Rita Nichols-Kaskes | Cascadia College

Rita Nichols-Kaskes

Cascadia Student Profile   -   Published April, 2024


Rita Nichols-Kaskes

My name is Rita Nichols-Kaskes and life has thrown many curve balls. I was born with a rare genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, commonly known as OI. I have lived with OI since birth with multiple broken bones, but what I did not know is that, because of this disorder, it would take my eyesight also. Because of my visual impairment, I am required to use accessible technology: screen readers, voice over, audio description, photo description, and braille, to help me in college, home and in daily activities. (When I) read emails, make phone calls, navigational apps, text messages, and interact with websites, most require that I have to sift through multiple types of data to finally get to the information I am searching for, and this type of data is very time consuming.

Starting in 2008, I began to lose eyesight with macular degeneration, which moved on to retina detachment, then cataracts, and then finally glaucoma. This left me in the dark alone and lost. When I found the Orientation and Training Center (OTC) program at the Department of Services for the Blind, it showed me the ways to independence in the dark. After some time, I knew that I needed an education for any type of future, so I went to Cascadia College and met Felicia “Fi” Walters and Bryan Fauth in the Disability Support Services office, which is now Student Accessibility Services (SAS).

One of the most inspirational quotes that has helped me through the dark is, “Remember your past without regret, handle your present with confidence, face your future without fear” (Sansbury Smith 2008). Without the light that Bryan and Fi bring to my education, I would not be here today.

The biggest barriers have been new technology and its unwillingness to adapt to screen readers. Our everyday changing world comes with huge barriers for people with disabilities and the users of screen readers. With the confidence and training…managing through a step-by-step way to navigate (student software) helped in taking away the barrier.

You may ask, “What is next for me and why did I choose Cascadia?” Primarily, I am working towards a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for people with multiple disabilities. I want to help people from diverse backgrounds to achieve positive self-worth by empowering them with positive and successful counseling through using self-advocacy. Second, I have always found the brain to be the most fascinating, complex, intriguing, flexible and amazing ability to change within its structure, with or without the whole parts of it. The different types of behavior focusing on the psychological causes of behavior, interactions, outcomes, results of humans and animals in the world intrigues me.

Finally, without SAS I would not have made it this far, and if I had one thing to say it would be, “Remember, today is all we all have.” Thank you for this wonderful experience and ability to see beyond my blindness and see the vast world in which we all live.

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