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Meet Kariza Goncalves: Positively Changing Attitudes About Glaucoma

Kariza Goncalves
Kariza Goncalves

According to the CDC, about 3 million Americans have glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and even blindness. It is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Angle glaucoma, the most common form, results in increased eye pressure. There are often no early symptoms, which is why 50% of people with glaucoma don’t know they have the disease. To spread awareness, World Glaucoma Day was created and is observed annually on March 12th.

For this year’s World Glaucoma Day, meet Kariza Goncalves.

As a member of the admin team of our Independence Training and Rehabilitation Department, Kariza’s bubbly personality, optimistic attitude, and bright smile are what help people find comfort when considering their options for training.

Originally from the Republic of Cape Verde, an island on the coast of Africa, Kariza was your typical child growing up. Yet, her mother noticed there was something different about her daughter. Light sensitivity, placing items very close to the face to view them, and consistent watering of the eyes left cause for concern. After many tests, Kariza was diagnosed with congenital Glaucoma. Due to the lack of resources, Kariza and her father moved to the United states when she was four years old to seek more medical and educational support.

Once settled in her new hometown, Kariza gained access to many support services and resources to help her succeed throughout school. She recalls that her most challenging moments were the negative perceptions from her peers. This was mainly due to the visible scar tissue that caused her eye to become a bluish color. Despite these obstacles, Kariza exceled at school and her childhood.

Due to her blindness, similar misconceptions have followed her as an adult. More specifically when she was job searching and had interviews. It was not uncommon for employers to question her abilities due to her being blind. Despite these challenges, Kariza graduated with a BS in Human Services, went on to work in Human Resources at another organization until she decided to join the BISM team in 2019.

Just recently, Kariza had a young student going through similar challenges as she had growing up. Naturally, the mother had so many concerns around her child being able to lead a typical life like her sighted peers. But because of Kariza’s personal experiences, she was able to provide support and mentorship to both the mom and student, assuring them that with proper support and resources, that student would be able to lead a successful and independent life.

Receiving a Glaucoma diagnosis can be life-altering, but knowing that regardless of having Glaucoma or any other eye disease, you can live a full and productive life. Blindness does not mean the end. With the proper training and support, Blind people can work fulfilling jobs, attend school, manage households, and engage in full social lives. Kariza is a shining example of this!

At BISM we offer a variety of employment opportunities and training programs to educate and empower individuals to be the best that they can be. Join us in our efforts as we work to positively change attitudes about blindness.