Willie worked as the head concierge for a large New York City building for many years. Despite having lost the vision in his right eye due to glaucoma, he could do his job quite well.
Then he suffered a terrible reversal. He developed a cataract on his left eye that had to be removed. The surgery did not go as planned, and Willie found he had lost about 70% of the vision in his remaining good eye.
Naturally, the loss of so much of his remaining vision was devastating. He couldn’t perform his job. Willie was away from work for six months and considering retirement. But his employer called him and said, “Just come back to work, Willie. Just come back and do what you can do.”
Willie says, “I was confused and didn’t know what to do because I knew I could not perform the tasks I performed prior to my vision loss. But they kept asking me to just come back to work and do what I could do. So, I decided to give it a try, and I went back to work, and that was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
Willie had to take a step back, returning to his position when he first started working with the company 20 years ago, covering the building’s main entrance. But it wasn’t the comedown he had anticipated. Everyone kept saying: “‘We are so happy to see you,’ and receiving so much love, it made me feel like a different person, and it lifted me up and made me want to stay on the job and not retire.”
Willie was referred to us after his surgery by his ophthalmologist. During his first low vision exam with the Chief of Low Vision Services, he thought “that I would be able to walk away with a pair of glasses at most.” The low vision specialist helped him with so much more. He recommended that Willie contact the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) to receive available services. Willie shares that by the time he left Dr. Rosenthal’s office, he was registered with NYSCB.
Willie’s NYSCB counselor connected him with our experts. An Adaptive Technology Specialist who Willie says, “is amazing,” arranged for him to receive a piece of equipment called the Snowman 12 that enlarges text on the computer. She came to his job three times to train him on how to use the equipment to help him with his work.
An Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Instructor came to Willie’s home and taught him how to use a white cane. He escorted him down in the subway system and pointed out some of the signage in the station, trained him how to walk down the steps correctly, where to stand on the subway station platform, how to ride and navigate the subway system, how to board the bus, how to swipe his metro card, how to feel the card to know which side was the front and which was the back, and how to exit the subway. The O&M instructor accompanied him on the train all the way from Lighthouse Guild to Willie’s house so he could learn how to cross the streets, how to watch for the traffic and how to use the light signals in the street to go back and forth safely. The instructor came to his home twice to teach Willie how to
navigate his neighborhood and the subway safely. A Social Worker helped Willie set up Access-a-ride and home cleaning needs.
Willie says, “Everybody I met through Lighthouse guild was so perfect for me. Lighthouse Guild gave me a whole new outlook on life,” he continues, “I can’t tell you there is no better place to go for assistance when you have a vision impairment than Lighthouse Guild. I have some great people surrounding me now with Lighthouse Guild, and they can definitely help you there.”