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For Jonathan Perry, Life Had Other Plans

Unexpected blindness prompted life and career reinvention

It is not uncommon for adults in mid-life to reinvent themselves for another career. Some just want to pursue a new field or industry. Others are forced to make a career change due to a layoff or an evolving marketplace. For Jonathan Perry, resident of Athens, Georgia, and a successful pharmacist for over twenty-five years, his life screeched to a halt one day in April, 2012. After celebrating his son’s wedding, a bout of endocarditis – a bacterial infection of the heart valve – sent endotoxins into his body, brain, and retinas. The infection triggered a stroke, and overnight he became blind.

Jonathan Perry reading accessible ebooks
Jonathan Perry reading accessible ebooks at home in Athens, Georgia

Open-heart surgery repaired the valve, and then he began a year of antibiotics, rehabilitation, mobility training, and assistive technology instruction. Jonathan approached this challenge the way any good scientist would: logically and methodically. He started working with a computer trainer who showed him how to use JAWS, a popular Windows screen reader. An avid reader, he downloaded some books using the National Library Service’s BARD, a free library of recorded and braille books and magazines for individuals with visual and physical disabilities. That was a good source of pleasure reading materials, but Jonathan had bigger plans. He was determined to retrain himself for a new vocation.

From Pharmacy Administration to Trend Analysis

With Ph.D.-level coursework in pharmacy administration, he could leverage his business management knowledge and apply it to the field of financial trend analysis. “My goal was to analyze companies’ stock performance with help from a computer, and you don’t have to be sighted for that.”

Jonathan read several blogs for the blind community that mentioned Bookshare, so he decided to check it out. He was skeptical that Bookshare would have the highly specialized books he was looking for. He noticed that you can search for books without being a member, so he searched for The Intelligent Investor, the stock market bible by Ben Graham, originally published in 1949. Jonathan was certain the search would come up empty. “Darn it if y’all didn’t have it!” he exclaimed. He searched for more books about trend analysis, and Bookshare had at least ten of them. “What a collection! The breadth is overwhelming. It’s light years ahead of anything I’ve found.” Jonathan became a Bookshare member on the spot.

A Variety of Reading Tools and Devices to Choose From

Book cover for The Intelligent Investor by Ben GrahamWhen it comes to reading tools and devices, Jonathan says his choice depends on what he is reading and what kind of mood he is in. His favorite reading tools are Voice Dream Reader, Capti Narrator, and Bookshare Web Reader when he wants to read right from a browser. He uses a PC, iPhone, and a DAISY reader which gives him a lot of flexibility and options. He is comfortable with the computer-generated voices and appreciates the ability to increase the speed of the narration. He hasn’t found a need to learn braille because there is so much available digitally. Bookshare alone has over 500,000 books in its collection.

Words of Wisdom

What advice does Jonathan have for others who are blind or visually impaired and want to retrain themselves? “Most people have a set of skills that are valuable and can be expanded further,” he suggests. “There is a treasure trove of information and how-to books in Bookshare that can help. Blindness slows things down tenfold, but it doesn’t stop you.” Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce PattonJonathan continues, “I hope that my story is inspiring for others with disabilities, especially blindness. Bookshare is the only source for many of the books that are highly specialized in the new field I am pursuing. I was simply amazed to see the depth and quality of materials that are available.”

What does Jonathan read for fun? “I like to read bestsellers or whatever people are talking about so I can join the conversation. I also enjoy nonfiction, biographies, short stories, and personal development books like Getting to Yes.” Come to think of it, that sums up Jonathan’s attitude and journey of self-reinvention, and we can all take a page out of that book.

On Jonathan’s Digital Bookshelf

The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham

Trend Following with Managed Futures, by Alex Greyserman and Kathryn Kaminski

An Introduction to Algorithmic Trading, by Jane Cralle and Edward Leshik

Getting to Yes, by Bruce Patton, Roger Fisher, and William L. Ury

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