Focus on Abilities: Macular Degeneration and the Workplace

pride industries employee at fort bliss going up ladder, HVAC tech

In the U.S., more than 7 million Americans are affected by a visual disability, including more than 600,000 in Texas. As a result of developing Macular Degeneration, Michael Prieto became one of these individuals.  The disease first caused vision loss in his right eye in 2003, following with the left in 2011.

Macular Degeneration is a condition that causes the center of the retina (the macula) to deteriorate. This area of the eye is responsible for the central vision needed for reading, driving, recognizing colors and other daily life activities. Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. At present, there is no cure and is considered an incurable eye disease.

Because of his disability, Michael became unemployed. He did the best he could to handle his vision loss and continued to look for employment. Despite his efforts to continue life as a productive member of society, his eyesight increasingly became a concern and an obstacle to employment.

During interviews, Michael would do his best to hide and never mentioned his disability for fear of not being hired. Eventually, he landed a position with a heating and air conditioning company at Fort Bliss. In 2012, Michael was hired by PRIDE Industries as a general maintenance worker at PRIDE’s Fort Bliss contract in Texas where PRIDE provides base-wide facilities support to the Army installation.

“For the first time, I did not have to hide my disability,” says Michael. “I also received additional tools from PRIDE’s Assistive Technology resources.”

To help him succeed on the job, PRIDE provided Michael with an oversize cell phone, a Ruby Handheld Magnifier and access to other assistive devices as needed. As a general maintenance worker, Michael helps maintain HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units throughout Fort Bliss. Michael along with his team, provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality for the more than 8,000 individuals on the base.

individual with visual disability using a Ruby MagnifierIt is the smallest things on the job that create obstacles for Michael, such as reading small text. Fortunately, the Ruby Magnifier allows Michael to amplify any tiny impediments. Learn more about PRIDE’s Assistive Tech. program, click here.

Since 1966, PRIDE has provided support services and opportunities for those most often excluded from employment: people with disabilities like Michael. “PRIDE has given me a second chance to continue my job skills due to my eyesight disability.”

 

To learn more about Macular Degeneration, view the video below:

Saluting Those Who Serve: Christopher Telles

PRIDE Industries Veteran _ C. Telles 2015

‘Semper fidelis’ is a Latin phrase meaning “always faithful” or “always loyal.” Known as the Marine’s motto, it exemplifies a commitment to service and country. It also exemplifies Christopher Telles’ approach to life.

Christopher Telles, 29 served in the Marines from 2005 to 2013. He was deployed three times with tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines. Constant physical training and multiple firefights left Christopher with physical and emotional scars. He was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress, and degenerative back disease.

When he returned home, Christopher became a caregiver for his grandfather, a fellow Marine veteran who was like a father to him. He also enrolled in trade school for welding and started working part-time at a welding shop in hopes of launching a career. However, as his back condition worsened, Christopher had to quit his job because his employer would not accommodate his numerous medical appointments. Fortunately, his brother-in-law, Carlos Ramirez, connected Christopher to PRIDE Industries where he also worked.

Chris was hired as a general maintenance worker supporting PRIDE Industries’ contract at Fort Bliss. Under the AbilityOne program – a federal initiative to create jobs for individuals with significant disabilities – PRIDE Industries provides base wide facilities support to this critical Army installation.  Christoper began by working on the ranges but has since moved to the Appliance Shop, where he assists with welding and plumbing, following his passion. “Getting a job with PRIDE Industries was a match made in heaven,” said Christopher. PRIDE allows Christopher to see his doctor when necessary and has encouraged him to continue his trades training. “My back was really messed up and PRIDE has really shown support by providing accommodations for doctor’s appointments, as well as for attending welding school. I don’t know of any other company that would do this,” says Christopher.

