B'ville native fights blindness and crime

Scala visited the FBI in Washington D.C., where she met some blind FBI agents. She also spoke to the FBI's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator. She returned to AURORA of CNY, where she had taken pre-vocational workshops, to address the current pre-voc students. AURORA is a non-profit that serves Central New Yorkers who are blind, deaf, visually impaired and hard of hearing.

"Erin used to be shy. In the beginning, she focused on her disability rather than on her capability," said Connie Cottrell, AURORA's pre-vocational coordinator.

"I wouldn't be where I am without my disability. Without it I might still be shy," Erin said.

"It's fuel and motivation," Cottrell added.

Scala is on track to get her criminal justice degree in December 2009, and she gives credit to SUNY Oswego's disability services office for making her time there easier.

"Starr Knapp (the office's coordinator) is amazing. She helped with classes, with books, with test-taking accommodations. They scanned books - they go above and beyond," she said.

After graduation she wants to return to the Onondaga County Probation Department. Mary Winter, commissioner of probation, said she is pursuing a waiver of the probation officer firearms requirement.

"Governor Paterson is blind. No one is going to turn us down. Erin can do the job, except for firearms," she said.

Scala says her parents are encouraging and supportive.

"I know my parents worry, like all parents do, but they don't let on," she said.

Erin is the youngest of Barb and John Scala's four children.

"I like to think that their mother and I provided all of them with the basics, if you will, for how to survive in our world. I sometimes would say to friends, when we would discuss how independent our children have become, that we teach them to be independent and then, when they are independent, we don't like it," John Scala said.

He said he thinks, almost daily, about how Erin will "get along in this crazy world of ours," facing the usual challenges added to those of a visual impairment. He praised his daughter's focus and organization.

"She seems to know what she wants and then goes about getting it. Worry as a parent, you bet I do, but I am getting out of Erin's way because she's always moving forward - and at quite a pace!" he said.

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