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By Autre Murray

Larrysha McCall is at the intersection of Howard and West Michigan avenues, trying to cross four lanes of busy traffic.  She presses the walk light and listens for the signal to cross. She also listens well for cars around her.

A lifetime of living with visual impairment have taught her to rely on her hearing, touch and memory of a space to navigate it. “Although being blind has posed many difficulties throughout my life, I now see it as a strength because now I have the opportunity to help others to realize that their life doesn’t end with blindness,” McCall said.

McCall is a graduate student in the Western Michigan University Vision Rehabilitation Program and through this role, she trains other visually-impaired students and citizens with the tools and tricks needed to live independently.

Her stove, microwave, DVD player and hygiene products — the everyday things in her life — each have a red label in Braille. She relies on her memory of tactile texture to identify these many tools, and she is learning to provide other low-vision people with that same set of skills. She is also learning to use magnifying technology to read textbooks, articles and other texts, and she will soon instruct others.

McCall said she was born with congenital nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes that causes a loss of depth perception and shakiness of sight. In other words, objects that are still to the average sighted person would constantly move for someone with congenital nystagmus. McCall said she is now studying vision rehab therapy to provide similar people with the proper accommodations, which she did not have growing up.

“As a vision rehab therapist, it will be my job to teach individuals who are blind or visually impaired to take charge of their life in areas that we call activities of daily living. These consist of time management, personal management, money management, assistive technology and orientation and mobility,” McCall said.

McCall manages her day by using her iPhone 7 voiceover feature with Siri, complete with a British accent. Siri announces deadlines, tasks, calls, texts and even her social media notifications. McCall will teach others to properly set their phones the way she has hers. She is not completely blind so she does not fold her dollar bills a certain way to facilitate identification, but she learns the skill in order to aid people that are blind.

McCall’s mother, Lamour David, became McCall’s first vision therapist once David discovered McCall’s vision problems. David said McCall was two years old when she saw that McCall was only listening to T.V. but not watching it. David said she taught McCall how to count her steps around the house while vocally guiding her.

Ebony Brooks and Marvette Harmon, McCall’s friends of four years from Columbia College, encouraged McCall to turn her visual challenges into a positive tool for others. Brooks said she was intrigued by McCall’s tenacity in her studies and vibrancy of life. Harmon said that McCall’s previous college lacked the visual accommodations needed for simple campus living. Harmon and Brooks said that these obstacles only made McCall a better student because she was able to find different alternatives for the academic results involving textbook and lecture readings.

McCall said she is currently mastering Braille so she can fully help those in her field once she graduates in April 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XfcqasXOKY (Braille Lesson Video)

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