Connor Boss: Miss Florida USA Pageant Contestant and Student with Visual Impairment
Breaking down barriers in the pageant world
You may or may not have heard the name, Connor Boss, in the news recently. Ms. Boss is an 18-year-old recent contestant in the Miss Florida USA pageant and current Miss Delray Beach, Florida. She also has an eye disorder called Stargardt's Disease. Stargardt's is a visual impairment that affects the macula of the retina, responsible for a person's "detail" vision commonly used for reading and seeing faces and signs. This condition is degenerative, but typically at a very slow pace and may also stabilize for long periods. Ms. Boss will be majoring Communications at Florida State University starting this year.
Question and Answer with Connor Boss
AFB CareerConnect: So, I know your major is Communications, but what is your career goal or interest within that field?
Connor Boss: I am currently considering broadcasting.
AFB CareerConnect: Do you use a white cane for travel?
Connor Boss: No.
AFB CareerConnect: What types or pieces of assistive technology do you use in life and for school?
Connor Boss: I use enlarged print, if it is 36-point font. I use books on tape, oral readers, victor readers and my CCTV.
AFB CareerConnect: How do you access your reading materials?
Connor Boss: Mostly on tape.
AFB CareerConnect: Did you have a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) while in school?
Connor Boss: I did while I attended public school, but I did not once I entered private school.
AFB CareerConnect: Did you receive any other services such as orientation and mobility, transition services from a community rehabilitation program (like the Miami Lighthouse or such), or the Florida
Division of Blind Services?
Connor Boss: I received these services only in elementary school.
AFB CareerConnect: How did you get involved in pageants?
Connor Boss: Many of my friends were entering a local pageant and it looked like fun. I actually won a pageant, and then became hooked!
AFB CareerConnect: What do you think you have learned from your experiences in the Miss Florida, Teen USA Pageant?
Connor Boss: I have really polished my public speaking skills. I have learned the importance of being healthy, and I have gained a tremendous amount of self-confidence.
AFB CareerConnect: How did you navigate the routines and traversing the different stages for evening gown and bathing suit aspects of the pageant?
Connor Boss: I memorized and counted the steps. They were good about giving me extra practice time.
AFB CareerConnect: Did you have a talent part of your competition? If so, what was your talent?
Connor Boss: There are two major pageant systems, the USA and the America. I competed in the USA system and there is no talent required.
AFB CareerConnect: Do you think you will continue with pageants in the future?
Connor Boss: Currently, my focus is on my education, but I would love to jump back into pageantry eventually.
AFB CareerConnect: What message do you want to promote with other teens who are visually impaired?
Connor Boss: Don't hold back. Every dream is worth chasing and no obstacle is too large.
AFB CareerConnect: Have you had a mentor in life?
Connor Boss: I would have to say my mother. She and I are very close and she has supported me every step of the way.
AFB CareerConnect: Do you have a mentor who is blind or visually impaired?
Connor Boss: No. I am the only one in my family who has Stargardt's, and I honestly had never met anyone else close to my age who was visually impaired until recently.
Thoughts from AFB CareerConnect
If you don't know much about Stargardt's Disease, then you might not know that many persons with this eye condition have good travel vision due to still having some peripheral vision. This can make reading signs difficult, as well as navigating stairs due to a loss of depth perception. It is not uncommon that students who attend a private school don't receive services from a teacher of the visually impaired. This is not always the case, as private schools may negotiate with the public schools or contract with a teacher of the visually impaired to make sure that the appropriate services are provided. This is an issue faced in many states and local areas around the United States. Accessing reading materials in multiple formats is so important, and learning the skills to access audible materials for college is a necessity for most students with vision loss due to the amount of reading required. Learning braille for practical purposes of accessing media in different environments is typically advisable. This may be to access restaurant menus, elevator labeling, signs in buildings, and other purposes. A white cane is an amazing tool, it could be beneficial to a person with Stargardt's, but it something that a person needs to be trained to use properly. Developing the mental travel skills involved with orientation and mobility is such a useful skill. Individuals have to be ready, adjust, and accept the need and importance of using a white cane. No one can force someone to use a white cane.
AFB CareerConnect is truly appreciative of Connor Boss taking the time to share about her experiences and vision loss. We look forward to hearing about her successes in the future. And, most importantly, Go Florida State University Seminoles!