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Bernie’s Story: It Takes a Village, Resourcefulness, and Cosmic Alignment

Despite losing his sight at age seven, Bernie Perella’s journey took him from a small town in Pennsylvania to Villanova University, a career at the National Security Agency, and a rewarding, active life without limits

On the surface, Bernie Perella’s life is not that different from others who came of age after WWII: son of Italian immigrants, idyllic, small-town childhood, college graduate, professional career, and satisfying retirement. But dig a little deeper and a fascinating story emerges. Bernie credits his fortunate life to “the village” that nurtured him growing up, a heavy dose of resourcefulness that helped him navigate daily life, and four momentous occasions “when the stars aligned.”

From Downingtown, PA, to Villanova and the National Security Agency

Bernie, a Bookshare member and donor, lives in Cape Coral, Florida. His story starts in Downingtown, a borough west of Philadelphia. Blind since age seven, Bernie learned to navigate a pre-ADA world that was not prepared to accommodate blind people. He met early challenges with fortitude and enthusiasm and added high school valedictorian and Villanova University graduate to his list of accomplishments. Next came a successful career as a mathematician, programmer, and systems analyst with the fledgling National Security Agency (NSA) in Washington, DC, along with active pursuits such as travel, hiking, and bird watching with his wife, Susanne.

“Bernie is a real pioneer in breaking down barriers for blind people and showing some very influential sighted folks that we can cut it on terms of equality.” -Gary Wunder, Editor, Braille Monitor

Bernie encountered many obstacles throughout his life and met each one with creativity, optimism, and perseverance. Read the full article in the July issue of the Braille Monitor published by the National Federation of the Blind.

Benetech thanks the NFB for its valued partnership and Bernie for sharing his story.

About the National Federation of the Blind

You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.

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