INARF members provide a variety of creative solutions and supports to the persons they serve - persons of all ages and experiences. In October of 2012, Clelia Ginay, a 91-year-old World War II Navy nurse, began working with Pam White, Assistive Technology Instructor with JobSource, the community employment division of Opportunity Enterprises. Having lost her vision to macular degeneration, Ginay was anxious to try to get back some of the abilities her loss of vision had taken from her. Learning something brand new at 91 years of age was not easy, but Ginay had already been through a lot in her life, and she was prepared to meet this newest challenge head-on.
Born in Manhattan, Ginay moved to New Jersey as a baby. At the age of 5, Ginay's mother passed away, and soon after, her father sent her to live in an orphanage. She stayed there until the age of 11, when her father decided she was old enough to live with him and take care of the house. Ginay moved back home, and was responsible for all of the household chores except cooking. She was not allowed to leave the house except to go to school. "It was a terrible childhood," she shares.
Looking for a way to get out of the house as soon as possible, Ginay eventually got up the courage to go into the hospital she passed every day on her walk to and from school, and inquire about becoming a nurse. Soon thereafter, Ginay completed nursing school, and enlisted in the US Navy in January, 1944.
Ginay served in New York State and Virginia during World War II, and married a soldier after having cared for him as a patient. After giving birth to two sons, Ginay and her husband moved to Northwest Indiana to raise their boys. In addition to being a mother, Ginay worked as a nurse, and her husband taught and coached in the public schools. When Ginay turned 58, she and her husband retired and moved to Arizona. Four years later, Ginay began to lose her sight, and she and her husband decided to return to Northwest Indiana to be closer to their adult sons.
In 2001, Ginay's husband fell and broke his hip, and passed away a year later. The loss was devastating, and Ginay's sight continued to get worse. Ginay's situation changed again in July, 2012, when she woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible headache. It was soon discovered that she had suffered a minor stroke which had caused her to lose her vision completely and permanently.
With her vision gone, Ginay decided to do something to help her situation, and began speaking with representatives from Veterans Affairs. VA referred Ginay to the JobSource program, and agreed to pay for her to receive adaptive equipment and training to help her cope with her vision loss.
After an initial assessment, Pam White was able to install a new computer and software in Ginay's home, and began meeting with her once a week to train her on its use. White is training Ginay to use "Guide" software, a comprehensive set of applications that replaces the customary programs that are commonly used with Windows, such as Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word. Rather than using a mouse to navigate, Guide uses numbers for each function that can be entered using alphanumeric or arrow keys, and gives tells the user verbally which keys to press (i.e."To read an e-mail message, press 1. To compose a message, press 2.")
In addition to Guide, White installed small pieces of Velcro on Ginay's keyboard to help her orient her fingers properly on the keyboard. Since she is able to feel the Velcro on the letters "f" and "j" and the number 5, as well as the Enter, Tab, and Delete keys, Ginay can position her hands properly and type while the computer simultaneously reads aloud what she's typing. Guide also allows Ginay to scan in any paper documents she wishes, including recipes and her address book, and the computer will read them aloud to her.
The thought of learning something completely new at the age of 91 was a bit intimidating to Ginay at first, but she has overcome her fears, and is benefitting greatly from her work with Pam White and the JobSource program.
"Once I reached the point where I couldn't see at all, reading became impossible. I wanted to keep up with what was going on in the world, so even though I was scared, I jumped at the chance to learn," says Ginay. "Someone my age is not like kids today who grow up with technology and think nothing of using it. This is the first time I've ever used a computer in my life. It wasn't easy in the beginning, but Pam is great at explaining things, and it's getting easier every day. The more I learn, the more I'm enjoying it."
Ginay is the oldest client White has worked with, and her progress has been amazing. "Age doesn't matter when it comes to learning new things - it's an eagerness and willingness to learn that's important," shares White.
Thanks to innovative programming and creative thinking, INARF members like JobSource impact lives every day. INARF invites you to share your agency's stories of success and be featured in an edition of ONLINE. Please contact Elizabeth Patel for more information. We look forward to telling the provider story - one agency at a time.