Seth Roos of Mankato, Minnesota, was born with retinopathy of prematurity, which the National Institutes of Health defines as a “potentially blinding eye disorder that primarily affects premature infants weighing about 2 ¾ pounds or less that are born before 31 weeks of gestation.” In Roos' case, he can't see in one eye anything except light and in the other is completely blind.
But sight isn't his biggest challenge. Getting good-paying work has been.
In a telephone interview, 36-year-old Roos said, “I'm trying to live on my own and right now I'm barely able to make ends meet. I have had to draw money from my savings account on more than one occasion. I did have a nice job at the local YMCA for a decade and it paid enough for me to live well. I was doing the laundry.”
At the Y, he did the towel washing and drying, while a co-worker delivered the clean towels where they needed to be. That arrangement worked for Roos until the YMCA had a major remodel and Roos was let go from his $9 an hour job. Today, he works at a sheltered workshop earning less than $3 an hour doing piecework involving placing bags of candy into large boxes for shipment. He can't make more because his employer limits how much he can pack.
Roos (a friend of this columnist) has the intelligence and work ethic to be successful. All he needs is an employer to believe in him. His father, Dan Roos, is Interim Campus Dean at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, and a former editor of the Worthington Daily Globe.
Roos said, “The biggest obstacle in finding a job around here is transportation. For example, I interviewed for a job in the laundry at an assisted living facility, but there was no public transportation available in the hours they wanted me there other than a taxi, which was too expensive.”
Lately, Roos has been trying to arrange training in order to become qualified for a call center job, but even after any training an employer will still have to hire him. So there are no guarantees this training will pay off.
In giving advice to employers considering hiring a blind person, Roos said, “Be open-minded about people who are blind. I can do the job.” (Finally, this is the last “Disabilities” column. Thanks for reading these 15 years. See you on Facebook.)
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you, Daniel, for sharing the stories of struggle, survival and love. You touched many lives with your columns. Best wishes in all your future endeavors.