I have tunnel vision, can read large print, don’t have any facial recognition and I only know people if they talk to me and then I know them by their voice.
Unfortunately my birth mother dropped me when I was an infant because she had bipolar disorder. I was not bonding with her and I was probably crying for one reason or another and she dropped me on the floor. I was knocked out for 15 days and when I finally came to, I was totally blind.
After my brain had a chance to heal, I was left legally blind.
When I was 8, my sister and I ultimately ended up in a foster home with a family who had already adopted a boy named Bobby who used a wheelchair. (And he was my first mobility instructor, but he didn’t know it. Because he was in a wheelchair, I would help him up the hills and that’s how I first learned my way around!)
Growing up and finding myself
Though I was in disability-specific classes throughout elementary school, I fought to be mainstreamed by middle school and had a special teacher that would make sure that my books were in large print or on tapes.
During the summers between middle school and my high school, I went to a camp for the blind in Massachusetts. It was a lot of fun there. I made more blind and low vision friends, and I got to do a lot of activities.
My favorites were sailing and the talent show where I could sing songs a cappella. While I was in school, I was in chorus and that was my favorite class because I could memorize the songs and everyone listened to me to stay with the rest of the chorus.
After graduating from high school, I tried college but it wasn’t a good fit for me. I also tried getting a job. At first, the school helped me and those were okay. Then I tried getting one with the youth employment agency and they got me one at a day center for elderly people. I really like working with older people because they are very understanding and they don’t mind that I have a vision problem.
Establishing my independence
When my mom passed away in 2011, I put in for disability housing. My friends were able to offer me temporary places to stay, but couldn’t teach me the safe ways to live independently.
I called the Carroll Center for the Blind and asked them about their programs – and I knew that that was where I had to go. I started the independent living program in January 2017. Two weeks before I was supposed to graduate, my arrangements with my friends fell through – making my placement through the program urgent.
I kept calling and going up to the housing office and being a pain in the neck. I also got my state rep involved and I had other friends speak on my behalf. Just a few days before my deadline, I called the housing office and was informed that I had a place!
I went to check it out: it was in an area that I knew, it had an entrance from the street and it is on the first floor. I met some of the people there and I was so happy I think I danced all the way home! I had help moving in from family and friends and it is awesome.
Sailing into a good life filled with hobbies and friends
The Carroll Center reached out about a blind sailing program and I went to try it out. I really liked it and then one of my friends told me of a blind sail racing program, so I tried that out too and love it even better! I have even placed in a few races.
I also sing with the Dedham Choral Society. I record the practices on my phone and learn the music by ear. Previously, I sang with the St. Catherine’s Choir for 12 years and even went to Rome to sing for the Pope one year.
I belong to two support groups and one of them has become almost like a family. We go on FaceTime every night and just check in on each other. We can talk about everything and anything under the sun and it is great!
And I also have a four-legged friend: in November of 2019, after a few unfortunate accidents and injuries, I went to the Guide Dog Foundation and trained with my first guide dog. He is my first one, and it was the best thing I ever did.
About the Author
Christine is a legally blind woman living in Norwood, Massachusetts. She loves singing, writing poetry, sailing and visiting with friends. You can connect with her on Facebook.