Each item in every row of the Ability One Base Supply Center, is neatly displayed and in its proper place. The store, operated by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, may be the envy of any basic trainees wall locker.. When it comes to the clean, organized BSC, there is more than meets the eye. The store is largely in the care of two blind men.
Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month brings to light contributions disabled members bring to the workplace.
Keith Tyson, BSC store associate, developed glaucoma as a young child which rendered him sightless. His eight-month-old son is affected by the condition as well, he said.
When I was a child, doctors were not equipped to save my eyes at that time, said Tyson. The doctor who treated me as a child now treats my son. I feel very blessed my son can benefit more from modern technology.
Tyson began working with the BSC 11 years ago.
This is the first job that really gave me an opportunity, said Tyson. I applied to answer phones here but that position was unavailable. They explained to me the position Im working in now, based on past experiences, I left thinking I didnt get the job. Two months later the regional manager called me to come back in. So I got dressed up, thinking it was for a second interview; I was actually called back to work!
Some of Tysons responsibilities are stocking the shelves, fronting and facing the store and keeping the warehouse organized.
Tyson works as a team with Marcus Taylor, who is partially blind.
Taylor, BSC store associate of three years, was born one month premature, resulting in a condition doctors term bilateral congenital falciform folds, a folded over retina. After having four surgeries within eight months, Taylors eyes developed extensive scar tissue, but he has some residual vision.
Although both disclosed the pangs of discrimination they felt before finding employment with BINSOM; the two men dont seem to allow their physical impairments to keep them from handling business.
Taylor, who sees with peripheral vision, does not appear to be blind. His experiences with discrimination were different than Tysons. He said he received equal treatment in job interviews until the moment of disclosure. Once interviewers know his condition, they can lose sight of his capabilities.
Because my vision is limited, people see me as someone with a disability; I just want to work, said Taylor. If they would only give us a chance to prove, even though we have a disability, with the right training and assisted technology we can accomplish a great deal.
BINSOM provides disabled employees with speaking electronics and magnified screens, keyboarding classes and a system tailored to their needs so they may accomplish core tasks with ease.
The text at the register speaks faster than average people talk, and Tysons typing speed doesnt miss a character during a transaction that day. Meanwhile, a closed-circuit television placed on Taylors register allows the information for each scanned item to be magnified with zoom text. The two men can ring up transactions with the speed and accuracy of individuals who are not impaired, if not more.
Additionally, there are raised bumps next to the items unit purchase code on the smooth shelves to help the men locate items, and then scan the code with a data logic device that speaks the items name, price and how many are in stock.
Together, the duo manages day-to-day operations at the BSC. They provide quality customer service, do the inventory and handle point-of-sale transactions.
Their dedication to excel and provide quality customer service, along with military support allows BINSOM to keep them gainfully employed.
Thanks to the military support from the purchases made in our stores and online portal, BINSOM can keep talented people like Keith and Marcus working, said Jen Fagen, BSC marketing specialist.
By giving their best and facing their challenges every day, the two men affirm their capability in the workforce.
NDEAM highlights BINSOMs mission, which is to provide employment opportunities and rehabilitation training for blind people.
I think NDEAM gives people an idea of who we are and how we adapt in any environment, said Tyson. They [BINSOM] care about what you can do and help where you cannot. They came up with assisted technology and pushed me forward, not back. We can do anything a non-impaired person can do, just in a different way.
For Veterans who have been medically separated from the U.S. Military between September 11, 2001 and December 31, 2009, The Physical Disability Board of Review is giving them an opportunity to have their disability ratings reviewed by the PDBR to ensure fairness and accuracy. Visit the PDBR website for more info.