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Blind workers learning skills to join the workforce

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Posted at 10:42 AM, Nov 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 12:42:34-05

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Scott Wilson is blind but does have light perception.

“That’s why I wear the sunglasses because the light bothers my eyes,” he said.

But he still manages to work in a warehouse, lifting boxes and processing orders for supplies that go to government agencies around Florida.

“Where it gets tricky is when there are a lot of boxes or clutter around. You got to use your cane and feel around. Pretty much when you know where you are at, it moves right along," said Wilson.

This warehouse is part of the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind in New Port Richey, Florida.

It brings in revenue for the organization but is also a training ground.

“There is a huge unemployment rate for folks that are visually impaired or blind, so we really try and give them those skills that they can be employable and let employers know that they are perfectly capable of performing tasks every day and making sure they get those jobs that they need," said Lighthouse CEO Stefanie Pontlitz.

Marlys Newhouse also works in the warehouse.

“I’ve had macular degeneration most of my life,” said Newhouse

She uses this magnifier to read order forms.

“Here’s the number of trash bags we have to have. So, I’ll tell Scott the number, and he’ll go down and feel the braille and then I’ll tell him how many we need," she said.

“They can do almost anything as long as you are not asking them to drive. It does so much for their self-esteem. Yes, it’s great for their pocketbook because now they can pay their rent and they don’t have to live at home. But to see them light up. They really want to work," said Pontlitz.

Not only does Wilson work, but he trains others to be able to do the same.

He said there are many opportunities to work from home if those who are blind learn how to use technology.

“They are incredible employees. Hardworking. Loyal. I couldn’t ask for better staff," said Pontlitz.

This article was written by Erik Waxler for WFTS.