Throughout my life, I had many service providers, including vocational rehabilitation counselors who assisted me in my career path. In particular at the age of 18 years old, I met a rehabilitation professional who was blind and living a very independent life. Growing up in rural, south Louisiana I did not know many people with blindness or visual impairments who were working and actively participating in society. Little did I know at the time, but meeting this professional would lead me to my career in rehabilitation. She was an excellent role model that showed me a person with blindness could be successful in life. She was very proficient in her disability related skills which allowed her to be so independent. This taught me that I really needed to not focus on my education but also on my disability related skills. After meeting her, I became even more comfortable in presenting myself to society as a person with a visual impairment. I knew then that I wanted to change the life of at least one person with a disability in the way she had so graciously done for me.
My college career took me in many directions, but the focus was always on working with people with disabilities. As I entered graduate school, I found myself meeting with the same rehabilitation professional who had previously helped me to become an independent person with a visual impairment. She had truly become my mentor. She told me all about the wonderful aspects of being a rehabilitation professional, and I was completely sold on choosing such a career. I received my master’s degree in rehabilitation and even went on to earn a doctoral degree in this field. As I was working on my doctoral degree, I had an overwhelming desire to assist people with blindness and visual impairments, as my mentor had done for me. As a vocational rehabilitation counselor, I felt as though I was giving back to a field which had given me many tools to be successful.
My career has taken me many places. Now, as an educator in the field, I hope I am imparting the same spirit and enjoyment in the field that my rehabilitation mentor did for me. If I can touch the lives of people to pursue a career in rehabilitation, I am truly living out my dreams. It has truly been incredible to be in all facets of the field. I have received rehabilitation services, provided them, and now I get to teach such skills. I have truly come full circle and hope to continue to be an asset to this great field.
Brandi Darensbourg, Ph.D., CRC is a Senior Lecturer at the University of North Texas (UNT) in the Department of Disability and Addictions Rehabilitation and currently, serves as the coordinator of the undergraduate rehabilitation studies program.