Cool Jobs: Professional Helps Blind Vets Get Second Chance

Cool Jobs: Professional Helps Blind Vets Get Second Chance

Tony Cleveland, Blind Rehab Specialist (Photo: Cleveland)

We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.

WHO: Tony Cleveland

WHAT: Blind Rehab Specialist at Department of Veteran Affairs (Hines Blind Rehab Center)

ANNUAL SALARY: $65-000-$70,000

THE GIG: Cleveland works as an orientation and mobility specialist with veterans who range from legally blind to completely blind.  He teaches them how to utilize the red and white cane, how to navigate new spaces and just generally helps them to be as independent and mobile as possible. Cleveland is one of several instructors who work with the veterans intensively in comprehensive six- to 12-week programs.

THE PERKS: “I get to see the fruits of my labor,” Cleveland says. “It’s amazing to witness the transformation from our veterans as well as their families. We help train the families too so that they can give the appropriate support once the veterans go home,” says Cleveland.

THE WORKDAY: Cleveland has countless inspiring stories to tell about his veterans, but the one hero whose story sticks out the most is Matt Bradford. Blind in both eyes and missing both legs after a roadside bombing incident in Iraq, Bradford had a challenging road to recovery. Cleveland helped guide the Marine through the Center’s program and eventually Bradford became the first and so far only blind, double amputee to successfully re-enlist in the Marines.

THE ADVICE: One part of his studies at Western Michigan University included being blindfolded and essentially living as a blind person in order to become a better instructor and to create real empathy, which he says is important for this field. Cleveland encourages anyone interested to make the effort to thoroughly research the education programs and apply for internship opportunities. His younger sister has followed in his footsteps and works at a VA hospital in California.

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