Christopher pays it forward as an active volunteer in his community. Recently, he extended his support to the American Patriots at Shadow Mountain Lake – a nonprofit group that provides rehabilitation, therapy, job networking and training to veterans like himself. The nonprofit hosts events and barbecues for veterans on a private lake that had become terribly overgrown and in desperate need of maintenance. Sixty volunteers showed with shovels and rakes, but one showed up with a tractor: Christopher. In record time, he was able to clear roads and fill pot holes while the other volunteers focused on beautification projects.

Recognizing Christopher from another event, the nonprofit’s executive director sent a letter to PRIDE’s General Manager, Jeff Belles. “It wasn’t a surprise to see a person like him helping us out,” wrote Hector Hernandez. “Mr. Christopher Telles is someone that will do bigger and better things for your company. Please thank him for us. He left his tractor there for us to continue to use; only kind-hearted people with passion and purpose do this.” Thanks to Christopher’s generosity, the area was cleared, and the grand opening remained on schedule.

Christopher lives with his wife and three children. He hopes to be a role model to them, leading by example. “It is important to me to show my children that even though I have gone through a lot in the military and now have a disability, I can still work and be a productive member of the community,” says Christopher.

After he completes his welding apprenticeship, Christopher plans to continue his education and study renewable energy at the University so he can assist PRIDE Industries in achieving Fort Bliss’s sustainability goals. “Working for PRIDE doesn’t make me feel like I am limited by my disability,” says Christopher. “PRIDE gives me the tools to work while having a disability.”

Saluting Those Who Serve: Donald Kestner

PRIDE Industries Veteran _ D Kestner 2015 B

As an 88M-Transport Operator in the United States Army, Donald Kestner was responsible for transporting personnel and cargo, providing advanced mobility on and off the battlefield.  Donald served from 1994 to 2013; he was a squad leader and operations non-commissioned officer. He directed and trained troops for missions; he was deployed to Haiti in 1994 and five times to Iraq. He served with bravery, but not without injury – however invisible to others.

Donald went through PTSD counseling and enrolled in the Wounded Warrior Transition program while waiting for his medical board review decision.  Transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce can be a challenge for all veterans, but especially those with disabilities. Attending a job fair, he met PRIDE’s recruiter, Cynthia Baca. She mentioned that PRIDE was hiring for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians who were always in demand. Donald went directly to the Western Tech College booth and signed up for HVAC school.

Always good with his hands and engineering, Donald picked up the skills quickly. He attended HVAC school part-time until he completely separated from the military; he lived with his in-laws while he looked for steady employment. Donald took advantage of an externship partnership that PRIDE shares with the technical college to gain hands-on experience and complete his credit hours. He applied for the first opening he saw at PRIDE Industries after completing his coursework. Joining PRIDE’s team in April 2014 allowed him to move to his own home just three months later.

PRIDE Industries provides base wide facilities support services to Fort Bliss through the federal AbilityOne Program. In addition to employment, PRIDE provides accommodations, training and supports to its employees. Having a steady and good-paying job helps Donald cope with anxiety and relieves some of the symptoms of his post-traumatic stress. Since joining PRIDE, he has been promoted twice. He continues to develop his skills and wants to move up through the ranks to Lead Technician. Work and life are better now. “I am happy with my job,” says Donald. “I am grateful for PRIDE.”

Saluting Those Who Serve: Charles Green

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In the battlefield, when the United States Army needs advance information about the enemy, they call on the Scouts. This was Charles Green’s first job in the military during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Acting as the commander’s eyes and ears on the battlefield, Scouts track and report enemy movements, and engage the enemy whenever necessary.  In all, Charles served 21 years and was deployed multiple times. In between deployments, he was stationed at Fort Bliss, where he works today for PRIDE Industries.

Charles retired from the military in 2011. His time in the service took a physical and mental toll. Like many veterans, he struggled with the transition from military to civilian life. “I was used to taking care of myself and being financially independent. This period was difficult to adjust to,” says Charles. He got a job with a company that supplies the military but was laid off after 18 months due to company restructuring. Charles decided to attend a trades college to earn his associate’s degree in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC).  A classmate told him about PRIDE Industries’ facilities work at Fort Bliss. Charles applied for an externship to gain practical, hands-on experience. He excelled and was hired in October 2013 as a Material Trades Helper. Charles’ work ethic and talent stood out – he was promoted twice more within a year, first to General Maintenance Worker and then to an HVAC Tech II.

