Diane Faust

It was a cold, rainy, windy day, and it was Diane Faust’s day to take a bus ride by herself. She got to the bus stop and was terrified, wanting to turn around and go back. She was just not ready. But, she convinced herself to “put on big-girl pants,” get on that bus, and go to the card store. It was only a 10-minute trip and the card store was three shops down from the bus stop. As Diane got off the bus, she headed straight to the store right in front of her. It was a pharmacy and she needed something for her headache! Then she went to the card store.

diane faust2“But I did it,” she says. “And it was a huge step.”

Diane is rapidly losing her vision, and the bus ride was part of the training she received in the Personal Adjustment to Blindness Training program at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. Before coming to us, the 54-year-old mother of two daughters in their early twenties quit her job as the business manager of an insurance agency. She had worked in that job for 15 years handling human resources, finance, accounting, licensing, and even maintenance at times. She really liked her job but felt she could no longer handle the workload efficiently.

She quit for the good of the company.

But, that’s Diane. She cares about others. Her immersion in the 12-week adjustment to blindness training program was just another way she could lead by example for her daughters – just in case they are ever faced with life-changing challenges. She also is determined to remain self sufficient so that her daughters don’t have to someday have the talk about who will take care of mom.

“I want independence,” Diane explains. “By the skills and confidence I have learned here, my daughters will know that I’ll be okay and they can loosen the rope a bit.”

Diane recounts the day she and another student in the program went to lunch – alone – after a volunteer drove and dropped them off at a nearby restaurant. “We did just fine, and the restaurant is still there,” she says, laughing.

Some days, though, Diane does not laugh and doesn’t feel like leaving the house. Like the day – one of her toughest – when she received a letter qualifying her for long-term disability insurance or another day when a letter told her she would be receiving Social Security Disability. She didn’t have to fight for those financial benefits, which made her sad at the seeming finality of her situation.

But because of the people she’s met and worked with at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services, Diane knows that these feelings are normal.

Diane has had minor vision loss over the past 32 years, with cataracts and eye surgery at a relatively young age, and over the last 17 years her night vision has been deteriorating. She explains that her doctors aren’t sure what is causing the damage to her optic nerves and are hoping, at this point, to find a way to preserve what little remaining vision she has left.

“This (Personal Adjustment to Blindness Training) program introduced options and gave me the confidence to try to find new ways of doing things,” Diane explains. Along with riding a bus solo and the accompanying confidence, she learned safe cooking methods, how to use screen-reading software on a computer, Braille, smart phone applications, and she became more assertive. She likens this educational experience at Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services to retraining her brain as she moves from a visual world to an auditory one.

As she completed her training with us, Diane explained: “Now I am at the place in my life – what do I want to be when I grow up… I have no clue… I’ve thought, ‘What on earth does the world do with people like me?’ I have that fear ‘What am I going to do? What can I do?’”

Diane can do just about anything she takes on, is the consensus of several of her instructors. She is motivated, the A student all teachers enjoy having in their classrooms. And that sentiment is mutual. “I just think this program and the instructors are awesome,” Diane says.

UPDATE: Diane returned to college and graduated last year.