Bobbie Gleason has always felt drawn to the mountains, and that’s why she’s chosen to live in Black Hawk, Colorado, for the past 26 years. It’s not always easy to navigate the weather conditions that high-altitude living provides, but there’s plenty of opportunity to focus on nature, which she loves.
When she’s not at work as a caregiver—and when there’s no snow on the ground—Bobbie loves to work in her greenhouse. She grows her own vegetables and is planning a new venture: growing plants for herbal medicines and teas. It’s an interest she developed years ago, when she started studying Shamanism. “I also study Native American religions and Buddhism,” Bobbie says, “so that takes up a lot of my time.”
Now, Bobbie’s working to combine those interests with technology, so she can access more information and attend more online events. But she admits that learning to use the computer has been difficult as her vision is fading, due to a combination of macular degeneration and glaucoma. “I was blessed with both,” she quips.
Bobbie notes that her vision loss was gradual at first, and it took a while before she was aware of what was happening. “It was probably about 10 years ago or so, I started really noticing it,” Bobbie says. She was a school bus driver for 30 years, and she reached a point where she decided, “I don't think I should drive anymore,” she says. “I just couldn't see things very well. It just started gradually getting worse.”
When she first learned about her diagnoses, Bobbie felt devastated. For several years, Bobbie’s mother, who had macular degeneration and dementia, had lived with Bobbie and her husband. Looking back, Bobbie realized she hadn’t understood a lot about her mother’s eye disease—and she wishes she had known more. But it didn’t take long before she told herself, “Pull up your bootstraps and get on with your life.”
Bobbie contacted a blindness agency in Denver and asked for help getting a digital magnifier and using the computer, since she couldn't see the screen well anymore. After some time on a waiting list, she was assigned a counselor, whom she adores for his kind and patient approach. “It might take me two or three sessions to finally figure out something. And when I get frustrated, he'll say, ‘Oh, you're really smart. Don't worry about it. Look where you were a year ago to where you are now.’”
Someone at that agency also recommended free audio books from BARD, which Bobbie enjoys, as well as audible.com. And they recommended that she check out Hadley. To date, Bobbie has taken more than 20 Hadley workshops, from using magnifiers to using keyboard shortcuts, Google Docs with a screen reader, and more.
Now Bobbie focuses on learning as much as she can, and finding new ways to navigate through life—as well as how she can help others. When Hadley contacted her to ask for research input, she readily agreed to be an advisor. She was nominated to receive a Hadley Hero award for her willingness to jump on a call and share advice and feedback with honesty and a straightforward approach.
“There's a whole great world out there,” Bobbie says. “I can't see it all, because I can’t drive.” But she finds a world of strength within herself. “I just go within, and I either chant or say a mantra or do breath work,” she says. “It brings me peace. When I'm having a hard day, it brings me peace.”