Due to complications at birth, the AbilityOne Base Supply Center (BSC) Manager David Haney spent the first few years of his life completely blind. After a procedure that included putting 5-year-old David in a temporary coma to operate on his optic nerve, he was able to regain some vision yet remains totally color blind. “I see black, white, and grey,” David explains.
Before finding The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc, which operates BSC stores up and down the west coast, David found work in a variety of fields including construction, cabinetry, and even teaching. However, David mentions that his visual impairment impacted his career opportunities significantly. “I could always get around certain things to a point but if they found out later that I had some kind of a visual problem I would get laid off or fired.”
After being laid off in 2013, David decided to seek advice on finding employment. “I went back to the employment office and I told them my dilemma. There, they told me, ‘you’re a dislocated worker, you’re an older worker, and you’re in an occupation that’s dying. How do you feel about going back to school?’ And I said sign me up!”
Always willing to learn something new, David pursued a totally new career field. “I found a couple of scholarships and I got myself enrolled at the University of Washington and I finished my bachelor’s degree in education. I wanted to teach shop!” However, David’s dreams of teaching shop were once again impacted by misconceptions. Unfortunately, teachers and principals were worried about how David would be able to keep students safe in an environment with so many tools.
Finally, David discovered the Lighthouse. “I was just perusing on the internet one day and I came across the Lighthouse. It said, ‘we encourage the employment of workers who are visually impaired or blind’ and that’s something I’d never seen before!” David immediately reached out and has been working at the Lighthouse ever since. He notes, “I’ll be going on 15 years come this September!”
During his 14+ year tenure at the Lighthouse, David has worked mostly at the Seattle Facility in production, making defense products that supply the federal government. “Up until this last October I was a Production Lead, working on hydration and canteen cups.”
Upward mobility is highly encouraged and supported at the Lighthouse so when someone suggested that David apply for an open position with the BSC program, he decided to go for it! David is now the store manager for the AbilityOne Base Supply Center located at the Seattle Coast Guard base.
As part of the Lighthouse mission, positions at BSC stores can be made to be fully accessible to people with disabilities. For David, that means having access to screen magnification and screen reading software called ZoomText.
David explains, “It has adjustable features, too. So, if the screen is too bright, you can tone that down. You can turn it into different colors or to whatever makes it easy or comfortable for you to read.” When it comes to settings, every individual’s preferences are different. “I kind of tone it down and darken it up which works best for my color blindness. If I look at a normal computer screen it just blows my eyes right out of the water,” David says.
In addition to ZoomText, David also utilizes a handheld electronic magnifying glass called a Pebble to read printed text. “I use it if I have any kind of paperwork where it has small print. Some of these packages that come in have print on the labels that is really small. The Pebble comes in really handy because you can carry it around in your pocket. It makes it really easy,” he notes.
Why Shop BSC Stores
David shares why it’s important for military members to utilize BSC stores when shopping for supplies. “Supporting these stores helps people with disabilities to get job experience.” David continues, “It helps people to grow, feel confident and earn a living. To do something meaningful with their lives.”
David says, “there’s a lot of people who have a lot of potential that get bypassed because of their vision. It’s the same with any type of disability. It’s always the disability first and it’s hard for people to look past that. I think anything’s possible and I think everybody should be given a chance.”