Through her work at East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, she helps others with visual impairments like her own. “We never stop learning,” she said.
Ms. Boyd was about 9 years old when she started seeing stars, or bright specs, everywhere. She still could read in school, but it was methodical, and she tired easily. Her family had no resources to pay for specialized help, so she never went to the doctor. “Economics played a big part,” she said. “I did what I could to manage.”
Problems with her vision didn’t stop her from learning. Ms. Boyd used a backup plan — memorizing what she could, she said.
Ms. Boyd managed to make it through college and worked nights at Fidelity. One night driving home from work, she could see almost nothing, she said, adding that her worsened vision that night was a “big wakeup call.” The next day, she scheduled an appointment and was referred to a retina specialist.
In 1989, Ms. Boyd was diagnosed with rod-cone dystrophy.
Rod-cone dystrophy is an umbrella term to imply retinal defects that impact primarily rod cells, with cone cells spared, at least until later stages of the disease. It can be used to generically define any retinal degenerative disease that exhibits this condition, according to www.blindness.org.
“It’s been rehabbing and readjusting ever since,” Ms. Boyd said.
With her worsening eyesight, she didn’t know then that there were advocates for assisted technologies available to her. She felt she couldn’t continue working in the financial field, and she didn’t know what to do, she said.
In 2009, Ms. Boyd learned about East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind and got a job as its senior core leader. She assessed senior citizens who needed assisting equipment. A year later, she became vocational training manager, helping people with sight disabilities get more skilled employment.
Ms. Boyd works with people with disabilities much like her own. As career path manager, she works with people going into employment to develop or enhance their skills.
“Lighthouse provided opportunities for me to challenge myself … and not stay stagnant,” she said.
Ms. Boyd writes curricula, much like a teacher would. She said she looks for guides that would be customized and that focus on leadership and professional development.
“I love it,” Ms. Boyd said of working for Lighthouse. “I love challenges, and I’ve been able to challenge myself.”
Ms. Boyd is working on a master’s through The University of North Texas and San Diego State University. She has less than a year before she completes the rehab certification program, she said.
Ms. Boyd said the Lighthouse allows her to use special screens to magnify words and hear speech, which has been invaluable for her with working on her master’s program. “It keeps me current,” she said. “That’s critical whether you have a disability or not.”
Ms. Boyd serves on the city of Tyler’s Disabilities Issues Review Board, which addresses needed accommodations and other issues for people with varied disabilities. She also serves on the regional transportation board, East Texas Connect, which covers 19 counties. Ms. Boyd represents the community and social services to help people connect with transportation, she said, adding that her focus is on getting people work and education.
Ms. Boyd was selected on Dec. 14 as The Lighthouse for the Blind’s Indirect Labor Employee of the Year. She will also be the nominee representing The Lighthouse for the national Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award.
In 1996, the National Industries for the Blind Board of Directors established the Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award, which is presented to an individual who demonstrates career advancement at an NIB associated agency or in the private sector. Named after the late Samuelson, the award is a tribute to his leadership with upward mobility and placement programs for people who are blind.
Ms. Boyd was surprised to learn she received the award, she said, adding that the Lighthouse has others who easily could have gotten it. She said the award was refreshing and shows her peers and management respects what she is doing. She thanked Lighthouse’s Chief Executive Officer David Huffman for having “a vision to be creative and innovative here,” she said.
Shirley Traylor, 44, of Tyler, received the 2013 Direct Labor Employee of the Year. She also will represent East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind as the nominee for the national Peter J. Salmon Direct Labor Employee of the Year.
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