Binghamton University graduate: A journey to greatness

By Kelly McCarthy

May 18, 2013 Updated May 19, 2013 at 11:26 AM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Graduation day is a day for celebration. But it can also be a hard day, just like the first day of college.

For one Binghamton University graduate who has Norrie Disease, college held challenges around every corner.

Norrie Disease is a rare genetic disorder that causes blindness and hearing loss.

As Michael Forzano stood with his fellow classmates and waited to receive his diploma Saturday, memories of his first day at college came flooding back.

"It was my first time being away from home for a long period of time, so I didn't know what to expect," Forzano said.

It turns out, Forzano was more than ready to take on the challenge. He's leaving Binghamton University with a full-time job waiting for him in Seattle working for Amazon.

"Making assumptions about someone's ability is very dangerous," said Jean Fairbairn, director of Services for Students with Disabilities. "And not always in the best interest of anyone."

That's good advice given from the head of Binghamton's Services for Students with Disabilities, and someone who lives with dwarfism.

She made sure Forzano had every opportunity to excel in computer science, even though it's a very visual field of study.

"We're ready for the next student who happens to be blind and wants to study a technological field," Fairbairn said. "He's helped us to leap forward in the provision of access we had not had to provide before."

It's an incredible journey that Forzano didn't travel alone. His Labrador guide dog, Delta, helped him every step of the way.

"Delta is an amazing dog, she's so smart," Forzano said. "Like the way she can you know memorize familiar landmarks even after a couple times of showing her is really amazing."

Fairbairn hopes a person with disabilities isn't defined by the obstacles they must overcome.

"I don't want to be and Michael doesn't want to be seen as valuable in spite of our disabilities," Fairbairn said. "Or valuable solely because of our disabilities, but valuable for who we really are."

Forzano is ready to leave Binghamton University, but not without passing along a message to his fellow graduates.

"I was able to, despite my disabilities, overcome these odds and now I'm going to be living a really successful life," Forzano said. "You're going to run into challenges and it's going to be difficult at times but you can definitely do it."

Forzano will start his job with Amazon in August. He will be taking his guide dog Delta with him for that journey, too.

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