Charles takes pride in his career as an HVAC technician. He has found a welcome and comfortable place to work on the base, surrounded by soldiers and military personnel. “I love my job. I have never been with a company that provides the type of training and support that PRIDE provides,” says Charles. In a place as hot and cold as the Texas desert can get, Charles says: “It brings me great satisfaction when I can fix a soldier’s air conditioning or heating.”

PRIDE provides a helper for Charles due to his physical limitations. Training provides an opportunity for advancement and career growth. Charles appreciates the support:  “Other companies give you the service orders, and you are on your own.  PRIDE gives you an opportunity, despite your disability.”

Charles’ contributions have been recognized by both PRIDE staff and military customers on base. He greatly enjoys working on a military installation and the opportunity to continue to serve the troops. He is comfortable being around military members and can relate to them on their level.  He prides himself on knowing his Military Customs and Courtesies and is happy to use them still on a daily basis. “I love my job,” Charles says. “Being an HVAC Tech has changed my perspective and brings me great satisfaction.”

 

Disability Does Not Mean Inability

Photo: Carlos S.

Finding work in the big state of Texas can be difficult enough when you can’t drive. It is harder, still when the reason is your inability to see.

Carlos Sandoval, 29, was born legally blind. He has an ocular disorder called rod-cone dystrophy. It can cause complete vision loss by one’s teen years.  Some, like Carlos, retain some vision, but sight is severely compromised. For Carlos, it meant no driving and great difficulty reading, operating machinery, and making use of a computer.

Despite his disability, Carlos tried to lead a typical life. He went on to earn a college degree in business and married his high school sweetheart. Today, they are proud parents of a seven-year-old daughter. “My wife and brother have always been there when I need support,” says Carlos. “My daughter, Camila, is my motivation to do better each day.”

His employment search, however, was frustrating and fruitless. Discouraged by the lack of opportunity, Carlos says:  “It is very unfortunate that some employers will only focus on your disability when they realize you have one. They are unable to see your strengths and your desire to work.”

In early 2015, Carlos Sandoval connected to PRIDE Industries. PRIDE is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to creating jobs for people with disabilities. Carlos sought and secured employment on PRIDE’s base operating support services contract at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Carlos is a service order dispatcher; he takes service order calls and provides detailed notes to PRIDE technicians and maintenance shop workers to resolve the problem. His priority is excellent customer service. “It takes good communication and team effort to maintain the Army’s second-largest military installation in the United States,” says Carlos.

Carlos is honored to do his part in supporting our military members and their families by helping to keep the base in tip-top condition. “I wanted to join the U.S. Army,” says Carlos. “But as I grew older, I realized that would not be possible.” Working with PRIDE, he knows he is contributing.

Photo:Carlos S._2To help him succeed at work, PRIDE provided Carlos with accessibility tools including the ZoomText® program and Ruby®.  ZoomText is a computer screen magnifier and screen reader for the visually impaired. Carlos was also provided with a ZoomText keyboard that features larger than average keys. Ruby is a portable video magnifier that can go wherever the individual goes. “I know that it would be difficult to perform my duties without them,” Carlos says. “I use these tools every day; they compensate for my vision problem.”

Within months, Carlos is thriving at work. “I am proud to share that I was recently awarded the “Employee of the Quarter” award,” says Carlos. “This is a very encouraging recognition and proof that hard work is rewarded at PRIDE Industries.”

With employment taken care of, Carlos has other goals to conquer.  He and his wife are saving to buy their first home and to make an important personal goal a reality: to drive a car. “One of the most frustrating and hardest things to overcome was when I turned 16 and was being unable to drive,” says Carlos. “I have started saving for whenever those modern, self-driving cars become available. I hope I am not too old to enjoy it and go for a cruise!”

