Photo: Lee Pellegrini


Joe Quintanilla 

A vice president at National Braille Press and an elite marathoner, Quintanilla ’98 has never let blindness slow him down.

I have a condition called retinitis pigmentosa. As I got into third and fourth grade, my vision deteriorated and being able to read with my eyes was more challenging. While I was being taught braille, I kind of pushed it away. I wanted to use my eyes as much as possible. Today I work at National Braille Press, where I lead our fundraising department and do some PR and communications. NBP’s mission is to foster a joy of reading among blind children and encourage parents to advocate for braille literacy in the schools. A lot of the school systems will say it’s cheaper and easier to get this blind child a digital recording of a book versus getting it in braille. Listening to a book is great, but it’s not the same as reading. You lose out on understanding sentence structure and how to use punctuation.

I kind of stumbled into fundraising. My roommate ran the Boston Marathon when we were juniors at BC and he had to raise fifteen hundred dollars, so I helped him. I was also running a lot, and I competed in the marathon in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta.

I’ve always wanted to compete in whatever I did. Not being able to see well enough to catch a ball or throw a ball, my options for physically competing were really limited. But I could run longer and further than the kids that were really good at sports that I couldn’t do. And so that gave me some self-confidence about being able to be athletic. But I got injured after Atlanta and didn’t make the next Paralympic team. So Joe Collins ’63, SSW ’65, who was the CEO of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, helped me get a job in the association’s development office.

We face a lot of discrimination as people with disabilities. You get a lot of doors slammed on you. You don’t get opportunities because people think you’re less capable. All that anyone with a disability ever wants is the same opportunity to succeed or fail as everyone else. ◽