This is Part 1 of a two-part series that covers Louisville youth in the International Congress of Youth Voices, a summit that brings accomplished young students together with successful writers, advocates and politicians. Part 2 will be published Thursday, June 13.
Louisville native Shane Lowe has faced significant challenges in his life, being born blind and having a child while still in high school, but he’s managed to persevere and has found himself invited to a summit of the International Congress of Youth Voices in Puerto Rico. Congress of Youth Voices is a program that unites around 100 influential and impactful students from ages 16 to 20 with successful writers, activists and politicians.
Lowe, a 19-year-old student at Brescia University in Owensboro, has been selected to join the program this year because of his success in being an advocate for blind people and succeeding in multiple jobs despite his challenges, officials said.
Lowe has experience in a number of different fields. He said he once was a part-time consultant for Pearson Education, as he was tasked with helping the publishing company make its products more accessible for blind people.
Lowe also served as a part-time public relations liaison for a radio station based in the United Kingdom, in which he worked remotely from the United States. He later transferred from to join a network in New York.
Lowe has done sound production and design, as his expertise allowed him to create audio that was vivid without any visuals, he said.
In addition to this work, Lowe also worked with other students and the Louisville Story Program to help write a book that represented the viewpoint of blind students. It’s titled “We Can Hear You Just Fine.”
Blindness hasn’t been the challenge most think
Despite most people’s assumptions, Lowe said, blindness actually hasn’t been a challenge. He has been blind since birth, so he’s never known a different life.
“The most interesting thing about being blind is that blindness itself hasn’t represented a lot of a challenge,” he said. “That’s just kind of my life. There wasn’t really a lot of adaptivity going on because there was no change.”
While Lowe always has been accustomed to being blind, it still does present challenges. However, these challenges tend to come in the assumptions and social stigmas associated with being blind.
“What the actual challenge is as a blind person, for the most part, is people who don’t understand blindness,” Lowe said. “A lot of legislators think blind people are incapable of parenting … Fortunately, that did not happen to me. Being a blind parent is pretty much synonymous to being a regular parent. Sometimes you have to call your kid’s name instead of looking for them.”
Lowe said he has gotten his son, Kayson, who is 2 years old, to understand that when he calls his name, it’s important that he comes to Lowe so Lowe knows where he is.
Parenting has brought on a complicated schedule
Lowe has had a lot going on in recent years, and being a father has made his life much busier. He had his son when he was 17 years old and has been in school and working ever since then, he said.
With his travel, his work and his schoolwork, Lowe he has found himself having to sacrifice one thing for another time and time again. He said he often does his work and homework after Kayson has gone to bed, leading to a lot of late nights.
When they have the time, the two like to build trains together.
“It’s a very challenging schedule, but it’s also very worth it,” Lowe said.
Youth congress gives a chance to add perspective and learn from others
When Lowe attends the summit in August, there’s no doubt he’s going as an advocate for blind people.
“I hope to bring the perspective of a blind person raised in the part of the U.S. that I have been, where I’ve been able to experience various modern issues,” he said.
However, Lowe also is going to enjoy meeting other influential people, and he hopes to learn a lot.
“There are really some incredible, amazing people heading the congress,” he said. “More than anything, I will learn a ton from what they have to say and how they represent themselves and the places they come from.”
The congress certainly holds Lowe in high regard and thinks he’ll be able to contribute to the event.
“Shane and the other youth delegates were chosen because they’ve shown a clear vision about making the world a better and stronger place, and they’ve backed up their vision with hard work to make that change happen,” said Amanda Uhle, co-founder of the International Congress of Youth Voices and CEO of the Hawkins Project. “These students in particular were chosen in collaboration with the Louisville Story Program, whose work we deeply admire.”
What does the future hold?
Lowe has accomplished a lot at a young age, working for companies around the world and advocating for blind people. Despite his success, he’s not sure what his future holds.
“If you had to ask me to pick one career field, I couldn’t do it,” he said.
With his work in different technical fields, like sound production and design, as well as his work in public relations and his advocacy, he thinks his skill set is well-rounded and will work in his favor.
“A lot of my background can be combined in a really unique way,” he said. “I think all of those things can combine really well. They bring a lot to the table that can be used in different ways.”
Lowe may have more clarity on his future following his time at the Youth Voices Summit, which will take place Aug. 7-11 in San Juan.