Abby is a 31-year-old woman from South Shore Massachusetts who was first registered with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) in 2000 at the age of 18. She has utilized nearly every aspect of MCB’s services to the highest degree to become independent and successful in both her personal and professional life.
Abby earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. During the latter half of her college years, she experienced rapid vision loss. The summer before her senior year she sought out services from MCB. She quickly became highly motivated in all areas of her rehabilitation plan ranging from learning Braille, and utilizing tactile and Braille markings as well as adaptive cooking techniques.
She also learned how to use a travel cane and navigate street crossings and public transportation provided by MCB’s Orientation and Mobility department. In Abby’s senior year of college when she was using “Duke” (her white cane) more often, Abby dressed him up in a men’s neck tie for her Senior Ball! Her sense of humor carries her through the best and worst of times. After college, Abby took her travel skills to a new level and attended The Seeing Eye, Inc. where she was matched with her first guide dog, Velma. During that time, Abby continued her rehabilitation training by expanding her independent living, communication and assistive technology skills. Abby’s first dog, Velma, has since retired and is thoroughly enjoying her days of leisure, while Velma’s successor, although having big paws to fill, navigates Abby safely through the streets of Boston.
In 2005, Abby applied to her first professional job through an advertisement in the newspaper. She didn’t self-disclose her disability in advance; she waited until getting an in-person interview to “hear the shock in their voices.” After all, as a Magna Cum Laude graduate, she knew that she was qualified for the position. The question was whether she would be given a fair chance.
Abby was first hired as an Oncology Resource Specialist, assisting all Oncology Social Workers locate resources for their patients. Now, Abby is employed as a Patient Navigator for the American Cancer Society (ACS) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Abby considers learning Braille the most useful service provided by MCB, since she uses it every day in the elevators at work. Abby has occupied six different offices in her nine years located on the MGH campus and being moved around a lot helped her learn the various buildings. When she started working there, her boss thoughtfully gave Abby a list of places of interest within the entire hospital campus. MCB enlisted the Carroll Center for the Blind to provide Orientation and Mobility services to work with Abby to learn the best routes of navigation.
Abby says that most people consider her serving as “a blind Patient Navigator, an oxymoron”; however, she does guide patients to locations around the hospital, in addition to providing them with resources. She enjoys her job because she is able to meet new people each day and is constantly educating people that individuals who are blind can effectively contribute to society. Over time, she was able to adapt portions of the job such as making the processes entirely paperless. Last year, Abby worked with over 1,200 patients. She thinks it impresses patients to see a “blind person helping those with vision” and not the opposite.
Abby has always taken her career into her own hands. While employed full time, Abby earned her Master’s Degree of Education in Counseling Psychology from Cambridge College and is now a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC). Now employed by the American Cancer Society, serving patients at MGH for nine years, she regularly thanks the initial hiring manager “for giving (her) a shot.” To which her first boss replies, “You were the best qualified, Abby. I wasn’t giving you a shot.”
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.