On the morning of July 19, 1977, Steve D. was a healthy, active 16 year old, ready for the adventures of the day. Six hours later, a rare and unexplained buildup of spinal fluid crushed his optic nerve. Now 53 years old, Steve has limited light perception, yet sees no detail or color. He is legally and permanently blind.
Today Steve is the first voice a customer hears at a local heating and air conditioning company in Longmont. The company took a chance on him. His severe vision impairment carries a number of challenges at work. The management team decided to give Steve the opportunity to show what he could do rather than focus instantly on what he couldn’t do.
Steve was offered the full-time job at the company on a Friday and told to start the following Monday. His wife had to be at work at 5 a.m., and so she couldn’t take him. Public transportation did not adequately serve his neighborhood. He called Via, who was there with its paratransit transportation service to pick him up that Monday morning and has been there every work day since.
“I am contributing because of Via. I am enjoying my community. I am living a full life,” Steve said.
Prior to the mechanical company, Steve worked out of his home for 15 years as a part-time graveyard shift dispatcher for a towing company. When the company went under in early 2009, Steve was concerned about his ability to find another job. He had good cause to worry.
Research shows that 70 percent of people with vision impairments are underemployed or unemployed. They are often the first to go in a layoff and the last to get hired. That statistic is even higher in today’s world of high unemployment and limited work opportunities.
Via is Steve’s key to securing and maintaining employment. Without the on-demand, call-up, door-to-door, transportation, he would not be working. Via supports Steve, so that he can fully participate in work and in life.
The American Federation for the Blind has some excellent resources on careers for blind and visually impaired individuals.