Cheryl Ollis, Who is Deaf-Blind, Helps Others Learn to Navigate Their Daily Lives

Cheryl Ollis, who is deaf & blind, trains another young woman how to navigate the kitchen

“The best thing about having Cheryl work at the center is we have a lot of clients who have dual diagnosis, and Cheryl is a fantastic role model,” says Carolyn McGahan.

When Cheryl Ollis mentions she is Deaf-Blind, another famous person tends to come to mind – Helen Keller. Helen Keller was a well-known author and lecturer who became deaf and blind after an illness when she was 19 months old. Helen, with her teacher Annie Sullivan, didn’t let her disabilities hold her back. In 2017, we are celebrating Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week from June 25-July 1.

For Cheryl, Helen Keller is a role model, but she also illustrates just how important it is to have someone there to teach you how to navigate through your daily life when you are Deaf-Blind.

Cheryl was born deaf, but, when she was five years old, surgery helped bring back some of her hearing. She also had difficulty with her vision at night, but didn’t realize she had a vision problem until she was diagnosed with Ushers Syndrome and Retinitis Pigmentosa, at 28 years old.

These two diseases cause gradual blindness, and when Cheryl’s employer learned about her diagnosis, they decided she could no longer do her job and fired her. “I didn’t know where to go, where to turn to,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is it; my world has just ended.’”

But her world had not ended. Cheryl learned about the Division of Blind Services and met with counselor Terri Titus to discuss her options. Terri knew Cheryl needed additional support, so she referred her to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) as well. VR is a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or…

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