Matthew White has been successfully working at Peckham for almost 10 years. He and his service dog Zeb take public transportation to one of Peckham’s several warehousing locations in Lansing every day. His role as a materials handler requires him to securely wrap pallets using a shrink-wrap machine and to ensure the roll doesn’t disengage from the machine. He then places the appropriate labels on the pallet before it gets picked up by a forklift and stored or shipped to the U.S. Army. Through his work he earns steady pay and benefits that support his family, respect from co-workers, and self-sufficiency. This feat is more remarkable because Matthew is a blind person.
Matthew first heard of Peckham from his grandfather, an auctioneer for whom Matthew worked on and off. He applied to Peckham in hopes of finding full-time employment. Initially hired for assembly and kitting work, Matthew’s tasks were very limited — he had to rely on others to complete most of the steps for him. However, it didn’t take long for Mathew, his vocational service specialist (VSS), and supervisors to begin brainstorming adaptations to processes and equipment. Implementing them enabled Matthew to perform additional tasks by himself.
These adaptations range from the relatively simple — a rubber band attached to the shrink-wrap machine’s touchpad that allows Matthew to orient his fingers and memorize the layout, to high-tech —special glasses that read and speak the label information he required to do kitting work on his own. He credits his collaboration with his VSS and supervisors for helping him master the many aspects of the various jobs he has performed.
Learning to navigate around a busy warehouse safely and consistently with ever-changing inventory fell squarely on the shoulders of Matthew and his service dog Zeb, his warehouse companion for the past three years. Together, the two memorized and mastered the art of recognizing forklift driving patterns and the timing required to move without assistance around the warehouse. Facing and overcoming this formidable challenge was instrumental in earning Matthew the promotion to material handler.
As Matthew approaches the anniversary of his first decade of working at Peckham, it’s clear that his success is a combination of his determination to overcome what for others with his disability may seem like insurmountable barriers to employment, and the company’s willingness to provide the tools he needs to do his job. He acknowledges that if not for Peckham, he may have the same attitude as some people with his disability — those who consider themselves unemployable. That’s certainly not the case for Matthew. “I am here,” he says as he prepares to shrink-wrap another pallet, “and I am working.”