WOTM 3 Featuring 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
Women On The Move x2
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 with shenanigans by trading places. Throughout my life, I’ve befriended several sets of twins and I also appreciated the 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 stomach-churning feeling that triggers the flight or fight response? That’s how I felt in 2011 when I attended my first local Council of the Blind meeting here in Pittsburgh. I wasn’t sure what to expect and thought maybe this wasn’t one of my best ideas. Even so, I ventured forward into the unknown. Of course, my fears were unfounded and I was thrilled to meet 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.”1 One would think a person who is sight and hearing impaired would have great difficulty navigating in a sighted world. However, after meeting Susan and Sherri, both of whom are very active members of 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 visually impaired myself, one of the main issues associated with sight loss 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 improvement. Take for example Sherri’s experience of talking through an interpreter to some of her deaf/blind friends. Or Susan at 3 years of age learning to talk and lip-read; these services and skills are critical to communication.
If not for social services, assistive technology, and mobility devices, people who are blind, deaf or deaf/blind would live life in a vacuum. For example, when a sighted person is suddenly unable to see faces or interpret body language, this becomes a barrier. Without the visual cues of body language, this can hamper how we communicate with one another. So imagine what it must be like for a person lacking two of their major senses. The idea here is not to invoke pity but awareness.
Susan and Sherri did not let Usher Syndrome stop them from living a fulfilled life. Both of them got an education, work, and actively advocate on behalf of blind, visually impaired and, deaf/blind people. They are extremely computer savvy supporters of the disability community.
Susan and Sherri’s Community Activities
- Golden Triangle Council of the Blind Members
- Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Members
- Membership in the Western Pennsylvania Association of the Deaf/Blind (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, are employed. Susan and Sherri, are powerhouses who work to eliminate obstacles in their day-to-day living.
This post is not intended to minimize the challenges Susan and Sherri face in their lives. Rather it is to honor them as fierce bold blind beauties. I cannot imagine what it would be like to walk a day in the sister’s shoes. However, I can tell you that to walk along-side them is, in a word, amazing!
WOTM 3 Featured Image Description:
Sherri Rodgers & Friend Bill Newland
1 For additional information on Usher Syndrome visit www.ushersyndrome.nih.gov