Standing next to an open loading bay with sunlight streaming in at the Cintas Corp. warehouse in northeast Oklahoma City where he works, Norman resident Peter Broussard, Jr. says he can only see the blurry outlines of shapes in front of him.
He has lost most of his vision as a result of Usher Syndrome, a genetic disorder that is one of the leading causes of deaf-blindness. Broussard inherited the condition from his grandfather, who also was deaf and blind.
Speaking with sign language through an interpreter, Broussard said he is able to see blurry figures, light and dark, but his peripheral vision is almost completely gone.
“It’s like I’m looking through a tunnel,” Broussard said. “I can tell there is a light to the side of me.”
Broussard, 27, was born completely deaf and is legally blind, but has been able to find work with Cintas cleaning floor mats with the with the help of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. The job helps him support his wife and two sons, ages four and six months. A smile spreads across his face when he talks about his job.
“I love it here,” he said.
Broussard is originally from Crowley, La., but moved to Oklahoma with his wife a three years ago. He knew he wanted to work to support his family, but applying for jobs on his own proved challenging.
“Filling out applications, it was hard explaining my disability,” he said.
He turned to Joan Blake, a specialist on deaf-blindness with the Department of Rehabilitation Services, to help find work. Blake helps deaf-blind clients throughout the state find jobs. It’s a challenging job with a low success rate, she said.
Her current caseload includes about 30 deaf-blind clients statewide. She’s lucky if she is able to help two or three people find jobs each year.
By the time deaf-blind people turn to the Department of Rehabilitation Services for help, they typically are feeling discouraged and frustrated, Blake said.