- Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
At a young age, Melissa Remington of Malden was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration (JMD) due to Stargardt’s disease. She was registered with Massachusetts for the Blind (MCB) for several years before she recognized the value of MCB services and programs.
“I was too cool in my teens to be blind and told MCB I didn’t need their help…typical teen stuff,” said Melissa who went on to become the mother of four children, one with Down’s syndrome.
In 2017, Melissa was going through a divorce and seeking career opportunities without much luck due to a lack of employment references and experiences. That’s when she reached out to MCB.
“Wow! MCB was so helpful, and I had assistance in no time,” explained Melissa who worked with MCB staff in Employment Services, Assistive Technology, Rehabilitation Teaching, and Orientation & Mobility. Thanks to MCB, Melissa said she learned how to navigate the computer, how to read with helpful devices, and how to use a white cane.
“Melissa is eager to learn all she can to achieve her goals,” said Amy Doherty, MCB Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. “Her accomplishments are a testament to her inner strength, positive attitude, openness, and perseverance.”
Two years later, MCB offered Melissa the opportunity to be a part of a competitive employment program called Employment Now at Polus Center for Economic and Social Development. Melissa was interviewed twice before being accepted to enroll in the program. Each of the four individuals who were accepted had different visual abilities, but they each had the same goal…employment.
“Melissa came to MCB and Employment Services with ambition and drive,” said Joe Buizon, MCB Employment Services Supervisor. “She was adamant about gaining competitive employment and worked hard in all aspects of the program.”
The first part of the Employment Now program included learning job development skills with placements in positions at Mass Eye & Ear (MEEI).
“This was a great opportunity,” said Melissa who credits Polus Center staff like Program Director Jenifer Whitmore and Job Coach Will McNamara for her placement in the program. “We completed interview skills and most importantly, learned to utilize our abilities and strengths that we had acquired over the years.
Melissa and her peers in the program felt confident in the lessons they learned. Then, COVID-19 arrived, and things felt very uncertain.
Melissa was unable to return to work at MEEI, but she did not stop working with MCB to pursue her ultimate goal of finding employment in three months despite the pandemic.
“MCB and Polus Center were there unwavering to support my efforts,” said Melissa. “I learned firsthand about resilience, confidence, and perseverance. I had the ability to earn a job while the world was closing its doors to hiring and just plain closing its doors.”
Melissa is currently employed full-time with AllWays Health Partners, the recipient of MCB’s 2020 Employer of the Year Award for their commitment to building an inclusive workplace. She credits MCB for helping her reinvent herself to achieve personal and career success.