LINCOLN, Neb. — Forget protocol, chain of command or whatever else bureaucracy throws in the path of expediency.
Mickle Middle School sixth-grader Josh Root saw a problem and went straight to the top.
"I think he had a very great idea," said Ko Inamura, a Lincoln Public Schools teacher for visually impaired students. "He just surprises us all the time."
The problem: no Braille lunch menus at LPS, which is no longer the case.
Josh was born with the rare eye disease aniridia — his iris never developed, making him light sensitive and hampering his vision. He learned Braille as a pre-schooler, but he also reads large print, and does so to decide what he'll eat for lunch at school every day.
But it occurred to him recently it would challenge his blind friend since school lunch menus weren't available in Braille.
His friend wasn't complaining or anything.
"I just figured it out on my own," Josh said. "My friend is just blind, and I was thinking about what he had to deal with."
Josh didn't mention the thought to his teachers or parents. He emailed LPS Superintendent Steve Joel to see if something could be done.
"We found out after the fact, so we said, 'What? What did you do?'" Inamura said. "It was a very pleasant surprise for us."
Joel met Josh and set in motion a solution that will benefit at least 15 LPS students and give one in the VOICE program — a job skills program for special education students 18 to 21 — a job.
Inamura said about 130 LPS students are vision-impaired and of those, about 15 can read only Braille, but others with vision problems would choose the option if it were available.
LPS prints its lunch menus each month and now will send Inamura a copy a couple of weeks ahead of time. Kit Lindner, a visually impaired student in the VOICE program, will type the menu into a format needed to translate it into Braille. The district's Braillists will do so.
Josh, who likes to write using Braille, has the same disease as his dad and, apparently, the same attitude.
Chris Root is a self-taught computer programmer who worked 15 years as a professional musician.
"I always had the attitude that if I wanted to go somewhere or do something, I'd find a way to do it," he said. "I'm glad to see (Josh) is picking up that spirit because he'll go a long way with that."
His dad also is impressed with his son — who wants to teach Braille some day — for taking the initiative to benefit someone else.
"We are very proud of him," he said. "He took the initiative to get something changed, and it wasn't even because he couldn't see the menus."
And he made it happen in record time.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com