In an all-new episode of The Business Beat, Steve D'Agostino, chief pilot of Best Rate of Climb, interviews Janet LaBreck, outgoing commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, shown posing with her guide dog, Ozzie. They talk about the challenges and opportunities for visually impaired people in a struggling economy.
LaBreck became interested in working as a rehabilitation counselor during her adolescence. She was diagnosed as legally blind when she was a young child, and she always knew that she wanted to be able to work professionally with other individuals who were also blind.
She considers Grace Johnson, her previous "teacher of the visually impaired" to be her mentor. Grace inspired her throughout her high school education. She encouraged Grace to see the world not through her eyes but, through her mind and heart. Janet was the first person in her family to receive a college degree, and she attributes that accomplishment to the support and guidance that she received from Grace.
The quote that LaBreck tries to live by, is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: "You must be the change that you want to see in the world".
She is about to embark on a new journey in her quest to be that change. This past February, President Obama President Obama nominated her to be the next commissioner of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration. Her nomination has since been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
LaBreck has been commissioner of the Mass. Commission for the Blind since 2007. Previously, she was the agency’s regional director for Central Massachusetts, from 2001 to 2007, vocational-rehabilitation counselor, from 1993 to 2001, independent-living coordinator, from 1987 to 1992, and consumer advocate from 1985 to 1986.
She has also been an adjunct professor since 2005 at Assumption College, where she teaches graduate-level courses in rehabilitation of the blind and case management in rehabilitation.