Jason DeCamillis of Ypsilanti, Mich., has wanted to learn to fly a plane ever since he was a child. However, he never thought that it would be possible because he is legally blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive condition that slowly affects his peripheral and night vision.
“I have about 20° of central vision now, which some refer to as tunnel vision,” said DeCamillis, a special education teacher and advocate.
Earlier this year, he saw a video online of a pilot who had lost his license due to the same condition, but kept on flying by taking flight lessons.
“I thought, ‘Wow. Maybe I could do the same thing.’ I had just never thought to ask,” DeCamillis said.
He contacted a local nonprofit flying club in Ann Arbor, Mich., and not only did the club agree to take him up for a discovery flight, but his instructor, Dr. Alex Arts, encouraged him to pursue flight instruction.
It’s been a few weeks now, and DeCamillis has logged over 8 hours of flight time even though he can’t ultimately get his license.
“I see this an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream,” he said. “It’s not about overcoming disability; it’s about living my life. I’ve seen so many people forgo their dreams as a result of traditional notions of disability, and I want to share what is possible when we work together across ability — doing so isn’t charity or inspiration, it’s life.”
DeCamillis holds a visual impairment special education teaching certificate in the state of Michigan, and recently graduated from Eastern Michigan University’s Special Education Teacher Preparation Program (BA ’14), and the University of Michigan’s Educational Leadership and Policy Program (MA ’15).