Losing your sight later in life can be an especially terrifying experience with a much bigger learning curve and adjustment to living with no or little vision. Such was the case for Eli Torres, who has been blind for the last 16 years from diabetic retinopathy, and is STLB’s 2021 Employee of the Year for Indirect Labor and nominee for National Industries for the Blind’s Peter J. Salmon award.
“One night I was driving on the freeway and suddenly couldn’t see that the lanes got narrow, and I almost hit a big trailer. I knew that it was time to see the doctor and he found that I was losing my vision from diabetes.”
In spite of this frightening experience, Eli maintained a positive outlook on life and remained resilient in overcoming this new obstacle in his life. In fact, his positive outlook and resiliency motivated him to get the assistance he needed and eventually land a job at STLB. In the early days of his vision loss, Eli is greatly thankful to his very supportive wife, who made the transition to life without vision a relatively smooth one.
“I was able to get help. My wife helped me a lot, to go the store, the doctor or anywhere I needed to go. She even got me to start using my cane.”
Eli is also thankful that STLB was able to assist him to purchase a pair of NuEyes electronic glasses because now he is able to read his mail and pay bills like he used to before losing his sight without assistance.
Right after he lost his sight, Eli began taking classes to help him adjust to his vision loss through, at the time, Texas Commission for the Blind. Those classes were held at STLB. While here, he heard about our job openings and jumped at the opportunity to be able to work again.
“Before I was just sitting at home. Now that I’ve been coming to work here, I learn a lot of things. They always show you what to do on the job. They don’t leave you alone if you need help. There’s a lot of training here.”
Eli started his career at STLB as an assembler/packer, then went on to work as a material handler. Today he works on the riveter. He also works wherever he’s needed in the production plant, packing toilet paper, paper towels or cleaning supplies when needed.
“I’m not afraid to do different jobs at work and to do my best at them.”
For anyone losing their vision later in life, Eli is a great example to look up to when getting back on your feet and even coming back to work.
“Don’t be afraid if you’re blind. Just come here and we’ll show you how to do everything to start your job.”