Bobby Ward (middle), who is blind, on his first day of his first job at Supa IGA yesterday with assistant manager Jean Harris (left) and produce manager Jason Franklin.
Bobby Ward (middle), who is blind, on his first day of his first job at Supa IGA yesterday with assistant manager Jean Harris (left) and produce manager Jason Franklin.

Legally blind man gets first job

DEBBIE and Russell Ward spent a whole evening crying in silence when they were told their four-year-old son would never see again.

Fifteen years later, their tears were ones of joy when they saw the look on Bobby’s face as he was told he had landed his first job.

The shy but proud 19-year-old worked his first shift at the new Supa IGA yesterday morning, where he will work in the produce section.

“He pounded the pavement for 12 months and didn’t even get an interview – they see the words ‘legally blind’ on a resume and they think ‘uh-oh, put it in the too-hard basket’,” Mrs Ward said.

“He went and got his first aid certificate, his blue card so he could work with children... he did everything he could to get his foot in the door and now finally someone has given him a chance.”

The Warwick couple “suffered through years of hell” after a medical mistake meant their little son with an initial ear infection became permanently blind.

“Our world just fell apart when we were told Bobby, at four years old, would never see again.”

But today, Bobby is planning on moving in with his brother, 24-year-old Johnny, and committing to his first job.

“We thought he would never be independent and would live with us forever but now he has his first job and can’t wait to get away from his parents,” Mrs Ward laughed.

Though Bobby could easily live off a pension, his proud mother talks about how nothing will stop him from living a normal life in his hometown among his friends and family.

“He wants to buy his own place some day and he loves Warwick – he’s grown up here and it’s a familiar environment,” Mrs Ward said.

“Over the years nothing got in the way of things he wanted to do – he’s even driven a car through a program for the disabled with a driving instructor.”

The Wards knew how important driving was to young men and wanted their son to experience the feeling of being behind the wheel.

“It was his first time driving a car and he was sitting on 100kmh at the Lakeside International Raceway and we were thinking ‘oh God’,” Mrs Ward laughed.

“But he had a ball; he got it out of his system and it was just another example of how he hasn’t let anything get in his way of what he wanted to do.”

Bobby is also part of his kart racing brother’s pit crew and has completed the practical modules of the Warwick Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE motorsport course.

“He could do all the hands-on parts of the course and he received certificates for those,” Mrs Ward said.

“But he could never be a fully-qualified mechanic because of all the measurements and written aspects so that’s a bit of a hiccup.”

Mrs Ward said as parents, they did their best to give Bobby the same experiences as his siblings.

“We tried not to wrap him in cotton wool as we so badly wanted to do; like all parents you want to protect them and hide them away from the world but that’s not what Bobby is about,” she said.

Mrs Ward listed off those who helped Bobby along the way, including his low-vision teacher Susan Koina, Mike Keim from the Warwick Lions Club and Marceline Dwan who has been “a rock” to her son since he began Riding for the Disabled lessons at the age of four just after losing his sight.

“Even his first grade teacher at Warwick West, Sue Clarkson, who taught him Braille which she had to first learn herself,” she said.

Bobby’s mum was grateful to the Supa IGA managers for giving her son the stepping stone to a life of independence.

“All he needed was an interview so he could prove himself; just having someone give him a go and let him meet new people along the way is a great gift,” Mrs Ward said.

“It’s just been an incredible journey – we didn’t think he’d be well enough to survive through school and now here he is starting his first job; we’re over the moon.”

Supa IGA owner John Hyslop said in produce, Bobby would be responsible for things like pre-packing fruit, working the bagging lines and filling shelves.

“We’re just happy to have him on board and to be able to give him a chance to get out and into the workforce,” Mr Hyslop said.

As for Bobby, as he eagerly tied his IGA apron around his waist and his managers showed him the ropes, he said he was “nervous” but at the same time looking forward to the new chapter in his life.

“It’s good to be given a chance,” he said.

The new Supa IGA which opened yesterday morning will be open from 7am to 9pm, seven days a week.

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