Blind World Magazine

The Carroll Center: a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel.

September 08, 2005. (Massachusetts).

For nearly a decade, Steven Giannaros has been slowly going blind. And while the Medford resident couldn't accept what was happening to him at first, he's now found a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel.

"When I first found out I was devastated," he said. "I'm living this normal life and then all of a sudden, I found out I'm going blind."

The 30-year-old said when he found out he had a degenerative retinal disease, he went through a period of denial. But as time went on and his sight continued to get worse, he had no choice but to get help.

Giannaros turned to the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton and while he didn't want to go to because he felt like it would make the diagnosis too real, he is glad he went.

"It was really a great program," said Giannaros. "Going there was a reality check. The Carroll Center helped me with a lot of things."

Since opening its doors 50 years ago, the Carroll Center for the Blind has been a place for the newly blind to go and learn how to cope in their new lives. The facility offers a residential program during which time guests learn how to live independently and to get around.

Giannaros said during his time at the center, he went through intense training to learn how to get around on his own using public transportation or just navigating public streets.

Although all of these items were important, he said the most critical piece of his education at the Carroll Center was coming to terms with his blindness. Giannaros said before he went to the facility, he did not even want to be noticed by other people as someone that was blind and yet, being around others who were going through the same things made a difference in his life.

"The Carroll Center was a really big help," said Giannaros. "I got a lot out of it."

Arthur O'Neill, vice president of the center, said the organization is a place for the newly blind to come and get the support they need to move on with their lives. He said visitors to the center learn a lot during their stay and by the time they leave, really have the tools to accomplish that goal.

"It's a home away from home," said O'Neill. "We feel what we do puts a positive spin on being blind."

O'Neill said when the Carroll Center first opened, it was a place for young World War II veterans that lost their sight in battle to learn how to cope with what happened to them. He said over the years the center has continued to grow and today, is a place for people of all ages.

Giannaros said his sight has continued to get worse and as a result, dramatically changed his life in ways he could have never imagined. He said the hardest thing to cope with has been depending on others.

"It's been hard," said Giannaros. "Life has changed. Something that seems so easy and you don't even think about can be a massive project."

Giannaros said although being blind has changed many facets of his life, it has not been able to touch his passion for playing the saxophone. He said even though he can no longer read music, he continues to play at local bars, clubs and private functions and even recently released a new CD, "M.O. Joe: Welcome to My Face."

He does not know what the future holds for him, but plans to stick with music as long as possible and see what happens.

"I am that type of person that takes it one step at a time and see where it takes me," Giannaros said. "It is my number one priority and I am going to see what I can get out of it."

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