I remember the day I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. It was nine years ago, and I thought that my life was over. This was it; I was going blind, and I was just 34 years old.
You might think that vision loss is something that a person can’t miss. But truthfully, it started when I noticed little changes, like bumping into things at work that I didn’t see. I began having more and more trouble driving at night and trouble navigating daily tasks. I was in denial — until one day when I actually found myself driving off the road. I knew then that I was in trouble.
Although my central vision remained, I had to give up things that made me feel independent, such as driving. Without full sight, I felt isolated. I wasn’t aware of any low-vision resources in Florida, and if there were any, they were driving-distance away — how was I supposed to get there?
After my father’s health began to decline, we moved from Florida to Santa Barbara for the better air quality. I started looking online for ways to get involved in my new community and stumbled upon Braille Institute Santa Barbara. I decided to visit and discovered instead that they were the perfect match to help me. I had no idea that most of the people they help are dealing with low vision due to conditions like mine. I thought they only helped people who had no sight at all.
When I walked through the doors at Braille Institute, the warm welcome I received and the conversations that I had with staff helped me realize my life was not over. I just needed to learn new ways to do the things I loved. After taking a tour of their campus, I signed up for some classes.
Braille Institute S.B. has so much to offer, and it has helped reawaken passions I thought I would not get to enjoy again due to my vision loss. I’ve taken cooking classes with Leslie that have helped build my confidence in the kitchen, a book study class with Lillian where I discovered the joys of audiobooks, and classes in disaster preparation with Marylee and self-defense with Terri that all help me navigate my journey as someone with low vision.
There is something magical about Braille Institute — it’s the one place where I feel safe, comfortable, and strong. Adjusting to life with sight loss can be difficult, but Braille Institute has empowered me to live an active life in a community that I love.
2031 De la Vina Street; (805) 682-6222; brailleinstitute.org/santabarbara