Out of Sight

For those who attend the Texas School for the Blind, life is about team sports, class plays, American Idol parties, and prom night. It’s the one place where they can see themselves for who they really are: typical teenagers.

  1. Three days before the prom at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I stopped by House 573, a small girls’ dormitory on the school’s campus, in Austin. Tammy Reed, House 573’s sturdy, perpetually good-natured dorm manager—beloved for, among other things, her Tuesday night American Idol viewing parties, which include running commentary and hot wings—was telling me why the prom was the most thrilling night of the year for her girls. “Blind students usually don’t get asked to the prom,” she said as we sat at the kitchen table, which had been taken over by curling irons, cans of hair spray, bobby pins, Q-tips, nail polish, and costume jewelry. “And if they go to the prom, they end up standing against the wall. Everyone comes to our prom, and there won’t be a kid there who doesn’t dance.”

    The ninth-period bell had already rung, signaling that school was out for the day, and Tammy’s students, some with white canes in hand, were making their way back to House 573. “Okay, girls!” Tammy cried as they straggled in, steering them toward a large pile of hand-me-downs from past proms that she had taken out of storage. “There are plenty of dresses here to try on if you don’t have something for Saturday night. If you already know what you’re wearing, why don’t you put it on and show me?” The girls began pulling gowns from the heap, feeling the textures of the different materials, fingering hemlines, tracing the contours of each design. If they had any vision, however faint...