‘I’ve been able to live my life as though I was able to see.’
“They found out in second grade that I couldn’t see well. They gave me a special kind of desk that was on a slant so I would be able to comfortably look at any kind of reading material or test.
“My visual impairment is genetic — the optic nerve didn’t form normally so I believe I’m not getting the whole picture of what I look at. The way to explain it is I’m not getting all the pixels. There’s no way to fix it, but I’m happy about what I can see, I can see flowers, I can see people. Because of different organizations on Long Island that helped me out, I really didn’t have to struggle with my visual impairment.
“When I was 10 or 11, the local Lion’s Club found out that I was visually impaired, and they helped my mother pay for my glasses because they were expensive. My father left us when we were young, so it was my mother who raised me and my siblings. Then the Department of Vocational Rehab paid for my college, and also worked with me when I was an adult and I got a job with the Internal Revenue Service in Holbrook in 1975. They purchased for me a device that could read books, so I was able to look at tax returns and see if there was any missing information. Toward the end, everything was more or less done on the computer with software that made everything larger.
There’s no way to fix it, but I’m happy about what I can see, I can see flowers, I can see people.
“When I retire 37 years later in 2013, my team gave me money to buy a Kindle and I can enlarge the letters. I read a lot, I read the Bible a lot but my eyesight has gotten worse as I got older and I was no longer able to read even the giant print. It was perfect timing that I got this Kindle with lighted lettering. For getting around, I was using public buses with a reduced fare, so I could take a bus for 75 cents. But the problem was I couldn’t see where to get off.
“Now I use the Suffolk County Accessible Transportation – they take me from door to door, any place I want to go in the county for $4 each way. So that’s a real blessing, it’s allowing me to be very independent. Even though I have a handicap, I’ve been able to live my life as though I was able to see. I go to church and I’m able to attend more events and meetings than the rest of the congregation. It’s amazing how I’m able to get there.”
Interviewed by Rachel O’Brien-Morano