“I believe people who are visually impaired have an enormous amount of creativity, we have skillful ways of navigating through the obstacles daily life brings. I hope my story encourages people to find their own ways of expressing themselves. Whichever way they find best fits: art, sports, travel, you name it..! Just go for it!”
Blind Beauty 75 | Nivi Morales’ Story
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by small details. Over the years I have used my camera to express this fascination. This is something relatively straight forward for me to explore because my eyes naturally frame things in their own particular way.
In 2002 I was told I had lost a significant percentage of my peripheral vision due to an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Doctors told me I would gradually lose most of my peripheral vision, that there was no cure. For someone who had been relatively healthy, this diagnosis came as a shock. However, I decided not to give up. A year after the diagnosis I started traveling. It did not take long until I discovered a new hobby: photography.
Finding New Meaning
In the last four years, this hobby has really taken a new meaning as my sight continued to change. I started using a white cane and some adaptations to read small print. The new challenges did nothing but fuel my thirst to explore and express myself, to lead a productive happy life. I have continued to capture details of nature, landscape, and buildings in my local area and on my travels.
Every day I make a conscious choice to focus on the positive details. There is nothing more rewarding than capturing a moment and then looking at it through the help of my computer. The sense of joy and fulfillment I get from developing and sharing images gives me the energy to carry on, even in challenging times.
I believe people who are visually impaired have an enormous amount of creativity, we have skillful ways of navigating through the obstacles daily life brings. I hope my story encourages people to find their own ways of expressing themselves. Whichever way they find best fits: art, sports, travel, you name it..! Just go for it!
I want to finish by thanking Stephanae for the opportunity to share my story with you all stunning Bold Blind Beauties out there.
Blind Beauty 75 | Nivi Morales’ Story Featured Image Description:
Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Nivi Morales’ image on the cover is black & white. Blocks of text superimposed on Nivi’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look.”
This color close-up photo of Nivi’s featured image on the faux fashion cover was taken by her mother. It’s an outdoor shot and in the background, greenery can be seen. Her salt & pepper hair is in a stylish short cut and she is wearing fashionable squarish wired rimmed eyeglasses with pink lip color. She is also in a navy v-neck top.
This image is from Nivi’s recent trip to Italy. It’s a photo of a swan swimming in Lake Garda.
I struggled with insecurity, lack of confidence, loneliness, and a general sense of un-belonging. Though surrounded with other family members who were also blind or visually impaired, I felt disjointed from the rest of my peers. As a result, I was never able to fit in despite all my efforts.
I struggled and concealed my depression and hurt with rejection, when people avoided or gossiped about me, and asked things such as “why do your eyes move like that?” or “what’s wrong with her?” Because of microcornea, my eyes appear smaller and nystagmus causes my eyes to constantly and uncontrollably move around.
I wasn’t “normal”.
My defense was to emotionally detach. I was shy and became shyer and there would be days that I didn’t speak to anyone unless forced to by a teacher.
What brought me out into the proverbial light was the help and support I found through community.
Beginning to Find Myself
My TVI (teacher for the visually impaired) told my parents about a summer camp for the blind. That camp literally changed my life as I thought I was alone, the only one struggling, but I wasn’t. It was through that program and others, I met fellow peers who shared my struggles. Attending these programs while in high school and transitioning to college taught me so many things. I learned independence, life skills, assistive technology, social skills, and leadership.
What’s more, I saw other people who were blind and visually impaired being successful. I met and interacted with those who were living their dreams and striving toward their goals. This is what I wanted to do; to be like them, to have confidence and show that I was able. To reach past what society said I could and could not do and surpass even my own expectations.
As a teenager, I stumbled and fell, was reckless, and made bad decisions. But life continued and led me to eventually move with my family to North Carolina. It was here I took a job at a company that hired many blind people.
Starting out in manufacturing, I was promoted to being a receptionist. Eventually, I began working at the low vision center that was part of the company. NC is quite different from New Jersey which is where I mostly grew up. In the northeast, people generally mind their own business and didn’t speak to strangers.
Well, North Carolina is the opposite. People would ask how I was, about my life, what I liked to do —all in the first interaction! Oh my, it was such a culture shock, to say the least. Yet, it pried me out of my shell and changed me.
A Force of Change
I went from being anti-social to not being able to stop talking. Over time, I gained more confidence and learned how to present myself.
I’ve always loved technology and had a thirst for knowledge. Through my time working at the low vision center, I learned so much. I gained experience in:
and met countless people with differing amounts of vision and needs.
