At the Hines VA hospital just west of Chicago, blind rehabilitation specialist Tony Cleveland has found just that. Cleveland is employed at the hospital’s Central Rehabilitation Center, where he helps veterans who range from legally blind to totally blind.
Cleveland was profiled as a part of BlackEnterprise.com’s Cool Jobs series, due to the inspiring nature of his profession. He specializes in helping blind veterans orient themselves in new spaces without the use of their sight. This includes training with a cane, and exercises to navigate new spaces. Cleveland’s role is just a part of the hospital’s six- to 12-month programs designed to help residents gain independence and mobility.
“I get to see the fruits of my labor,” Cleveland told BlackEnterprise.com. “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.”
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A Western Michigan University grad, Cleveland’s training as a specialist included being blindfolded in an attempt to simulate complete blindness and create empathy for patients. He said that empathy is important for the field, which calls for specialists to make personal connections with veterans who have endured hardship.
That spirit of empathy seems to run through Cleveland’s family: his younger sister also works at a VA hospital in California. He encouraged anyone interested in the rehabilitation field to research programs and to apply