For 49 years, PRIDE Industries has been providing support services and employment opportunities to those most often excluded from employment:  people with disabilities like Carlos. At PRIDE, we know disability does not mean inability. With accommodations, training and persistence, Carlos has been able to prove his skills in the workplace and find success.

“PRIDE is an employer that chooses to see what a person can do rather than what a person cannot do,” says Carlos. We’re glad that Carlos found his place at PRIDE.

Helping People With Disabilities Succeed

PRIDE Industries Fort Bliss Mac

Mynor “Mac” McCray joined the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Bliss, TX in 2009 as a Distribution and Inventory Manager. Mac has a form of Macular Degeneration, a condition that causes the center of the retina (the macula) to degenerate. This area of the eye makes possible the central vision needed for reading, driving, recognizing colors and other daily life activities.

Mac is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He served as an inspector/instructor of a Reserve unit during the Gulf War. His eyesight worsened after separating from the military. Mac coped with his vision loss and continued to look for employment to support his family. He landed a job but says; “I had to lie about my vision during the interview. If I had mentioned it, it would have scared away the employer knowing that I was legally blind.” With the help of a few adaptive devices such as magnifying glasses, Mac was able to complete his tasks and managed to keep his job for 14 years. As the years passed, his eyes worsened. “I truly became fearful for my ability to perform up to my standards,” Mac says.

Despite efforts to continue life as normal, his eyesight increasingly became a concern. Mac recalls the moment his eyes drastically worsened: he was driving on a California freeway and had to pull off the road to avoid an accident because of his inability to see clearly. Mac visited an ophthalmologist who diagnosed a hereditary type of Macular Degeneration. “While this was a scary time for me,” Mac says, “I learned to adapt to the new method of getting around with the assistance of my wife who does the driving.”

In an effort to be closer to family, Mac, his wife, and children decided to relocate. He resigned his position and moved to El Paso, Texas where his wife is originally from. “It was a hard decision to make. Not knowing how long I would be out of work and having to support a family,” Mac says. Starting over in a new city is never an easy task, especially with a disability. His determination and willpower were tested Mac says; “I searched for a job day in and day out, I made it my job to find a job.” Fortunately, Mac was referred to PRIDE Industries at Fort Bliss, TX; he interviewed and was hired.

To help him succeed, PRIDE provided Mac with computer accessibility software. Without the ZoomText program, Mac would not be able to do his job. The software magnifies everything on the screen. It also has a talking feature that reads everything he does on the computer. A ZoomText keyboard was also provided, which features larger than average keys.

As the Distribution and Inventory Manager on PRIDE’s, facilities maintenance contract at Fort Bliss, Mac is responsible for two warehouses and three storage rooms located on the base. Mac and his team of 22-issue parts to PRIDE technicians, store frequently used items and receive special orders. He and his team are responsible for purchasing all materials required to keep PRIDE’s machines running in good order. They manage all fleet vehicles and equipment on the base. Together, they support PRIDE Industries’ 480 employees with the items required to perform their daily tasks. Mac always strives for improvement. He is currently working on becoming a Certified Purchasing Manager (CPM).

As a father of three young daughters, Mac feels fortunate to be able to provide for his family despite his disability. “I am able to send my children to great private schools, and they can participate in activities that would otherwise be unaffordable,” Mac says. “PRIDE Industries has afforded me the opportunity to work in an awesome environment.”

For nearly 50 years, PRIDE Industries has been providing support services and opportunities for those most often excluded from employment:  people with disabilities like Mac. “I need not worry about hiding my disability as I have in the past. PRIDE’s mission is one of compassion and one that I feel very excited to be a part of.”

“The best part about working for PRIDE Industries is the comfort in knowing that I do not have to be embarrassed about my vision or feel that I cannot contribute,” Mac says. “I can honestly say that this is the best company I have ever worked for.”