Along the way, I met my then to be husband, Pablo; we moved in together, got married, had a son. Due to the high costs of childcare and transportation, I decided to stay home with our son. Becoming a stay at home mom allows me the opportunity to invest in him completely as my father did for me.
With Little Pablo being the first child, it was so exciting learning and enjoying him. This new life, a whole bundle of potential is everything to us. We found out that he has aniridia like me. Though it hurts because we all want the best for our children, he’ll be okay. I know that he will grow up with all the resources and support he will need.
As life went on I grew accustomed to the new way of life with a little one. Settling into my routine, I began to have more time. It was in a moment of looking for something to do besides the day-to-day tasks, I had an idea. I decided to start an organization to share what my husband and I have learned and give others encouragement. Afterall, we all have it within us to continue, to move forward, and to reach for our goals.
A New Journey
I grew up visually impaired, but my husband, Pablo, went from fully sighted to totally blind. None of us have the same exact stories. We have our own journeys, but we still face similar struggles and we can support and help each other.
Our mission through our YT channel and website is to share hope, encouragement, community, resources, tips, and technology to help others who are blind, visually impaired, and sighted supporters. Along the way, I’ve made many friendships, met so many amazing people, and have learned so much from my viewers.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back to this community. Together, we can make this world into a better place where we can tear down invisible barriers in society and in this world through raising awareness, mutual support, technology, and creativity.
We can all live accessible.
We Can Change – The Power Of Community Featured Image Description:
Outdoor selfie of Carrie Morales smiling. Carrie’s long black hair frames her pretty face. She is wearing a black leather jacket and a black top embellished with silver accents on the neckline.
An outdoor selfie of Carrie and Little Pablo. Carrie is holding Little Pablo with her right arm and she’s wearing a blue long-sleeved sweater. Little Pablo is wearing a red fleece jacket.
Big Pablo & Carrie share a sweet embrace. They are standing outside and sunbeams are illuminating Carrie’s hair.
Big Pablo is standing on a lawn holding Little Pablo in his arms with his white cane tucked under his right arm. Both are casually dressed and wearing sneakers. Little Pablo has on a red puffer jacket and his dad has on a navy blue jacket.
I was born with albinism, which caused me to be legally blind. Due to my lack of sight, I live in a world where bugs don’t exist, dust is something I only hear about but never see and everyone has flawless skin.
~Antonia Lliteras Espinosa
The Times They Are A Changin Rapidly
Aren’t we living in exciting times? I sometimes wonder what our ancestors would think if they could be here in this moment. Who would have thought we’d ever be untethered to a phone line? Or have the ability to connect with someone from around the world instantaneously? Heck, even receiving news almost as soon as it happens is almost miraculous in comparison with days gone by.
As an advocate, one of the things that really excites me is being here to see representation unfold. Just thinking about the logistics of tracking the numerous groups of people gives me heartburn. Can you imagine the group breakdowns? It’s enough to make your head spin.
Being one of the 15% of the world’s population who has a disability, seeing more representation is so empowering. When you have an online presence it’s even more so because you can meet so many more awesome people. Take today’s Blind Beauty, Antonia, for example. Prior to last week, I didn’t know this young woman. Yet thanks to Instagram, when I asked if I could share one of her posts, well, the rest is history.
The Beauty Of Unity
Since it’s out of the ordinary to see blind women on fashion magazine covers, I created Blind Beauty. Living the “be the change you wish to see” philosophy, I created this faux fashion magazine cover to highlight these women. As I’ve said since starting Bold Blind Beauty, “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.”
There are so many beautiful people in our world and the real beauty is how we lift up one another. Following is the rest of Antonia’s quote:
Out of sight out of mind, right? I have been asked many times if there was a cure whether I would take it and, to be honest, I don’t think I would. It has taken me many years to get to where I am today, but I have learned to find joy through my other senses. I appreciate the beauty in the world just as much as the next person and my visual impairment has put me in a unique position where I get to experience the raw humanity that unites us all. I get to see people at their best because I am so vulnerable to others. If I were to suddenly gain my sight, I would miss out on all this and, let’s be honest, the world would be a much dirtier place!
~Antonia Lliteras Espinosa
Blind Beauty 74 Featured Image Description:
Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Antonia’s image on the cover is black & white. In this photo, Antonia is standing in front of a tiled wall posing with her white cane. She looks fabulous in a lace cami, jeans, jacket, shades, and a handbag over her right shoulder. Blocks of text superimposed on Antonia’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”
This photo is a color image of the Featured Photo. The tiled wall is sort of a dark teal color. Antonia has a white/blonde stylish bob hairstyle. Her cami is white with a light blue jacket, blue jeans, and sparkling silver sneakers. Her white cane also has a bright pink handle.
