Ted Nail of Oxford remembers growing up near two neighbors who were deaf. Looking back, he said he always had a heart in other ways for other people who are disabled. Ironically, he developed retinitis pigmentosa as an adult, a disorder that progressively robbed him of his eyesight. As his eyesight faded, he became depressed and wanted to hide from others.

Over time, Nail accepted his disability and decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work from Jacksonville State University. Now he works full time at the Social Security Administration office, and he hopes to begin pursuing a master’s degree in November.

“A lot of disabled people feel overlooked and underrated, but they can do anything,” Nail said.

Jim Wilson, chaplain at Regional Medical Center, is to oversee a new support group as part of the Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center’s Chaplain Services Program. The group will include Nail and others who are disabled and their family members. Those interested in attending should email jwilson@rmccares.org.

Nail suggested forming a support group to Wilson after remembering his year of volunteering as an associate chaplain under Wilson’s guidance 12 years ago. The experience gave him a new purpose and led to an opportunity to enter rehabilitation at the G.H. Gentry School at the Alabama Deaf and Blind Institute in Talladega. Nail was amazed how much less he wanted to hide away after he became involved with others once again. He had previously worked at the United States Post Office before his vision declined.

Helping Nail form the new group are two other individuals who are disabled, Pam Walters and Jody Haynes, both of Calhoun County. Walters has been blind since birth; and Haynes, who also has retinitis pigmentosa, now leads the Mental Health Support Group, also through the chaplaincy program.

Wilson, who has 46 years of experience as a chaplain, now oversees 10 support groups focused on grief, addiction, life after a stroke, and other types of emotional and physical challenges.

“We want to see what the interest is for this group,” said Wilson. The meeting time and places are to be announced.

Nail, who lived in Birmingham in recent years, was active there in a disability support group sponsored by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Members took field trips, held discussions, and enjoyed the social interaction. He also became a member of the Alabama Disability Efficacy Network and traveled to the State House in Montgomery where he spoke and once delivered the invocation on the floor of Congress. Nail now enjoys being a voice for those who are disabled. He gives credit to Wilson for encouraging him.

“He took a chance on me,” Nail said. “A lot of people would not have taken that chance.”

Email Sherry at sherrykug@hotmail.com.