The Creative Edge Facilitators
Mary Dignan was born with moderate to severe hearing loss, but her deafness was not diagnosed until she was almost 5 years old, after she had been diagnosed as mentally retarded. A routine eye test for reading glasses during her college years revealed the onset of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) symptoms. Eventually she would learn that she had Usher syndrome, Type 2, which is characterized by moderate to severe deafness at birth, and blindness from RP later in life.
She earned her undergraduate degree from Santa Clara University in 1976, and embarked upon a career that included newspaper reporting, legislative work for the U.S. House of Representatives and the California State Assembly Committee on Agriculture, public relations and governmental liaison work with one of California's largest and most complex water agencies, and her own consulting business in the field of water and natural resources management policy. In 1990, a year after she was certified legally blind with a restricted visual field of 8 degrees (a normal visual field is 180-150 degrees), she started law school. In 1994, she earned her juris doctorate with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, was admitted to the California State Bar, and began practicing water and natural resources law with the Sacramento firm of Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard. In 1997, she discovered she had a brain tumor and underwent surgery to remove it. The tumor and the surgery exacerbated and complicated her vision and hearing losses, and she has not practiced law since.
Instead, she practices healing and art and has a lot more fun. After ten years of increasing deafness, she received a cochlear implant in 2008 and is delighted to be back in the hearing world again. In addition to her art, she focuses her energy on writing, public speaking, enjoying her dream kitchen, and community volunteer work. Her community service record includes six years (including terms as chair and vice-chair) on the Disability Advisory Committee to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors; nine years with Spirit in the Arts, a joint community outreach project of Bread of Life (including two years as a member of the board of directors) and is presently serving on the board of the local Sacramento chapter of Foundation Fighting Blindness.
Mary welcomes opportunities to speak about her life and her work, and especially enjoys speaking to young children and teenagers in classroom and meeting settings.