Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Kyle Shaults is a member of the Envision Workforce Innovation Center.
My name is Kyle Shaults, and I was born with congenital glaucoma on Aug. 19, 1991. I’ve had 71 eye surgeries to conserve my vision. And while I’ve faced obstacles in my journey since then, my story proves that great things can happen when people within a company accept people as they are and genuinely strive to be inclusive for all.
As a toddler, I attended Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City to learn how to adapt and function independently. My parents were told that I wouldn’t have vision past age 5, which I surpassed with flying colors. Years later, an eye doctor told me that I wouldn’t have any vision past the age of 16. On my 16th birthday, I showed my eye doctor my driver’s license — another proud milestone.
I lived a somewhat normal life for a teenager in high school. After accepting a scholarship to Butler County Community College, I started to experience some vision issues. I made the mistake of hiding it from family and friends, and narrowly walked away from a very bad car accident.
I lost my drive to pursue my goals and dropped out of college. There was a lot of uncertainty, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It’s very common for people who experience vision loss to go through stages of anxiety and depression, and I’m just grateful that my parents gave me that proverbial kick that I needed.
I started looking for jobs for people who were going blind. I became a janitor for a short time, but I realized my boss didn’t really understand how to work with someone with vision loss. Luckily, my family helped me find Envision in Wichita.
At first, I was skeptical about working at Envision because I had just lost my license and was trying to figure out what to do next. I thought I would try to make it for a bit and then see what else I could find. I ended up really enjoying the job. I started as a bag picker in the manufacturing facility then quickly moved up to a machine operator. I wanted to improve and learn as much as I could. I found my drive again and it felt good.
At first, I was skeptical about working at Envision because I had just lost my license and was trying to figure out what to do next. I thought I would try to make it for a bit and then see what else I could find. I ended up really enjoying the job.
Soon after, I met the most amazing woman, who continues to make me happy and inspires me every day. After three dates in just four days, I realized that I couldn’t spend any more time without her in my life. A year and a half later, we got married and moved to Las Vegas for her duty station as a member of the military police with the U.S. Air Force.
As a result, I had to leave my job at Envision, and I wasn’t sure what kind of job I would find in Las Vegas. But I was still hopeful and optimistic about the future.
My optimism paid off. Buddy Sell, Envision’s senior vice president of operations, made a call on my last day at Envision to LCI — another leader in employing people who are blind or visually impaired. A month later, I started my new job as a Customer Service Representative at the LCI Base Supply Center at Creech Air Force Base. My sincere thanks to Bill Hudson, chairman of the LCI Foundation, who made that opportunity possible.
After a few years of enjoying life in Las Vegas, my wife and I had a baby girl. Shortly after her birth, we moved back to Wichita to be closer to our families. My wife transferred into the Kansas Air National Guard and also became an officer for the Wichita Police Department for nearly three years. Recently, she took another job offer that she couldn’t refuse. I am very proud of her.
As for me, I came back to Envision to be an order processor in the shipping department. Two years later, I learned more about Envision’s Workforce Innovation Center (WIC), and accepted an offer to be a customer care specialist and within six months took a promotion to be the call center team lead.
I love what I am doing, and I thank WIC’s business development director, Katie Link, and Karyn Page, vice president of innovation, and our call center leadership for guiding and motivating me every day. They all work hard to find competitive inclusive employment for people who are blind or visually impaired, internally and externally.
I am proof that this process works.
Great things can happen when people within a company accept people as they are and genuinely strive to be inclusive for all. It’s amazing to move up through a company that understands that people with disabilities want to work and can work. It proves that we’re capable of anything.
Thank you to Envision and to the many mentors who have made my career possible so far. I look forward to what’s next. I will keep learning and growing and developing professionally.
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.