Sandra Fortier wants to create a guide for others on how she has navigated her life.
Fortier, legally blind, was born two months prematurely in February 1949. She remained in hospital for two months due to her inability to gain weight, which forced her to remain in an incubator.
âThe doctors said the oxygen in the incubator caused the retinopathy,â Fortier said. “Growing up my vision was 20/200 (legally blind) compared to my adult life except when I had cataracts and it dropped to 20/400.”
Fortier grew up as the only visually impaired student at a small public school in Alpena, Mich., In the 1950s and 1960s.
Fortier’s autobiography âYou see? Living Blind in a Seeing World âdescribes how she overcame obstacles. The book was published in July by Braughler Books. Fortier moved to Carmel three years ago to be near his twin sister, Nancy Fezzey.
Fortier’s mother would take him by bus to Detroit to see a specialist every three months from the age of 2 to 4.
âMy mom said my eyes must have changed because every three months I got a new prescription,â Fortier said.
Fortier said she had an exceptional science teacher in eighth grade.
âHe was insightful enough to realize the problems I was having in being legally blind,â said Fortier. âForty-seven years later, my sister said she wondered if he was still alive. She helped me find her email address online. I described to her the challenges I had in going to college and finding work. He said, âYou know how to use words, why don’t you share your experiences and ideas about blindness in a book? At first I thought, ‘You must be crazy, what would I write in a book?’ He said, ‘Trust me, write it down as you remember it.’ But it took 12 years to write.
Fortier said Alpena’s school system at the time was not sufficiently prepared to meet the needs of a visually impaired student.
âI wish someone had written a book about their experiences, so my parents could read it,â she said. âFor me, this is a beacon of hope for parents who are grappling with the same decisions my parents have when it comes to education. Hope it helps other people who experience the same discrimination and prejudice to know that someone has been through this. “
Fortier said she was lucky her late mother was such a strong advocate. Fortier said a question was whether to attend a boarding school for the visually impaired in Lansing, Mich., Or integrate his education.
âMy doctors and my parents were 30 years ahead of their time. They thought they were aiming for integration because I would have to compete with people who can see normally when I was looking for work anyway, âshe said. “No parent should have to deal with a lack of resources if they want their child to receive a good education.”
Fortier’s book relays information on how to access services for the blind.
Fortier attended Alpena Community College for two years before transferring to the state of Michigan. She said she was determined not to find herself in a dead end career.
âI decided I wanted to swim,â she said. âI didn’t want to sink.
Fortier originally wanted to teach the blind, but had difficulty taking control of a regular classroom when teaching students.
âIt took me a long time to develop the confidence I need to defend myself,â she said. “After the student teaching debacle, I lost so much confidence in myself.”
With the right computer equipment, she eventually began working as a word processing assistant at a Michigan rehabilitation center for the blind in Kalamazoo.
Fortier’s book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Alibris.