- Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
Steve Kapantais, 52 of Salem lost his vision four years ago in February after experiencing a detached retina in the left eye and retinopathy in the right eye. Today, he can only see some motion up close, but details are a blur.
Prior to vision loss, Steve was constantly on the road due to his career in sales. During one business trip in Georgia, Steve was playing golf, and says that “a black curtain” began to fill his right eye. He got in the car to drive back to where he was staying quickly, but he had to pull over on the side of the road until someone could pick him up safely. He called his eye doctor in Boston, and he flew home the very next day. It was the last time that Steve drove a car.
“I could barely see anything in the airport to get to my gate, because I had no Orientation and Mobility (O&M) skills,” described Steve. “I just know that I had to get to my doctor back in Massachusetts.”
Steve is a married father of three who has been the main provider of income for his family for many years. Steve’s employer was very understanding of his condition and offered Steve the opportunity to take time off and work from home while he gained the O&M skills needed to resume travel. Steve’s wife also began working outside of the home. Steve says that the services he received from Massachusetts Commissioner for the Blind (MCB) during this time of change was critical to his success.
“This was a big hurdle for me, but I had fantastic O&M training from Joe Kolb at The Carroll Center,” said Steve who explains that his perceptions of individuals who are blind and visually impaired have changed since his own experience.
Steve began to recognize accessibility issues in the city that presented challenges for individuals who are blind and visually impaired like himself. He wanted to do something to make positive changes for people with disabilities.
“My own experience changed my view on people with disabilities in everyday life, and I wanted to be an advocate for them,” said Steve who now has a guide dog named Fritz. “We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ADA, but we’re all 30 years late in making changes to make our cities more accessible. There is still lots of work to be done.”
Thanks to individuals like Steve, cities like Salem are listening and adapting existing and future project plans to put accessibility first. Steve is also an active new member on MCB’s Regional Advisory Council (RAC) for Region 3 which includes Salem as well as 50 other cities and towns north of Boston
“I met Steve Kapantais three months ago while recruiting new members for the Regional Advisory Council (RAC) in Region 3,” explained MCB Regional Director Thelma Williams. “Upon meeting him for the first time via a virtual RAC meeting, I immediately knew Steve was a man of integrity, with a vested interest in making a positive change in the disability community. The region is fortunate to have Steve join our RAC particularly as we forge ahead in planning MCB’s first Regional Virtual Open House in partnership with the RAC- with Steve’s active participation!”