Meet Vena Ward
They told her it was just too risky to fund a degree in chemical engineering because people with low-vision were unlikely to succeed in that field. Meet Vena Ward. Vena was born in Oregon and moved to Mississippi at the age of fourteen and is currently back on the West Coast, here in Washington State. Having connected with her Vocational Rehabilitation agency in Mississippi, Vena had plenty of experience with CCTVs (powerful desktop magnifiers) and handheld magnifiers. Unfortunately, when Vena moved on to college, her VR agency was unwilling to pay for the costly items once they found out her chosen field of study: chemical engineering. VR pulled her funding and Vena was on her own.
Vena did not let that stop her. She relied upon a handheld magnifier and enlarged photocopies for reading — nothing like the newer technologies with auto-focus and bright, clear images. College classes were difficult as she could not read the board, but fortunately for Vena, she was an excellent listener with a great memory.
Despite the barriers she’s faced, Vena has been successfully employed as a nuclear engineer since 2005 (full-time since 2008) with the Department of Defense. Vena’s employer has provided accommodations to help her at work. She uses an Amigo, a portable CCTV, which helps her with identifying valves, label plates and other items on ships. Vena writes documents that explain how to hook up, disconnect, test and dispose of components on a ship to make sure that they work properly, are effective, meet regulations and are ready to be shipped out for the navy. There are many details that go into her work including the actual design of the equipment, how things fit and operate at various temperatures and pressures and so forth.
Vena came to the Washington Access Fund to purchase a new desktop CCTV Magnifier and a portable CCTV for personal use; she purchased a Merlin and a Pebble. The Merlin has been a wonderful addition to her home life as it has helped her read, manage her finances (including paying bills) and take care of her correspondence. Vena notes that it can be very stressful and overwhelming when deadlines and important notices are missed due to her vision loss. Vena’s new CCTV has helped relieve that frustration. The Pebble is very handy for reading cookbooks (those ½ cup and ¼ cup measurements all look the same!) and menus while out at restaurants and checking price tags while shopping. Vena enjoys bringing food to share with her colleagues, a number of whom have dietary restrictions and food allergies, so making sure she can read labels while grocery shopping is a must!
Vena also uses the Pebble to get around. While the public transportation she uses does provide large print materials, having the Pebble makes things so much easier. Before she had the Pebble, Vena would have to call Pierce transit to request large print schedules. These thick booklets can take up a lot of space and if she didn’t have one for a specific route, taking a last minute trip could be quite frustrating. With the Pebble, she can pick up a regular brochure and hit the streets.
Assistive technology makes a big difference in Vena’s life and she really appreciates the work the Access Fund does. Working with the organization was simple and the staff have been very helpful. "I’ve had a great experience with the Access Fund. Their flexibility and friendliness were key in my decision and satisfaction. Now that I’m coming to the end of my loan, I’ll probably be thinking of something new to buy!"
Vena was featured in our February 2012 Newsletter.
A note from Washington State Department of Services for the Blind: "DSB believes that our clients with blindness or low-vision are able to pursue any and all career options that align with their skills, interests, aptitude and abilities. We provide high-tech equipment at a higher rate than most other state blind agencies and also support higher education as a true means of "leveling the playing field" for our clients. If someone is accepted into a university we would work closely with the client, school and our DSB team to ensure that all needed accommodations and equipment are available for the use and success of our customer."