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.
I 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.