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Meet our new Ambassador, Ron McCallum, AO PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 01 July 2013
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The RANZCO Eye Foundation is delighted to welcome our new Ambassador Professor Emeritus Ron McCallum, AO

Former Senior Australian of the Year (2011), Ron McCallum, AO was the first totally blind person to be appointed by any university in Australasia to a full professorship in any field, or as a Dean of Law. Professor McCallum, AO also serves as Vice-Chair of the United Nation's first Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as Deputy Chair of the Board of Directors of Vision Australia.  As we launch into Week 1 of JulEYE, we caught up with Professor McCallum to find out more of his story.

You were born with perfect eyesight but your eyes were damaged when you were in hospital after being born, can you tell us what happened?

I was born between 8 and 10 weeks premature in October 1948. I was placed in a humidicrib and given pure oxygen to assist my breathing. Oxygen is a strong gas in the bodies of premature babies and it destroyed my sight. This is known as retrolental fibroplasia. Thankfully it is now a rare occurrence in the developed world.

How did your parents react to you having this condition?

I owe a great deal to my Mum who reacted very well and commenced my training as one who lives without sight.

When did you realise that you were different to your brothers because you couldn’t see?

I guess when I was about three and when our Mum was reading us a story with pictures, I realised that I couldn’t read the print or see the pictures.

How has technology helped you over the years? What would be the most life-altering device that you have used?

I think that my current best device is my iPhone and then my computer, which uses computer-based adaptive technology and synthetic speech to read out to me what is on the screen. I spoke recently at TEDx in Sydney about how technology has helped me over the years. You can watch the talk here.

What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment?

Leaving aside my marriage to Professor Mary Crock and our three children, I think the most important thing I have accomplished is teaching law students for forty-one years.

And what has been your biggest challenge in life?

I’m not sure. Perhaps holding the position of Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is very challenging. This Committee monitors on a world-wide basis, the implementation of the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I am now a Vice-Chairperson of this Committee.

Lastly, what do you hope to see this JulEYE?

For people to realise how precious this sight is.  I want to encourage everyone to safeguard their own and their family’s vision.


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