Picture yourself at age 92. What will you be doing?
Odds are you didn’t answer with “working as a conceptual designer in Silicon Valley, of course!” But that’s exactly what one 92-year-old California woman is doing. If that isn’t remarkable enough on its own, there’s more: she’s also legally blind.
Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind, who has age-related macular degeneration (AMD), works at award-winning global design firm IDEO, The company “takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.” Beskind saw IDEO founder David Kelley on 60 Minutes in 2013 discussing his desire to create a diversified experience among team members who were developing a broad range of products and services worldwide. Beskind was intrigued by this idea and sent a cover letter and resume to the company, suggesting she had a unique point of view the company would find useful.
Her bold move worked, and she began her new career as a conceptual designer.
Over the past two years, Beskind has spent Thursdays working in either the Palo Alto or San Francisco offices of IDEO, depending on the projects that might require her expertise. She directs her creative focus on products and services that address moderate to severe vision loss. At IDEO, she has been directly involved with client projects concerning health care and vision issues, and retirement home services.
One of Beskind’s current projects is an alternative walker called the “Trekker” with vertical grips to promote good posture and to help maintain alternative arm-leg movements. She has also adapted ski poles to help preserve good balance and gait patterns for those with vision and mobility problems.
Beskind doesn’t let her low vision keep her from succeeding in her new career, though she does utilize some adaptations that help her function efficiently. For example, she uses bump dots, or raised markers, for touch identification. “I have adaptions to plugs for easier use by touch, because I cannot see to connect the device to the outlet,” Beskind said in an email. “I use a black surface on my desk for maximum contrast and I have very specific ways of organizing the personal items in my pockets. I also purchase and use items with voice capabilities instead of display.”
February is AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month, and Beskind, who recently appeared on Jacksonville’s First Coast Living, is helping get the word out on AMD. “My vision loss challenges me every day in thousands of ways,” Beskind said. Those vision challenges prompted Beskind to join the #WhyEyeFight AMD Awareness Month Campaign and help raise awareness for eye health.
“Bringing attention to this condition is very important to not only those who battle with AMD every day, but to help educate their friends and family about the condition. Whether you, or someone you love, is impacted by AMD, it’s critical to take necessary steps to help preserve your vision for the future and remind others to join the fight for their sight.”