Blind World Magazine

I think I see life better now than when I had 20/20 vision.

December 25, 2005.
Chillicothe Gazette, Ohio.

Jerry Seymour sees life clearer than many sighted people

When Jerry Seymour opens his eyes today, he won't see the brightly colored packages or blinking lights adorning the tree.

Although the 31-year-old Chillicothe resident lost his sight to diabetic retinopathy a couple of years ago, he isn't about to let it keep him down.

"I think I see life better now than when I had 20/20 vision," he said. "A lot of prayers have been answered."

Seymour started to plan for the future in 2000 after losing vision in one eye. He left his job a year later to start his own business, Seymour Lawn Care, with help from his wife, Amanda. Seymour handled most of the physical work for a couple of years, but when the sight in his "good" eye failed in 2003, he figured his success would evaporate, too. No longer able to drive, Seymour felt helpless and depressed.

"I thought that if I couldn't drive, I couldn't do anything," he said.

He began to understand the true capabilities of the blind in October 2004, when the possibilities slowly came into focus following the adoption of a special, furry friend.

"I prayed for one good eye so I could get around and have a life, and my prayer was answered by giving me two good eyes in Betty."

Seymour acquired the feisty and loveable black Lab from Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida.

The First Westland Church in Chillicothe paid for his round-trip plane ticket to the school. Thanks to Betty's assistance, Seymour isn't afraid to go anywhere.

"She's a spoiled brat," he said, "and if I don't let kids pet her sometimes, she gets an attitude."

At the school, he learned about the many organizations, associations, and accommodations that help people with vision loss become as productive and successful as those who are fully sighted. Armed with information and a renewed sense of determination, he and Amanda started their research as soon as he came home.

Using the Internet, they discovered the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission and its Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired. Seymour was determined eligible for BSVI assistance and subsequently spent about six weeks at Vision and Vocational Services located in Columbus. While there, he worked closely with Gayle Horton, who instructed him in the use of a computer and the speech software program called Job Access for Windows.

Frustrated by his own limited computer skills, he was initially pessimistic about a blind person's ability to learn to type on a computer keyboard, but that soon changed.

While at the vision center, Seymour also received instruction in mobility and the use of devices to help with daily living skills. Although he found items such as the talking calculator to be useful, he wasn't especially interested in kitchen-related aids.

"My wife does most of the cooking," he said. "I never knew how to cook when I could see, so that didn't really bother me. There's a pizza shop down the road and they deliver, so I've always been in pretty good shape food-wise."

In the months following his stay in Columbus, Seymour received home-based advanced computer training with Jo Ann Slagle, director of Vision Services at the Vision and Vocational Services Center.

"What's always impressed me about Jerry is his determination in continuing to overcome obstacles," she said.

Because his role had shifted from that of laborer to manager, Seymour had to learn account management. RSC bought him a computer for daily business activities as well as a laptop.

Giving back to his community is important to Seymour, who's made presentations about blindness and guide dogs to local elementary schools and Lions clubs. With a successful business under his belt, he's now turning his attention to a different passion - the bringing together of horses and children.

"I really, really want to start a horse trail riding program for vision-impaired and blind kids," he said. "A horse is a large animal and it's kind of scary, but I think anyone can handle them. You just have to put your mind into it. I'd like to see kids - if they have a vision problem - go out, live a regular life and not let anything stop them."

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