Caryl Barnett, a prominent social worker and activist for the blind, died at her home May 9. She was 78 and lived in St. Paul. Friends and family remembered her last month as a woman of great strength and resilience, whose own blindness didn’t stop her from leading a full life.
Barnett was a native of New York State. She and her family lived in Albany, N.Y. for many years. She moved to the Twin Cities in 1975.
Blind for more than 50 years, Barnett regularly spoke to groups about mental health topics as well as visual impairment and blindness. She is praised for helping to make the arts in the Twin Cities more accessible to individuals with visual impairment. She is remembered for training and assisting the “Touch Tour” docents at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts and the Walker Arts Center and the audio-describers at the Guthrie Theater.
In 2009, VSA Minnesota recognized her efforts with an award for Outstanding Promotion of Access to the Arts for People with Disabilities.
After receiving her MSW from Syracuse University, Barnett worked as a clinical social worker for 40 years. She held positions at Lutheran Social Service in Minneapolis and Jewish Family Service of St. Paul, retiring in 2001. She was also on the teaching faculty of the Gestalt Institute of the Twin Cities and was an active volunteer with many organizations, including the Walk-In Counseling Center and Jewish Family and Children Services.
She was well-known in her St. Paul neighborhood where she enjoyed walks with her dog guide. Barnett learned to cross-country ski after losing her sight. The annual Ski for Light trips were among the highlights of her life.
Faith was important to Barnett as she was a very active member of Shir Tikvah, where she helped to establish the Caring Community (“Yad b’Yad”) committee. She advocated for people with disabilities within the synagogue. Services were held at the synagogue May 24. Donations may be made to Shir Tikvah in her honor, at www.shirtikvah.net She is survived by her son and daughter and their families, a sister, many nieces and nephews, and many friends.