Visually Impaired Student Forges a Path for Others
Veronica Lewis dressed as a bat for Halloween this year, which was more about her sense of humor than any fashion statement.
Lewis, a junior information technology major at Mason, has low vision. Specifically, she has blurry double vision, limited peripheral vision, and no depth perception, none of which can be corrected by glasses.
So Lewis saw dressing as a bat as perfectly appropriate because, as she said with a laugh, “I’m blind as a bat.”
She’s completely at ease with her situation, determined not to let it hold her back, and even advocating for the vision impaired through her blog “Veronica With Four Eyes.” Readers worldwide find suggestions and tips to help them live to the fullest.
When Microsoft found out Lewis uses their products’ accessibility capabilities to help her in the classroom, they featured her in a video.
“She has that dedication and focus in her life that I don’t think anything can stop her,” says Mason professor Kim Avila. “She really has drive and ambition.”
“She’s just fearless,” says Veronica’s mom, Annmarie, who earned a master’s degree in taxation from Mason in 1996. “She gets upset if somebody tries to hold her back or tells her she can’t do something.”
Lewis, who uses a cane to help her navigate when she walks, has accommodative esotropia, which refers to eye crossing. She also has Chiari malformation, a brain condition in which the cerebellum extends into the upper spinal canal, causing widespread head and neck pain, migraines, blurred vision, and many other symptoms.
Lewis plans to pursue a master’s degree in assistive technology at Mason. She will be one of the first Mason students with a minor in the relatively new program.
The university has been helpful in providing classroom accommodations, Lewis says. She’s allowed to use whatever assistive technology she desires, has received electronic books from Mason’s Assistive Technology Initiative, and receives large-print documents from her professors to make reading easier.
“Your disability accommodations should come naturally, and Mason has made it that way,” she says.
Mason also has provided Lewis a way to give back. Avila, who runs Mason’s Visual Impairment Consortium, which prepares teaching students to work with visually impaired and blind students, hosts Lewis as a guest lecturer.
Lewis also has done instructional webinars for K-12 students through Accessible Instructional Materials for Virginia (AIM-VA), a service of the Virginia Department of Education through a grant to Mason’s Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities. AIM-VA provided Lewis large-print textbooks while she was in high school.
“My goal is to empower people,” says Lewis. “I want them to realize low vision and blindness shouldn’t be a death sentence. You can do anything a sighted person can do.”
She says she wants one day to create the technology to help those with low vision and blindness have the same educational opportunities as any other student.
“I admire her push and determination,” says Cindy George, Veronica’s assistive technology instructor. “She wants to make a difference, and she is going to.”