Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ~Helen Keller
“Try another way” are the words that resonated most with me upon meeting Stephanie Stephens Van. An author, lecturer, consultant, instructor and Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT), Stephanie, is one of those people with whom you are immediately at ease.
I met Stephanie a few weeks ago when she came to my apartment to assess me to determine my needs as it relates to performing personal/household tasks with vision loss. This was definitely one of those times when I wondered why it took me so long to seek some professional guidance. My first session with Stephanie was so enjoyable partly because of her sparkling personality, her passionate advocacy for those with blindness/vision loss and her wealth of knowledge on vision loss solutions.
In my teen years I fought becoming a professional in the field of blindness. I wanted to ‘break out’ of what I perceived as a stereotype. ~Stephanie Stephens Van
Even though Stephanie balked at the idea of working in the field of blindness her life’s path led her to this destination. She received her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Edinboro University and went on to obtain her graduate degree from Western Michigan University. It was upon entering graduate school that she gave up on her initial opposition and received her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind (now known as Vision Rehabilitation Therapist in Vision Studies). Western Michigan University by the way was the first university in the country to offer such a degree.
Over the past 32 years, Stephanie has worked in direct service to those with vision loss, non-profit and state funded agencies. She has also lectured nationally other blindness professionals, community organizations and graduate students on a variety of issues on vision loss.
If I were a betting person I would bet that one of the reasons Stephanie has taken the path set before her has been a direct result of her upbringing. Some parents of children with disabilities sometimes unknowingly coddle the child thinking they need more protection. Stephanie’s parents allowed her to explore, fall down and pick herself up. In her own words she says “It wasn’t always fun, but I am grateful to them when I look back.
In addition to her work and being a passionate advocate, Stephanie also loves creativity and art as one of her vocational dreams early on was to become a full-time artist. She’s published articles and 3 versions of her book, Craft Adaptations for Adults with Vision Impairments (copyright 1998, 2008, rev. 2013).
I wish to share this creative streak with those who are blinded and believe they cannot be creative. I believe in my heart that creativity calms the senses while enhancing the mind and productivity. ~Stephanie Stephens Van
Stephanie has also written several articles posted on VisionAware including:
- Finding and Hiring a Driver If You’re Blind or Visually Impaired,
- A Day on the Road with Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Stephanie Stephens Van
- Losing Patience with Being a Patient
Stephanie, thank you for being my encourager and giving me excellent advice and tools to do those things that gave me headaches. I relish the thought of freeing up some extra brain space. You are a remarkable woman and I’m so blessed to have you in my life.
“Try another way” is one of Stephanie’s personal mottos that she lives and teaches.
“I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.” ~Sonia Sotomayor