Extend the palm of your hand out in front of your face; imagine only seeing a blur. Now put the palm of your hand directly in front of your face. It is only at this distance that this Citrus College fine and performing arts major can see clearly.
Desirey Wester, 24, was diagnosed as legally blind at the age of three. News like this would be heartbreaking to any person, and may also put strict limitations on career choices.
Not so for Wester, overcoming one of the most difficult obstacles for an artist: impaired vision. She continues to pursue a career in graphic designing and sketching.
Growing up there was hope that the doctors could find some laser treatment to help, but currently there is no effective surgery for Wester’s visual impairment. Wester was prescribed glasses, but they did not help.
Attending school with a visual impairment would be difficult for anyone, but Wester said she had the drive to succeed.
“The only thing I hate about it is when a teacher just doesn’t understand, and doesn’t make that accessibility available,” Wester said; “But almost every teacher does.”
Wester recalls a teacher who impacted her art while she attended Sierra Vista High School in 2003.
“She didn’t know how good my vision was and assumed that because I was legally blind I couldn’t do art,” Wester said.
Wester did not let this affect her negatively, she said. “I just kept drawing, I didn’t care because I just wanted to draw and if she had kept on I would have switched teachers.”
Wester is also affected by hyperoptoplasia, which causes her eyes to shake uncontrollably, even though the images she sees inside her head are still. It is just another item on the long list of things that made schooling difficult for Wester, as classmates constantly asked why her eyes shook.
Though Wester was picked on because of the hyperoptoplasia she didn’t let it phase her. “I didn’t care,” Wester said. “It just got annoying to be asked why my eyes shake.”
During her time at Sierra Vista High School Wester took special education classes on account of her vision, not her intellect. At the end of her senior year she received an award for being an “Outstanding Senior.”
The award was unexpected and Wester had no idea she had even been nominated, but when she received the award, she noticed her name was spelled incorrectly. “I just thought it was funny that the special ed program made that mistake,” Wester said.
Choosing to come to Citrus College was a big step in Wester’s life. It was because of her grandmother, who attended Citrus College herself, and close proximity to home that she decided to come to this college.
In 2011 Wester had a few of her graphic designs as well as sketch pieces on display for the student exhibition in the Hayden Memorial Library. And once again her name was spelled incorrectly. However, the correction was made by the next semester.
The art classes at Citrus College are a welcomed challenge for Wester and the friends she has made all agree that she is in the right field.
Wester’s friends have turned into customers, constantly asking for sketches and t-shirt designs.
“She drew a castle picture and it was amazing,” said Stephanie Jones, 30, a close friend of Wester.
Wester has made a big impact on those around her, from family to friends and even classmates.
“I have never heard a bad thing about her, she can find the light in the darkness,” said her friend Amanda Landis, 19, “I know she will definitely reach her goals, she has the drive to achieve them.”
Wester hopes to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona and earn her bachelors degree in graphic design. The future for Wester does not end there.
After her projected graduation from Cal Poly Pomona she wants to work for a corporation doing graphic designs and also have her own business on the side to focus on her primary interests in music and apparel.
Living with a disability that may weaken an individual’s motivation did the complete opposite for Wester. This disability only fueled her motivation and drive to do the best she could with her art.
“To me art is for people who want to express themselves, art isn’t hurting anybody and there isn’t much consequence involved, ” said Wester.
“I like that, so I knew I always wanted to be an artist. I just wasn’t sure what kind.”