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S27: Danelle Umstead: From Olympic Medals to Mirrorball Dreams

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At the age of 13, Danelle Umstead was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition where the retina progressively degenerates and eventually causes blindness. She has no central vision and is losing her peripheral vision. Currently, her spotted vision limits her sight to less than five feet without any detail. Her father, Peter, first introduced her to adaptive skiing in 2001. Skiing not only gave Danelle her life back, it also led to meeting her husband Rob while skiing in Taos, New Mexico in 2005. Her severe vision requires her to ski with a guide, a job in which Rob has taken on since the summer of 2008. As her guide, Rob skis a few feet in front of Danelle and acts as her "eyes" on the course. As Team Vision4Gold, Danelle and Rob have won 3 Paralympic Bronze Medals, 4 World Championship Medals and over 50 Alpine Skiing World Cup medals. Danelle and Rob made history at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games as the first husband and wife visually impaired ski race team to compete and medal for Team USA. They earned Bronze Medals in both the downhill and super combined events in Vancouver and ended that season with the overall and Super G World Cup titles. The duo also earned a Bronze Medal in the super combined at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympic Games.

Danelle Umstead is partnered with Pro Artem Chigvintsev.

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I appreciate the description of the nature of her sight above. Just as I suspected, she's not totally blind (plus as I understand, total blindness is not that common with her type of visual impairment). My conceptualization of "blindness" tends to mean someone who is totally blind (i.e., complete darkness). It's probably more accurate to say she is visually impaired, although to be fair, Danelle herself said that she was blind. 

When I completed a rotation at a state school for the deaf and visually impaired, we had the chance to try different goggles and blindfolds to simulate different types of visual impairments. It is really a diverse group of impairments. I also found examples of simulations through the Perkins Institute (http://www.perkinselearning.org/scout/blog/simulation-vision-conditions). 

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