I have been legally blind since birth with my most recent diagnosis being photoreceptor disorder. From my understanding, this is a catch-all, because they cannot determine a specific disease.
The number one question I am most often asked is what I can see. This is a very difficult question since I have always seen this way. I can see extremely vague details within five to ten feet. This means I can usually tell where people are, but I cannot pick up on facial expressions or other nonverbal communications. Beyond ten feet, it is too difficult to distinguish anything but blurry movement.
I have never let my vision stop me from doing anything that I have wanted to do. Most of my friends often tell me that they forget that I am legally blind. I love to paddle board, play disc golf (with beeper assistance), and play my guitar.
My passion for good quality food led me to roasting my own coffee. I rely on my sense of smell and hearing when I am roasting the coffee beans.
Most people don’t know that before coffee is roasted it is green and very dense. So when I first start a roast, the dense beans are louder and sound solid. As the beans begin to lose mass, they become lighter and sound more muted. The aroma also assists me to know where I am in the roasting process.
In the beginning of the roast, the beans smell grassy. But as the roast progresses, the aroma transforms to the rich, roasted smell of coffee. I have modified my machine controls with tactile points in addition to using a talking timer to keep me on track.
Since I received good feedback from friends and family, I decided to take a passion of mine and turn it into a business. In December of 2016, Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery opened our doors for business. Our goal is to roast high-quality coffee for retail stores, restaurants, and coffee shops.
We are also implementing a summer internship program for blind and visually impaired students to teach them basic business and marketing skills as well as self-advocacy. I would like to take it one step further and allow them recreational opportunities as well. If they themselves or someone else has told them they can’t do something because of their vision, I want to be by their side assisting – all while having fun.
Albert Einstein said, “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” To me, this means that when you are trying something new, it is going to be difficult, and it is not only okay to make mistakes but necessary.
The important part is to learn from your mistakes. I believe we all have our own individual challenges we need to overcome to be successful. Whether they are socioeconomic, family issues, or a disability – whatever it may be – there are resources and opportunities for us all.