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Legally blind artist uses her talents, experiences to help students gain confidence through art

Posted: 5:32 PM, Jul 03, 2024
Updated: 2024-07-05 10:26:56-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lily Dickson is using her skills as a teacher and artist to help her visually impaired students gain confidence through their artwork.

"If you rub your hand across this, you can feel the different textures and stuff,” Dickson, art director at Alphapointe, said to a class full of students.

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Dickson knows some visually impaired kids at Alphapointe are very timid and don't have confidence in themselves, something she knows firsthand.

She was born with oculocutaneous albinism.

"I'm legally blind," Dickson said. "I'll never drive or anything like that. I have no depth perception, but I'm really good at inferring my surroundings."

So, the art director has built a creative space for kids with vision loss.


“Voices are the biggest part of recognition,” she said. "I didn't have a lot of confidence growing up, especially with my vision impairment, even just with navigating life physically and mentally. It's very difficult."

Through her studies at the Kansas City Art Institute, and with her own artwork, she found a way to express herself.


"They can learn more about themselves, learn more about their boundaries and try to push themselves to get more comfortable,” she said.

Texture in art is where Dickson's students explore.

"Very heavy layers of paint, fabric, cardboard and wood,” Dickson said. "When you're touching a piece of work, as opposed to seeing it, you're really getting to connect with it, and I think that's very important for sighted and not-sighted people."

In her work, Dickson shows how she navigates the city, dealing with transportation and her sight loss.


"I'm very proud of where I'm at right now in my art and in my skills,” she said. “A goal that I have is eventually opening up my own art maker space and providing resources to artists with or without a disability or impairment.”


Alphapointe, where Dickson teaches class, is a Kansas City area resource for people suffering vision loss.

The organization said it is preparing for more clients as vision loss cases are expected to dramatically increase in the next decade.

“We want to show the world that people with vision loss are living their life like anyone else," said Scott Cotter, director of communications at Alphapointe. "One of the guys here says, 'I can do anything you can do, but I do it differently.' And we believe that.”


A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 21 million people currently experience vision issues, 3.4 million people over 40 have vision loss and 80 million Americans have diseases that can cause blindness.

By 2030, those numbers could increase by 50%, with many of those cases related to complications from diabetes and other diseases.

KSHB 41 News Reporter Megan Abundis covers topics of interest in areas around south Kansas City, Missouri. Share your story idea with Megan by sending her an e-mail.