TUPELO, Miss (WTVA) - EDITOR'S NOTE: In Mississippi, there's a government-funded agency that has great power to help people with disabilities and diseases cope with their conditions. We were surprised to learn that not many people actually know about that agency. Our own Mike Russell became a client a few months ago, and explains.
“Four months ago I started at WTVA,” says WTVA News Anchor Mike Russell. “I was hired to anchor the weekend news and report during the week. But I had a visual challenge. I was wearing glasses, but didn't know at the time that I actually had significant cataracts. When I read the teleprompter, everything looked blurry and ghosty – and that spells disaster for a news anchor.”
"But my doctor recommended Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind,” continues Mike. “That organization helped me get the surgery I needed, and now I’m off to the races every day. 'Voc-Rehab,' as it's known, is one of Mississippi's best kept secret...until now.”
"We're here to help [people] achieve goals they might have,” says Christian Williams, a counselor/advocate at Voc-Rehab. “We're here to make things accessible to them so that they can in the workforce."
Williams should know. She handles five North Mississippi counties for Voc-Rehab, and at any one time has 30 to 40 open cases. Recently, she helped Jerri Pannell, a compliance officer at Renasant Bank. Jerri has optic atrophy, an incurable inherited condition that makes it harder to see. Her work requires minute attention to detail. Voc-Rehab gave her electronic magnifiers for her office and optical lenses that help her drive, all of it at no cost. It made all the difference in the world.
In grateful tears, she says, "I was totally amazed at the products that can help people who don't know what something is supposed to look like, how clear it is supposed to be."
Bottom line, Voc-Rehab can help almost anyone, not just the blind, as long as it's all about being in -- or getting prepared for -- the workforce. The best part is, if you qualify -- and many do even if they have insurance -- it won't cost you a nickel.
Adds Williams, "As long as I can justify that this person needs this for employment, I can pay for it"
A final note, Vocational Rehabilitation's services are broad, and each case is reviewed individually. For more information, call 662-842-1010.