Blind World Magazine

Legally blind man has knack for rubbing people the right way.

January 16, 2006.
The Columbus Dispatch.

PATASKALA, Ohio - The room is like any other at a day spa: soft lights, mood music and a massage table. But behind the cabinet that holds the compact-disc player, oils, lotions and hot rocks, there's a dog cage. That's for Nell, a standard poodle that often falls asleep while her master, Earl Palmiter, works.

He's a licensed massage therapist. Palmiter, who is legally blind, said his disability helps him focus more on touch, which translates into better massages.

"I think it helps people be more comfortable, because I can't fully see and people are more comfortable with their bodies," he said.

Palmiter said he hadn't planned to become a masseur.

The Pennsylvania native worked for Continental Airlines in Newark, N.J., driving equipment on the ramps and runways. After he transferred to Columbus, he began to lose his vision.

In 1989, doctors diagnosed macular degeneration, in which the part of the retina responsible for central vision deteriorates.

Unable to drive anymore, he had to quit his job.

Palmiter, 39, isn't completely blind. He can't make out the features on people's faces, but their heads are a blurry outline.

At home, he sits inches from the television and writes on his computer using type almost as big as the screen. He wears a powerful magnifying glass around his neck for reading forms.

He doesn't want to learn Braille just yet.

"If the vision gets worse, I'll have to, but Braille books are so big," he said.

After a short time on disability, Palmiter enrolled at the American Institute of Alternative Medicine in Columbus, where he used books on tape to earn his license.

He started giving massages in his Pataskala home, but business was slow.

In 1999, he asked Pam Parkinson at Unique Beautique Day Salon for a job. The place is a 10-minute walk from his house.

Convenience was one reason Parkinson hired Palmiter. She knew he would bring something special to her spa, she said.

"He has a very soft touch. He's more in tune with the feeling and touch," she said.

Palmiter, who is divorced and has a 12-year-old daughter, gives about 25 massages a month and sometimes as many as five a day. He combines techniques from Swedish and deep-tissue massages.

One of his clients is LaJetta Ferrell. She had never had a massage until her doctor recommended the treatment for the shoulder she injured in a fall.

She found her twice-monthly massages so beneficial that she asked her family to buy additional visits as Christmas and birthday presents.

Recently at Unique Beautique, Ferrell lay on her stomach, her face cradled in the table's headrest. Her eyes closed as Palmiter rubbed his hands with massage oil and lowered them to her skin.

His hands slowly went up and down her back. As he continued, he pushed a little harder, gently knocking out the toxins that create knots.

"I treat the tissue based on what I feel," he said. "Each massage is slightly different."

End of article.

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