Charlie CollinsBy Charlie Collins, International Inspirational Speaker and TSSF Board Member

After two years of being in and out of doctor’s offices, my parents were delivered some devastating news – four of their children had juvenile macular degeneration (Stargardt disease). “There is nothing we can do,” were the exact words. I was only 9 years old. The diagnosis cemented the gnawing belief inside of me that I was going to fail in life. At such a young age, my self-esteem took the initial plunge in what would become a very long descent.

The loneliness I felt because of my condition, coupled with the everyday struggles of living with low vision, brewed a perfect concoction of sadness, anger, doubt and depression. It seeped into every aspect of my life until I felt like I was permanently shrouded in a giant cloak of darkness and despair. I became sick and tired of being sick and tired. This is a very common psychological response to macular degeneration diagnosis at any age. I was just too young to know that or understand what I could do about it.

But, at the age of 24, something interesting occurred – someone took a chance on me. I was offered a sales job that seemed too good to be true. I threw every ounce of my being into that job to prove a legally blind man could do it. With my newfound determination, I began to explore the many tools that were out there to allow me to work and live independently. I used lighting to improve contrast and colors. I carried around magnifiers and read all my mail and books with a desktop video magnifier. The best discovery of all was the portable reading tool I could take on the go. I incorporated all these items into my home life as well. I even found I could enjoy TV again by using TV glasses!

Once I accepted my diagnosis and introduced these amazing tools into my life, I was able to work my way up from the sales position to Vice President and part owner. This led to my founding of Vision Dynamics, a retail store dedicated to helping people just like me live happily and independently. I also became an inspirational, transformational speaker. As the Director of Sales US and Canada for LVI International, I can see the latest and greatest in low vision technology. This all helps me with my mission to deliver a message of hope to the low vision community and their families.

My own journey gave me the strength, knowledge and courage to get my life on track, start my own successful business, and ultimately, share with others the tools to overcome any “blind spot.” I released a memoir, Tripping into the Light, to share my story in much greater detail. My hope is that my battle versus my eye condition, and more importantly versus myself, will help others persevere through their own obstacles to achieve the happiness and success they’ve always dreamed of.