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Blind since birth, Tom Flaherty sees world in his own way

Tom Flaherty has been blind since birth, but sees the world in his own way (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - Tom Flaherty has been blind since birth, but he sees the world in his own way.

He doesn't view his lack of sight as a disability. In fact, it has never stopped him from leading a normal life.

When it comes to jobs, Tom has always been in demand. In fact, his current bosses at Brenna and Boyce Attorneys at Law tried to steal him away when he worked at a local hotel years ago.

When Tom's job at the hotel was eliminated, he gave those bosses a call and now works for them as a receptionist.

Founding partner Bob Brenna Jr. said he knows Tom as a friend, client and now, employee.

Brenna said he saw Flaherty at work when he was behind the desk at the Rochester Plaza Hotel and was amazed at how much he handled and how at ease he was with customers.

He joked to Flaherty that he wanted him to answer phones at the law firm.

Now Flaherty does just that. But his job is much more than that. He also is in charge of the phone system, greeting clients and scheduling appointments.

Not only is he a hard-worker, attorney Sheldon Boyce said Flaherty loves people and has a great sense of humor, often making jokes at his own expense.

He sometimes jokes to Boyce and Brenna about their attire, saying their ties are crooked, or that he does not like the way something looks.

Flaherty said he was a premature baby and was placed in the incubator at birth. He said it was the oxygen levels in that incubator that burned his retina, causing his blindness.

But doctors told his parents to treat him like a normal child and they did. That meant typical fights with his siblings, including one time where his brother threw a shoe at him, and Flaherty ducked.

The shoe then smashed through the back window. When Flaherty's mother questioned him about what happened, he told her he heard the shoe coming and that's why he knew to duck to avoid it.

His senses are sharp and his guide dog, Biscuit, is there to help when Flaherty needs him.

During the workday, Biscuit is usually sleeping on the job under Flaherty's desk. But he perks up at the mention of a treat or when it is time to go outside.

He also safely guides Flaherty to work everyday when he rides the bus and has to cross busy streets. Sometimes the cars don't stop at the red light; that is when Biscuit comes to a sudden stop alerting his master that it is not safe to go.

Flaherty attended the School for the Blind in Batavia from age four through 18. He lived there in a dorm and made many friends.

Next weekend, the School for the Blind will hold a reunion and his boss, Bob Brenna, will be a speaker as well as the entertainment. Brenna will play the drums in a band named by Flaherty - Bob and the Blind Boys.

Flaherty will be on the sidelines cheering on his former classmates and his boss.

He loves his life and his job and can't imagine not going to work everyday, with Biscuit leading the way.

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