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Meet the Family-

Andre, age 37, found out that he had Type 1 diabetes at the age of 8. After struggling with the disease for over 25 years, and numerous surgeries, he lost all vision in 2006. Only three months after losing his vision, he courageously decided to go back to school to become a social worker in order to help others who have experienced some of the hardships that come with the loss of vision.

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On Valentines Day, 2009, two days before he was due to have surgery on a broken shoulder, resulting from a diabetic seizure–he married his wife, Jasmine. Together they founded the This Ability Awareness Center with the intent on educating the community about disabilities and providing emotional support to those who are disabled. Andre, currently enrolled in an advanced standing Masters degree program at Cleveland State University, plans to include a counseling program at the Center upon his graduation in 2011. This counseling program will focus on the disabled and the impact on their families.

Andre loves technology and computers and is often researching what new technologies there are available to those who are blind. In addition, to Andre’s goal of expanding the This Ability Awareness Center, he also wants to receive his doctorate degree in Social Work and build a Community Recreation Center for children.

Jasmine, age 34, acquired Type 2 diabetes at 13 years old and has struggled with the disease ever since. From age 15, while dealing with her own health issues, Jasmine took responsibility for the care of her father. In 2007, as a complication of the disease, she lost vision in her left eye and the majority of vision in the right eye. At that time she was working full-time and attending graduate school. As a result of her failing vision, Jasmine found that she had to quit both.

After the loss of her vision, she turned her focus to helping others facing the adversity of eye diseases and vision loss and has since become a facilitator for a low vision support group and speaker at community events on vision problems. In June 2008, she met Andre, who was also speaking at the event, and says, “It was love at no sight!” Jasmine and Andre married on Valentine’s Day, 2009 and eventually started the This Ability Awareness Center. Through the Center, Jasmine and Andre go to various community organizations and schools to educate others about disabilities and how to interact with disabled individuals.

In order to expand the outreach of the Center to other communities and, thereby reach more disabled individuals, Jasmine decided to go back to school in order to obtain a Masters Degree in Public Administration. She is enrolled in an online program with Walden University. In her spare time, Jasmine loves to write and listen to music and audio-described movies with her husband. In addition, she enjoys spending time in the backyard and around the community with her family and friends.

Hobbies include crocheting scarves and blankets for her family and friends, growing roses, listening to the sound of water–especially rain and waterfalls, and taking pictures of her family–even though she has to use a magnifier to see them. Jasmine’s goals for the future are to continue to help those who are disabled and to grow a vegetable and fruit garden with son, Jaison, and one day learning how to ride a horse and write a book about her experience with vision loss.

When Jaison was a month old, his mother discovered he was severely deaf after he did not respond to loud noises. He was fitted with hearing aids at 2 months of age and at 4 months started learning sign language. This early detection and therapy helped him build his vocabulary. Today at 13 years old, Jaison is doing well in the 8th grade and has been mainstreamed with hearing peers since he started school. While primarily verbal, Jaison is bilingual, and knows sign language. He is often asked to interpret for kids and drivers at his school and says he loves helping out. At age 11–after Jaison’s mom had numerous eye surgeries–he helped out by doing chores, washing clothes, reading the mail and even helped her pay bills online.

Jaison finds great enjoyment in helping others and that includes helping with This Ability Awareness Center presentations on hearing impairments and sign language. In fact, Jaison has been helping others from a very young age and says that when his mom had sight they used to volunteer together at his preschool; mom would read books while Jaison signed the story for his classmates.

Jaison enjoys basketball, soccer, music, and likes playing with his brother. In addition, other favorite activities include playing Wii and computer games, baking goodies such as brownies, watching miniseries with his mom such as Desperate Housewives and The Twilight Zone, family movie night, and teaching others sign language. Jaison plans for the future include becoming a sign language interpreter, then a teacher, and ultimately a superintendent of a school. He is excited about being a teenager and looks forward with anticipation to learning how to drive a car.

Jahzion is 7 years old and has just started the 2nd grade. He is an exemplary student and has gotten all A’s since kindergarten. He loves to ask questions such as ‘Why’ and loves the learning process. When he grows up, Jahzion says he wants to be an eye doctor, a regular doctor, and a bus driver. He says that being an eye doctor will help his mom and dad and that he wants to be a regular doctor so that he can be the first doctor to invent a heart that lasts forever so he can give it to his mom.

Jahzion loves playing Wii with his brother, but also loves being outside. Jahzion has a passion for science—especially learning about the human body and outer space. He takes swimming lessons with his mom and loves going to family swim at the YMCA. Another favorite activity is helping Andre fix things around the house. His future goals include planting a garden with his mom and hopes to one day go fishing and canoeing.

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