VIDEO: She May Be Blind, But Vibrant 53-Year Old Wants To Be Seen
By Kathy Reakes // October 20, 2015
'like Looking through a piece of wax paper'
ABOVE VIDEO: Lori Ciceroni lost her vision due to complications from Type 1 Diabetes. She’s a vibrant 53-year-old woman who is fed up with people acting like she is invisible just because she can’t see anymore.
Lori Ciceroni lost her vision due to complications from Type 1 Diabetes.
She used to work as a nurse and a volunteer fire fighter for the Sebastian Fire Department. Lori isn’t a little old lady sitting at home who can’t see.
She’s a vibrant 53-year-old woman who is fed up with people acting like she is invisible just because she can’t see anymore.
“It’s like I’m looking through a piece of wax paper, I know someone or something is there, I just can’t see them,” she said.
She’s also fed up with people, and especially drivers, acting as if vision-impaired people don’t exist, or as if they should just stay at home and out of the way
Lori lived in Sebastian for years with her husband Steve and her children. But as her vision worsened they made the decision to move closer to an area with mass transit or with stores within walking distant.
So they moved to the West Melbourne area where she thought she could walk to the mall or take a bus to area shops. She didn’t realize how dangerous U.S. 192 would be for a woman with a white cane.
“People don’t want to stop for you or they go around you. I was almost hit four times right in neighborhood,” Ciceroni said.
That’s when she became afraid and stayed in inside her house for 12 years.
“I was basically a prisoner for 12 years, I was so afraid of the outside world,” she added. “It was the hardest time of my life.”
Then she learned about seeing guide dogs and her life changed overnight.
After receiving “Ace,” a long process that takes months and sometimes a year or more, people wanted to talk with her, she said.
“They wanted to talk to me and touch Ace and find out about what he does for me,” she said.
“It was overwhelming because I had been alone for so long and to have that many people talking to me all of the time suddenly, really changed my life. And, not always for the good. They want to take picture and touch you, it’s like you have lost your “space.”
But having Ace didn’t change the way drivers act. She says she can be standing at the stoplight and people will go around her or almost run her down.
“It terrifying, people think I’m someone out walking my dog, they don’t realize I can’t see them, even if I have my cane and the dog,” she added.
Today, that’s her mission, to get the word out for all vision-impaired people and, for that matter, all pedestrians.
One thing that has helped her become the strong, determined woman she it today is by making friends with Jennifer Cleveland, another vision-impaired young woman and by working with the Center for the Visually Impaired.
She met Jennifer in the funniest way: “I was walking down the street in downtown Melbourne with my dog and this woman comes up to me and says, ‘Hi are you one of us?’” she said with a laugh.
From that moment she and Jennifer became close friends.
Cleveland, a yoga teacher in Indialantic, said she always stops and talks with other visually impaired people just to be friendly, but also to make sure they have help and know the area.
Not only did the two become friends, Ciceroni says she also learned a thing or two from her new friend: “I learned how to use the transit system and how to cross streets and the list just continues.”
ABOVE VIDEO: Jessica Melakian with the Center for the Visually Impaired said that even legally blind people can, and do, live totally “normal” lives, working, cooking, shopping and more. They just can’t see.
Jessica Melakian with the Center for the Visually Impaired said that even legally blind people can, and do, live totally “normal” lives, working, cooking, shopping and more. They just can’t see.
“We teach people to use computers, to prepare for jobs, to take care for themselves,” said Melakian.
She understands the two women’s frustration with drivers, and the way other people treat them when they are out in “the real world.”
That’s why she spends every day of her life working to help them, and to help make others understand.
What Ciceroni wants and intends to keep doing, is making people aware that when you see someone with a dog and a cane, trying to cross a highway or walk down the street, don’t run them over or swerve around them, stop.
“It’s the law,” says Ciceroni.