Veterans Lawrence Harrison, left, and Irving Anderson.
By Kavitha Cardoza
Veterans may become visually impaired or blind for a variety of reasons, from I.E.D. explosions to macular degeneration. But advocacy groups are trying to retrain these former service members and help them find jobs.
Irving Anderson served for 10 years in the Air Force. Because of advanced glaucoma, Anderson can barely see and for years he struggled to find a job. "I can't think of nothing more challenging than losing your sight," says Anderson.
Angela Hartley with the National Industries for the Blind says people who are blind or visually impaired have very high rates of unemployment. One problem, she says, is that some potential employers have stereotypes. "They may presume they have to make very expensive job accommodations for example which is not the case," says Hartley. Hartley says the average cost of adaptive devices such as software that can translate print into speech and magnifying screens is less than $500 and often is covered by the government.
Anderson enrolled in a free training program run by Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. Tony Cancelosi heads the organization and says he's placed veterans in government programs where sensitive documents need to be scanned.
"They do not want the documents to leave the building so we bring all the equipment and the people and do a turnkey on the site," says Cancelosi. Anderson is one of those placed in the program. He says it's given him a sense of purpose. "I guess this job gives me a sense of responsibility that I had lost between 2000 and the present," says Anderson.
According to the Blinded Veterans of America, there are approximately 160,000 veterans who are blind or visually impaired in the U.S.