Learning to Live Blind
Losing sight is never easy but as one Lighthouse client points out, getting the proper education and training can help in the process. Alex Elman Foley was a successful businesswoman in New York. She lived an adventurous lifestyle, traveling across the globe to exotic places, driving and racing cars, soaring high above the clouds in the pilot’s seat; Alex loved the feeling of independence and the freedom that came with it. But when she was 27, she learned she would soon lose all her sight. This was an adventure she hadn’t signed on to, nor was she ready for the challenges.
“How was I going to live like this,” Alex shared. “I was going to have to learn a whole new way of being.” But Alex admitted that finding support groups and sharing her story helped her navigate this new chapter. “It was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through,” she said. She later added that while going blind was the “worst experience” at the time, she would later come to realize that it was also “sort of a gift.”
Working in sales, she quickly learned how to use her blindness to her benefit when it came to her business. No one would forget this woman walking into their store or the products she was selling. People would recognize the saleswoman with the cane or seeing-eye dog. She learned to turn a negative into a positive and did so with the right mindset, but also with the proper training.
To operate her business in a successful manner, Alex knew she had to do her part by using technology and computer programs, designed for those with vision loss and blindness, to her advantage. Being a business owner, Alex knew she needed to get more computer training to aid in running her business. It was at this point when she was introduced to the Lighthouse and its Assistive Technology program.
“You can get whatever you need from them,” Alex exclaims. “They are very responsive and very respectful. It’s nice to be able to work with the Lighthouse staff virtually. You can learn more about the programs you want to use just by being on the computer with somebody.” Alex shared the importance of working with Lighthouse staff to aid in learning new technology and updating older computer programs. “The Assistive Technology services are so accessible. If I need help all I have to do is send an email, make a phone call, send a text and I get an immediate response. As a business owner that is really important to me.”
American philosopher Allan Bloom once stated, “education is the movement from darkness to light.” It can be interpreted that through education, individuals can better themselves as well as the communities that surround them. Alex decided to take what life had thrown at her and use it to educate others on the fact that there is more to life, and that sight wasn’t everything. “Over time you accept what you have, but also you can help other people that might be dealing with the same thing,” said Alex. “You’re not the only person going through this,” she adds, “If you’re either going blind or you’re born blind, there’s nothing more important than getting training.”