Corinne Viéville may be one of the busiest people in Ashland. The executive director of Disabled United in Direct Empowerment says she was born to be an advocate and a teacher.

Corinne Viéville may be one of the busiest people in Ashland. The executive director of Disabled United in Direct Empowerment says she was born to be an advocate and a teacher.

"Advocacy and teaching gets the adrenaline going, it's in my blood, and it is the right thing to do," Viéville said.

Born with congenital glaucoma, Viéville has not let her own blindness prevent her from becoming a force for social change and education. Since discovering her gift for activism and advocacy while living in the Bay Area, Viéville has spent the past 11 years in Ashland working with local service and community organizations. She helps people with disabilities achieve a better quality of life in the areas of transportation, housing, health care and social justice, among others. She also works to educate the public about the needs and the potential of disabled community members.

Viéville has helped change election codes so that blind people can be legally allowed to collect ballot signatures, she has taught classes to help the newly blind become independent, and she produces a monthly TV show in connection with DUDE on RVTV.

Viéville spoke with the Daily Tidings about her career and her passion for doing the right thing.

DT: What did you do before moving to Ashland?

CV: I ran a dairy farm and I homeschooled my children and we worked the farm. While working the farm, I became involved with local politics. This was a turning point in my life, and I realized how isolated and not particularly independent I had been on the farm. At that point, I also lost all of the very limited sight I had.

DT: What brought you to Ashland?

CV: As I entered the public arena more and worked to achieve greater independence for myself and other blind persons, I taught classes in adaptive technology. I came to Ashland with my family for work. I taught at SOU (Southern Oregon University) and RCC (Rogue Community College), and I set up an adaptive technology lab.

DT: What is adaptive technology?

CV: It's software or hardware designed to assist people with disabilities in carrying out daily activities, anything from computers to canes. I actually became the first blind orientation-mobility instructor. Orientation mobility is cane travel. Previously, blind people couldn't get certified to teach cane travel.

DT: How did you become involved with DUDE?

CV: I sort of fell into it. I was on the board with DUDE when the director became ill, which is not uncommon in the disabled community. They needed a director and DUDE was active with legislation concerning a parental rights law, so that one can't take a child away from a disabled parent just because the parent is disabled. It's a fear that we all have, someone taking away our kids. We worked with (Rep.) Peter Buckley and (Sen.) Alan Bates. We have good legislators; we're making progress.

DT: Is there any advice you give people who come to DUDE?

CV: Just that we are not social workers, we have a good rapport with local service agencies, but mainly we help people advocate for themselves when they can.

DT: You are also on the Ashland Transportation Commission.

CV: We'd been fighting for audible crosswalk signals. That's what got me interested in the transportation committee. It seemed like a good thing for DUDE to be involved with, and it is. We actually will have audible traffic pedestrian signals at certain intersections. I'm pleased that I helped get it going.

DT: Do you find your work stressful?

CV: There's stress, but it is just what I do. It feels good. If I need to relax, I cook. But if there is a need or an injustice that should be corrected, that is where I'll be.

DT: Have you found something particularly challenging recently?

CV: Managing our budget every year is a challenge. Getting volunteers is a challenge. We would love volunteers, especially readers to help sort through the pile of papers.

DT: What inspires you to do the work you are doing?

CV: It is inspiring to see other disabled people thrive in the community.

DT: Tell us about something in your work or life that makes you proud.

CV: Each phase of my life has been a highlight. I'm proud of my four kids; they are turning out to be really nice kids. And I am proud of my work on the dairy farm, my certifications, the audible pedestrian signals, and basically the work I do. I just feel good about being able to make things happen.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.