Stacy Cervenka & Greg Dewall
Stacy and Greg's lives changed the instant he heard her voice at a convention for the National Federation of the Blind in Texas. Now married with their first child, they share a bond around their commitment to disability awareness, accessibility, and improving the quality of vocational rehabilitation in the state of California.
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Stacy, who was born blind, has maintained a career in state and federal government and currently serves as the Executive Officer of the California State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), an advisory body that provides oversight to the Department of Rehabilitation. As the Executive Officer, she strives to ensure that all Californians with disabilities are represented and empowered to receive vocational rehabilitation services and that those services lead to gainful employment. Greg, who became blind in his teenage years, works as an orientation and mobility instructor at the Society for the Blind where he teaches people who are blind and visually impaired how to travel independently using public transportation and the long white cane. He also coordinates the Society’s social and recreation programs. Greg is also a Paralympic bronze medalist in the heavyweight judo division.
Together, Stacy and Greg form a team and close-knit family and tackle the daily challenges that face parents while talking about a few extra hurdles that affect those living with disabilities
Stacy - I’m actually from the Chicago area but I was living out in Washington DC and Greg was at the time, living in Redwood City training in judo.
We met in Texas at a convention of the National Federation of the Blind. I was attending and Greg was leading a judo seminar and as he said, he picked me up, basically dropped me on my head and then asked me for a date.
Greg - I had overheard her talking to some mutual friends and of course, Stacy and I did not know each other yet, but you know, just hearing her talk to people and what she was speaking about, the way she was speaking, I’m attracted to intelligence and, you know, outgoing kinds of ladies and Stacy was that.
Stacy - We’ve both dated people who were sighted. I’ve dated people who were sited and people who’ve been blind.
Greg - And I as well have dated people who were sighted. Stacy was actually the first person I’ve asked out on a date who was blind.
Stacy - You know, I think there are advantages and disadvantages to dating both blind and sited people, but eventually it ends up coming down to the person. The advantages of dating someone who is sited is that often they drive, you know, transportation and orientation become easier. If you need somebody to quickly read the back of a box of, you know, directions or something in the kitchen, the person can do that pretty easily. Where with a blind person, you may have those disadvantages but there’s sort of an emotional connection. And then even from a practical connection if you, you know [ask] “hey Greg, what bus goes out there?” Greg knows.
Greg and I operate the same way so we use the same technology and we use the same modes of mobility. I can’t say ok Greg, “take me in the car out to the mall?” I can ask Greg – “which bus to I take to get to the mall?” if that makes sense.
Greg - Although Stacy and I are both blind, we kind of both work in the same field. You know, she’s more in the administrative-level in the state where I’m at the service provider- level here at Society for the Blind.
You know, our disabilities are probably what took us in this direction, and so we’re working together in that way and being on the same page in that regard is nice to have at home as well.
Stacy - And I actually feel like that’s the strongest part of our relationship. Obviously, like any relationship, we have strengths and weaknesses and probably our biggest strength is I think we feel like a team. We work together well to solve problems, we have the same goals, we have the same values, we have the same mission in life, we both work in the same field. You know, I find it interesting to talk about issues at home and he understands what I am talking about. We both are very committed to improving the quality of blindness rehabilitation, rehabilitation in general, but particularly blindness rehabilitation, and I think having the same goal.
I think if I could describe our relationship in one word it would be - team.
Greg – [agrees]
Stacy - Well, I think.
Greg – Well, even with our son.
Stacy - Yeah
Greg- You know, we operate as a team in that regard.
Stacy - He still doesn’t know [that we’re blind]
Greg - I don’t think he knows yet.
He’s two and a half years old and he does understand that mommy and daddy operate a little bit differently and that there are things that you do around mommy and daddy that other kids might not do with their parents but we're not convinced that he knows it’s because of the blindness aspect yet.
Stacy - The hardest part of being parents is the lack of sleep. I don’t think that really has anything to do with our blindness, but we sleep about three hours a night, every night.
Greg - Yea and in the general sense I would say the hardest thing has been the fatigue and lack of sleep.
I would say that the hardest thing from the blindness point of view though is knowing how much food your child actually got in their mouth. Because there’s food all over you, there’s food all over high chair, there’s food all over your child , the floor. And you’re wondering, how much did you actually ingest?