Welcome to another episode of Conversations with Doc Martin, where I speak with extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Today is certainly no exception! I am joined today by Ken Meeker, career specialist with the Adult Transition Service through the Foundation for Blind Children.
In May 2014 after a successful career in the property and casualty insurance industry, Ken Meeker relocated to Arizona. Shortly thereafter, he suffered a severe and traumatic loss of vision and became legally blind. After two and a half years of surgery and recovery, his mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. He cared for her until she passed away in 2018, and today he coaches and guides blind individuals and low vision adults to discover their skills, passions, and values as a career specialist with the foundation for blind children’s adult transition service, a vocational rehabilitation program focused on helping blind and low vision adults return to work.
We start out by discussing Ken’s experience going from a normal vision functioning adult to a low vision legally blind adult. Ken notes that everything started on the 4th of July 2014 shortly after his relocation, and from one moment to the next he could not see anything at all. Having just moved to Arizona, he was completely alone. It took many tests to determine there was a severe infection in his eyes, and it took two and a half years of rehabilitation, physically, mentally, and emotionally with help from friends and family. After his mother became ill, it was not even a question that he would devote his time for the remainder of her life to focusing on her needs.
Following his mother’s passing, with very limited vision, particularly at night, Ken had to re-evaluate what he wanted to do next. Ken started with O&M Training through the White Cane, and, through that program, became interested in a vocational rehabilitation program to return to the workforce. As if by fate, opportunity presented itself for him to work as a career specialist, a chance he felt called to accept.
As we move on through the interview, we discuss Ken’s process of being able to move on from his own trauma to be there for his mother and his mindset as everything was unfolding in such a short time. He said his mother’s kindness, positive outlook, and sacrifices to her family made him want to care for her out of the unconditional love he felt because, as he puts it, the best part of himself came from his mother.
Ken then discusses his interactions with his students within the program through the Foundation for Blind Children. He handles the career aspect of the program, though he makes a point that each member of the team has a special role to foster growth for the students who have not been able to do much of anything for an extended period of time. He says one of the best parts of his job is how he is empowered to work with each student and be creative with how that job is done in order to best serve each and every student. He works very hard with each student to get them to not put themselves in any particular box or place any particular label on them as a person. He tries to get each student to learn they still can do quite a bit in life, and the different ways to do things should be viewed as the opportunity to learn new skills and accomplish new things.
We wrap up the conversation first talking about the school itself. Most of the services are for children, though at the main campus in Phoenix there is an adult program as well as an elementary school that runs through 3rd grade. The foundation also works to make sure any children that needs visually impaired resources such as books for school have access to such resources, including having a braille book library on site.
Last, I ask Ken his advice for those who have had trauma in their lives. He notes that people should realize asking for help is a strength, and it is important to use all resources available. Sometimes it is helpful to take a step back, looking at the big picture, and try to look at things from a different perspective.
You can learn more about the Foundation for Blind Children here!
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