Songwon Oh was a junior in high school when she became legally blind. After suffering unexpected retinal detachment in both of her eyes, Oh’s sight was irreparably damaged.
“It was challenging for me to learn how to adapt and navigate my surroundings without my vision,” explains Oh. “All of a sudden, I could no longer drive, read or write.”
Due to this sudden change to her lifestyle, Oh struggled with depression for many years. The transition from being sighted one day to legally blind the next overwhelmed her. She felt directionless and, for many weeks, resigned herself to lying in bed and avoiding the outdoors. However, that changed when she began to forge relationships with other people who had visual impairments.
“There are so many negative perceptions about people with disabilities. Sometimes society deems us incapable and incompetent,” says Oh. “But people with disabilities are just human beings who have a different way of navigating our world. That doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of accomplishing anything we want in life.”
Inspired by the support and assistance she received immediately after losing her sight, Oh decided to pursue a degree in sociology from the College of Saint Elizabeth. Upon earning her master’s in social work from Rutgers University, she intends on dedicating her life to helping others. She’ll either assist people with visual impairments or advocate for immigrants in low-income areas. Having emigrated from South Korea as a child, Oh feels passionate about connecting immigrants with housing, employment, and food services.
“I want to help others that were in the same place as me,” says Oh. “I’m finally at a point where I’ve accepted myself for who I am with this disability and I’m enjoying my life. I no longer have a grudge or a barrier to happiness.”
While studying at CSE, Oh developed the confidence in her ability to help others. On top of volunteering for the Students Take Action Committee (STAC), Oh hosted several informative events about assistive technology and how to approach someone with a visual impairment.
“The students, faculty and staff at CSE have been very understanding,” says Oh. “They make sure I get the appropriate accommodations and are always looking out for my safety.”
Mary Colleen Robinson has a communication degree with a concentration in journalism and is currently working as the PR/Social Media Specialist at the College of Saint Elizabeth