Jacob Hudson

Asked how he sees the world, Jacob Hudson, who is legally blind, says it’s hard to describe. He’s unable to make a comparison, since he’s only seen things one way since birth.

“Pretty much, I cannot see long distances or fine print. I don’t have a wide field of vision. Right now, I barely see Eric over there,” Hudson explains during an interview, referring to his instructor, Eric McCann. “That’s mostly because the left eye has much worse vision than my right … really bad peripheral vision. I can see straight ahead of me. I see to the right pretty well, but not to the left.”

With the help of adaptive devices and an instructor who’s sensitive to his needs, Hudson, from Pekin (Ill.) Community High School, made it to the SkillsUSA Championships in Internetworking.

Because he was born with the vision impairment, Hudson is not bothered by people asking about it. “I’ve had 17 years to get used to it,” he laughs.

At times, school had been a challenge for him, but a random course selection led to SkillsUSA and changed everything.

In his freshman year, he was looking for an elective class. “Networking sounded cool,” Hudson says. “After getting used to it and the people involved, I started being really good at it, and that’s how I got involved in SkillsUSA. In a span of two years, I went from actually hating technology altogether to being a complete computer addict!”

The next year, he placed fourth at the state championships. What he learned from that competition helped him make it to nationals. His instructor making sure he had the right equipment didn’t hurt.

Focusing on his strengths

“[McCann] is one of the most helpful teachers I’ve ever had. And, he helped meet my need for adaptive software installed and stuff like that. I’ve had some teachers who’ve kind of slipped away from that … enlarging my work and tests,” Hudson explains. “He’s always been there for me for that stuff.”

While Hudson applauds his instructor for his help, McCann is quick to deflect the attention, emphasizing how Hudson has succeeded on his own.

“The thing I found with Jacob is, I treat him like any other student,” McCann points out. “We had the playing field set up early on. We had some software loaded on the computer so everything was magnified on there. I usually remember to print everything out in a large font. If I don’t, he lets me know.

“He’s extremely motivated. He really pushes himself to do well. He’s gained a lot in the last couple of years.”

Others may find an impairment to be a setback. Hudson realizes the advantages.

“I have a visual impairment, but I have the ability to memorize stuff really easily. All I have to do is hear it,” he explains.

Hudson’s auditory learning skills are phenomenal. When he listens to instructions, he instantly comprehends. Combining that gift with his enthusiasm for working in information technology has yielded an unexpected bonus.

“I’ve redeemed my interest in math this year. It’s really strange. Math was my hardest subject since grade school [because] teachers used the chalk board.” But, Hudson adds, “This year, I got an A in math class, the first time since fourth grade. There’s a lot of math in networking. I’m sure that contributed.”

To prepare for the 2010 national event, Hudson met with the postsecondary Internetworking champion for advice. During the competition, he wore special glasses and used a hand-held magnifier.

“The magnifier’s about the size of my name tag. It has several magnification and color options, and I can make it high-contrast or turn the back light on or off so glossy images can be seen,” he explains.

What are his career aspirations after high school?

“Something in IT, obviously,” Hudson emphasizes. “I’m not sure exactly what field yet, but it will involve computers.”