By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Jamison Mosley
Eric Yarberry believes that every day offers opportunities; he does not allow blindness to define him. With assistance from his service dog Hank he commutes to work on the Metro Links bus, does household chores, enjoys restaurant dining with friends and aptly jokes about his seeming endless optimism. “Challenges in life are inevitable, defeat is optional,” he declares. As World Services for the Blind President & CEO, Eric realizes encouragement has been the key to his personal and professional success as well as a clear vision for the future of the organization.
Throughout childhood, Eric’s brother was a constant protagonist. “Anything he would do, I would be right there doing it too,” Eric remembers. “He has his sight and I just had to keep up with him – no excuses.” His father’s insistence to maintain a very normal life for both sons included hunting trips, home improvement projects, summer jobs and more. “Because of my dad – I have a strong work ethic, always look for the good in others and do all I can to make sure everyone is treated fairly no matter their abilities.”
These lessons are still relevant at World Services for the Blind – fierce determination is a valuable resource for clients navigating a journey to a more independent life, despite a handicap. Many clients arrive hopeless. World Services for the Blind offers a sense of belonging and potential, cultivating the courage + ambition to believe in a bright future. “Often after adults lose their eyesight – they lose sight of the world, sight of their dreams and sight of a reason to exist. Every day, we give individuals the tools and confidence to wake up and know that they truly are a valued member of society and that they truly matter.”
Established in 1947 as Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind, the vision of World Services for the Blind remains steadfast: empowerment to a more meaningful existence. Clients gain life skills necessary to sustain independence as well as accredited vocational training to secure a career. The objective of World Services for the Blind campus is clear: that clients will pursue a dream and move from the campus. This extraordinary + unique programming attracts clients from 50 states and 60 countries – impacting more than 17,000 individuals.
Eric’s tenure with World Services for the Blind began as a volunteer while attending UA Little Rock. He later served as an instructor before joining the organization as Director of Education & Training. He acknowledges a community of support that makes his leadership possible, but acknowledges there is still work to be done. “For an individual with a disability, the strength of your support system is an indication of your success,” Eric reflects. “I will always answer calls from former students and I remind myself there are so many individuals who don’t have someone to call.”
As World Services for the Blind continues to evolve to meet the needs of clients, permanent accommodations have become paramount. Remodeling and revitalization of the existing, original property includes a therapeutic group home with 24 permanent apartments and one respite care transitional apartment. The World Services for the Blind Foundation is a necessary and an ardent advocate for this continued mission fulfillment work in the heart of Arkansas. World Services for the Blind Foundation Director of Development Michelle Harper shares, “As we celebrate 75 years of service, we must continue the dream of Roy Kumpe, our founder: blindness is not a barrier with the right resources. Eric lives that example and is a powerful part of what we do at World Services for the Blind.” Eric adds, “Yes, I happen to be blind. I work everyday to help other visually impaired individuals become confident, competent members of society. Together, we can all provide more opportunities for people like me to show up, work hard and make our community better than it is – for everybody.”