Meet Chelsae Miner
"I first discovered AIDB’s magic as a prospective student in 2009. The moment I stepped into Johnson Hall on the Alabama School for the Deaf campus, I felt an intensity unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was surrounded by other people who were just like me. I enrolled as a sophomore and began my unforgettable adventure in education. It was also an adventure that gave me the confidence and competence to chart my own course and be successful in a world that was changing faster and more drastically than ever before –especially for me. Here’s my story…
"I was born in Ohio in 1993, an only child and deaf. I had what you could say is the average childhood. Although I never knew my father, I had a mother who loved me and wanted the best for me. I attended public school and made good grades.
"Everything changed in 2007 at the age of 14. At what was to be a simple eye appointment, the course of my life would be altered forever.
“'She has Usher Syndrome,' the doctor told my mother. Since there was no interpreter present, I didn’t understand what was going on. After researching, we found that Usher Syndrome is a condition characterized by hearing impairment and progressive vision loss. The vision loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative condition of the retina and usually appears during adolescence or early adulthood. In other words, I was going blind.
"Being a typical teenager, this was hard for me to grasp. I ignored it for a while hoping it would just go away –no such luck. At school, I began working with an Orientation and Mobility Specialist who was teaching me different techniques, one being the use of a cane.
“'I don’t need this,' I thought to myself. 'I’m not going to use a cane. Everyone will stare at me.'
"The next year, Mom decided to move us closer to her brother. We made the 12-hour drive from our home in Ohio to a small town in Alabama where I attended public school as a freshman. As luck would have it, I was the only deaf person in the school. And to make things worse, I did not have an interpreter everyday to assist me in my classes. I began to feel isolated and depressed. I heard of the Alabama School for the Deaf and begged my mother to allow me to attend. She gave in and I enrolled as a Sophomore in 2009. As I said earlier, it was magic and I finally felt that I was where I belonged.
"At ASD, I was learning so much and having fun. I began participating in extracurricular activities and even tried out for cheerleading. Things were going great until my Mom began to get sick. She was eventually diagnosed with lung cancer and lost her battle to the disease my senior year of high school. I could have given up but I remember how hard my mom pushed me and how much she wanted me to succeed.
"Thanks to the great teachers and staff at ASD, I finished my senior year but I still needed to pass two portions of the Alabama High School Graduation Exit Exam. For this, I transferred to Gentry, AIDB’s adult rehabilitation facility. There, I studied and passed the language and math portions of the exam and received my academic high school diploma.
"'But, what now?'
"I decided to enroll in Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program. It was time to finally embrace my future and make the most of it. I learned independent living skills. Computer skills, money management and more. I also discovered that technology does and will continue to play a very important role in my life. Soon after enrolling, I was approached by the Deaf-Blind Coordinator and Alabama Initiative for Children and Youth who are Deaf-Blind Transition Coordinator, Bethany Miller. She explained there were additional programs such as iCanConnect that could help me receive loaned telecommunications devices –devices that can help me with both the deaf and hearing world and will eventually be able to assist me as my eyesight worsens. Now, my iPhone and my iPad are my new best friends! I use them in my everyday life to communicate and most recently, I am using them at my new job at Walgreens, where my manager thinks I might just be management material!
"I was the first graduate of Gentry’s Deaf-Blind Program. I am sure my future is bright! I have embraced my situation and feel stronger because of it. No longer am I afraid or embarrassed; instead, I am confident and independent thanks to the programs and staff at Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind."
Lead Provider, Outreach for Deaf-Blind Services