Client Spotlight: Ellie DeLucia, From Client to Leader

Meet Ellie DeLucia

Meet Ellie DeLucia

Ellie DeLucia was born the oldest of three girls in Hamburg, New York. At age three, she was diagnosed with optic pathway glioma, a brain cancer that affects the optic nerve. After undergoing chemotherapy, the growth of her cancer stabilized, and she was left legally blind in both eyes, with her peripheral field cut off on the right side of her vision.  

“I can’t identify faces or read with my left eye, but I can see shapes, colors, and movement,” she said.  

Ellie said she didn’t understand her vision until she was older and was hesitant to accept her vision loss and the changes that came with it.   

“I was the only person with a visual impairment that I knew for a while,” she said. “I don’t think I conceptualized that I had a disability until middle school.” 

Discovering Programs and Possibilities 

Ellie discovered VIA: Visually Impaired Advancement around age 10, with the YES program (a program for youth to socialize and learn independence in various activities). 

“That was probably my first time in a program with children around my age who had a visual impairment; realizing I wasn’t the only one in Buffalo who’s visually impaired,” she said.  

With the YES program and other resources, she learned how to use the metro, bus, and more. “I always had an adventurous side and thought that was cool.”  

Ellie and her peers after completing VIA's FOCUS Program.
Ellie and her peers after completing VIA’s FOCUS Program.

From there, Ellie utilized VIA’s pre-vocational program, where students and young adults can learn about various career opportunities for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. At age 16, she entered the Work Experience Training program and began working as an assistant at the Jewish Community Center Daycare.  

“I learned how to exhibit professionalism and advocate for myself,” she said. “Through all these experiences, I’ve gained so much knowledge.” 

Paying it Forward 

Now Ellie is an assistant in the vocational department at VIA, paying forward what she learned to new students and clients looking to start their careers.  

“It’s been an incredible experience, and VIA has been so helpful and beneficial to help me develop my skills and connect with a community of professionals and peers who understand vision loss,” she said.   

Ellie is finishing her education at Kutztown University and plans to become a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) and earn her Masters in Orientation & Mobility.  

Learn more about VIA’s services at https://viawny.org/services/. 

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