In 2011, when Sarah Milledge (née McAuliffe), now 37, met Jermaine Milledge, now 34, the disparity in their lives couldn’t be greater. She came from a small town. He came from a big city. Sarah is Caucasian and petite and loves to talk. Jermaine is 6’7”, was working on a Master’s Degree (she had her BA), is African-American and doesn’t love to talk. He is also a few years her junior.
“It was like ‘yin and yang,’ “said Jermaine.
What they did share was a common employer (State of Michigan); the fact that both had lost their fathers at an early age and, most importantly, that both are blind. Sarah suddenly lost her vision from Type I diabetes at the age of 23. Jermaine has been visually impaired since birth.
What they found, together, was love, commonality, a life dedicated to promoting awareness of the possibilities for those experiencing vision loss (and other disabilities) and the importance of community, diversity, and inclusion.
Together, they have a handful of degrees, certifications, sit on several state boards and have significant job experiences to their credit. (They both also sit on the town’s Diversity Council). Moving to Matthews four years ago for work has been a blessing. They recently purchased a new home in town which they share with Sarah’s Yellow Labrador, Echo, 12.
“Community is huge,” said Sarah. “We get a lot of help from a lot of people in Matthews. We love Matthews.”
Today, the pair knows they are role models for others with challenging disabilities. “It’s not something I tried to be,” said Jermaine, “but you just become that by having certain successes. You kind of become a trailblazer in a way. To show people that you can succeed despite barriers.”
“We advocate every day for ourselves and our clients who are also visually impaired,” said Sarah. “Living in a world with disability – that won’t stop. We’re always setting goals; I think we have empathy. We know what it’s like to be misrepresented; to overcome barriers.”
In the end, it is their love and connection that will remain. “I absolutely love my husband,” said Sarah. “We work so well together as a team…. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. We have climbed the mountain. We feel like we have an army around us with family and friends.”