Touchdown!

PRIDE Industries_Ray M_02

Raymundo Muro holds three degrees – an Associate Degree in Human Services and Liberal Arts, and a Bachelor’s degree in Multi-Disciplinary Studies from University of Texas El Paso, Texas.   He also happens to be blind. He volunteered and won internship opportunities, but was unable to find permanent employment because of his disability. That is, until he found PRIDE Industries at Fort Bliss, TX in 2007.

Referred to PRIDE by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Ray quickly found success in the Self-Help shop where he promptly brailled all of the inventory.  He also works with a screen reader called JAWS and a Braille Sense Notetaker to help him maintain the shop database. “The best part of my job is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world,” says Ray.

“Ray knows the shop like the back of his hand.  He greets everyone that comes in the door with a smile,” says Jimmy Rios, Warehouse Supervisor.

PRIDE Industries_Ray MIn addition to his vast knowledge of the warehouse – Ray is an expert on college and professional football. Interviewed recently on “the Big 600” radio show in El Paso by local El Paso Sports personality, Steve Kaplowitz – Ray’s dazzled listening audiences with his knowledge of the game – and of course, of his favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys. Meeting Kaplowitz was the highlight of Ray’s day, but winning an invitation to talk sports with him anytime was the real touchdown!

“Having a disability doesn’t mean we don’t have other talents” says Ray.

“Ray Muro is an excellent employee and a great person to have on our team. He is highly respected here at PRIDE – Fort. Bliss, TX for his wonderful attitude and willingness to assist our troops,” says Warehouse Manager Mynor McCray.  “I truly enjoy talking with him, especially about football!”

Saluting Those Who Serve

Each November, our nation sets aside a day to collectively honor and recognize those that serve – past and present – to protect our freedom. To all veterans we say “thank you.” Your many personal and professional sacrifices help to ensure the liberties we all enjoy. We are forever grateful.

PRIDE Industries’ programs and partnerships help veterans re-enter the workforce with honor, dignity and understanding. Our contracts on military bases provide a welcome and familiar environment for veterans where they can enhance their skills and advance their careers while serving their fellow soldiers.

PRIDE Profile: William A. Green

Veterans Day William G

William A. Green IV was born in Queens, New York and raised in McDonald, Pennsylvania. He lost his father at age 5 and his mother at age 16. He took care of himself while finishing high school and then joined the service. He enlisted in the Army in March 1983 as a Power Generation Equipment Repairer. “The Army was my family and every soldier was my brother and sister,” says William “You become so tight-knit and rely on each other- especially when deployed.”

William attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky and Advanced and Individual Training at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He served in a variety of key leadership positions with his last being as the U. S. Army Garrison Command Sergeant Major, Fort Bliss, Texas. He was injured in Iraq twice and received two Bronze Stars. “Whether it’s a peace mission or combat, the military molds you and changes you forever. It makes you appreciate life and the things you have. Possessions come and go but experiences with people are what life is truly about.”

William retired from the Army in October, 2011 when he joined PRIDE Industries. After being in the Army for 30 years, he was a little apprehensive about his future.

“I spent my entire military career helping people and wanted to continue that when I got out of the service,” says William. “I didn’t just want an easy job; I wanted something that would continue to challenge me and make me grow as a person. I found that job with PRIDE Industries.”

Working at Fort Bliss Texas allowed William to continue to serve his soldiers – as customers and fellow employees. With almost 500 PRIDE employees at Fort Bliss, 87 are veterans. “The work we do together is amazing,” says William. “With over 1.1 million acres of land and 25 million square feet of building space, we do everything from grounds maintenance to electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and HVAC. In essence, we are taking care of a small city.”

William wears two hats at PRIDE: Assistant General Manager and HR Director. His experience as Garrison Command Sergeant helps PRIDE to serve our customer better. His leadership and dedication support our employees as an advocate and mentor.

