ENID, Okla. – Two years ago, Alisha Norwood was a client on the other side of the desk at the Visual Services office in Enid.
Born with a visual disability called nystagmus, she needed help with career planning and employment.
Nystagmus causes rapid, involuntary eye movement and blurry vision.
Today, Norwood is the only rehabilitation technician in the Enid office where she once received services.
“I feel like I finally found something I could relate to,” Norwood said. “… when other clients come in and see that I am visually impaired, and I am working, that hopefully helps them know that they can do it too.”
Visual Services provides jobseekers who are blind or visually impaired with career counseling, vocational education and training, medical services and assistive technology required to become employed.
The division is part of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
“When I first met Alisha, she had a job, but was looking for training or a new job,” said Chris Wishon, who was Norwood’s vocational rehabilitation counselor in Enid.
So Wishon and Norwood searched for the right opportunity until Visual Services Field Coordinator Fatos Floyd asked Wishon to review her client list for someone qualified to fill a vacancy in the Enid office.
Norwood stood out from the crowd and got the job, first as a temporary employee through the GALT Foundation and later as a permanent, full-time employee.
Founded in 1998, Galt Foundation is a social enterprise that provides temporary staffing services in Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania
“I was shocked,” Norwood said. “I‘ve done a lot of retail work, but never done that type of (office) work before.
“I still have days now like am I on the right path? Am I doing this right?” she said. “But I’ve got a lot of support from Chris, my field coordinator (Floyd) and my managers. They are always there when I have questions or concerns.”
The admiration is mutual.
“She’s done a wonderful job,” Wishon said. “She listens, she learns and she keeps me on my toes. If she has questions, she asks questions. Anytime there is a training, she wants to attend to learn more. We get along great.”
Norwood first applied for Visual Services’ help in 2001 when she was a senior at Putnam City West in Oklahoma City.
“My counselors, Traci Lamota and Janie Fugitt before her, had me evaluated and paid for college and transportation back and forth to school.
Norwood attended OSU in Oklahoma City and transferred to Langston University.
In 2014, Norwood moved to Enid.
“I needed a life change,” Norwood said.
Wishon asked expert Visual Services employees Debra Trout to assist with orientation and mobility skills needed to travel safely and efficiently. Deitra Woody provided rehabilitation teaching to help Norwood adjust to loss of vision and develop practical skills. Diana Smith and Leslie Lannier advised Norwood about assistive technology, which helps people with disabilities to function more effectively. Stephanie Rusky assisted Norwood as a vocational rehabilitation counselor.
DRS purchased a Closed Circuit TV, which uses a video camera to enlarge text, and a ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, which is an integrated magnification and reading program designed for users with low-vision. Norwood also received a Ruby, which is handheld, portable video magnifier, and is experimenting with iPhone applications that help with vision loss.
When asked for advice for others with visual disabilities, Norwood replied, “I say, ‘Go for it.’ There’s nothing about it that I regret. This is a great place to work.”
For more information about Visual Services, contact Wishon and Norwood at 580-616-7903 in Enid or visit www.okdrs.gov. Phone 800-487-4042 to be transferred to the office nearest to you,