Jobs. Independence. Empowerment.

To be able to have a job as someone who is blind, is that it allows you to have the same opportunities that everyone else has. The opportunity to own a house, or rent an apartment, to go out and go on vacation, to buy something, to not have to rely on other people for things, and to take pride in the fact that you’re doing a job, you’re earning a wage, you’re able to contribute, and you’re able to live your life to the fullest. My name is Shawn Dobbs, and I grew up in south central Indiana in a small town called Columbus, and I split my time growing up between there and Indianapolis, Indiana, where I attended the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I was born with retinopathy of
prematurity and I was legally blind at birth Over time, my retinas detached, and I lost the remainder of my vision, so by the time I was twelve I was totally blind. My experience in finding employment was that I could get a job, but it was very difficult to move forward in my career, and other people who enter the workforce who are blind
have trouble not only moving ahead in their career, but also simply being able to find an employer willing to take a chance and hire them. My job title at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is Development and Public Relations Director at Inland Northwest Lighthouse, our Spokane facility. INL has had a major impact in the Spokane community; first and foremost because we’ve given people who are blind the opportunity to be gainfully employed. And not just employed, but we’ve given them the opportunity to do a variety of different jobs, particularly in the areas of manufacturing, and we’ve also been able to give them braille literacy, orientation and mobility, and computer and assistive technology training, and all of those things together help people become more independent and self-sufficient. My favorite thing about my job is the fact that I have the opportunity to
contribute to helping people who are blind find employment. I also have the opportunity to speak with people and let them know about the abilities
that people who are blind have, and ultimately raise money to help provide
training and supports for people to be successful in their jobs and in their
personal lives. What it means to me to be independent is having a job and not being at home every day where I am not doing a whole lot. My name is Michelle Denzer and I live in Silverdale, Washington. I became visually impaired due to retinopathy of prematurity at birth. It was a little hard for me to find work. During my school year I volunteered at a few places: helping at the Kitsap Mall at the Guest Services Booth answering the phones, and also helping at the Central Kitsap Food Bank where I packaged food for customers. My job title at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Incorporated is Production Worker, and I help make the canteens and hydration bags for the military. My commute in the mornings are two hours, and going back home it’s a little over three hours. From the start of my time when I get up I leave my apartment at 4:15 a.m., take the bus to Bainbridge, ride the ferry to Seattle, walk three blocks, take a routed bus to Rainier, and then go the rest of the way to work. Take the ferry back to Bainbridge and reverse the route home by 5:30 p.m. – quarter to six at night. The feeling I had when getting hired at the Lighthouse was mixed from being excited to a little nervous about the commute. Then as time went on, I felt a lot better and figured that because I’m going to be working every day and commuting, even though I felt tired after getting home, I still felt happy to be working because of the commute being worth it. To me, empowerment means upward mobility, the opportunity to advance in order to
improve your quality of life. My name is Nathan Greenwood, and I’m a Machinist at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. This is my first job in mechanical or machining; before working here I worked at Safeway as a Courtesy Clerk and had no idea I’d ever be doing anything like this, and I’m glad to be doing it; it’s a respected trade, something I’d never thought I’d be doing. But yeah, it’s been a lot more interesting than some of the other jobs I’ve worked at. I’ve been legally blind since birth; the condition is called retinoschisis, it’s genetic. Apparently there’s spots on my eyes that are blurry but I don’t see them because my eyes move to dodge the spots and I don’t really realize it. I found out about the Lighthouse by word of mouth, it’s a pretty well known organization in the blind community. Well I started working here in January of 2008. I started as a Production Worker working on the burr bench, and then was moved into the phenolic room where I ran the main saw which all the material comes to before it goes to the other machines. I learned a lot of the other machines in that department, got promoted to Machine Operator and then to Machine Operator Senior Level. I started the AJAC program – the AJAC apprenticeship in 2010, and once I got into that I started moving around the shop a little more. AJAC stands for Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee; it’s a journeyman certification program and apprenticeship program which consists of on the job training, with classes at night spanning over a four-year period, each class focusing on a different aspect of machining. The most challenging thing about the AJAC program I would say was being in class for four hours at night after working for eight hours during the day. The curriculum was pretty challenging as well. You know I’d say the thing I enjoy most about working at the Lighthouse would be the people I work with, and the opportunities I’ve been given to learn different machines, as well as to continue learning. What I find most satisfying about working at the Lighthouse is that we’re all one big family and we all work together. Whether you’re in Manufacturing, whether you’re in Quality, the Development department, Human Resources; we all work together doing our part ultimately to create quality products and services for our customers but also to expand opportunities for people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities. It’s an audacious mission, and together we’re able to accomplish that and continue to grow and expand. Jobs. Independence. Empowerment.

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