Think about all of the things you saw today or any day. Think of the faces, the images, the colors, all of it. Imagine if you were never able to see those things or anything new again. Imagine if you were no longer a
ble to perform the job you had held and enjoyed for the last 14 years. When you lose your vision and everything changes for you, where do you go from there? For Otho Braziel, or “Miss O,” as she is affectionately called, it took her awhile to figure that out.
“I didn’t join any clubs or take part in many activities in high school because I was made fun of for my thick glasses, but I was still able to see back then,” says Miss O. After graduating, Miss O went to college for a few years before deciding to change course and attend Choffin Career Center. She earned a certificate in medical assisting and quickly went to work at a doctor’s office. “I worked there for 14 years and I enjoyed it. I evaluated new patients, drew blood, gave shots, handled paperwork,” says Miss O.
While working there, she suffered from a rupture in the back of her eye and her vision suddenly deteriorated. Around that time, she was also diagnosed with macular degeneration. The doctor she was working for tried to accommodate her and gave her some other tasks, but it wasn’t the same. She told him she didn’t want to jeopardize his business and that she had decided to leave.
With everything changing so suddenly, she spent the next two years trying to figure out what was next. “One day while talking to a neighbor, she told me about the Youngstown Society for the Blind,” says Miss O. “I went down to talk to someone at the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. From there, I was tested and hired at The Society.”
In 1992, Miss O came to Goodwill when the Youngstown Society for the Blind closed and Goodwill absorbed their operations and employees. The transition was somewhat difficult for her. “Goodwill was very patient with me and worked with me through my troubles,” says Miss O. “When they knew I needed a cane, they encouraged me to start using one. It was very frustrating for me. They had a trainer come in to help me learn to use it.”
Even as her vision continued to deteriorate and she faced new challenges, Miss O always managed to remain positive. “It’s a blessing that I am still able to do these things,” says Miss O. “The people that come through our program tell me that I motivate them and that encourages me to work. I feel good that I am able to do something and to inspire others.”
In fact, it’s one of the things that means the most to her. She takes great pride in encouraging and helping others. She goes on to tell one of her favorite stories about a client who came to Goodwill for their vocational training program. “I was working alongside this young guy who was in Goodwill’s program. He didn’t want to work and kept saying he couldn’t do the job. I told him, ‘look, if I can do it, you can do it.’ I kept working with him and encouraging him. When he finally got his paycheck, he said ‘Miss O, you helped me. I never had a check this high in my life, I will work with you anytime,’” she says with a laugh.
A few years ago, Miss O was asked to supervise a program that Goodwill ran at Trumbull County Job and Family Services. The opportunity for a new challenge appealed to her. “I liked being there,” says Miss O. “It was nice to be out and meet different people. A lot of them would talk to me and tell me their problems. I enjoyed listening to them and trying to offer advice. I would tell them, ‘you guys have a blessing, you have vision, I don’t. You have an opportunity to go to college. Go to college.’”
After 45 years of working and with all she has gone through, it would be easy for Miss O to stop working; however, it is not even something she wants to consider. “Coming to work is my biggest joy,” says Miss O. “I like being around my coworkers. I want to work at Goodwill as long as I can.”
On behalf of Miss O and all of the others who come to Goodwill for vision services or vocational training, we hope that you will consider making a contribution. The funds from people like you allow us to continue to provide these much needed services to people with disabilities and other barriers to employment in our community. Yous can click here to donate now.