Finding employment in today’s economy can be difficult, so imagine the struggle faced by those who are blind or visually impaired. As a less sighted woman living in Watertown, N.Y., Melissa Lyon found that getting a job that paid well enough to take care of her three teenaged sons wasn’t easy. So when her doctor told her about CABVI at her yearly appointment, she knew that seeking their assistance was something she needed to consider. Little did she know that when she made that initial call to CABVI, it would change her life.
Upon interviewing with CABVI, Melissa was offered a position at Central Industries, which she readily accepted. However, she was still living in Watertown at the time. That meant that she would have to commute from Watertown to Utica each day – a commute that was two hours one way.
“My oldest daughter was working at the time, but quit her job so she could provide transportation,” Melissa said. “She was always there for me, taking me in to Utica each morning and coming back at three o’clock every day to bring me home.” After three months of commuting, Melissa decided it was time to relocate to the Utica area and CABVI lent her a helping hand.
“CABVI was instrumental in helping me relocate to Utica and get acquainted with the city,” Melissa said, adding, “They made the transition smooth for my entire family. With three teenage boys, it was a life-changing experience not just for me, but also for my children and they did well with it. Whatever we needed, CABVI was there. They were so helpful.”
Melissa continued to work in Central Industries for the next three months, and eventually was offered a job in the contact center. This presented a new challenge to Melissa. As someone who had been less sighted since birth, Melissa never believed that a career that involved using a computer would be a possibility for her.
“I knew nothing about computers at all,” Melissa said. “And being less sighted? Therein lied the biggest challenge of all.” Despite her initial concerns, Melissa decided to take the position – and that was when she discovered exactly what lengths CABVI is willing to go to for their employees.
“Some nights I would go home and wonder if I’d be able to do this job,” Melissa said. “I had come to CABVI with no computer training whatsoever, but they were more than supportive of me. They stuck with me through the whole training process and encouraged me. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Melissa stayed with the position in the contact center, and she slowly but surely learned to use the computer and the various programs she would need. She believes that she would never have had such thorough training – or would have even been allowed the opportunity – elsewhere. “That’s the wonderful thing about CABVI… whether you’re less sighted or totally blind, you have the opportunity to go into the computer field, where at other companies you might not be offered the chance. CABVI affords you that.”
Being able to hold such a position has given Melissa a renewed sense of confidence, and “for the first time, [she feels] normal.” No longer limited because of her sight, Melissa believes that CABVI has helped her grow as a person. “I’m very proud of myself, but I couldn’t have done it without CABVI. I’m proud that I get up every morning, I go to work, I am a contributing member of society and I pay my taxes. It makes me feel good to know that there is a place that makes that possible.”
Melissa said that her position at the contact center has also made a difference in her life at home. Her sons made a successful transition to life in Utica, and the daughter who transported her to and from CABVI has also moved to the city and has found meaningful employment. “Right here, right now is the best place I’ve ever been in my life,” said Melissa. “Everything has come full circle.”
While Melissa loves her job at the contact center, she believes she will be able to continue to grow at CABVI. One day she hopes to be in a position where she can help others find what she found at CABVI. “Whenever I have the opportunity, I tell everybody about the wonderful things that CABVI is doing for the less sighted and blind in our community.”
She said that she wants people to know that CABVI is a “different kind of company” – one with a nurturing environment that starts at the top. “How many companies have a CEO who walks right up to employees and calls them by name, and asks them how they’re doing? That’s what Rudy [D’Amico] does every day at CABVI.”
For Melissa, the difference CABVI has made, and continues to make, in her life is subtle and constant, but substantial. “The change that CABVI makes is an everyday change. It’s to wake up in the morning and have something to look forward to. It’s to spend the day being productive. It’s to go home in the evening feeling accomplished. CABVI has given me more than I could ever give them, simply by being there for me and believing in me.”