People with disabilities, or different abilities, are just as capable as their peers. That’s the message that Outlook Nebraska wants to share during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, observed in October.
To further the discussion regarding the capabilities of blind and visually impaired employees, five individuals are sharing their experiences and their accomplishments:
When Rachel Carver came to Outlook Nebraska in 2010, no one questioned her abilities. Because of her role as Public Relations Associate, Carver is able to provide for her family and break down the misconceptions about blindness, something she has lived with her whole life. After office hours, Carver spends much of her time working as a free-lance writer for Women’s Edition Magazine and is pursuing an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) certification. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and two-year-old son. “It feels really good to be able to support my family. I love my job, but I love the mission of Outlook Nebraska much more,” Carver said. [To meet Rachel, click here.]
Tony Engle has not let his blindness define his life. Whether he is running the overwrap machine at work or writing at home, Engle is committed to accomplishing his goals. His first book, “Turning a Blind Eye,” was published in July. He has enjoyed writing since he was a young boy and plans to write more books. “Follow your dream and do not give up. It can be challenging, but is definitely worth it,” Engle said. [To meet Tony, click here.]
Aaron Peterson was born visually impaired and came to Outlook Nebraska wanting to find ways to continue his learning. Peterson was one of eight participants selected for National Industries for the Blind’s (NIB) Professional Mastery of Office Technology for Employment (PROMOTE) pilot program in New York. During this four-week program held at the Olmsted Center for Sight in New York, Peterson honed technical skills and learned programs that will help him be successful in an office setting. The Microsoft Office suite and screen magnification software were the main areas of focus. “If you are motivated to learn and practice, you can do the same things that sighted people can do and open up many doors for yourself,” Peterson said.
Mike Sloan has experienced vision loss all of his life. Like many blind individuals, he has been underemployed and denied opportunities of upward mobility because of what he could not see. When Sloan learned about Outlook Nebraska two years ago, he was facing some challenges. He was unemployed, and his grades in his classes at Metropolitan Community College were slipping—not due to lack of effort, but because he could not see well enough to use a computer. With the help of Outlook Nebraska’s adaptive technology trainers, Sloan was able to use a computer with screen magnification software. In 2015 Sloan accepted a position in Outlook Nebraska’s manufacturing facility, and he began to feel productive. “It feels good to be gainfully employed and appreciated for my abilities,” Sloan said.
John Wick began having eye problems at the age of 50 and lost all of his vision within one year. He had an epithelial downgrowth, which causes his corneas to migrate upward. The first year Wick spent as a blind person was challenging. “I wondered how I was going to deal with it all,” he said. “I went from being a very active person who directed five departments to someone who had to learn how to live my life without vision.” Wick did not let his vision loss keep him from living a fulfilling life. He has served as a volunteer consultant for a local hospital and now works as Outlook Nebraska’s Fund Development Director. Wick was named a 2016 NIB Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award nominee. Outside the office, the 77-year-old can most likely be found jogging with one of his running partners; an elastic band allows his guide to direct him while still being able to move about freely.
Significant gaps in services exist in the community for these individuals and other blind members of the community. Through its “Bridge the Gap” capital campaign, Outlook Nebraska is turning to the public to raise the remaining funds needed to expand its facility and offer more employment opportunities, adaptive technology training, community education, and recreational, art and social activities. Supporters are encouraged to click here to make a charitable contribution. To experience more of Outlook Nebraska programs, readers may attend Vision Beyond Sight on Nov. 18.