Posted: Thursday, 14 March 2013 3:29PM
Legally Blind Racer Forges Ahead as Musher -- and Reader
(NewsUSA) - Rachael Scdoris is a competitive dogsled racer and -- thanks to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), the Library of Congress -- an avid reader.
Scdoris, 28, was raised in Bend, Ore., on the back of a sled. Her father spent 36 years as a musher, and Scdoris was determined to follow his trail. The fact that she couldn't see it mattered little. Scdoris was born with a rare vision disorder called congenital achromatopsia, rendering her legally blind with complete color blindness. But her flat, fuzzy world was harder for others to overcome than for Scdoris. She believes a disability is only a state of mind.
"What it really boils down to is people saying, ?Well, if I were visually impaired, I couldn't do it, so clearly you can't.'" Scdoris said. So it was "a major controversy" when, as a teenager, she was allowed to enter the 2003 Iditarod -- the Super Bowl of dogsled racing.
She competed in the Iditarod three times after that. Scdoris also juggles training for her newest competitive pursuit, tandem cycling, with giving commercial sled dog tours and taking care of a kennel the size of a football field.
Last year, Scdoris spoke at the national conference of libraries that partner with NLS to provide books and magazines in audio and braille to people with visual or physical disabilities.
"They told me about all this cool technology they're using to make it easier for their patrons, and I really wanted to take advantage of that again," Scdoris said. "What takes most people about 20 minutes to read would take me an hour or more. To have the book on audio and be able to listen to it faster than most people could read it -- that was a nice thing. I've read a lot more books in the past few months than I did all last year."
Even when she's enjoying her books, though, her furry teammates are not far from her mind.
"They're amazing," Scdoris said. "No matter how tough a run is, they always love it. The definition of teamwork is many individuals working toward a common goal. They're all individuals, but they become such a unit when it's important. I've been doing this my entire life, and I've tried to explain it my entire life, and I really can't. It's a feeling unlike any other."
If you, a friend or a loved one are blind, have low vision or cannot hold a book because of an illness or disability, the free NLS program can help you continue to experience the joy of reading. To learn more, visit www.loc.gov/nls or call 1-888-NLS-READ.