For Kim Miller, life was good for 33 years. Born in Barbados, her family emigrated to New York when she was 7. She pursued a career in fashion and while working in the industry attended the Fashion Institute of Technology where she earned a degree in Merchandise Management. She also held positions as International Sales Coordinator with ACCOR Hotels and Resorts traveling between New York and France, and finally, Sales/Financial Coordinator at Verizon Wireless in New Jersey. Then in 2002, something went wrong.
Kim began seeing spots before her eyes and her vision became increasingly blurry. Within six months, she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary disease, although no one in her family has it. Prior to the diagnosis Retinits Pigmentosa were words unknown to her as they are unknown to many.
There are many factors that can lead to sight loss – accident, disease, heredity, and of course age. For people with Retinitis Pigmentosa, the gradual loss of sight starts with the peripheral vision and eventually moves to the center resulting in complete blindness. Active, successful, and independent, Kim says, “I fainted when I was told what my future held for me.”
The next several months were heartbreaking as life as she knew it fell apart. “After I stopped crying for what I had lost, I cried for what I could gain,” she said. A call to The Foundation Fighting Blindness for help ultimately led to The Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She met Maryann Maysonett who became her counselor, friend, and mentor.
“She showed me how when one door closes, another opens. I began to realize my life was not over, only beginning.”
Kim learned Braille, she learned independent mobility using a cane; she came to terms with her sight loss. The door opened and Kim had a vision with a new purpose to her life. She would start a business to raise awareness and ultimately aid the blind and visually impaired.
As she lost more and more sight and sought alternative means of living a full and healthy life, she realized there existed a void in the marketplace. “When I went shopping, there was no way to determine what was on the shelves. I knew then my purpose – work to improve the independence and enhance the overall quality of life for the blind and visually impaired.” As the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention;’ and thus Braille Brands was conceived and the Touch Campaign was born.
The corner stone of positive lives begins with positive change. Thus, the first Touch goal for the company is to raise awareness of who are the blind and visually impaired, and what are their needs. To achieve that goal, Kim designed, produced, and patented a Braille Awareness Pin. The ribbon style pin features black raised dots on a white background. The dots spell out the word “Braille” in grade 2 Braille code. The pins are being sold to individuals and organizations throughout New Jersey and on her website.
On October 3, Kim will also be exhibiting and selling the pins at the NJ Library Fall Festival for the Blind and Handicapped in Trenton. Kim’s goal is to make this pin as recognizable as the pink Breast Cancer pin. She plans to allocate funds raised from the sale of the ribbons to organizations that assist the blind as well as to develop and produce products that will improve and enrich their lives.
Kim feels her “vision” is timely. Besides this year being New Jersey’s 1st year to slate a Blind Awareness Month, it is the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille’s touch reading system. This past spring the US Mint released the Louis Braille commemorative coin to further solidify Braille code as a recognized symbol of a lifestyle which will lead to revolutionary changes in business and commerce in the mass markets.
To that end Kim’s next project for Braille Brands will be to develop, produce, and introduce Braille and large print product labels that manufacturers and retailers can use to increase product accessibility to the blind and visually impaired.
It has been six years since Kim began her journey. She lives alone in Kendall Park. She says, “I have come full circle from sight to sight loss. I’m healthy and my life is full and superior to the one I lived before. This experience has helped discover who I really am – a woman with a vision and a mission.”
ELLEN SILVERMAN, FREELANCE COPYWRITER Contact: 908-781-2001; www.copythatgetsresults.com