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Vision impairment can’t slow student

In 2002, Robert Crowley, then a Bed, Bath & Beyond employee, was declared legally blind. His right eye sees limited light and color, and his left eye has pinpoint, tunnel vision.

The Windsor resident had two options: sit home and do nothing, or go back to school and be someone.

Today, at 48, Crowley holds an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Broome Community College, and is a junior at Binghamton majoring in chemical dependency counseling. He hopes to become a lobbyist, advocating for the blind.

“I have accomplished more than I ever thought possible,” said Crowley, who is a full-time student, father of two and grandfather of four.

In February, he traveled to Washington, D.C., with the National Federation of the Blind, meeting with members of Congress about issues affecting the blind.

“I’m currently teaching myself Braille through the Hadley School for the Blind,” Crowley said. “Thirty percent of blind people are employed, and 90 percent of these people know Braille.”

Crowley uses other technological devices to accomplish everyday tasks. His laptop reads out loud and he owns a Kurzweil reader that takes a picture of text and translates it aloud. It reads money, newspapers, handouts and other such materials.

In class, Crowley records lectures and converts them to print at home. He uses his tunnel vision to read large print with a magnifying glass, but the majority of his textbooks are scanned onto his laptop to be read aloud. “The hardest part is listening and comprehending as the computer translates the text,” he said.

B. Jean Fairbairn, director of Services for Students with Disabilities, said Crowley is both optimistic and determined. “He’s upbeat and collaborative in addressing challenges,” she said, “and he thoughtfully weighs issues before him with balance and integrity.”

Crowley enjoys playing golf and has coached Little League for 18 years. “Obstacles are what you make them to be,” he said. “Too many times, people say you can’t do something, but you would be surprised at what you can accomplish.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08