Honestly, Hadley workshops give me hope. I thought I was going to have to give up everything.
Leah Moore grew up in a small town in the rural Nebraska panhandle, close to the South Dakota and Wyoming borders. She also grew up in a kitchen.
“My parents had two restaurants when I was growing up, so I was in the kitchen all the time,” Leah says. And she’s still there quite a bit. “I grind my own wheat and make my own bread and my own pasta and jams and jellies,” she says. “My husband grows a beautiful garden every year, and we can all our fruits and vegetables.”
Leah’s husband was in the military, so the family has lived all over the country and Europe. Upon retirement from the military, he took a job with NASA in Virginia, where they spent 14 years. And after that, “It was time to get off the East Coast,” she told her husband. Leah wanted to live somewhere she knew she could find people she could relate to, “so we moved to Omaha 12 years ago,” she says. And the move paid off. “I have a wonderful neighborhood and great neighbors, and I'm so glad to be here.”
Just a little over a year ago, Leah was diagnosed with late onset Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy. “At the time I just figured doctors had it wrong and I decided not to worry about it,” Leah says. “I just kind of blew it off. But after about four months, everything started looking like it was crumpled up paper. If you had paper that was written on, and somebody crumpled it up and then tried to flatten it out—that’s how I began seeing things.”
She decided to go back to the doctor. “When the doctor diagnosed me, she said, ‘Within two years, you will not be able to drive, you will not be able to read, and you'll not be able to recognize anyone's face,’” Leah says. “And that was it. She just kind of threw me to the wolves. ‘You’re going to go blind. Make an appointment to see me in a year.’”
As a proud Cub Scout mom, Leah decided to prepare herself for what’s to come. “I'm not one to sit around and wait,” Leah confirms. “I'm just trying to learn everything I can as quickly as I can.”
As it turns out, Leah discovered that a neighbor's daughter also has Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy. She recommended that Leah connect with Hadley as well as some local resources, including Outlook Nebraska and the Jewish Institute for the Blind. And these organizations helped her figure out how to listen to books on her phone. “I have the BARD app on my phone so I can listen to books, and I just downloaded my first Kindle book today,” Leah says, “so I'm excited for that.”
Leah uses a wheelchair to get around and needs both hands to push herself. So, trying to use a white cane to guide her way was troublesome. The team at Outlook Nebraska thought outside the box, and they outfitted her wheelchair with a clip for her smartphone. Now Leah is learning how to use the lidar sensor from her phone to navigate, as it gives her audio feedback to avoid obstacles. “The lidar tells me what's ahead,” she says. “So, while I'm pushing, the phone is telling me what's in front of me.”
Leah jokes that she was never really attracted to technology before. “I'm one of those, ‘Give me a library and a catalog and a map that folds up, and I'm happy’ kind of people,” she says. “But sometimes life throws you a curve, and you have to learn the things that you never thought you'd use. I'm just grateful that it's there; that it’s available for me.”
Leah also used to do a great deal of studying, research, and taking notes. “I haven't gotten to the point of knowing how to do all of that, how to learn without having my books,” she says. “I’ve been told to just get the technology down first. Then, I can get back to my studies. I look forward to that.”
“I study Hebrew studies, I'm Jewish,” Leah says, “and it's hard to find the books I need. When I was told that the books are out of print, I said ‘These books will never be out of print until the world ends. We all study them.’ But the problem is, they're not digitized.” But now, Leah says, “I think that might be my calling—to get some of that done for other people like me who could really use them.”
One of the things Leah learned with Hadley is braille. "I received a few books at a time in the mail and would go to the website to listen to someone walk me through each page. IT WAS SO EASY! I practiced a little each morning and a little each evening." Leah also took advantage of the Braille for Sighted Learners series on the Hadley website. "It helped me visualize the dots and the hints with pictures helped me remember which dots were used. It even had some challenges to make sure I was catching on. It was great! I have no idea how I would have learned braille without Hadley," Leah adds.
After learning English braille letters and numbers, Leah set out to learn Hebrew braille. “For us who are Orthodox Jewish, we're not allowed to use any technology, no electronics on the Sabbath. So, braille is so important to me to read scripture on the Sabbath.”
Leah is also an avid seamstress, and she was drawn to Hadley’s workshops on sewing. One concern that’s been on her mind is that she might never finish a quilt she started. “I have this overwhelming feeling that I'm running out of time,” Leah says, “that I have to get all of these things done before I can't see.”
“Honestly, Hadley workshops give me hope,” Leah tells us. “I thought I was going to have to give up everything. And you've been able to teach me different ways of doing things so that I can continue doing the things that I love.”
Leah is also very grateful for the sense of community she has. “I would be absolutely lost if I didn't have the assistance of others and the guidance from people who share their stories,” Leah reflects.
“It seems like all my life, I’ve heard people say, ‘You’re not alone, you’re not alone.’ And it just meant nothing to me. But now I’m connecting with people who really are going through the same things as I am, or who’ve already been through what I’m going through now,” Leah says. “They'll say, ‘I remember that time, and you're going to get through it just like I did.’ That's when it finally clicked. I really am not alone.”