Blind student sets her sights on accounting degree
TAKING NOTES Karen Spradlin, left, tape records lectures and takes notes while her seeing eye dog, Athens, relaxes under her desk. Spradlin, who is blind, is studying for an accounting degree at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
March 10, 2002
Karen Spradlin, known by her friends as "Sis," doesn't like the word "disabled."
She prefers to say she is a person with hurdles because she is able to do practically anything in spite of her blindness.
Spradlin's latest hurdle: studying for an accounting degree at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus and then taking her exam to become a certified public accountant.
After that, she has another major goal on her mind. Spradlin plans to enter a 10-month training program for the blind with the Internal Revenue Service.
Spradlin, who is in her mid-40s, wasn't born blind.
She gradually lost her vision between 1993 and 1995 because of a medical condition she declined to discuss. Before that, she worked in retail in Columbus and Meridian.
She said she considers herself lucky that the blindness was progressive because it gave her time to adjust. But, she said, she still experienced denial as her vision slipped away.
She said she kept expecting doctors to give her thick-lensed, "Coke bottle" eye glasses and tell her she'd have to wear them the rest of her life. That never happened.
Support helps Spradlin
Her acceptance of being blind didn't happen overnight.
She had support from friends and people at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind, an agency of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Kay Rucker is the district counselor for Vocational Rehabilitation who was there to help Spradlin. Rucker's district covers Lauderdale and the surrounding eight counties.
Rucker has seen clients become attorneys, teachers, medical transcribers, accountants and whatever else they want to be once they learn to recapture their independence.
Center rebuilds confidence
Spradlin learned how to adjust to her blindness at the Addie McBryde Center for the Blind in Jackson. The center, part of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, evaluates its clients academically and vocationally.
Spradlin's evaluation displayed her aptitude for math and led her to pursue an accounting career.
Spradlin started Meridian Community College in spring 2000, studying accounting.
She uses a tape recorder in class; aides from Vocational Rehabilitation, as well as volunteers, help her with text book information and take dictation of her homework assignments.
Professor praises Spradlin
Dr. Paul Allen, an accounting professor at MSU-Meridian, has taught Spradlin in three classes. She is currently enrolled in his Intermediate II Accounting class.
No other student in Allen's 16 years at MSU has made a greater impression.
Spradlin takes the same tests as other students, except the questions are given to her verbally. In class, Spradlin sits on the front row by the door with her guide dog, Athens, nestled at her feet under the desk.
Spradlin is determined to keep advancing over her hurdles.