Kate Williams now calls it a blessing. At the time, though, it seemed to be anything but.
Losing her eyesight in her early fifties left the now-71-year-old San Francisco woman devastated. "I fell into a depression," Kate says.
The medical device saleswoman and single mother who had raised three kids while holding down three jobs was the one others had always turned to for help. To think that she would have now have to be the one on the asking end frustrated her.
Still, if Kate hadn't gone through it all, she says, she never would be where she is now: winner of the 2014 Purpose Prize, a national award for people over 60 who are making a significant contribution to the world. "There's no other word for it than blessing," Kate says.
Kate was honored for her extraordinary work at San Francisco's Lighthouse For The Blind And Visually Impaired, helping other blind people find employment. Kate says her background in business, and her own personal experience going blind, have made the position a perfect fit for her.
Kate says the key in her life was a desire to live as full a life as she ever had, despite her disability.
She moved to San Francisco from Southern California to live in a place easier to navigate without a car. Kate then threw herself back into the workforce, learning to succeed with the help of adaptive technologies she learned through Lighthouse.
"I'm glad I went through it," Kate says.
Kate says her life after losing her sight has been so fulfilling, she wants to share the experience with as many other blind and visually impaired people as possible.
In her three years as Program Manager for Employment Immersion, Kate has worked with 100 blind and visually impaired clients, finding jobs for 40 of them. It's a record of success that rivals, if not surpasses, results for similar programs for sighted people.
"It changes lives," Kate says. "It changes the everyday life of a person."