Writing in the Dark By Empish J. Thomas

The ability to write a newsworthy story, create interesting leads, edit numerous pages of text, hunt down experts for interviews, or find an eye-catching headline can be challenging for most freelancers. Now add that to a visual impairment and then you have something even more daunting. Undeterred as a totally blind freelancer, I dove in head first with little professional experience and a few college clips. I am making a meager attempt to shed some light (no pun intended) on my three-year career success and how I used my disability to get published. The first thing that pops up when I tell people that I am a freelancer is how can a blind person write? Well, modern technology for the blind makes it possible. I use a PC with a headset and synthesized speech software. To read printed information, I use specialized scanning software and sighted readers.

I started off my career writing features and profiles. But my true passion was writing about the disabled community. I noticed that most news stories negatively portrayed the disabled and I wanted to use my writing to create positive change. While working at an agency for the disabled community I squirreled away a stockpile of great story ideas and interview contacts. One of the first stories was on the agency itself and then I moved on to several real estate stories. The first one was for a regional trade magazine on home modifications. I tweaked that story for my local paper, and wrote more stories based on my experience as a disabled homeowner.

Next were stories on careers for the disabled. This was very close to my heart because many disabled people are unemployed in this country. I wanted to spotlight people with disabilities in fulfilling and productive careers. So, my first story highlighted a national disability career conference. Afterward I wrote about a disabled business owner who helps disabled college students find employment. That led to writing a bimonthly career column for an international magazine for the blind. In this column, I write about blind cooks, newspaper reporters, travel agents and artists.

When I approached freelancing I was looking to reenergize my writing, not knowing how successful or influential it would be. I had no idea that being blind would open up so many doors of publication. I am grateful for the numerous writing opportunities; but of course the income is nice too.

Empish Thomas is a freelancer in the Atlanta area. Besides writing for local publications, she has written for Careers and the Disabled Magazine, Dialogue Magazine and R&E Magazine, Currently she is learning how to be a grant writer and graciously dodging friends who want her to write and edit for free. Contact her at etwrites – at – bellsouth.net.