At first glance you may not immediately recognise that Jerome Jackson is blind. Like other skilled massage therapists, the 32-year-old goes about performing his tasks with ultimate ease, expertly stroking, kneading and tapping the bodies of his clients.
“I am an expert at the massages,” said Jackson, who lost his sight in 2001 and began his journey as a masseur in 2012. He said he was introduced to massage therapy by a friend who invited him to be trained and certified.
“I never really like it, I just went along because my friend invited me,” said the blind man who got his training at HEART College of Beauty Services in Kingston. Jackson said that he has been flooded with positive feedback from clients.
“There are times when people would say they cannot sleep because of back or shoulder pain, and to know that I could put a ease to their pain, I just know this is where my calling lies,” said Jackson, a final year student at The University of the West Indies.
Jackson told THE WEEKEND STAR that he uses a towel as a gauge to ensure that his hands go in the right places whenever he is massaging a client.
“I ensure that they are fully wrapped in a towel, so whenever I am going to work on the back, I will pull the towel down to the waist and just always use a towel as a guide. The mind will grow accustomed to the body parts over time, so I never worry about a sexual assault charge,” he said.
Jackson was just 11 years old and a student at Pear Tree Grove Primary School in St Mary when he began losing his sight.
” My uncle saw that I was near-sighted and took me to the doctor. I got a pair of glasses and it helped me, but we didn’t know that the medicine in the glasses was too strong for my eyes. I then spent five months at the University Hospital of the West Indies but that didn’t work much for me,” he said.
Jackson said he then got enrolled at the Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB) and it was there that he learned to adjust to life as a blind person.
“When I went to JSB I could see colours but I eventually lost my vision completely as they said I waited too long. I somewhat learned to adjust though, as I knew other blind persons and saw how they operated. There is another person in my family who is blind and I saw how he functioned around so that helped me a lot,” he said.
Jackson was among the service providers who catered to the needs of patrons at Thursday’s World Sight Day health fair, staged by the JSB at Old Hope Road in St Andrew. The event was used to raise awareness about retinal diseases and showcase the community’s commitment to supporting the millions of people nationwide living with preventable vision loss.
“This year’s staging has been really a success as persons got a chance to check up on their physical being. Sight is important and to know that we can sensitise people about the importance of sight preservation is fulfilling,” said chairman of the organisation, Daemion McLean.