When you have Stargardt’s Disease, choosing a career can be a challenge and, at the same time, a frustration. From day one I wanted to be a teacher but was not able to get into Teachers’ training college way back then as they said my poor vision would make the studying at college too difficult for me. This, I hasten to add, was pre-computers and the onset of the adaptive equipment era In later years, I often wonder how I would have coped with a career in teaching; not even being able to see the facial expressions of the kids in the front row of desks and having great difficulty in seeing the actual kids in the back row of the class, managing to read and mark books/tests, reading out of a book to the kids, taking more time than norm to prepare for lessons, coping with the group on school outings, the administrative paperwork that is also connected to teaching these days etc. There are those of us who can overcome all odds and pursue their dream career … but I was not one of them.
Part-time work for me as a teenager was limited … using a cash register in a shop/restaurant etc. was impossible with the vision I had, let alone being able to see price tags. Any service job involving eye contact was also out of the question! So, how did I earn money as a teenager …. delivering newspapers, babysitting as well as housework for the families where I babysat. The families understood that I could always see their kids … but maybe could not see Junior’s runny nose from across a large room!
So, I did not pursue my dream career but what did I do? First I took a job at a children’s home thinking that I still wanted to work with children …. but, after 6 months of very long hours and few weekends off tending to 14 kids of varying ages, I felt like I had been forced to become a Mum earlier than I had intended! I then went through some office/administration jobs (always making small adjustments, for example, changing small text labels to large print labels) but then the offer of going to the RNIB Commercial Training College in London came up. I could go to this residential college for 6 months and learn to become a certified audio typist/secretary. After that, I then worked in London as a secretary with all levels of management. I had a fulfilling job but enough energy left to enjoy London’s nightlife in my 20s!
Now I work as a consultant, a web developer (which I think as being artistic secretarial work!), with numerous pieces of adaptive equipment to help me with my daily work. I use a CCTV, a large monitor (Samsung SyncMaster 24″ LCD wide screen) using a resolution of 1920×1200 with Zoom Text 9.1 set to a magnification of x8. I also use the Zoom Text black/yellow keyboard.
That is my story … but how have others coped with the studying involved to get the qualifications for their dream career/job? Determination, a stubborn streak, patience and the ability to put in more than 100% effort into the studying in order to keep up with other “normal” course buddies must play a huge role. Today, adaptive equipment sure does help …. but it does not actually do the work for you nor give you better vision! The motto “where there is the will, there is a way” is a good one! Lastly, we know that our voices can be heard so if we need help, we can ask for it 😉