Legally blind man creates elaborate Christmas lights display

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — At 6 p.m., the lights go on at Ryan and Kayla Jones' house in the Wyndham Downs neighborhood. If you're lucky enough to be driving by, you can hear the biblical Christmas story read on your car radio by Kayla Jones and see the lights flash, synchronized to the music of Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Ryan Jones started working on the electronics behind the display in March. He uses a computer, which has a feature that reads aloud the desktop to him, and Light-O-Rama, which offers various levels of light control to create the display.

Each piece of music takes him about 20 hours to prepare, he said. He perceives the music as a series of peaks and valleys on his laptop keyboard, and divides the song into a grid: The tree outside is one channel, the hedge another, the porch two channels.

"I think of it like an Excel spreadsheet," Ryan Jones said of the light and music choreography. "Music is a part of my life, and rhythm. I want my light show to be dead-on. But it doesn't have to be perfect."

While all this is impressive enough, it's even more amazing because Ryan Jones is legally blind. He describes his blindness as a spectrum of conditions rather than simply not being able to see at all.

Jones has a condition called Leber's congenital amaurosis, a rare inherited eye disease, affecting about one in 80,000 people.

When Jones was a child, he could read large-print books and watch TV. At 22, his vision reached "what I have now, which is light perception." He can distinguish between light and darkness, and with his peripheral vision can make out a bit more of bright lights such as pyrotechnics.

Now 34, Jones gets up on the lower part of his roof — accessible through an upstairs window — to work with his lights. He can perceive distance and feel enough to scoot around, he said, and even filmed part of a video about his light project up there.

His father, Bob Jones, was a University of Kentucky football kicker from 1968-70 and is now a retired high school principal in Crestview, Fla.

In an email, Bob Jones wrote this about his son: "When Ryan was very young we made a decision to let him do whatever he could and have as few restrictions as possible on him. He had many bumps and bruises, but he grew up believing he could accomplish anything within his reach. He played snare drum in our award-winning high school marching band, played drums in the jazz band, was graduated 10th in his class and won a countywide award for overcoming obstacles to graduate with honors."

Ryan Jones has since graduated from college and earned a master's degree. He travels the country training blind and visually impaired people in the use of assistive technology on behalf of the company Freedom Scientific.

Wrote his father: "He has also become our Christian role model."

Ryan Jones, who has been married for five years, met his wife, Kayla, at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. At first she did not realize he was blind. The Joneses say they are a team.

"I always want to be a support to him and let him do what he wants to do," said Kayla Jones, who has full vision.

As part of his job, Ryan Jones shows businesses "that they can hire visually impaired employees with the right tool." He said his job is "helping other people have the opportunities I've had."

At nearby Southern Heights Baptist Church, the pastor would like them to work on a light show for the church next year. In addition, Ryan Jones is thinking of ways to upgrade his home display.

He likes that the display gives back to the Lexington community, but he also wants to show those with disabilities that they are capable of almost anything they want to do.

"Ninety-nine percent of people, you'd tell them there is a blind guy who created a light show, they wouldn't believe it," Ryan Jones said. "But with the right tools, there's not a lot they can't do. I want to show people that people with a visual impairment can do just about anything anyone else can do."

The Jones' family light show is about 35 minutes long with seven songs and narration.

Where: The house is at 1748 Abbington Hill.

When: 6 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 6. Tune to 89.5 FM to access the sound, audible up to a mile away.

More information: "Jones Family Christmas Light and Music Show" on Facebook


Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

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