‘Reach for the stars’: living and working with a vision impairment

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In a world often presenting barriers for people with disability, one South Australian woman is evidence that having a disability won’t stop you from leading a normal life within your community and achieving whatever you set your heart to.

For 26-year-old Connie Miari, a loving family environment and adequate support services throughout her life have enabled her to use her experience of living with a vision impairment to help others.

Connie was born with Albinism, an inherited genetic condition reducing the amount of melanin pigment formed in the skin, hair and eyes. Approximately one in 17,000 Australians have some type of Albinism.

As a result of her condition, Connie is legally blind. Living with her immediate family in St Peters, South Australia, Connie uses a cane to get around and is assisted by voiceover technology programs on her computer and phone.

“Glare and light perceptions are one of the biggest challenges for me,” says Ms Connie.

“Dark days are challenging as well, as I can only see pitch black.”

With the help of audio aids, Connie is able to enjoy hobbies and a social life.

“I listen to a lot of music, the radio and audio descriptions [for films],” says Ms Connie.

Connie overcomes transport challenges by catching taxis to work and social activities.

Throughout her life, Connie has engaged with the Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) for support in adaptive technology and training, occupational therapy, Braille training, orientation and mobility, as well as finding and maintaining employment, to help her live as independently as possible.

Support through school

It was the significant support throughout Connie’s schooling years that helped her overcome the everyday challenges of living with a vision impairment and ultimately secure a fulfilling and rewarding job with the RSB.

During primary school, Connie received support from Townsend House, an institution that opened in 1874 providing support for vision and hearing impaired children.

Connie was assisted by a visiting teacher from Townsend House who would come to her classroom and support the school and its teachers in building up education awareness for students with vision impairments.

Transitioning to the local high school, Connie continued to receive support for her disability through the secondary school’s Vision Unit, which provided her with vision aids and appropriate computers.

Growing up Connie says she tried to live a life like every other teenager.

“I would say the biggest challenge I experienced was having a vision impairment while going to school and leading a life like everyone else,” says Connie.

Through her experience in mainstream schools, Connie was able to use her strength and the myriad of supports around her to overcome any discrimination or learning challenges she faced.

Successful employment

It was through a combination RSB’s employment support services and a job opening that Connie was approached and offered a job at the RSB.

Working as a Case Manager since 2017, Connie passes on her knowledge and experience to people in similar situations by working through the pre-and post-planning process of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), a role she finds incredibly rewarding.

Connie says her condition helps her be more relatable and empathetic.

“What I like about my job is I get to meet and interact with people every day and I feel that I am always learning new things,” says Connie.

“I think my disability has had a positive impact [on my career] as I am able to relate to others who have vision impairments.”

Aside from the range of support services Connie utilised throughout her schooling years, she also says her family has played a pivotal role in encouraging her to “reach for the stars”.

“My family has been extremely positive and made sure I have always strived to achieve my goals, without limits,” says Connie.

She adds that the most memorable piece of advice her parents have given her is, “Connie, you can make a difference once you put your mind to it.”

And it’s this positivity that Connie passes on to her valued clients seeking RSB support every day.

“Just strive … it’s going to be challenging but don’t give up and just go for what you believe.”