Since 2018, Ian has had diabetic retinopathy, and his left retina is detached. He says his vision loss impacted everything in his life “I can’t see from the left [eye] completely, and the right [eye], I can see, but only shadows.” He cannot see people’s faces. He explains, “I can’t make out [facial] descriptions. So, it’s very cloudy.” It limits his travel. He says, “I don’t travel much, and I normally have an aid with me because I can’t go to certain places, and I fall a lot. So, a lot of changes that [I had] to get used to and learn different skills.” He says he has had to learn everything all over again. “Because you can’t see, you have to rely on other things. Feel. Touch. Hearing. Stuff like that.”

Ian registered with the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB), which recommended Lighthouse Guild to him. When he came to our organization, he received a low vision exam from Low Vision Specialist Dr. Susan Weinstein. Through Low Vision services, he tried helpful tools such as a monocular, a compact telescope that helps him see objects and signs at a distance, and a handheld electronic magnifier to help him read letters.

Ian received Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training from Wojciech Jacobi, O&M Instructor. He says, “He taught me how to get around my neighborhood. I had to get on the bus. I had to go up and down the stairs. And I know how to use the long cane. That’s what he taught me how to use. And what to feel, for how to move around.”

He adds, “I got a few home devices to help with the home [and] for hot water that tells you when the water is filled up in the cup, so it’s great. [Also] tags to put on the microwave [and stove] so I can feel [the dials and settings]. I’ve tried everything so far.”

Without this type of service, I'd be lost because the training is important. The people you meet [are] important."

Ian, client

Key to Independence

Ian says, “[The mobility] training gives me a little bit of independence and [allows me] to move around by myself because once this first happened to me, I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to move. So, that gave me a little confidence [on] how to move around. And then, I was able to come [to Lighthouse Guild] sometimes. Most of the time with my aid, but sometimes by myself.”

Persistence is Key Another service that has greatly impacted Ian’s life is Independent Living Skills, specifically Key Boarding Skills. He says, “When I started, I couldn’t tell you where one letter is, much less words. [It] gives you confidence learning something new and learning how to basically type without your sight. It’s great, I have a good [instructor].” Ian is referring to Dennis Farro, Lighthouse Guild Keyboarding Instructor.

Dennis shares that initially, Ian had a relatively slow start. He says, “When I first tested him, I had to assist him through lesson one. Lesson one is not a hard lesson, but he really struggled with it, and so, progress was slow.” Ian could not always come every week at first, which added to the delayed progress.

Dennis says that over time, “Ian kept coming and kept coming and kept coming, and as the months went by, he began really making progress, and eventually we got to the point where he was almost to the end of the 41 lessons that we do in the Talking, Typing, Teacher program. And now the big thing [would] be getting his speed up because his accuracy was getting better.”

To complete the class, keyboarding students must achieve a speed requirement of 20 words per minute. Unfortunately, Ian kept falling short of that goal. Still, Dennis says, “His attitude was one of continuing to try to do this. “I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it,” and he was very motivated and, to be honest, there were times I said to myself, I don’t know if this guy is going to do it because it seemed like it was so hard to get up to that level.”

Ian says, “I don’t like to quit. If [I put] my mind to it, I think I [can] do it.”

Ian Did It!

Dennis shares, “The day came when — [and] there’s nothing that makes an instructor happier than something like this — he was up to 18, and then 19, and then [he] finally hit 20 words per minute. We celebrated. I was ready to have a party in this place.”

Dennis is happy to report that recently, Ian came to him and said he had not been on the keyboard in quite a while and wanted to try the keyboard test again. Dennis says, “Would you believe he beat his own record? It’s a 22. He did 22 words per minute. And so that confirmed to me that it wasn’t just a fluke, it wasn’t [that] he just had a good day. He got his 20. So, it was such a nice confirmation that he has learned, is developing, and is really making good progress.”

Ian credits Dennis as one of the keys to his success, “He always showed me that I can do it. No matter what. He’s a great guy. He’s a great instructor. He always assures you that you can do it. Just if you make a mistake, he tells you where you made the mistake.”

Dennis shares, “What’s really cool about [Ian] to me is just the fact that he came from out of the pack. He’s like the guy that’s way behind, and yet he progresses up through the pack. And little by little, he makes progress. This is why Ian really caught my attention. I’ve had other students that can type much faster than him. And have accomplished a lot, but I saw in him a rare determination that I haven’t seen in too many, and that’s what really struck me as noteworthy.”

He continues, “I have found that the students that I resonate with are those who don’t just have an ability, but who really come in with a heart of dedication. And I can pick them out right away. Many times, they come in [because] they want to learn. They’re concerned that they made mistakes. They ask me what they can do to be better. They’re determined they’re going to practice on their own when they’re not here. They’re just motivated to do a good job. And so, it’s really a pleasure to work with these students

because I know that they really want to be here and they’re not just going through the motions … Their heart is in it.”

Ian’s Future

Ian is working on getting a job, and he says that led him to Keyboarding Skills because most jobs he would like to pursue, like customer service, involve using a computer. He says, “[If] I put myself in a position where I can do the job, then I’ll feel much more comfortable applying for [it]. Once you know how to do something, that gives you confidence.”

Dennis says, “[My] hope for Ian is to continue with that good spirit. To progress. To not only master the keyboard but to be a good computer user and to ultimately get a decent job that is suited for him because I think he’d be a wonderful worker just based on his level of enthusiasm and based on his desire to not quit.”

Ian’s Key Advice

When asked what he would say to a potential supporter of Lighthouse Guild, Ian says, “I would say that what [Lighthouse Guild is] doing is a [value to society] because there are people like me who rely on this type of service. Without this type of service, I’d be lost because the training is important. The people you meet [are] important.”

He adds, “I already referred two people here. I also go to dialysis. There’s a person there with the same situation [as] me, and I told him about this place. They said they were going to look into it.”

Thanks, Ian! Lighthouse Guild is ready to help anyone you refer to us attain their goals.

If you or someone you know need help living the life you aspire to, check out our Low Vision, Independent Living Skills and Orientation & Mobility services.

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Lighthouse Guild is dedicated to providing exceptional services that inspire people who are visually impaired to attain their goals.