Posted on February 27, 2017
Born on the south side of Chicago, Bill was 11 years old in the early 1960s when glaucoma left him blind in both eyes. “Coming from a print or sighted world, as I did as a young boy, life was hard when I went blind,” Bill says. “You miss a lot of the things that were a part of your life, like knowing the color of the sky or grass.”
Yet Bill persisted. He learned to read and write Braille and went on to graduate from Spaulding High School, Chicago’s first public school exclusively for children with disabilities. For 30 years, he was employed by a sheltered workshop doing piece work.
When Bill’s family was evicted from their home, he moved in with his sister, but her transient lifestyle challenged him. “I got tired of bouncing around from place to place,” he said. “My supervisor at the workshop told me about Kagan Home,” he remembers. “I moved there in February of 2001. It was a blessing for me.”
Kagan Home, the predecessor to Friedman Place, was much smaller in size and without the variety of services. Bill values the bigger, better equipped building, and the range of services at Friedman Place as well as the many residents from all walks of life.“I feel a lot freer here,” Bill notes.” There’s more privacy and more to do.” The stacks of Braille books on his desk are evidence of his favorite pastime – reading books, magazines and listening to audio books.
In terms of his blindness, Bill has come to appreciate his situation and sees it as a means to an end - a community of caring people at Friedman Place who understand and accept him for the person he is today. The nurses at Friedman Place administer his medications and test his blood several times a day to help him control his diabetes. The Certified Nursing Assistants help with laundry and organizing his clothes by type and color so they always match.
“What the good Lord did was bring me a whole new world that I would have missed if I did have my sight,” he says. “I got to know a lot of good people here. Some of them are blind residents like me and others are staff and volunteers. Getting to know others without sight and being able to learn from them and know them as people that way, this makes me feel like I’m not alone”