Beyond Vision

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2017

National Disability Employment Awareness Month logo with a wheelchair, deaf and blind icon.Since 1945, October has been recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. For 2017, the Department of Labor has chosen the theme “Inclusion Drives Innovation”.  In President Trump’s Proclamation, he notes, “Many Americans with disabilities struggle to find employment opportunities, despite the wealth of skills they have to offer.  In 2016, only 27.7 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities were employed.  More employers should recognize the fresh perspectives and skills these men and women can add to an innovation-focused workforce.  They are an incredible asset to our economy. ”

Before finding Beyond Vision, Steven Gastreich spent several years trying to find a job, even with a college degree. Many potential employers weren’t able to provide assistive technology that worked with their systems. As a person who is fully blind, Steven has built a fulfilling career over the past 8 years at Beyond Vision.Headshot of Steven Gastreich smiling, wearing a headset at a computer.

Because he had access to employment, Steven lives independently and is now a home owner. In his work life, he has a tremendous sense of personal dedication for customer care projects that he works on.  And he brings a great energy to his team, “All of us have something unique to bring to the table.  And, I do not think that it is possible to be a successful team if you can’t have some fun along the way.  Sometimes, it is great to relieve stress by telling a joke.  And a Friday in the Fall always goes better with a Packer Party on our lunch break.”

The work that Beyond Vision does for customers provides people who are blind or visually impaired more than a  job. It is a positive work environment and “runway” for them not only to land, but to take off in their career. Each of our customers help support that possibility.

If your company or someone you know would like to learn more about Beyond Vision’s customer care services, please contact Israel Cazares-Zurita: izurita@beyondvision.com or call 414-617-0156.

Learn more about Steven’s career journey:

Q: What eye condition do you have?
A:
 I have Retinopathy of Prematurity.  I was a premature baby at Three months.  I weighed 2 pounds and 4 Ounces.  Later I dropped to 1 pound and 10 ounces.  I was placed in an incubator for Three months.  I received too much oxygen causing blood vessels in the retina to burst.

Q: What is your educational background?
A:
I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from University of Wisconsin Whitewater in 1994.  When I could not find a job, I thought of trying to do some sort of ministry work within the Catholic Church.  I earned a Master of Arts in Theology Degree from Sacred Heart School of Theology in 2006.  I was able to find volunteer opportunities, but no work.  So, I started here in 2009.

Q: What brought you to Beyond Vision?
A: I was on an email listserve for the American Council of the Blind of Wisconsin.  It is interesting how things come full circle, because information on a Call Center opening was provided to the list by none other than then Wiscraft Board Member Rob Buettner.  This was the first time I had heard that Wiscraft had a call center.  I applied and was contacted shortly thereafter.  I came in a week later for an interview and by the end of the next day I was hired.

Q: How long have you been with the company?
A: As of this interview, it is 8 years and 1 day.  I started on October 12th, 2009.

Q: How has gainful employment changed your life? *note: given that 70% of working aged Americans who are blind or visually impaired are unemployed*
A: When I started here, it was more the fact that I wanted to have a job to be like “everybody else.”  I had been trying with little to no luck for several years and I did not want to be a statistic in that 70% category.  I was living at home then, so it was not as big of a necessity as it is today.  Things have changed, because I am now a Condo Owner.  This could not have happened without this opportunity.  Because of my employment, not only was I able to make the purchase, but I am able to pay my bills, including a mortgage, just like anybody else.

Q: How has technology impacted your day-to-day work?
A: In the past, when I attended interviews, employers had concerns about finding technology which was compatible with their computer systems.  Often, if they were interested in me, a hiring decision could not have been made until this concern was satisfactorily addressed.  It was so refreshing to know that when I started this job, JAWS was already on their computers.  That way, I could honestly say that I could “start immediately.”

Now that I have the job, I can use JAWS in everything that I do.  This screen reader program allows me to interact with a computer for all tasks that are completed with vision.  The only difference is that I do not use a mouse.  However, since my job is being on the phone, sometimes it can be a bit challenging listening to both the caller and JAWS.  This is where I am fortunate to have a refreshable Braille display.  This device helps me to read information that would take too long to relay if I were just using the screen reader or quickly interpret text when it is hard to hear it.

Q: How does Beyond Vision support and encourage your professional development?
A: I have been encouraged to take Adult Continuing Education Courses through the Hadley Institute for the blind.  Since these are correspondence courses, I can take them at my own pace.  So far, I have completed courses to strengthen business communication and to help me advance my computer skills.  I have also taken part in group training on such topics as credit card processing and guarding against computer virus attacks.

Q: Is there an example of a call campaign that you felt direct personal dedication for?
A: Since 2012, Beyond Vision has worked with National Industries for the Blind to meet the needs of one of their customers, Fresh Revenues.  What we do is place Mystery Calls or secret shop calls to Fresh Revenue’s clients.  These clients are mainly hotels.  What I do is come up with a scenario which would bring me to their facility.  I then create a name and decide on the dates that I would like to visit.  When I make the call, a service called Measure CP records the conversation in MP3 Format.  Once calls are completed, we are given guidelines that their representatives must follow.  With the guidelines and the recording, we complete a scorecard that provides the representatives with information on how to improve their work.  Since the customers of Fresh Revenues wants to know how their representatives are performing on all shifts, this means that calls do need to be placed on evenings and weekends.  My team members and I have made the needed sacrifices since we began this partnership.  This ensures that quality work, when the customer asks for it, is completed on time.

Q: What role do you play in creating a positive/constructive work environment?
A: I always try to encourage a team member who might be having a bad day or be on hand to answer questions that may come up.  I appreciate the times when I can learn from their experiences.  All of us have something unique to bring to the table.  And, I do not think that it is possible to be a successful team if you can’t have some fun along the way.  Sometimes, it is great to relieve stress by telling a joke.  And a Friday in the Fall always goes better with a Packer Party on our lunch break.