Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Giving Back to My Community is Not Just My work But My Passion

When I launched my professional career in May 1995, my mind was set on working for a prestigious company as a public relations practitioner. Working in the non-profit industry was nowhere on the radar and neither was blindness. I had volunteered in the past both during my high school and college years. I had even sat on a collegiate board for the March of Dimes and found the work rewarding and enjoyable. Immediately after college I worked at a local public relations firm where we did pro bono work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s “Bowl for Breath” fundraising campaign. But little did I know that in a few months I would be going blind and that my whole life and career would drastically change.

Empish sitting at Coke exhibit tableI first came in contact with the Center for the Visually Impaired as a client. I was losing my vision to retinal detachment and optical nerve damage. I was currently working at a national corporate company and wanted to continue working but I needed help. CVI assisted me with the education and training that I needed to continue not only working but continue my life as well. I learned about assistive technology, traveling safely with a white cane, reading braille and completing household chores.

After losing my corporate job to downsizing, I was rethinking my career path and decided to volunteer at a non-profit. Since I was now a part of the disability community, I wanted to learn more and give back. I worked on a newsletter for a disability non-profit agency. This led to an AmeriCorps position which led to a resource position which finally led to sub-contract and freelance writing work. Before I knew it I had been working with local non-profits for several years. These opportunities allowed me to use my public relations and journalism experience while serving my own population. Then in 2008 the economy took a major nose dive and I had to rethink my career yet again. A visually impaired friend told me about an opening position at CVI and thought I would be perfect for it. The position included educating the public on vision loss, writing, editing and public speaking. Well, that sounded just like me! So here I am almost 6 years later doing exactly that.

What makes working at CVI so rewarding and fulfilling is I am not just a blind person representing my community but that I use my skills and talents every day. Through my speaking engagements, writing and editing the SightSeeing Blog, that you are reading, maintaining a blind community events calendar called InfoLink and more, I am able to promote our mission-independence with dignity. My visual disability enhances my position here because when I interact with the public I am a walking, live example of what a blind and visually impaired person is capable of doing. I am like the guy on the Hair Club for Men commercial. He says that he is not just the president but a user of the product. I find this motivating because people get a better understanding of the blind community when they interact with me. Seeing the reactions from people is encouraging and inspiring. It helps me to believe that what I am doing and the agency I represent are making differences in the world and in the lives of those with vision loss.