Republished from the Miami Herald
This is a story about a man who lost his vision to glaucoma. At 53, working as an operations analyst for Royal Caribbean, he was diagnosed with advanced open-angled glaucoma, a hereditary disease that would leave him blind.
At 60, Young is a budding photographer whose unique way of viewing the world has garnered praise from his professor and fellow students at Miami Dade College. Young has no vision in his right eye and makes out only shadows with his left. That hasn’t stopped him.
“He has this personal and intimate way of shooting images that has been a real inspiration for my own photography” says Sabater, a photography technology major. “Milton was an excellent study tool for me because he’s always curious, always inquisitive, wanting to know so much.”
His journey to photography — and a college degree — has been a circuitous one, chockablock with obstacles and lessons he now treasures.
“Most of my life I held myself back,” he says. “But now I think there’s no limit to what I can do. I’ve crossed that threshold from I can’t to I can.”
At the time, he was a mental-health specialist with the now-defunct Grant Center in South Miami-Dade, a job he eventually left so he could be home in the evenings with his children after his wife died.
He may have gotten started when he bought his eldest daughter, Ciara, now 27, a camera because he had always admired the art of photography. But he never considered learning himself because he was so focused on “just surviving and on raising the children.” He wanted to make sure they attended college because he never had.
For about four years, he didn’t tell anyone about his slowly going blind. Royal Caribbean tried to accommodate him, he decided to take a buyout four years ago. Then he began attending the Lighthouse for the Blind, where he learned Braille.
That’s when he decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of attending college. With the help of MDC Kendall Campus ACCESS (A Comprehensive Center for Exceptional Student Services), he enrolled in a full load of courses, using adaptive equipment, including apps on his iPhone, to help him attend class and study.
At about the same time, photo professor Chirinos approached ACCESS director Elizabeth Smith to suggest a pilot program in photography that would pair blind and visually impaired students with those who can see. Chirinos developed the idea after his father lost his eyesight, prompting him to question how a photographer might approach his art without that essential sense.
He didn’t. Chirinos made sure Young had a camera that didn’t need to be focused or adjusted for light. Then he teamed Young with students who would help him mix chemicals and expose the prints properly in an old-fashioned darkroom.
Young, in turn, photographed his heart out. He took the Olympus camera everywhere he went. He has now many fans.
In May he graduates with an associate degree in computer engineering. He will attend FIU to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but plans to continue pursuing his newfound hobby.
Young says he, too, has discovered something new: “I learned that you can embrace things you were originally afraid of.”
For your eye exams schedule your appointment on line. http://www.TheEyewearGallery.com Dr. Warren Johnson/ Dr. Do Nguyen/ Dr. Burt Bodan