Over a cup of coffee and a slow burning cigarette at home, I listened to Rosaleen Dempsey singing ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ – a haunting ballad which perfectly suits her distinctive voice.
An hour later, I was sitting across the table from 35-year-old Rosaleen in the offices of the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) in Belfast. We chatted about her early life, her involvement with an albinism society and her passion for music.
“I have been working with the RNIB for 10 years. I am the Children and Families Services Manager. I manage a team of family support and youth officers who work with children who have sight loss and their families.”.
I asked Rosaleen about the highs and lows of her job. “A high is when one of the projects has been a success. You may have achieved funding for a project and the interaction with the families is always enjoyable. Low moments can be be about trying to get funding in a difficult environment of cutbacks.
“When I hear the term ‘disability’, I think of people who are facing challenges from society. Some of the greatest challenges that disabled people face are with attitude and awareness.”
Rosie was born with Oculocutaneous albinism which affects coloring (pigmentation) of the skin, hair, and eyes. “I don’t tan and I have to be very careful in the sun.
“In my early childhood years I didn’t think too much about it. As a teenager, I can remember looking in the mirror and thinking I wish my hair could be just a little bit darker. I did dye my hair once when I was in university. I had a good time when I was doing my degree, but on occasions, I have had negative experiences. I was walking across the
campus one day at University College Cork, when someone called me a ‘f**king albino’ ”.
She is impressed with the work of photographer Rick Guidotti who has created a not-for-profit organization named Positive Exposure (www.positiveexposure.org)
“After meeting him and starting to talk to other people with the same condition, I developed a different attitude to the fact that I had albinism and I stopped dyeing my hair.”
We ended the interview by discussing Rosaleen’s love of singing. “I have always loved it. I recently recorded an EP with the help of Joe Kenny, who also works with the RNIB. It’s called Against The Sky.
• Against The Sky is available to download on Google Play Store, iTunes and Spotify