The great Neva Fairchild stops by to share her unique sight loss story with Cone Rod Degeneration (a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa) and how she was set on a path to success by her parents. Neva recalls her time at Esther’s Place during her early days with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and her inf...
The great Neva Fairchild stops by to share her unique sight loss story with Cone Rod Degeneration (a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa) and how she was set on a path to success by her parents. Neva recalls her time at Esther’s Place during her early days with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and her infamous encounter with John and the Motorola Q. Neva discusses her current AFB role coordinating the Blind Leaders Development Program which aims to increase successful employment outcomes, upward mobility, and leadership attainment of blind and visually impaired individuals.
:: GUEST LINKS ::
Book: The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner
AFB Blind Leaders Development Program
Connect with Neva Fairchild
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National Aging & Vision Loss Specialist
I am the National Aging & Vision Loss Specialist for the American Foundation for the Blind, where I have worked since 2008. I oversaw Esther’s Place at the AFB Center on Vision Loss until that program was moved to Envision Dallas, in 2019. My work for the next year focused on the issues of aging and vision loss, with an emphasis on transportation. In July, 2020, I began coordinating the AFB Blind Leaders Development Program. I oversee the planning & execution of leadership development training for each cohort of the program.
Prior to working for AFB, I was employed for over 15 years by the state of Texas as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at Texas Commission for the Blind and as an Employment Assistance Specialist for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. I began my career in vision rehabilitation at the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., as a Vocational Evaluator in 1991.
I went directly from high school to Texas A&M University, at age 18 as a student with extremely low vision and no blindness skills. My vision loss at that time was thought to be due to Retinopathy of Prematurity. I left school three years later to be a stay-at-home mom after my husband completed his master’s degree. After nine years at home, when both of my children were in school, and with the help of the Texas Commission for the Blind, I returned to college and completed my Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Science in 1988 and my Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling Psychology in 1992 at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Near the beginning of my master’s program, my low vision aids that allowed me to read regular print no longer worked well enough for me to read my textbooks. I revisited a retinal specialist who told me I may have been misdiagnosed as a child, and he recommended further testing. An electro-retinagram confirmed that I have a form of Retinitis Pigmentosa called Cone Rod Dystrophy. Thirty years later, genetic testing confirmed Stargardt Disease. Over the years my acuity has declined from 20/400 when I was an elementary school student to no useable vision now.
I assumed the role of President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and visually Impaired (AER) in August, 2020 and will serve as Past president until July, 2024 at the AER International Conference. AER is a membership association of about 3000 professionals, all working in careers that serve people who are blind or have low vision.
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