About Jessica

JessMakikoGraduationPicture

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.

Happy Reading!

8 thoughts on “About Jessica”

  1. Dear Jess,
    Thank you for blogging your experience and sharing with us. Our family has x-linked RP. So far, mine has just prevented me from night driving but my father is completely blind (age 61) and my twin sons are seven and already experiencing night blindness and tunnel vision as well as the inability to locate anything dropped on the floor….seven year olds seem to drop many things. I have been looking for a blog focused on RP and I will keep checking in to read your posts. Thank you, again
    Tracey

    1. Tracey,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is very interesting to know that your family has X-linked. There are no genes in my family that link to RP and therefore the geneticists just believe it is a sporatic case. There is a different word for it, but I forgot it at the moment. When I saw that you are a mother and you are only prevented from night driving, this amazed me. And yeah, I understand what your twins are going through in terms of dropping things. I drop a lot of things.. misplace things.. etc. I’m glad that you’ll keep checking in. 🙂 I would love to continue to converse with you here as well as learn more about your family and their experiences with RP. I hope you gain something from my blog.. and always know I will be a listening ear if you ever need to vent or talk.

      Always,
      Jessica

  2. Thank you for your reply. One of my biggest struggles with the boys is what I have termed “crowd negotiation”, such as while grocery shopping or in church. My boys are fast and often don’t see people until they are right on top of them. You would think this would make them slow down, but they tend to bump people, often moving at the last second or walking through conversations instead of around them. They are very independent and really too old to hold mama’s hand. We have talked about going slow, and people’s space, and even the danger of knocking a small child or older person down, yet it remains an issue. People are usually forgiving as my boys are small children still, but I have gotten the “can’t you control your boys?” look before. Any tips?

    1. Tracey,

      Hmm. I’m not a mother myself so I can’t speak from that role and I’m not a boy either, haha. I know that after I tripped over enough things and fell flat on my face embarrasing myself, ran into enough people that were grumpy or chewed me out, catapulted down stairs and had a unicorn horn on my head for the week… I learned. I learned that safety is way more important than darting around. But with that being said, one thing that we are taught is to be confident and walk at a steady pace… with our canes or sighted guides. So really, I suppose my best advice is that they will learn in time. I hope that helps at least a little. 🙂

      -Jess

  3. Hi Jess,

    I love what you’ve done with this blog, especially for people like myself who want to know more but don’t really know where to go. You write beautifully too! Hope you don’t mind if I stick around. Signed, Chi’s mommy 🙂

  4. Jessica,

    Your blog is beautiful! I am so excited to read about you and Makiko’s experiences and sincerely hope the companion my son one day has is as great a help as she is. I have only worked with people who have visual impairment in a passing sense from working in cultural and public institutions in Boston so your perspective is very enlightening. Hopefully next year about this time I’ll be writing about my son starting the same journey you’re already on and we can trade notes about these dogs antics amid such great service.

    Take care,

    Nicole

  5. My mother has macular degeneration. The loss of central vision has severly limited her vision. She is turning 90 and has had this since she was 70. This is a genetic disease, and two months ago macular degeneration showed up in one of my eyes. Nothing to do, but hope that it develops slowly. I will follow your blog and see how you handle your disability with such assurance.

    1. I look forward to it! I know it sucks getting diagnosed with something like that and it’s scary.. But you WILL figure things out. Rely on others and I’ve found following others blogs and reading stuff online helpful. Knowledge IS power! Please let me know if you have any specific questions or concerns that I can address

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