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:

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.”