James “Tyler” Kirk walks the two blocks to his office at the Securities and Exchange Commission every morning, thinking about how lucky he is.
He’s 29, loves his work as an SEC lawyer and loves the life he has built.
But those two blocks can be dicey. “The most stressful part of my job is crossing Massachusetts Avenue. My heart is literally in my throat,” said Kirk, who lost his eyesight when he was 9 to Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration.
It never stopped him from pursuing his goals, though, and Kirk, with his black Labrador service dog Sailor, makes it across a busy thoroughfare every workday.
“I love economics, I love business, I love investment,” Kirk said. “This is my dream job, and how could you not be happy working in your dream job?”
Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of nearly 2.8 million employees are blind, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Since 2001, the number of workers with severe “targeted disabilities” such as deafness, missing extremities or paralysis decreased by 6 percent. Blindness is also a targeted disability, and in recent years the government has increased its number of workers in that category.
Although the EEOC has not set specific hiring goals for those with severe disabilities, a 2010 executive order called for an additional 100,000 workers with general disabilities by 2015.
“You have to set goals high, or nothing will ever move,” said Kathy Martinez, the assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, who has been blind since birth.
“People with disabilities are part of the population, and we want to reflect that. We know the disability workforce is an untapped pool of workers,” she said.
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