“I’m glad to be a part of the PRIDE team,” says William. “We have taken the lead in recognizing and helping our veterans transition from military to civilian life. In the military, I had a great family with my fellow soldiers. Now I have a great new family with PRIDE!”

Below is a video of the 2013 AbilityOne Honor Roll for Veterans Award Winner Andrew Weissenberger, a PRIDE Industries employee at our Fort Rucker contract.

Hiring People with Disabilities

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). As the month comes to an end, our focus on employment for individuals with disabilities should not. Hiring and celebrating the accomplishments of people with disabilities should be a year-round effort if we are to make real progress in creating opportunities for those most excluded from employment.

Hiring a qualified individual with disabilities brings benefits beyond filling a job opening. Businesses that employ people with disabilities understand that diverse experiences and perspectives actually add value to the workplace. The business benefits extend to lower turnover, reduced training and recruitment costs, and the development of a loyal and committed workforce.  Hiring individuals with disabilities is a win/win for business owners and their bottom lines.

A 2007 study done by DePaul University noted low absenteeism rates and long tenures for workers with disabilities. Employers also described their employees with disabilities as “loyal, reliable, and hardworking.” Click here to view a summary of the study.

In most cases, hiring people with disabilities is no different than hiring any other job candidate.  All new employees need to become familiar with an organization’s management style and workplace culture. Working with agencies serving employees with disabilities brings the added benefit of comprehensive training and guidance to ensure success for employer, employee and new team members.

Interested? Speak to our expert staff about hiring employees with disabilities in your business by contacting us at: info@prideindustries.com.

At PRIDE Industries, our mission is to create jobs for people with disabilities. For nearly 50 years, PRIDE has been preparing people with disabilities for employment and more independent lives.  PRIDE helps people move from dependence to greater independence with person-centered services including assessments, job skills development, training, placement, transportation, and on-going supports to ensure long-term success. We place people in employment in PRIDE’s own businesses, and support more than 450 individuals annually in community employment.

Following are a few examples of successful individuals with disabilities at PRIDE Industries who hold a variety of important positions:

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Chance Martin, Administrative Assistant, PRIDE’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) team.

Chance provides uses his technical skills to provide administrative support to the AOC team including data entry and document preparation among other duties. Click here to learn more about Chance’s story.

Carlos Gutiérrez, General Maintenance Worker, PRIDE Industries at Fort Bliss.

Carlos provides technical and skilled craft support to PRIDE Industries’ basewide facilities maintenance contract at Fort Bliss, Texas. Click here to learn more about Carlos’ story.

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Devin West, Hand Packager, PRIDE Industries in Auburn.

Devin successfully transitioned from high school to full-time employment. Through her job at PRIDE, Devin has gained vocational training and job skills and looks forward to working in the community one day.  Learn more about Devin’s story, Click here.

How can you make a difference for individuals with disabilities?

  • Look beyond a disability to ability in your workplace hiring.
  • Hire PRIDE Industries and its employees for your business service needs.
  • Support businesses that employ people with disabilities.

Together we can change lives…one job at a time.

Assistive Technology Program Helps Individuals With Disabilities Advance

Assistive technology can make a significant impact on opportunity creation for people with disabilities. Assistive Technology is any tool or computer program which helps individuals with disabilities at work. PRIDE Industries’ Assistive Technology Program uses a wide array of tools and computer software enabling individuals with disabilities to succeed in jobs that would otherwise be unavailable to them. PRIDE Industries Foundation’s Assistive Technology Program purchases items such as tablets, hearing aids, and computer accessibility software to help our employees succeed in their careers. Recently, two PRIDE Industries employees were supported through the Foundation to obtain hearing aids, and have shared their stories with us.

