Hi, my name is Erin. I’m a senior at SUNY Oswego and studying Public Justice. My career goal is to become a probation officer. My goal is a little different from most people’s because I plan on being the first blind probation officer. For this past Summer, I worked with the Onondaga County Probation Department, the Syracuse Police Department, and the Onondaga County Justice Center. It was such a rewarding experience to work hand-on in my field of interest.
So yes, as you now know, I’m blind! I’ll just give a short explanation of my vision, or lack there-of. I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) when I was 4. It is a degenerative eye condition that ultimately can lead to complete blindness. I was able to see much better growing up and could read small print and play numerous sports. A few years ago, my eye sight started to deteriorate and now I can no longer read print and I have very little useful vision.
I do not let the fact that I have a disability rule my life, in fact I think of it as a blessing. I am still able to play sports. I participate in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and Brazillian Juditzu. I also love to ice skate, play basketball and kick the soccer ball around. I might do things a little differently and it may take a little bit longer, but nothing holds me back.
I graduated in 2004 from Baker High School in Baldwinsville. After graduating, I received my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from Herkimer County Community College (HCCC). I then decided to transfer to SUNY Oswego to get my Bachelors’ Degree in Public Justice. I knew that with my vision deteriorating, and heading to a huge University, I needed more independence training. At this point I decided to go to the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton Colorado for a six month independence training course.
At this school, anyone who had any bit of vision, whether it is light perception or shadows etc. had to wear a blindfold from 8:00am until 4:30pm. I was in that category, and it was extremely difficult. Even though I had limited vision, I used what I did have to help me with traveling, cooking and other daily activities. At this school, we attended classes Monday through Friday in technology, Braille, wood shop, travel, home management, and organizational skills. Students at this school ranged from 18 years old and up. I was our student body president, and also planned many events such as attending Colorado Rockies baseball games, going rock climbing, white water rafting and canoeing. In addition to those events I also planned a first annual Colorado Center for the Blind prom. Many of the students had never gone to their prom. Many were either not invited to their school dances, or felt that they’re vision limited them from going, so they did not attend. We had it catered, received donations for decorations, and hired a DJ who was blind himself.
This 6 month experience prepared me very well for my first semester in Oswego this past January. I will talk about the center more in other blogs. It was very interesting and I have some great stories. The bottom line is that the training really prepared me for Oswego’s Campus and being independent in the dining halls, going to class, the bus system, and getting my work and studies complete.
At first, I thought that SUNY Oswego was way too big for anyone to navigate, let alone a blind person. After walking around, getting involved with clubs and meeting people, it is very easy and comfortable to go from point A to point B both on and off campus. I consider Oswego to be my second home and I’ve made life long friendships with both staff and students.