This photo shows Antonia sitting on a park bench. She’s wearing a vibrant royal blue top with a luxe velvet navy jacket with jeans and black flats. Her white cane is propped up against the bench. In the background parked vehicles and storefronts can be seen.
Trust Is Key To Unlocking Confidence & Independence
My other goal is to teach the community that people with visual impairments are just anyone else. They just use additional tools to access the world. This access should be universal and a normal part of day-to-day life.
My passion is teaching students to help them gain confidence and independence so they are successful adults. I work with students on accessing and using the technology and tools they need to live independently after they age-out of the system.
Oftentimes, students with visual impairments are led to believe they can’t be successful, independent adults. So the most important part of my job is building trust with them. This enables them to believe me when I tell them that they can do anything.
How Trust Delivers Results
I had an elementary student who lacked confidence and hesitated while crossing streets. His parents were fearful and did not want him crossing a street on his own either. He was a fourth grader and at this time was not independently doing what his peers were. Together we went out weekly rain, snow or shine to work, navigate the neighborhoods, and cross intersections. So he was able to walk to friends houses to play and hang out.
I never pushed him if he ever felt uncomfortable to cross. We would cross the street when he built up his confidence. He achieved all his goals that year and crossed at stop signs and even small, lighted intersections. Once he began, he advanced so quickly after he gained confidence and is now unstoppable.
Building trust with parents is crucial also. So after he mastered some of these skills, I invited his parents to a lesson. His parent’s witnessed how confidently their son now crosses intersections, independently and safely. Seeing him progress was so rewarding!
The Long-Lasting Effects Of Trust
Recently, a former student contacted me to tell me she was accepted to a dual masters program. This student and I worked together ten years earlier. I was beyond excited to hear that she is starting a master degree!
She has been living independently since starting her undergraduate degree. Now she is moving across the state by herself to start and complete her master’s program. This student also made a huge transition in her life and is transgender. I was so grateful to hear from her and learn that she trusted me enough to share with me, her transition. The trust and confidence that she has built is amazing!
Passion & Pursuit of Personal & Professional Goals
My other goal is to teach the community that people with visual impairments are just anyone else. They just use additional tools to access the world. This access should be universal and a normal part of day-to-day life. Part of my job is to teach awareness in local schools about the tools people use who are visually impaired. I also spread this awareness to the public about what helpful accommodations they can use. Along with how to help (or not help) people in the community.
Recently, I was teaching an accessibility workshop to third graders. One of the students stopped me before I walked into the classroom. She said she knew someone who was blind and felt sorry for them. My immediate response was there is no reason to feel sorry for someone who is visually impaired or blind. They are people just like you or me they just access the environment differently. I told her how I knew many successful people doing amazing things. They read by using braille and travel the community and even the world, independently with a cane. The cane helps them to “see” where they are going.
I began the presentation and thanked the students for coming to hear about how everyone can be independent and successful. Everyone just approaches it differently. This is one of the most important parts of my job, educating the public on how and when to help. To not pity visually impaired or blind people, but to appreciate how they navigate the world with the tools at their disposal. When the average person realizes how independent the VI community members are, it gives them a whole new level of respect. Respect is most important, not pity.
Featured Image Description:
A woman talking while holding up a white cane looking off camera. There are backs of participant’s heads watching the woman present about white cane safety.
Collage Image Descriptions:
Pedestrian Walk Sign: Woman (O&M instructor) is holding a folded white cane, smiling looking off camera, standing at a detectable warning next to a pedestrian walk sign.
Bus Stop Shelter: Woman (O&M instructor) smiling at camera holding a folded white cane standing next to a bus stop shelter.
A city bus.
Boarding Bus: The back of a woman (O&M instructor) walking onto a city bus.
Additional Image Descriptions:
Close up of Michele Danilowicz with long brown hair in her 30s smiling at the camera.
Two women presenting on cortical visual impairments. The power point presentation behind them says: “Tips for Providing Interventions cont.” One presenter is looking at the camera and smiling. The other presenter is looking at the audience holding up a red Elmo stuffed animal and a red and yellow stuffed monster. They are both standing behind a table full of red and yellow materials and toys.
Table with materials scattered across, a light up magnifier, dome magnifier, Braille writer, telescope, two vision simulation goggles, Braille book, large print book, large Braille cell drawn on paper with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 next to the dots and worksheets to learn Braille for print readers.