Joseph Beccera

Joseph Becerra joined PRIDE Industries in 2011 as a Maintenance Trades Helper at PRIDE Industries – Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He has bilateral hearing loss and a prosthetic right eye. With the help of hearing aids, he is able to hear loud noises such as the beeping of a truck backing up and sirens; however, his primary form of communication is American Sign Language. PRIDE’sJoseph Becerra_01 Rehabilitation team at Fort Bliss is particularly well-equipped to support employees with hearing impairments – all job coaches are quad-lingual (English, Spanish, American Sign Language, and Mexican Sign Language). With these supports and a lot of hard work and determination, Joseph was promoted to a General Maintenance Worker.

In February 2014, Joseph asked to relocate to PRIDE’s Fort McArthur site in Los Angeles, CA to be closer to family. PRIDE approved the transfer, and Joseph now works as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer at Fort McArthur in Southern California. Other staff members soon noticed that Joseph continued to struggle with hearing. They found out that he was using a friend’s old hearing aids because he could not afford his own. These hearing aids were not molded to his ears, or prescribed for his type of hearing loss. Joseph was also unable to qualify for financial assistance from the California Department of Rehabilitation.

PRIDE Industries Foundation stepped in to help fund new hearing aids. Joseph said that the new hearing aids have changed every area of his life – he is now less dependent on his wife, children, and co-workers for communication assistance. He is thrilled to continue as a PRIDE Industries employee, especially since he now has much more autonomy and can communicate with co-workers and customers.

 

Soledad Rosal

Soledad Rosal_01Soledad Rosal has worked as a custodian for 15 years at PRIDE Industries’ Travis Air Force Base location. Her duties include general cleaning and building maintenance. Before joining PRIDE, Soledad worked as a food preparer for a restaurant. She is hearing-impaired and struggled in the job because her employer did not provide accommodations such as sign language interpretation. Fortunately, the California Department of Rehabilitation referred Soledad to PRIDE Industries. Soledad is thriving in her job at PRIDE – Travis AFB where she is provided with supportive training and a sign language interpreter or Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) – ASL when needed. “I really like my job and the opportunity to work in a team environment,” Soledad says.

PRIDE Industries Foundation funded new hearing aids for Soledad, which will help her communicate more easily with co-workers and customers. “I want to thank you for the hearing aids, Soledad says. “Now I will be able to communicate more effectively with others, including being able to respond when someone calls my name or hearing a knock on my door.”

Assistive Technology and Accommodation at PRIDE

PRIDE’s program goes well beyond reasonable accommodations, including equipping conference rooms with an Audio Loop System. The system enables individuals who wear a hearing aid to connect by blocking distracting noise in the environment except for the speaker. Also, some of PRIDE’s employees are provided with devices such as smart phones with two-way communication capabilities for real-time ASL translation. These tools enable individuals to advance into positions where – without the technology – completing the essential tasks of the job could be a challenge.

A few technologies used at PRIDE Industries include, Tobii PCEye an eye-tracking tool that allows people with severe physical disabilities (such as Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries, and Lou Gehrig’s disease) to control a computer with their eyes instead of a mouse. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a speech-to-text software tool for individuals who have jobs that require computer use.

Candace MC02Earlier this year Candace McCain was diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and has been battling the affects since. “It has caused me to go blind in my left eye,” Candace says. “I am not sure if I will ever get my vision back, but thank you PRIDE for installing the ZoomText program on my computer.” Without the program, Candace would not be able to do her job. “It helps by magnifying everything so I can see with my right eye. It also has a talking feature which reads everything I am doing.” Computer accessibility software helps PRIDE Industries employees succeed in their careers. “The program is awesome. I do not know what I would do without it.”

PRIDE’s Assistive Technology team works closely with our vocational counselors and case managers to identify potential accessibility needs. Technology guru, Robert Lao, keeps PRIDE up-to-date on advancements in technology to best serve the needs of our employees. PRIDE provides Assistive Technology services to people with disabilities at all of our locations across 14 states and Washington, D.C.

Assistive technology changes the way individuals with disabilities access and contribute to the workplace. These tools create opportunities for people with disabilities otherwise not available to them. The benefits go beyond the job. The ability to communicate is priceless.

Want to learn more about Assistive Technology? View the video below.