Thomas Swenson has albinism and his vision is very limited. His grandmother taught him to navigate the bus system and introduced him to her friends in the community. After high school graduation, Thomas found his way to Florida from New Jersey and found work in restaurants. He was content, but sought more interaction with people and a place where he could grow and advance.
When Thomas first met with DBS staff, he was shy and not sure if he could do anything other than wash dishes and work in restaurants. His counselor, Dan O’Connor, and the Vision Education and Rehabilitation Center provided guidance and counseling to help Thomas build confidence and learn a set of marketable skills. He learned independent living skills, to advocate for himself and how to present well for a job. Dan is also visually impaired and shared some of the struggles and successes he had. Thomas then realized that he was not alone with his challenges.
In January 2014, Thomas was ready to compete for jobs using his new skills. With sound guidance, counseling and additional DBS services, he had progressed from a shy and insecure person into a confident, positive, job seeking young man. The job search was hard. Thomas applied at hotels, restaurants, banks, schools and department stores, but never got a call back. One afternoon, Dan and I were at the downtown talking book library and ran into Thomas using one of the libraries accessible computers. We discussed the importance of staying positive and the idea of looking for jobs at grocery stores.
Thomas and I went to the Riverside Publix the next week. He applied for a job and the store manager told him how to follow up after he applies for jobs. Thomas wrote a follow-up thank you letter to manager. Soon after, Thomas called to thank Dan and me and tell us he got the job at Publix. He is happily approaching his seven-month anniversary at Publix. Thomas tells others to, “keep applying” and use him as an inspiration. “I did it and so can you.”