In the U.S., more than 7 million Americans are affected by a visual impairment. 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 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 for this eye disease.
Helping Visually Impaired People Find Jobs
Because of his visual impairment, Michael became unemployed. He did the best he could to handle his vision loss while continuing to look for employment. Despite his efforts, he struggled to find a job.
During interviews, Michael would do his best to hide his disability for fear of not being hired. Unfortunately, this is a common dilemma for visually impaired people as they search for jobs. This changed for Michael when he found PRIDE Industries.
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. The team at Ft. Bliss looked beyond Michael’s visual impairment to his talents and skill set, and was more than willing to provide assistive technology to help Michael excel on the job. These included an oversized cell phone, a Ruby Handheld Magnifier and access to other assistive devices as needed.
In his role, Michael helps maintain HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units throughout Fort Bliss. Michael and his team provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality for everyone on the base – more than 8,000 individuals total.
Thanks to PRIDE’s Assistive Tech program, Michael is able to overcome daily obstacles on the job and deliver high quality work in his role every day. He views his job as a second chance since his employer values his abilities and he thriving in his daily tasks, regardless of his visual impairment.