Meet Jen Hawkins

Reading Time: 2 minutes


Jen was born deaf but with good vision. She gradually lost her vision due to retinal detachment by the time she was 5. She does remember seeing some colors, blue sky, even an elephant birth in the Lincoln Park Zoo. She grew up with hearing aids in one ear but as an adult decided to get bilateral cochlear implants. Although both cochlear implants were very successful, Jen still uses American Sign Language (ASL) in conjunction with her hearing.


She was mainstreamed in several schools with an interpreter and braille assistance, then took high school by correspondence through the Hadley School for the Blind. Upon graduating, she learned independent living skills through the Illinois Center of Rehabilitation Education (ICRE-Wood) through their five-month residential program. She moved out into her own apartment a few years later and continues to live independently since.


Jen has had a wonderful program-trained golden retriever-labrador retriever cross guide dog named Farley, now only with us in memory. Farley was trained by Guiding Eyes for the Blind and was matched with Jen through their Specialized Trainings residential program. She is currently working his successor, a German Shepherd Dog named Ray, who she owner-trained with the assistance of a puppy raiser and hired professional trainers. Ray is currently working as a PTSD service dog with additional guide dog skills. Out of personal interest in alternative health for her family and animals, she took classes in classical homeopathy for first aid. Jen is currently taking courses to develop a career in accessibility testing for websites, mobile apps, and other digital content. She is also in the process of writing a book on natural approaches to caring for and raising dogs, incorporating her experiences as a deafblind person.


In her free time, Jen enjoys volunteer Bible education, cooking food that meets the autoimmune protocol diet requirements yet taste authentic, and trying her hand at bonsai and carnivorous plant gardening. She also enjoys hiking when physically able, reading historical fiction novels, and playing fetch with Ray. Most of all, Jen loves doing just about anything that involves animals, particularly turtles. In fact, Jen’s ASL name sign is the same sign for “turtle”, because she has had so many pet turtles that it has become her nickname.