“The next time you go to your favorite fast food restaurant, try to order exactly what you want without looking at the menu,” Josh Arter, a freshman criminal justice major at Ball State University, explianed. “That’s what it’s like for me every day.”
At first glance, Arter, 19, seemed like any other college student. He is in the honors program, involved with the criminal justice fraternity, Lambda Alpha Epsilon, and a member of the bowling team.
“Most of the guys on my bowling team didn’t even realize that I was blind until I told them,” Arter said.
His vision is not the only thing that is deteriorating. Eye sight impairment is just one of the many complications brought on by Marfan Syndrome, which Arter was diagnosed with at the age of 3. Arter is one of the 200,000 people diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome in the U.S.
Marfan Syndrome is a genetic disease of the connective tissue in the body. The disease has also caused him to develop an enlarged aorta, which has limited his ability to participate in most strenuous physical activity. The symptoms of the disease affect different individuals in various ways.
“My mom has Marfan Syndrome and so does my brother,” Arter explained. “Mom has bad vision like me, but my brother isn’t affected physically.”
Arter’s impairment isn’t immediately evident, due to the fact that he is not legally blind. Legal blindness is classified as having a vision impairment of 20/200. This means that the impaired individual can only read a sign that is 20 feet away, when the average person could read the same sign at 200 feet. Arter has a visual acuity of 20/100.
So the question is, how does someone who is blind, bowl? Arter responded that it’s the contrast between the white pins and the background that he focuses on.
“Depending on what [bowling alley] I’m at, I have to actually count out the planks on the floor with my foot,” he said. “And I have counted wrong plenty of times.” He stated that the colors in the wood of the boards can sometimes get confusing, which makes perfecting his technique frustrating.
This challenging aspect of bowling first attracted Arter to the sport. For the past four years, since he first started bowling on his high school team, he has been determined to self-improve. Even though he has become increasingly better, the team atmosphere is what he enjoys most.
“Bowling was an opportunity for me to do something athletic and also be on a team,” Arter said. “I tell people that I bowl with my brothers, because you build a family.”
Ball State men’s bowling coach Justin Hampton said that Arter is one of the biggest assets to the team.
“He has the heart of a champion,” stated Hampton. “If I could take his mentality and share it with the entire team, I would have the perfect team.”
Arter admitted that the hardest part about growing up with Marfan Syndrome was being denied the opportunity to play on a team.
“I couldn’t play any contact sports. I have a 1 in 10 chance of dying if I ever got hit,” he said. “Physically, it affects me more now, but mentally it was so much worse when I was younger.”
Jenny Arter, Josh’s mother, recounted how even though he was diagnosed at a young age, he never seemed to notice a difference between himself and the other kids.
“It’s hard to watch your child grow up that way,” Mrs. Arter commented. “He was always so optimistic, though.”
Arter’s optimism is best shown in his sense of humor. He pointed out that he finds himself in situations that frequently end up taking a comical turn, usually at his own expense.
“The first time I went to lunch with my best friend Justin, he kept asking me what I wanted to order,” Arter remarked. “I told him to order, but he kept insisting. Finally I said, ‘Justin, I can’t see the menu. I’m going to order whatever you order, so make sure it’s something I like.'”
Teammate Nathan Brown, 21, expressed how much Arter’s personality affects the Ball State bowling team.
“He always brings so much energy and can make the entire team fall over from laughing” Brown observed.
Arter responded that he tries to live life by finding the humor in everything. He believes that no one can laugh at you, if you’re laughing too.
“Being blind is not funny,” he said. “But I can make a joke about being blind. If you can’t laugh at yourself then there’s something wrong with you.”
Arter’s personal best bowling score is a 215. His score has climbed ten points since the beginning of the year. Considering a perfect score in bowling is a 300, Arter’s success leaves room for a lasting impression.
“Bowling just proves that I am one of the cockiest people you will ever meet,” says Arter with a laugh. “But I don’t say that to put people down. I say that to make you laugh, and that’s how I try to look at life.”
Arter’s teammates, coaches, and friends have explained that sometimes they even forget that he is blind. His perseverance and humorous outlook on life has replaced the importance of his sight.
“If I could change my situation,” Arter begins, “I would really have to wait and think about it. Because it’s a part of me, and makes me who I am.”