Sunday, May 13, 2018

Blind UIS graduate opens people’s eyes to possibilities

Raven Wilson has had the help of her service dog, Dana, for the four years she’s been a student at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Wilson, who is blind, has used her 5-year-old black Labrador/golden retriever to help her navigate a journey that’s taken her from her freshman year at UIS to her participation as a marshal for the English department on Saturday during the 47th annual commencement for UIS. 

Wilson, 22, received a bachelor of arts degree in English.

She will be missed “very much,” said Sarah Weaver, director of the Office of Disability Services at UIS. “We have only one student right now who is blind who actually uses a guide dog, and that’s Raven. The other student, who is blind, she uses a guide cane,” said Weaver, who added that Wilson has used the Office of Disability Services for test taking and for receiving alternate formats for books.

”(Raven) has added so much to this campus in the way of educating people about disability, especially a student being blind. She has participated in everything.” Weaver said, for example, Wilson has participated in a student panel that included students with different types of disabilities. "Raven was one of the first ones to jump on board when I suggested that. She has added so much to this campus. I don’t think there’s probably anybody on this campus that doesn’t know Raven, and it’s always a positive thing, too,” Weaver said.

Wilson said professors at UIS have been “really great” in working with her in figuring out alternatives to assignments that are primarily visual.

Wilson tried something new when taking a recent history final. “The professor put the final on a thumb drive, and I was able to put it in my machine (BrailleNote Touch) and complete the final, and they give him back the thumb drive. ... That worked out really, really well,” Wilson said. “That was something new that I tried out, and it really worked out because usually, I’ll go to the office of disabilities to take the tests because I’m usually allotted time and a half, but honestly, I’ve never really needed to use the time and a half except for a few occasions. I normally can finish up in the same time as the rest of the class.”

Among her many activities, Wilson helped start the student organization Awareness Respect Education Ability for disability awareness.

Wilson will be a camp counselor this summer in upstate New York and will travel to England. She hopes to move to North Carolina, searching for permanent work.

“Raven has opened the door and opened the eyes of a lot of people to see that just because someone has a disability that doesn’t mean they can’t accomplish their goals and live a really fulfilling, productive life.”

This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on May 12, 2018.

Read the entire article online.