Monday, March 30, 2015
Blind with Dog Loving New York City
By Jasmin Robertson
For Brandy Pinder, moving to New York meant independence and a brand new life. It meant she could start over in a place where nobody knew her and make something of herself. For many people, these are reasons to stay put, but Brandy took it as an opportunity.
Brandy Pinder is a 28-year-old blind woman, who made the trip from sunny California to New York City in 2009. She lost her sight at eight years old to rheumatoid juvenile arthritis after it spread to her eyes. Even though she no longer had her sight, it did not stop her from accomplishing so many goals.
Brandy attended West Virginia University from 2003 to 2007. She graduated with a degree in early childhood development. In 2009, she visited New York for the first time to attend Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and get her first guide, Noel. During the final week of training, the students took a trip in to Queens for some intense training. While walking through the busy streets of Flushing, Brandy found the city to be a dream.
“As a blind girl growing up in California and West Virginia I was used to having people drive me around because everything was so far and there were no sidewalks. To come to a place where every other step was a store or restaurant made me feel like this is where I should be,” she said.
After graduating from GDF, Brandy went back to California to see if travel would become easier. Not long after getting back home she received a call from an instructor, who told her his uncle had an apartment in Queens that he would let her rent for $500. Needless to say, she made the move.
Q: Were you scared at all to move?
A: Now that I think about it, what I did was absolutely terrifying. At the time I was not scared, though.
Q: The transportation here is confusing, even I get lost sometimes. How did you do it?
A: Even more terrifying, I looked up buses on line, found the stops, and got on. But at one point, Noel got sick so I started taking Access A Ride for a bit.
Q: So on these adventures did you ever get lost?
A: OH, totally. One time I was at the animal hospital on 62nd Street trying to find the F train on 63 and Lexington, and ended up on FDR Drive.
Q: So you didn’t know a soul out here. What did you do?
A: I always wanted to do massage therapy, so I looked into the Swedish Institute. I got certified in 2011.
Q: If I know you correctly, I know you did not just sit in the house. What on earth did you do to meet people?
A: Ok, so I was the crazy blind chick that just went into bars and restaurants and sat with strangers.
A: Totally! Would I do that today? No way! But then I found Guide Dog Users of New York. I Went to some meetings and started making friends like a normal human. Also, sometimes some friends from Cali would come over and we’d go to Times Square and stuff.
Q: Shopping. How did you do that out here?
A: I would just walk in and ask for some help. That was when I would shop for clothes. When I did grocery shopping, I spent a lot of money on taxis. Then I discovered the miracle of Peapod and Key Food delivery. God, did that make life easier.
Q: Before I let you go, what was one experience you can’t forget after moving here?
A: I was waiting at the bus stop to go to Belleview Hospital to take care of some business with HRA, when a man grabs my arm and starts making out with it. I was like, what the hell?
Brandy is currently employed at a massage parlor in the Bronx, New York. She has been working there since 2011 and wouldn’t have it any other way. She is hoping to become co-owner of the small establishment one day. The girl has a lot of guts and I am proud to say she’s my friend.