Client Spotlight: Lucinda Talkington

Lucinda and her guide dog Etsy

Lucinda and her guide dog Etsy

Lucinda Talkington of Woodland had vision challenges from the time she was in elementary school and was diagnosed with Rod Cone Dystrophy. With low vision, she had handled house arrest during World War II when most Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps. She had fought for civil rights in the 1960s.

But when she divorced her husband last year at age 73, she learned she still had gaps in her knowledge of how to live independently with blindness.

“My husband handled all the books and money, so when we got divorced it was huge having to learn how to do that myself,” she said  “Also, he was a physician so it was hard not being able to ask him questions about medical issues. I didn’t realize how much I depended on him to watch out for me.”

Fortunately, Lucinda had founded the Outa Sight support group in Woodland 34 years previous and connected with Society for the Blind. When her vision had started to deteriorate at age 40 and she couldn’t read without a magnifier, she called on Society for the Blind. When her vision decreased more at age 60 and she needed a cane, she was one of the first students to join Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project. So she knew who to call when she began facing her divorce.

“I just had to keep going,” Lucinda said. “I knew a divorce was imminent, so I wanted to go back and learn as much as I could. I knew resources were there because of Society for the Blind.”

Lucinda joined classes at Society for the Blind to improve her knowledge of using a cane, Braille and computers. She also found a guide dog named Etsy who helps her remain independent.

“The training has been marvelous,” she said. “It’s kept me on my own after the divorce. This is going to be my first time filing my own taxes, but I know I have the resources.”

Her daughter has the same eye condition, so Lucinda wanted to model how to use resources. But her daughter viewed her as old-fashioned and refused to use a cane or look people in the eye. As an actor/director/writer, she even wrote a stage production called “Truce” about their differences.

While it was hard for Lucinda to accept her daughter’s approach, she also knew that she herself was no stranger to taking a stand. When Lucinda couldn’t see the board at school, the Japanese-Mexican-English American made friends with kids who would copy things down for her, and she made a point to sit by the teacher in order to see. At San Francisco State University, she had no help and still managed to pass a nature study course with a C grade despite not being able to see the birds and trees.

She also started marching in civil rights protests in San Francisco, particularly those related to hiring people of color.

“I would have done so much more if I had vision,” Lucinda said. “I probably would have gone to Alabama to march, but at the time that wasn’t possible for a young blind girl. With the resources we have today, it would be possible.”

Instead, Lucinda became a medical transcriber and put her husband through school by working at San Francisco General Hospital for nine years. In 1978 she moved to Woodland and started the Outa Sight support group to show her daughter that they needed support. When the group started, there were just five members. Now 15-20 local residents come to the group, and Lucinda sends out 180 newsletters.

“I have always appreciated resources,” Lucinda said. “But after learning from Society for the Blind, I now consider myself a collector of resources and even created a book so that I can let other people know about the resources available. I feel good about that.”

Through her Outa Sight support group, she and friends go downtown every week to go shopping and for lunch or dinner. Four of them took cooking classes together. And using her activist background, she brought several people together to ask the City of Woodland to install audible pedestrian signals. Now the group holds a fundraiser each year to help maintain and install the signals, which now total seven. The district attorney’s office contacted Outa Sight about adding accessible computers to the library, so Lucinda wrote a grant proposal that funded them.

“Thanks to Society for the Blind, I feel totally empowered now,” Lucinda said. “We’re out there. We make it a point to be seen – and to be seen competently, which is important.”