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There is a Nigerian proverb, “Don’t let the lion tell the giraffe’s story”, that speaks to my career as a journalist and disability advocate. I believe that language is powerful and that people with disabilities must tell their own story. I had noticed the negative and sometimes incorrect portrayal of the disabled in the news media; and decided to be proactive in changing that image.
From the time I was a small child, I have always been intrigued by the written word. From checking out children’s books at my local library to reading the newspaper out loud to my parents, words have always moved and compelled me.
Fast forward to my adult life – I went on to receive a journalism degree, but six months after graduation I had severe headaches and sensitivity to light prompting me to go see an eye doctor for the first time in my life. I was diagnosed with uveitis in its most aggressive form and within a few years I was totally blind. Despite this diagnosis my love for the written word did not diminish. I took my journalism degree and disability and reinvented myself. As some people say “you take lemons and make lemonade”.
I launched my freelance writer career by using my writing skills to make a difference. It was the tool that allowed me to portray the disabled community in a more positive light than what is traditionally seen in news media. I began my journey by volunteering at disABILITY LINK, an independent living center. There I wrote and edited a newsletter that blossomed into a paid position, providing information and resources to people with disabilities. This passion and journalism experience landed me a column in DIALOGUE Magazine writing career profiles on people who are visually impaired lasting 17 years.
In 2013, I entered the “blogosphere” by becoming a peer advisor and blogger for VisionAware.org. On this site, I lend my professional and personal experience to people experiencing vision loss and also blog about my life as a blind person. When not mentoring through my blogging, I provide encouraging instruction, guidance and mutual support to authors writing books, as well as disability-themed writers who are visually-impaired. I also actively participate in my local book club and in the past, I have facilitated the book discussion for GLASS Atlanta.
Professional Career and Community Advocacy:
Besides freelance writing, for nearly 20 years I have done subcontract work in the disability/non-profit community. I have contributed to various research projects with the VA Hospital, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, The Paciello Group and other organizations. Additionally, my work consisted of educating disabled women on breast cancer, participating in accessible cell phone research, and updating a community calendar for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Newsline.
For nearly 10 years, I worked as the Public Education Manager at the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI), a non-profit that provides rehabilitation training and support for people experiencing vision loss. In this role, I managed their SightSeeing blog and over 15 volunteers for the speaker’s bureau, organized tours, exhibits, presentations and speaking engagements.
In the past, I served as an AmeriCorps peer supporter and advocate; and a volunteer with CareerConnect interacting via e-mail with others who are interested in pursuing a journalism career. For 3 years, I volunteered as the producer and host of the Eye on Blindness Show sponsored by the Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS). The monthly interview-style show features a special guest who provides information on a variety of topics such as travel, employment, sports, health and politics.
During my spare time, I have given my personal and professional opinion as a keynote speaker and panelist for various disability conferences, seminars and workshops. All these opportunities continue to allow me to weigh in on issues that directly affect the disability community.