I am a Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services. I earned my Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of North Texas in 2014. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a retinal degenerative condition, in 8th grade, I have been learning how to embrace everything that comes with this diagnosis and not let it hold me back. RP first affects one’s night vision and then their tunnel vision, many times leading to near total blindness. (See About Retinitis Pigmentosa for more in-depth information on this disease.) Even though it is genetic, I am the only one in my family that has been diagnosed with it. Looking back now I can see many accidents and issues that I had throughout my earlier years that were classic symptoms of RP but we just didn’t know it at the time.
I have mixed feelings about RP. It can really be difficult to deal with some days, especially when I realize I can’t see something that I know I could see months or years ago. However, because of my RP I have been blessed with some of the best friends I could ask for, a very fulfilling career, an amazing community in Guide Dogs for the Blind, and many other opportunities that I am so incredibly grateful for.
On March 17, 2013, I flew back to Texas with my new guide dog, Makiko. The experience of being a guide dog user, and even more a “first-time guide dog handler,” is one full of challenges, surprises, and blessings. I detail that in this blog.
My passion is education, advocacy, and promoting equal rights for all. I love to educate and empower other individuals, whether they have a disability or not. I want to give other individuals with a disability the tools and resources to reach their greatest potential. By sharing what I have gone through and what has and hasn’t worked for me, I hope to make the lives of individuals with disabilities a little easier. At the same time I hope to teach the general public about individuals with disabilities, visual impairments, guide dogs, and everything that comes with all of those topics.
As a person with a disability, especially one that chooses to use a guide dog as her mobility tool, unfortunately it is inevitable that I have challenges with accessing different parts of the world around me, whether that be because something isn’t accessible or because someone chooses not to let me access their business. (This is illegal). I will chronicle how I handle these challenges with the goal of making it better for the next person.
I am a very compassionate person and I love to help others in any way possible. I like to write and hope to eventually write a book about my experiences as an individual with a visual impairment.
I am an “open book,” and therefore encourage you to ask anything and everything that comes to your mind. You can do it anonymously by putting “Anonymous” under the name field under Comments or you can click the “Contact Jessica” page and email me directly. I will then answer your question on the blog.