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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Charlie’s Story

Charlie, a White man, wears a blindfold while using his white cane to navigate the sidewalk

In July of 2019, Charlie was sleeping in the cab of his truck at a truck stop. He was suddenly jarred awake when the unsecured cargo from another truck came crashing down on him. Charlie lost his vision, his driver’s license and his career.

But Charlie was used to sudden change. His 17-year-old technology company was one of the casualties in the recession of 2010. He adapted, earned his Commercial Driver’s License and started hauling stage equipment for bands across the country.

So, he certainly wasn’t going to let vision loss stop him. Charlie had already earned his associates degree. He decided now was a good time to go back to school to complete his bachelor’s degree.

After a rigorous selection process, including an oral presentation before an academic and student panel, Charlie was accepted into Northwestern University’s unique organization behavior program in the fall of 2019.

“Since my vision is greatly diminished, I had to find new ways to access all the information for my classes,” Charlie explained. “Northwestern’s Accessibility and You program helped me find the resources I need — text-to-speech, PDF review and accessible textbooks.

“Now that I am in my final year of classes, I decided it was time to get additional training.

“Mobility training certainly has it challenges. It is a big change, and I am discovering a lot of things about myself. It is almost like learning to walk all over again.”

“Charlie’s experience as a truck driver seems to translate well into orientation skills,” Second Sense’s mobility instructor Eleni said. “He already knows how to use cardinal directions and street numbering systems to plan his route.”

Charlie agreed with this. “During my last lesson, I determined the direction I was heading because I felt the warmth of the sun on the right side of my face.

“Eleni and Brad both seemed impressed!”

Charlie is also impressed with Eleni and Brad.

Even during the pandemic, our training staff are seeing clients.

They take all measures they can to ensure the safety of their clients. Masks are required. Social distancing is maintained whenever training allows.

“I am amazed by the staff putting themselves in harm’s way to help me.” Charlie shared.

Our mobility instructor, Eleni, is currently supervising an intern. Completing an internship is a requirement toward both a degree and certification as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist.
Once he completes his internship, Brad will be the first blind graduate of Northern Illinois University’s orientation and mobility program.

“Brad offers a fresh perspective to the training,” Charlie observed. “I am learning from him and Eleni.

“And, I think they are both learning from each other.”

Charlie is looking at several options to put his degree to work. One is to start his own firm, with the mission to increase the awareness of the benefit of including staff input in business decisions.
“Wherever I end up, I want to be involved with creating better working conditions for companies and their employees.”