Beacon Stories

Nov 9, 2020

Positivity Always Shines Through

Linda has been blind since birth, but she never lets her visual impairments stop her from doing what she loves and staying positive through it all.

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Linda Wirth’s middle name is Joy, and she exudes it in her life every single day.

Linda has been blind since birth. She was always happy as a child and knew something was different about herself. Still, she didn’t let her visual impairments stop her from doing what she wanted.

When she was younger, her eye doctors didn’t have any idea why she was blind. As time went on, one of her doctors finally told her she had retinitis pigmentosa (RP). But as Linda got older, she continued pushing for a more definitive diagnosis for her blindness.

Many years later, Linda went to an eye specialist that had a reputation for working with special cases, but he too didn’t have an answer, saying she was too old. After this experience, Linda was so disheartened that she didn’t go to the eye doctor for years. But then Linda found the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

I was told I couldn’t do a lot of things with my life, like have a job, a family, or even act. But I’ve done all those things.

Linda Wirth

Through the Foundation, Linda met Dr. Alan Kimura, who suggested genetic testing, which confirmed she has Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).

“It was encouraging to finally know my diagnosis after so many years,” says Linda. “I wouldn’t know so much about my blindness if I wouldn’t have been involved with the Foundation.”

During all the uncertainty of her diagnosis, Linda still went on to earn a master’s degree in social work and worked in the field of geriatric, long-term care for over 28 years. Linda experienced many hurdles in her career. Linda had to work much longer hours than her colleagues to get tasks done, and she even had to provide her own accessible technology and tools. Linda recalls even taking her kids to work on a Saturday so she could finish her documentation. Overall, very little accommodations were made for her in the workplace.

“When I grew up, before the ADA, there was a lot of ignorance about disabilities,” says Linda. “I was told I couldn’t do a lot of things with my life, like have a job, a family, or even act. But I’ve done all those things. Now society is striving for more inclusion of all people, so luckily, there’s more of a conscious effort being made to make accommodations.”

Linda standing behind a podium.

Linda smiling while standing behind a podium.

Now 73 years old, Linda lives in Denver, Colorado, and is the proud mother of four and grandmother of seven. Now that Linda’s retired from social work, she continues to remain very active.

Linda is a singer and actress, having performed in over 30 plays and musicals in Chicago and Denver. Since 1995, Linda has performed with the Phamaly Theatre Company, which exclusively employs actors with physical, intellectual, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. This one-of-a-kind theatre company gives actors a supportive space to explore and develop their craft, empowers artists within their disability identity, educates the community about access and inclusion, and entertains audiences with full length, award-winning shows.

Linda also volunteers with WorldDenver, an organization that brings about 600 international visitors to Denver annually through a partnership with the U.S. State Department. Linda hosts dinners for the visitors and enjoys teaching them about her perspectives on disabilities and the arts. Linda has hosted people from Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and more worldwide.

Linda’s drive to staying mentally sharp has also led her to take continuing education classes through her local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

With Linda’s background as a social worker and her experiences with vision loss, she’s become a motivational speaker, presenting to all types of groups, from schoolchildren to professional conferences, on topics ranging from issues of aging to disability awareness. Linda makes herself available for those who are newly diagnosed too.

“I live by the philosophy that everything happens for a reason,” says Linda. “We all have some challenges to face in life, and mine happened to be my vision. I look forward to the opportunity to teach others like me or those that haven’t met someone that is differently-abled like I am.”

To share her experiences further, Linda decided to write a book to share her experiences as a blind actress. She wrote a few pieces and shared them with one of her OLLI program facilitators. The facilitator suggested Linda write the book about all her life experiences, including her education, career, family. From there, Linda worked on the book and picked four people to give her feedback, but then took a break for a year after getting varied responses. A couple of years later, Linda completed a final draft of the book. It’s now published on Amazon and Kindle, titled, Just Because I Am Blind Does Not Mean I Can't See!: Autobiographical Memoirs.

Linda hopes her uplifting book of stories and anecdotes will find a home with readers of all types, including those newly diagnosed.

Linda with her Colorado VisionWalk team

Linda with her VisionWalk team members and holding her “Team Wirtthalot” sign at the Colorado VisionWalk.

“Your diagnosis is not the end,” says Linda. “Life is going to be different, but you can still do everything you’ve always done. You might have to learn to do it differently, and it might take you longer, but it’s only a change in direction.”

Ultimately, Linda’s book shares her message that, despite hardships, challenges, and disappointments, everyone must keep going and look for the beautiful gifts and positivity that life has to offer.

“There’s so much life to live, and it’s up to you to decide if you want to make an effort,” says Linda. “People don’t know you need help unless you speak up. So, you must be willing to ask for help and accept it graciously too. But it all comes down to your perspective.”

Linda recalls a quote on perspective from John Milton, who says, “To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.”

Linda’s positive perspective on life can be attributed to many facets of her life, and it shines through in her new book. To read, Just Because I Am Blind Does Not Mean I Can't See!: Autobiographical Memoirs, visit: www.amazon.com/Just-Because-Blind-Does-Mean/dp/B08C4FTJJ7