“I received “awesome” support from ABVI’s professional staff”

With vision loss, Nunica mom and daughters succeed as a family

In 1992, Denise found herself struggling with significant vision loss, diagnosed with Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. Her central vision was decreasing, and her ability to see distant objects worsened. She was legally blind.

If that life challenge wasn’t enough to handle, Denise’s two daughters also have significant vision loss. Both 18 year old Shannah and 16 year old Anna received the same diagnosis as their mom. This diagnosis includes, but is not limited to, blurred vision with peripheral sight reduction. Both of them are also legally blind. Many stories like Denise’s could end with emptiness and self-pity. But Denise and her girls are not “many stories”.

That’s not to say that Denise didn’t have difficult moments. She openly shares that “it was a big hit on my self-confidence”. But good things did begin to happen, and Denise was able to envision a full life again. In 2003, she became involved with the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (formerly the Commission for the Blind), a state entity helping blind and visually impaired individuals with employment training. She received her first laptop from them.

Shortly thereafter, BSBP introduced Denise to the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Together, our organizations coordinated best services for her. Denise returned to school for professional education. In 2010, she received her degree in Medical Office Systems from Muskegon Community College. She readily admits that without her help from our organizations, she wouldn’t have been able to return to school. It was “a blessing”, in her own words.

Denise received her very first driver’s license, at the age of 40. She began driving with a pair of Optic Scope glasses provided by ABVI. Her daughters also have these special glasses. However, Shannah and Anna first require special drivers’ education training from Mary Free Bed.

Denise’s degree wasn’t sufficient to get a job. Additional education was required, so she’s now back in school for her Medical Insurance Specialist degree from Baker College. Her plan is to find a job, attain financial independence for her family, and continue living independently.

Denise acknowledges the “awesome” support she receives from ABVI’s professional staff. A vision rehabilitation specialist helped her organize her kitchen so she could continue cooking and baking. Special measuring cups with raised, thicker numbers help her with the right recipe mixtures. One of Denise’s and her daughters’ favorite games is Bingo, using large-font numbers and extra-large bingo boards. She’s also able to pay her bills with low vision checks, which have raised lines. And her daughters have large-line notebooks to help them organize their school notes. Denise also participates in ABVI’s local Support Group, where other visually impaired adults share and support each other as they adapt to everyday life’s challenges.

“Can-do” and resilience best describe Denise’s attitude. No matter what difficulties or set-backs she encounters, she’s keeping a positive plan of action, always looking out for her family.

She has always taught her children that they are not handicapped because they have a visual impairment. That while they may have to do things a little different than those with “normal sight’, they can do and be anything they want to. They are only limited by their own fears, and those with little or no actual experience dealing with individuals who are living with various vision issues.