Archive for Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Blind recreation director finds way around disability for job, skiing

Mary Chappell, director of recreation services at Kansas University, is legally blind, the result of a water skiing accident and an unsuccessful surgery. With the help of some special equipment, including a Bluetooth headset, Chappell can do her job.

Mary Chappell, director of recreation services at Kansas University, is legally blind, the result of a water skiing accident and an unsuccessful surgery. With the help of some special equipment, including a Bluetooth headset, Chappell can do her job.

May 20, 2008

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Losing sight, not spirit

KU administrator deals with recent vision loss

Mary Chappell is director of recreation services for KU.

Mary Chappell has been at KU for more than 25 years, but recently, she had to learn her job all over again. After a medical accident took the sight from her one good eye, she's adapted to doing her job and living without sight. More

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Loss of sight doesn't hinder Director of Recreation Services at KU

Serving as the Director of Recreation Services at KU is by no means an easy job. Mary Chappell oversees more than 300 employees. And she's currently guiding the construction at the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center. 6News reporter Lindsey Slater explains how the woman does it all - even without her vision. Enlarge video

Mary Chappell goes to work every day and does her job as if little has changed in her life in the past two years.

But her life is very different.

About two years ago, Chappell, director of recreation services at Kansas University, became blind.

It was caused by a water skiing accident in 1995 combined with an unsuccessful surgery a couple of years ago. The two incidents left her legally blind.

"I can see light, and I can see motion. I can see my hand," Chappell said as she moved her hand in front of her face. "I can't see my hand, but I can see the motion."

The water skiing accident caused her left retina to detach and her right retina to tear. At the time, doctors saved the right retina, but when it started to detach again a couple of years ago the surgery was unsuccessful.

Frank DeSalvo, associate vice provost for student success and Chappell's supervisor, said the job she has been asked to do is huge.

"She has a very complicated budget to oversee, and she takes that very seriously because there's a combination of state, but mostly student, funds that are involved there," he said. "Mary feels a very strong responsibility toward students and cares about students."

She's barely missed a step in her job at KU. She still runs the recreation services department. She's still active in overseeing the student recreation center expansion.

She just does her job a little differently sometimes. She has a special Bluetooth headset that helps her use e-mail, and a scanner that will read documents. She also uses a thumbprint scanner to log on to her computer rather than the traditional username and password setup.

The changes go beyond just adding technology. Take, for example, how her staff members describe the expansion that's under way at the recreation center.

"We'll be talking about the expansion and they'll say, 'You know, it's over there,'" she said. "I finally got them to say it's in the northeast corner about halfway down."

She's also recruited a friend - Ruth Ann Stoner, a budget and personnel administrator in the Office of Student Success - to drive her to work each day.

"I've not seen a day or moment that Mary has felt sorry for herself or had an inclination to ask 'Why me?'" Stoner said. "She decided she was going to make the most of every day."

Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that in January Chappell climbed onto a pair of skis and went snow skiing, even though she couldn't see the snow.

"I just go out and do those things and see how we can adapt it," Chappell said.

Staff members Scott Rothschild, Lindsey Slater and Mike Yoder contributed to this report.

Comments

bearded_gnome 7 years, 1 month ago

just they list the thumprint logon feature.

Ajlong 7 years, 1 month ago

She can type of course and does very well at it. The technology in the article are additional options.

bearded_gnome 7 years, 1 month ago

she can't type?many blind people in this country and around the world type very well, using computers that produce synthesized speech.

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