Outlook Associate Alex Curtis rests his elbows on the table. “Sure, I have been through a lot,” he said. “But I have always found a way to make things work.”
Alex was born with cataracts. At just two months old, both eye lenses were removed. After that, he had no vision in his left eye and was legally blind in his right. “The vision in my right eye was never great, but it was enough for me to get by,” said Alex. “I was never able to drive, but I could get around without a cane.”
Things changed in 1990 when the retina in Alex’s right eye detached. “It took me a few years to accept the fact that I could not do things like I used to and that I needed to get on with my life,” he said.
He teamed up with his mother and grandfather and purchased three rental properties. He took the bus, got rides when he could, and got creative when it came to maintaining the rental properties. “I even helped put a roof on one of the houses,” Alex said.
In 2008, the market crash made Alex and his family sell the rental properties. It was then that he decided that he needed to improve his skills to figure out his next move. “Someone asked me if I was tired of constantly looking at the ground because I could barely see where I was going,” Alex said. “I was getting by, but my confidence was not very high. And I knew something needed to change.”
Alex spent nine months in training at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Lincoln. He learned computer and daily living skills and was given a cane for the first time. “I realized I could do so much more with the cane,” he said. “Now, it goes everywhere with me.”
After Alex completed his training, Outlook Nebraska had a temporary position available on the production floor. Not long after this position ended, he accepted full-time employment. “I loved it at Outlook right away. I received another job offer and chose this one because of the people and the programs,” Alex said.
Alex has made professional development a priority during his employment at Outlook. He can now use Microsoft Office products and the iPhone because of the adaptive technology training program. He has taken several business classes through the Hadley School for the Blind. “I feel like I am truly a part of something here. Outlook took a chance on me, and I will be forever grateful for everything I have gained here,” he said.
Last year, Alex added his own business to his daily responsibilities by joining the Nebraska Business Enterprise Program. This program grew out of federal legislation known as the Randolph-Sheppard Act passed in 1936. This law gives licensed blind vendors like Alex priority opportunities to provide work time snacks and refreshments to people traveling across the state.
Alex started YV Vending with five snack machines. He now has 21 machines across multiple buildings in Omaha. “I enjoyed being a landlord, and I wanted another business of my own,” said Alex. “I get to live for today and plan for tomorrow. Both jobs allow me to give back through redefining vision and showing others like me that they can live the life they want.”