A.V.R.E. Newsletter - July 2017

AVRE Insight Newsletter

Published by the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment, Inc.

Writing for Success: Rebekah’s Story

At AVRE, we work with people with diverse backgrounds and unique stories.

Rebekah Vasick was born into a family familiar with the challenges associated with vision loss. Her grandfather lost his eye sight at 37 but maintained his independence by using public transit and learning new ways to achieve goals. When Rebekah was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at eleven, it was her grandfather’s journey that encouraged her to view her diagnosis only as an obstacle, not a life sentence.

After moving to New York several years ago, Rebekah was referred to AVRE by the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) and set up to work with members of the AVRE Rehabilitation staff. Through vision rehabilitation therapy, Rebekah learned how to use adaptive household aids and devices to help her around the house. She received Orientation and Mobility training to assist her in traveling outside of her house. She quickly gained confidence being out by herself.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team,” Rebekah stated. “They were easy to talk to and very knowledgeable. I could tell them a problem I was facing and they knew the solution.”

Working with the staff at AVRE gave Rebekah the opportunity to acquire new skills and feel empowered. She said she is now able to go out with her husband without feeling helpless.

According to Rebekah, “Allowing staff from AVRE to teach you is the best way to learn because they are fully trained and understanding.”

Rebekah refuses to let her vision loss stop her from doing what she loves - writing. The London native has written and published two novels and a children’s book of rhymes. She is currently writing her third book and looks forward to continuing her path as a writer. With AVRE’s help, she hopes to hold book signings because she no longer fears them.

(Photo: Rebekah and her husband, Mike pose for a photo.)

(Photo:  The cover of Rebekah’s children’s book of rhymes titled, “Silly Rhymes for Silly Kids.”)

Rebekah’s literature is available for purchase online at www.amazon.com (slash) author (slash) rebekahvasick.

Our Mission:  “To create opportunities for success and independence with people who are blind or visually impaired.”

NYSPSP Employee of the Year

The New York State Preferred Source Program for People Who Are Blind (NYSPSP) encourages affiliated agencies across the state to identify and nominate an employee who goes above and beyond what is expected of them to fulfill NYS customer orders. This year’s AVRE nominee is Kevin Snow.

Through NYSPSP, AVRE sells Rayovac batteries, Jaws cleaning products, lawn and leaf bags, and industrial respirators into the state market. Kevin has his hand in almost every facet of our NYSPSP projects! Always exuding a positive attitude, he is a team player, a helping hand, or a soloist on a quick turnaround production line. Kevin always goes the extra mile. In addition to his regular duties, Kevin is an active member of AVRE’s Safety Committee. Safety in the workplace is a priority for Kevin and his co-worker’s best interests are always on the top of his list.

Kevin is a devoted Cub Scout Den Leader in his community. He was recently recognized for his hard work and became a Boy Scout Assistant Scout Master. Whether it’s working with his Cub Scout Troop or helping the rehabilitation staff implement a new children’s recreation program, Kevin offers his time and experience to help others. He brought his Scout troop for a tour of AVRE to help them better understand the role AVRE plays in their community. Over the years, he volunteered at the Race for Sight, assisting with Tandemonium! He also spent many Sunday’s at the facility helping kids who are visually impaired participate in the National Fitness Challenge.

Kevin Snow is a valued asset and team member at AVRE. We are pleased to honor him as our 2017 NYSPSP Employee of the Year. Congratulations, Kevin!

(Photo: Denise Scordino, Luigi DiRusso, Jenn Small, Kevin Snow and Kenny Fernald at NYSPSP’s award luncheon.)

AVRE Giving Back

AVRE’s Health and Wellness Committee organized the agency’s first Relay for Life team this year, participating in the Binghamton event on June 10th. Employees came together to raise money to support the American Cancer Society and help fund life-saving cancer research. It also gave people an opportunity to honor friends, family, and co-workers affected by cancer. The day-long event held activities that included, a Survivor walk, and a luminaria ceremony. Through the committee’s fundraising efforts, including a weekly 50/50 drawing, raffle baskets, and collecting returnable cans and bottles, the agency raised over $5,000 toward our team.

We would like to thank all those who were involved in the event, supported our team, and helped us reach this year’s goal!

(Photo: Annie van der Wal, Kenny Fernald, Luigi DiRusso, and Christina Dorunda at the luminaria ceremony at the Binghamton Relay for Life event.)

National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Public Policy Symposium
In June, an AVRE contingent joined other NIB affiliated agencies from around the country to discuss pertinent legislative issues and to share our concerns with elected representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. The annual conference comprised 40 agencies and over 300 participants. NIB affiliated non-profit agencies (NPAs) are governed by the AbilityOne Commission which is charged with assisting NPAs to create jobs for people who are blind or severely disabled. This year’s issues included concerns about how our employment opportunities are viewed by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). A national push toward a fully integrated workplace may create challenges for our agencies to attract new employees. Overall, the dozens of meetings attended by NIB agencies serve as opportunities to educate representatives and their staffs about the AbilityOne Program and to meet the people who directly benefit from it.
A new addition to the conference this year was the Employees of the Year Awards celebration. Nominees attended the conference with their guests and enjoyed special dinners and a tour of the local NIB agency, Baltimore Industries of Southern Maryland. Some of the nominees joined their colleagues for the meetings on Capitol Hill. Our representatives want to hear directly from their constituents about the issues that concern them most. The additional agency employees really made an impact on the visits.
Now, we look forward to the NIB Annual Conference in October!

Employee Sensitivity Training

AVRE employees have been undergoing a series of exercises as part of a sensitivity training initiative. The training provides our team with the opportunity to understand better the effects of vision loss on individuals in a work environment. All employees attended an educational seminar put on by Health and Rehabilitation staff who defined various eye conditions and explained the skills individuals with vision loss develop to negotiate their surroundings.

Sighted employees participated in additional training with AVRE’s Orientation and Mobility Specialists where they learned basic navigation tools such as sighted guide and white cane travel. They also worked under a blindfold and a vision simulator folding cartons and boxing reams of paper in our sheeter department.

AVRE’s EPIC committee, which focuses primarily on improving the agency’s work environment, was responsible for bringing sensitivity training to fruition. By developing a sensitivity training program for employees, we create a safer work environment and continue to promote camaraderie within the organization.

(Photo: Forklift Operator Ralph Drew learns the basics of white cane travel from Orientation and Mobility Specialist Beth Jurco as part of AVRE’s employee sensitive training.)

InSight is published quarterly by the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment, Inc.  174 Court St., Binghamton, NY 13901 607-724-2428. Email: avreinfo@avreus.org www.avreus.org Editor: Cassie Burgess

InSight is available in the following formats: Large Print (14 pt), Braille, emailed text, Word document on disk or CD, and regular audio cassette.

If you would like to receive InSight in a different format, please call us. AVRE serves visually impaired individuals of all ages who live in the New York counties of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Tioga, Tompkins and Schuyler.

AVRE is an Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Employer. If you would like more information about AVRE and its services, please feel free to contact us.