Imagine going to bed at night a sighted person and waking up blind. This is what happened to Bret “Billy Ray” Saylor.
Billy Ray has a genetic eye disorder diagnosed as Leber’s Congenital Amsurosis. It is a progressive disorder, eventually resulting in loss of eyesight. But for Billy Ray, the chemotherapy treatments he received for stomach cancer made the Leber’s disease progress at an unusual rate, and he became blind overnight.
Life as Billy Ray knew it was over, his independence as a sighted person was gone and his life changed completely. He could no longer work or drive. He was renting a room in a two story home with stairs and obstacles. Billy Ray felt alone and isolated and feared that he would lose housing because he would not be able to pay his rent.
Billy Ray was referred by a friend to the Center for Independent Living of Bucks County. He contacted them and explained his situation to his case manager, Kimm Guckin. The first thing she told him was to “not worry, we can fix this.” Kimm immediately went to his home to assess his needs. The first thing she did was set him up with food and other necessities for his home. Kimm then started the on-line application process for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Billy Ray claims that Kimm and the CIL went “out of their way” to assist him, including arranging appointments with the Sol Eye Institute and making sure that he got to those appointments. Billy Ray says that CILBC was his life saver. He adds, “the CIL does so much and the thing is they really care.” Since being helped by the CIL, Billy Ray has gone bungee jumping and sky diving. He also teaches Sunday School at a local church. Billy Ray uses a walking cane and relies on friends for transportation. He states that, “when things seem bleak and desperate, you just can’t give up. There is always someone there to help you, not because they feel sorry for you, but because they believe in you, but, you also have to believe in yourself.”
The CIL is committed to ensuring that all individuals living in Bucks County, regardless of disability, are given the tools they need to meet their own independent goals and live as independently as possible. They are passionate about education programs, referrals, counseling and support to all people of our community.
With open minds and caring hearts, the CIL seeks to remove the physical and social barriers that prevent a person with any kind of disability from achieving the meaningful life goals for which they strive.
About the Contributor: The Center for Independent Living of Bucks County assists people with mental, physical, cognitive and sensory disabilities. They work to ensure that individuals and their families are provided with the tools they need to reach an attainable level of independent living. They work with people who need to either learn or relearn how to help themselves while taking their disability into consideration. If you or someone you know needs help living with a disability, please contact them.