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: