Imagine your college experience lacking one of your five senses. Would it have gotten in your way?
For senior Katherine Watson, being blind hasn’t slowed her down in the least.
As a journalism major, Watson decided she wanted to work at the Royal Purple. She started out as a writer for the lifestyle section and then got hired as a copy-editor last fall. “I really liked being a reporter, but being a copy-editor allowed me to be more flexible with my schedule,” Watson said.
In order to do the editing, Watson said she uses a special software program on her computer. After receiving the stories to edit, the software opens up the files and speaks out loud to her. It tells her the name of the file and the writer, and then will read the story to her. She is then able to go in and make corrections.
Watson’s senior roommate Erica Campbell said she is always impressed to see Watson use the software.
“Whenever I see her working on her computer it surprises me,” Campbell said. “It seems like she works really fast and efficiently.”
Watson is also the co-president for Zeta Phi Eta, the professional arts and communications fraternity, a secretary for the Catholic Student Coalition, and went on a trip with Habitat for Humanity last spring.
“Going to Alabama with Habitat was amazing,” Watson said. “We got to remodel houses, which was a great experience.”
On top of all the extracurricular activities and two jobs, Watson is also a dedicated student.
“It’s really awesome that she [Watson] is in the Honors Society,” Campbell said. “It’s really hard to maintain [that] kind of grade point average.”
Although Watson is majoring in journalism and has a minor in Spanish, she also has a passion for science.
“I really like science, so I’ve taken physics, astronomy and am currently taking geology,” Watson said.
With each science course, Watson said she needed accommodations, but her professors were more than willing to help her in any way. In her geology course, her professor made structure molds out of play-doh for Watson so she could identify them on an exam.
Watson said all her professors go above and beyond in making sure she gets all the information she needs.
Watson has also had help from the Center for Students with Disabilities.
“I really enjoy being able use the CSD services,” Watson said. “They are always there when I need them, but I’m also able to figure stuff out on my own.”
Watson also uses a reader that plays books, text files and Microsoft Word documents, and a cell phone that talks to her so she can send and receive text messages. Watson says she also uses brail so she doesn’t have to rely too heavily on technology.
Although she has found many accommodations on campus, Watson said she has run into a few troubles as well, such as going into the dining halls is difficult.
Watson said she also had brail put on the washing machines in Starin Hall, but people have been picking it off, making it difficult for her to read them.
Regardless of these minor problems, Watson said she loves being a student here at UW-Whitewater and doesn’t mind working around difficult situations.
“I have adapted so much, I don’t believe in saying ‘well this doesn’t work, so I can’t do it,’” Watson said. “Instead I figure out ways that I can.”
While Watson has been able to navigate around campus with a walking cane, she recently started using a Seeing Eye dog.
“I am graduating soon, and I decided I wanted the companionship of a dog with me through that process,” Watson said.
Watson said she had to go through a lengthy application process in getting Quartz, her Seeing Eye dog. She said she had to get three letters of recommendation, pass a physical, and even have someone from the company come and assess her here on campus.
The company she got Quartz from was The Seeing Eye, which Watson said is the oldest guide dog school in the U.S.
After getting her acceptance letter, Watson said she flew to Morristown, N.J., where she spent four weeks training with Quartz. As excited as she was about getting her new puppy, she was worried it would be a black lab.
“I wanted a Golden Retriever or a German Shepherd, definitely not a black lab,” Watson said. “I always heard they were very hyper, and crazy.”
However, Watson said with the several assessments the company did, a black lab would be a good match.
“When the trainer brought her in saying she was a black lab, my initial reaction wasn’t a good one,” Watson said. “Then I got down on the ground to meet her, and we fell in love instantly.”
Watson has Quartz on campus now, and although they have been together for under one year, Watson says she already has a great connection with her new dog.
Watson will graduate on Saturday and hopes to stay around the Whitewater area.