Mickie’s journey started with home teachers visiting him at a young age to teach him the basics of cane travel, and his experience at the training center in the late ’90s opened his eyes to the possibilities of leading an independent life. He now works as a technology specialist, assisting clients in gaining confidence and independence through technology. Mickie’s story emphasizes that with determination and the right resources, challenges can be overcome, and independence can be achieved.
It’s just kind of using the apps and using our technology and trying to figure out, “Okay, what’s the closest stop to where I’m at?” And then finding out which buses go there. I look at the schedule and then kind of figure out which corner I’m on, use my sense of hopefully my directions and then take it from there.
So when I was really young, I think probably six, seven years old, they started sending out home teachers. Orientation counselors would come out to my house, kind of taught me the basics of cane travel. There’s some weird fears like, “What happens if I get lost on the sidewalk and nobody finds me again?” It’s like weird stuff like that. And when I went to the training center in ’96, ’97, it really kind of opened up my eyes to, “Hey, you know what? I can be independent. I can walk home myself. I can cook myself. I can do things myself. I don’t have to rely on other people.”
And when I get ready to cross the street, I’ll have it up like this. You can basically analyze the light across the street or the walking hand, or not the walking hand, but… It’s weird because I’ve never seen it before, but I can just…
It’s like walking or stop?
Yeah, the hand or the wait.
I try not to get too distracted with this because with a route like this, it’s more about listen for landmarks also and just the feel of the sidewalks and the streets when I’m walking, when I’m crossing the street. It is sunny out today. Nevermind. I always feel like I’m closer than actually what I am. It’s kind of weird, but, oops. Okay, let’s see here. Actually I can go. Got more time on that one. I think the hearing was a bigger thing for me because, and I’ve always been blind, so I’ve never known anything but that. The hearing loss was a big deal. It’s kind of like when sometimes people become blind, they really struggle with using that cane or using the technology they need. And so they struggle with just dealing with it on their own.
I tell people all the time, if I can function in life, totally blind and also with partial hearing loss, you can as well. And so I try to share my story with clients or people that are going through these things, that you can be independent, you can live your life the way you want, even if you are totally blind and have hearing loss too, so.
Come on into my little office. I do training, which is what I did at Outlook. That’s where I kind of come in and can help visit with the clients and then also work with the counselors and to help troubleshoot some of these situations. And there’s always situations maybe where they don’t know what they need. They know they want to get back to work, they know that they want to live in a new life and they want to be independent, but they don’t know what that really involves, technology-wise.
This is one of my new braille display I got called the Mantis. So it’s a new braille display that lets me… It’s got a keyboard on it, right there. You see that? And it has a braille display, like a 40-cell braille display. So I can turn it on and I can read in braille. I can read braille. And I also can pair it up with my phone, so if I’m viewing my Facebook or… For my work, I use it for, I keep track of calendars, appointments that I have, which depending on how busy you are, really mount up. So here’s a device that we actually purchase for clients. So this is called the BlindShell. It is an Android based phone, but it actually has no touchscreen. It’s a very straightforward, simple menu system.
Contacts. Three applications, four, seven.
Pretty simple, straightforward. A lot of clients really prefer this. Yep. All right.
Starting out, when I graduated from college, just trying to look for a job, not having that much success, starting at Outlook. And then I worked as a, call it the Finisher 2 for a while, working with toilet paper and running some of the machines. And once I decided to get back into and really kind of thought about training again, and Doug gave me the opportunity to work a few hours here with some clients, part-time and going to that full-time and realized that that was a good niche for me.
And beginning of this year, I applied for a job at the commission as a technology specialist. And so was hired in February. And then after my training May, I came here. I love my job, but just want to be able to get more involved in what the commission’s doing. And Outlook too, frankly, we’re working together, I think. So I see it and trying to just improve the lives of blind people. And that’s what I’m about. That’s what I enjoy.
Was that a scooter or something? Let me get on the northwest corner of, there’s a bus stop bench up there. So when I leave work, hopefully I’ve benefited somebody that day. And of course, for me, sitting here at the bus stop is sometimes kind of a wind down emotionally, kind of just get ready to go home and put my professional stuff aside and get ready for the next day. And this is where I have to say, I have to give a lot of credit to Outlook too, because they provide opportunities for people who are blind and visually impaired through employment, through education, training, activities.
And for me, the one word I could sum it up as, they gave me the opportunity. They gave me an opportunity to get experience in this field because I don’t think the commission would’ve hired me if I wouldn’t have had that kind of experience. In fact, I know they wouldn’t have. Outlook is, it’s a great organization. They provide services and activities and training for blind people that need it, where say you got to keep doing something, even if you’re not working full-time, you got to be doing something. Sure, I might be able to sit home all day, but I wouldn’t feel very fulfilled in life if I couldn’t get at work. I think about what I’ve done that day. Hopefully, like I said, I’d benefit somebody and maybe created some opportunities and learned a little bit myself.