal degenerative diseases, raising awareness and money to for research and clinical trials for ground breaking new treatments. Dylan and his family will be participating in the 2nd Annual Maine VisionWalk on Sunday, June 10th at Payson Park in Portland.
The 5k walk begins at 10 a.m. and the proceeds will go to support research to find preventions, treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases. If you would like more information, you can go to www.VisionWalk.org.