Jacobs finds insights in blindness
what happens to us thats important, says Rob Jacobs.
Its how we deal with it.
|After Rob Jacobs
’81 lost his sight, he traded Boston winters for Florida.
The 1981 graduate of
the School of Fine and Applied Arts lives that philosophy every
day. To summarize: In 1995 Jacobs lost his sight and with it,
his successful career and lifelong identity as an artist. He writes
about his experiences in a book that he hopes marks the beginning
of a career in another creative field.
Jacobs tends to view
life in terms of opportunities rather than problems. Ive
always been in the right place at the right time, he says.
When he was at RIT, faculty member James Ver Hague was just beginning
the course that would eventually blossom into the computer graphics
design program. Jacobs embraced the concept.
a technical side to me, he explains. I could see
this was really where things were heading.
His RIT degree and
undergraduate experience landed him a job in Boston as a production
artist with Genigraphics. Two years later, he was recruited by
Booz, Allen and Hamilton, an international strategic management
and technology consulting firm. His job involved setting up automated
systems for graphics shops at Department of Defense sites, and
eventually, for commercial clients as well.
Here I was a
sighted person, an artist, making systems for managers to use
computers by interacting with graphical screens. Then the irony
is that I lose my eyesight.
It came out of the
blue. He contracted a virus that brought on total blindness in
1995, at age 37. Nor was that his only encounter with tragedy.
In 1993, Jacobs had lost his partner to AIDS. A few years after
going blind, Jacobs fought a bout with cancer.
It seemed like
one thing after another. Awful things. Even my beloved dog died,
he says. As if I needed more material to write about.
His published writing
began in 2001 in Key West, where Jacobs now spends winters. I
started doing a column for a local newspaper, writing about a
vast array of issues from my unusual perspective. The book,
Songs of the Blind Snowbird (Jay Street Publishers),
is a compilation of his columns plus related narratives and background
Jacobs comments that
although no one would choose to become blind, we are fortunate
to live in an age when technology provides the disabled with tools
to assist in the tasks of daily living. Software called
Job Access with Speech (JAWS) by Freedom Scientific can convert
text and graphics appearing on a computer screen into synthetic
speech, which makes it possible for Jacobs to hear whatever is
displayed. He, in turn, interacts via the keyboard (no mouse).
Much more is possible,
Jacobs believes – if the public demands it. Hed like
to be a part of helping to make people more aware.
not a person who doesnt encounter some of lifes
obstacles, he says. This is America, a diverse society.
Lets break down all the barriers. Thats what my
book is truly all about.
For more information,
visit his Web site at www.robertmichaeljacobs.com.