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The Long Road to Who I am Today

Christine is legally blind - and the road to her life as an independent woman with lots of hobbies, friends and an incredible guide dog wasn't easy.

Christine, smiling and holding her mobility cane, stands in front of the Fort Independence boat at Boston Harbor Cruises.

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.

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