Your self-directed employment assistant

If you’re just joining us, we are currently in the middle of a theme of blogs entitled, “Career Profiles.” For the last several months I have been finding individuals who happen to have a disability and highlighting their career trajectory. It has proven to be a very inspiring theme as it shows to others how anything can be possible, as long as there is forward thinking and creativity. For this month, I will be writing about Peter Berg, Project Coordinator of Technical Assistance at the Great Lakes ADA Center. Peter was warm and friendly to talk with when I phoned him a few weeks back and it is my pleasure to introduce him now.

Peter started out the first part of his early life with the ability to see. When he was the Customer Service Manager at Dominick’s Finer Foods, he began to lose his vision. Some might think that for a person to lose their vision while in the midst of their twenties, that that is the beginning of the end. At age 26, Peter proved to the world that was anything but the case. He entered the State of Illinois program for the adult blind to learn useful skills of blindness such as independent cane travel, activities of daily living, and computer use. Once completing the program, Peter went back to school at North Central College in Naperville, IL to receive a bachelor’s degree in History. After finishing school, it was in the fall of 2000 when Peter started working at the Great Lakes ADA Center which is located at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He provides important information on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well overseeing the technical assistance staff, and giving educational presentations. 

To me, Peter is most remarkable for his philosophy on living with blindness, a way of life he hopes will lend itself to others and remind them that anything can be achieved. He attributes his success to really learning and knowing the various types of assistive technology that is designed to help him, such as a screen reader which allows him to use the computer and utilize all that it has to offer. Peter also is called on quite often to assist architects and designers to provide a specialized insight when they are creating new blueprints and designs--he is assisted by his sighted coworkers as he relays information back and forth. When asked what wisdom he wishes to impart to others, Peter was very quick to express that it is up to the individual to do their research and be self-sufficient. It’s important to know the types of assistive technology that are available and to also ask around to others that are blind or low vision and working in your field of interest. Chances are, someone has gone where you’re trying to go, and can provide valuable insight. Many thanks to people like Peter who are proving that it doesn‘t matter what you can’t do--it’s all about what you can do!          

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