Blind Services: Consumer Story
Sara Nichols, 31, is a speech therapist from Atlanta, close to where the borders of Arkansas and Louisiana meet Texas. She is legally blind as a result of macular dystrophy, a rare, genetic eye disorder.
Sara works in several schools in Cass County. She came to DARS for assistance with job retention when her vision loss caused her to have difficulty completing her job duties. With help from DARS, Sara kept her job.
DARS Field Specialist Stacey Sewell guided Sara through an array of low-vision services, including Braille instruction, orientation and mobility training, and assistive technology purchases.
A video magnifier helps Sara access print material. Magnification software enables her to complete reports and assessments. Orientation and mobility training allows Sara to travel around her schools independently with her cane. She also learned Braille and can make special Braille labels for her file folders. Sara has used all the services provided by DARS to continue her career as a speech therapist.
“I would not be where I am today without your help,” Sara told Stacey. In fact, Sara told a story about how she was able to complete tasks when her non-disabled co-workers literally were left in the dark.
“When the electricity went out at school, some of the teachers were frantically trying to get around the school and figure out some way to be productive,” Sara explained. “All the teachers were standing in the hallways because they couldn’t really do anything else. After about 30 to 45 minutes in the dark, I came out of my classroom and was headed to the front office. Some of the teachers stopped me and asked what I was doing in my room. I told them that I was organizing folders and reading.”
“They all appeared pretty confused, so one teacher said, ‘How are you getting anything done with no lights?’ I responded to her by saying, ‘Well, I was using Braille. Who’s disabled now? Not me!’” said Sara.
“One teacher told me that was the first time she realized that there are times when completely ‘normal’ people are disabled. She said she never had considered that there may be a time or a situation when a person with a disability is more ‘abled’ than she is.”
Sara continued, “And personally, this was the first time in my ‘disabled’ life that I could do more than someone who was not disabled!”