September 17, 2018
Shop Talk

Teaching the sighted to be blind

Photo | Brad Kane
Liz Myska

Liz Myska, Founder & attorney, Visions Consulting L3C, Worcester

Founded: 2017

Residence: Worcester

Birthplace: Worcester

Education: Bachelor's degrees in history and political science, University of Hampshire; Suffolk University Law School

Liz Myska, an elder law attorney, has been blind for 10 years. In that time, she developed a side business to help the disabled navigate the world of available services while working with the sighted on how best to accommodate disabled clients. Myska has served on the Worcester Disability Commission for eight years, and this year has taken to hosting walking events where she blindfolds public officials and gives them a guide to help them walk through the city.

Why did you become a lawyer?

When I was young, my father did business with a law firm with a female attorney, which was rare at the time. When I met her and interacted with her, you could tell she was educated. After that, I started to tell my friends I wanted to be a lawyer.

What I appreciated about the law profession was the lifelong learning aspect of it, being a resource, and the collaboration with other attorneys to find the answer to problems.

What sets you apart from other lawyers?

What I emphasis with my clients is the counseling aspect of the law. I am a legal advisor. People will come to me with their situations, and usually they want me to fix it. I will work with them to come up with a plan to suit their needs and their pocketbook. I'm not your cookie-cutter lawyer, and I'm not your average bear.

Why did you found Visions Consulting?

Visions is an iteration of my VIP life, my visually impaired life.

I was diagnosed with a retinal disease in 2005, which essentially impacted my peripheral vision. It is a progressive disease, so eventually there is a narrowing of the visual field. I can no longer see a movie screen; now my visual field is about the size of my phone.

Like anything in my life, when I have adversity, I want to learn about it. I knew my life was going to change irrevocably. I prepared for that eventuality by researching. I had to plan for how my life would be when I could no longer do things like drive.

The white cane was my foe at the beginning. I didn't want it to identify me.

What did you learn after becoming blind?

Everyone came marching out – the state agencies, the nonprofits – with their wares. At first, I was still vibrating from being deemed legally blind. I imagine it is somewhat akin to being told, "You have cancer." I was shocked by the revelation and just tuned out all the people who were trying to be helpful.

So, I became sensitized to how scary all of this is when you're a novice.

You are looking for people to advise you, but you are suspicious. You don't want people who are just going to sell you a bill of goods that isn't going to be helpful to you. So there is a need out there for someone who will be helpful.

Every time I encounter a situation, I want to empower people, but I can't make them act. I want them to feel confident enough that in tandem with me or others, they can address the situation at hand.

How did it impact your law practice?

For the l0 years before I became legally blind in 2008, I was a real estate attorney. I represented buyers and sellers, builders, lenders. I examined titles, drafted documents, and everything that involved utilization of my eyes.

All of this, I thought was going to come to a stretching halt when I was diagnosed. I needed to figure out how I was going to be able to still contribute and be worthy as a professional.

I still have my legal practice. I am still a lawyer. I just use technology and human guides to help me with the visual aspects.

Was keeping your legal practice difficult?

I had to learn to be blind. This was completely new to me. I'm glad when people tell me, "You're an inspiration to me," but I want to rub elbows with everyone. That has been my greatest accomplishment since becoming legally blind, which is befriending other disabled people. I learned from people who were blind for a lot longer than me, and we shared information between us.

We also shared that information with the sighted, who want to help us but don't know how. That was the origin of Visions Consulting.

What does Visions primarily do?

It is a sighted world, and that is what my consulting business is all about: teaching the sighted. I knew nothing about the world of the visually impaired until I joined it. It's not that I don't help the visually impaired, but it is more about teaching the sighted how to help us and how to incorporate us. My workshops are hands on. I want to debunk the myths about blindness.

I feel like I'm trailblazing, and I love that.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

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