WOTM Featuring Empish Thomas | Telling Our Stories…
My Journey as a Blind Writer and Editor
Today’s fierce woman is someone I’ve only met virtually by conference calls and email. Empish and I serve as Peer Advisors for VisionAware and in this role, we offer advice and helpful tips to those new to vision loss. Empish is a prolific writer, advocate, and mentor whom I am so glad to have met because she has been an invaluable resource to me and a voice for blind and vision impaired people. It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Empish Thomas…
“From the time I was a small child I have always been intrigued by the written word. From checking out children’s books at my local library to reading the newspaper out loud to my parents, words have always moved and compelled me.” ~Empish
Fast forward to my adult life-with a journalism degree and a disability I decided to focus my career on writing stories and advocacy for people in my own community. I had noticed the negative and sometimes incorrect portrayal of the disabled in the news media and decided to be proactive in changing that image. I believe that language is powerful and that people with disabilities must tell their own story. Hence the Nigerian proverb “Don’t let the lion tell the giraffe’s story.”
So here’s a little bit of my own tale. My journey as a visually impaired writer started about 16 years ago. After finishing my rehabilitation training at the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI), I volunteered to write and edit a newsletter that blossomed into a paid position. In this new position, I provided information and resources to people with disabilities. At the same time, I worked part-time as an AmeriCorps member providing peer support and advocacy. I later launched my freelance writing career with an emphasis on the disabled. This passion and journalism experience landed me a column in Dialogue Magazine writing career profiles on people who are visually impaired. Each issue I profile people working successfully in a variety of career fields from education, government, science, self-employment, arts, and entertainment.
In addition to my column, I work at CVI as their Public Education Manager. For the past 5 years, I have been conducting facility tours, managing exhibit booths at community/resource fairs, and posting InfoLink, our community bulletin board. I also am a public speaker for United Way and manage our speaker’s bureau. Additionally, I have entered the blogosphere by managing CVI’s website blog called Sightseeing. This has been an exciting new undertaking for me because I get to blog about issues that impact the blind community, solicit guest bloggers, research story ideas and plan the editorial calendar.
And if all of this was not enough I volunteer in the blind community as well! I am a peer advisor and blogger for VisionAware. On this site, I lend my professional and personal experience to people experiencing vision loss. I have been a volunteer with the American Foundation for the Blind’s Career Connect interacting via e-mail with others who are interested in pursuing a journalism career. In the past, I was a volunteer producer for a monthly hour radio show for the blind called “Eye on Blindness” sponsored by the Georgia area Radio Reading Service (GaRRS). The interview-style show featured a special guest providing information on a variety of topics such as travel, employment, health, and politics.
I am proud of the fact that I have been able to take my education, disability, work and life experiences and combined them. Not only do I have a rewarding and meaningful life but a fantastic career that I absolutely love!
Empish, thank you for taking the time to share your personal journey and how you were able to continue to lead a productive and fulfilling life. You are an inspiration and a role model for all of us!
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi