On Saturday November 5th, Fighting Blindness is hosting their Retina Public Engagement Day for people with sight loss and their families to spread awareness and information. Kathleen Kennelly-Gorman from Portumna, has been diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a genetic eye disorder which causes progressive vision loss, and which has left her with no central vision and limited peripheral vision.
In secondary school Kathleen was told that she would no longer be able to continue her studies for her Leaving Certificate due to sight loss. However, undeterred, she moved to America where she completed the American High School Diploma, before going to college to train as a cosmetologist and be awarded an associated arts degree. From this, she qualified as a massage therapist, and is trained in various types of massage, including Swedish massage, Indian massage, pregnancy massage, infant massage, reflexology massage, and Shiatsu massage. When Kathleen returned to Galway in 2001, she gave up her career in massage therapy to focus her energies on bringing up her son and daughter. That said, family and friends are still delighted to be able to avail of her skills!
In her spare time, Kathleen is a member of the Galway Visually Impaired Activities club, where she enjoys tandem cycling and she attends line dancing each week. Kathleen also does an incredible amount of voluntary work, is a member of the ICA, Portumna Tidy Towns, and the local active retirement group. She is also a volunteer facilitator with the NCBI Local Advocacy Network, and is involved in a number of its other initiatives, including its technology club and exercise programmes.
When asked about what she would like others to understand, Kathleen said, “I would like people to know that just because I am visually impaired does not mean I am unable or not capable of doing many things. Only I really know my limitations. It’s really not for anyone else to see what I can or cannot do”.
Find out more about the services and supports Fighting Blindness provides, and how you can get involved with the campaign on their website: https://www.fightingblindness.ie/