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Women on the Move: Susan & Sherri Rodgers

I was born profoundly deaf with a double hare lip & cleft palate. When I was 3 years old, I attended DePaul Institute where I learned how to talk & lip-read. ~Susan Rodgers

Sherri Rodgers & Friend Bill Newland
Sherri Rodgers & Friend Bill Newland

For as far back as I can remember I have always been fascinated by identical twins. I imagined it would be so cool to trick parents, teachers, and friends by causing general mayhem by trading places. Throughout my life I have been very fortunate to have friendships with several sets of twins and I also grew to appreciate the individual differences among each set. Enter Susan and Sherri Rodgers two of the most remarkably fierce ladies I’ve had the pleasure to call my friends.

When facing a new situation do you ever get that churning feeling in the pit of your stomach that triggers the flight or fight response? Since I’m chickenhearted by nature it’s more flight than fight but I think you can catch my drift. That’s how I felt back in 2011 when in an attempt to further advance my acclimation to my vision impairment I attended my first local Council of the Blind meeting here in Pittsburgh. I wasn’t sure what to expect and thought for a minute that maybe this wasn’t one of my best ideas but I ventured forward into the unknown. Of course my fears were unfounded and to my delight it was at this first meeting I met the remarkable Rodger sisters.

Susan and Sherri both have a hereditary condition known as Usher Syndrome. Usher syndrome is a double whammy and is described as “the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision.”One would think that a person who’s sight and hearing impaired would have great difficulty navigating in a sighted world and after meeting Susan and Sherri, both of whom are very active members in the community, one’s thinking would change.

I’ve been a member of the Western PA Association for the Deaf/Blind (WPADB) for at least 15 years, being a part of the group I knew a few people but had to talk to them through an Interpreter. If you’ve never had this experience it can be quite challenging. ~Sherri Rodgers

Being vision impaired, I’ve come to understand that one of the main issues associated with the loss of vision is the general lack of access to information. With the advances in technology access to information has greatly improved but there is still room for additional improvement. Take for example Sherri’s experience of talking through an interpreter to some of her deaf/blind friends, or Susan at 3 years old learning to talk and lip-read, these are critical to communication. If not for interpreters, braille, white canes, service animals and other devices, people who are blind, deaf or deaf/blind would live life in a vacuum. To further expand on this idea, when a sighted person is suddenly unable to see faces or interpret body language, this becomes a barrier and can hamper how we communicate with one another. So imagine then what it must be like for a person lacking two of their major senses, it’s not something to invoke pity but just awareness.

These two sisters, Susan and Sherri, did not let Usher Syndrome stop them from living a fulfilled life of going to school (at DePaul School for Hearing and Speech then later public high school), working, and advocating. Both are extremely computer savvy supporters of the blind, deaf/blind and disability community and work to give voice to those who may not or cannot speak for themselves. Some of their activities include:

  • Membership in the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind
  • Membership in the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind
  • Membership in the WPADB
  • Members of the local para-transit service Committee for Accessible Transportation (CAT)
  • Fundraise for Foundation Fighting Blindness’ Annual Pittsburgh VisionWalk

The sisters serve in different capacities in the above organizations and if that weren’t enough, each of them, work part-time. These two women, Susan and Sherri, are each powerhouse who overcame and continue to overcome struggles and obstacles in their day-to-day living.

Please understand that this post is not intended to minimize the challenges that Susan and Sherri have faced in their lives rather it is to honor them as fierce bold blind beauties. I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to walk a day in the sister’s shoes but I can tell you that to walk along-side them is, in a word, amazing!

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within”. ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

1 For additional information on Usher Syndrome visit www.ushersyndrome.nih.gov

10 thoughts on “Women on the Move: Susan & Sherri Rodgers

  1. […] My friend Susan Rodgers (who I profiled along with her sister back in January) has a story to tell in her own words and I wanted to share it with you. To view the post of Susan and Sherri you can click HERE. […]

  2. […] For as long as I can remember I’ve greatly admired Giant Eagle for their unwavering leadership and support within our community for hiring people with disabilities. In the today’s video clip, Sherri Rodgers who is blind and deaf, has been an employee of Giant Eagle for 14-1/2 years. (I featured Sherri and her twin sister Susan on January 10 of this year – here is the link to their story Susan & Sherri Post). […]

  3. What a wonderful and true blog! I had the pleasure of working with Sherri as an aide to take her grocery shopping and we went to a baseball game together! I met her great sister Susan and her wonderful mother! They are determined women and great inspiration to all! I miss you Sherri and the picture is great of you! Stephanae you did a fantastic job of highlighting these women and thank you for sharing!!

    1. Thank you Karen for your kind words. Yes, Sherri and Susan are an inspiration to everyone who is fortunate to meet them and I am so glad they are in my circle of friends.

    2. Hey Karen,
      It was great of you to catch this particular article by Steph, hope you are catching all of tthe blogs. They are simply helpful and I enjoy looking forward to reading one everyday.

  4. This is an amazing look into the lives of determined individuals who never give up! It’s uplifting. Sherri, thank you for giving us a glimpse of your life, and Stephanae, thank you for writing it so beautifully.

    1. Thank you Gigi for your kind remarks.

  5. Hey, Steph,

    This is enough to bring tears to my eyes. I love that you decided to include both of us.

    Sherri

    1. Sherri, it was my pleasure. Sometimes we go through life not knowing who we impact and I didn’t want another minute to go by without letting you and Susan know that you’ve profoundly impacted me. Thank you for your friendship.

      1. I printed your blog out for Mom to read. She said, “This is a very good pictur of you (me) and Bill. Bill looks a little bit fuzzy.” She enjoyed read reading the article; but I don’t think she understood what she was reading.

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