January 18, 2022

Employee Spotlight: David Grimes

Each month, Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired highlights an exceptional employee who has gone above and beyond for the organization. This month, we would like to introduce you to long-term team member, David Grimes. David has worked at Clovernook Center for 24 years! David graduated from Cleveland State University with degrees in German and Education. He thought he would like to be a high school German teacher, but after completing his student teaching, he realized that teaching was not the path he wanted to take.

In 1998, David vividly remembers sitting at home in Cleveland, OH and reading about a job opening at Clovernook Center through The Braille Forum, a monthly magazine of the American Council of the Blind which is available in braille, audio cassette, large print and email. David’s mother drove him to the bus station and he hopped on a bus at 6:00 a.m. traveling from Cleveland to Cincinnati where he interviewed for the position. After his interview, he returned back to Cleveland well after midnight. David was hired to work for Clovernook Center’s Braille Printing House in the Bindery as a Checker which confirms that all of the printed pages are included and in proper order.

David now works as a Corrector/Quality Assurance Coordinator and serves as the “last line of defense,” as he says, before braille materials leave Clovernook Center. David tracks who the readers are for each of the materials and makes any necessary corrections. There are a variety of braille materials that David works with day in and out. Some of these braille publications could be magazines such as his favorite, National Geographic, or a children’s braille book. These are circulated through the National Library Service (NLS) – a service that David feels is very important and provides wonderful braille materials for visually impaired people all over the world and free of charge – even delivery. To become a patron of the NLS you must fill out an application and become a member.

David is certified in Unified English Braille and has been key in helping shape the Arts & Accessibility program at Clovernook Center. David has several favorite projects within that program but two that stand out are the Dinosaur Hall project at the Museum of Natural History & Science at Cincinnati Museum Center and the LEAD Conference in Denver. During the conference, David was part of a panel that gave a 1.5-hour presentation to more than 75 people on accessibility in museums using braille, tactile graphics, audio and large print.

David was born blind. He was a premature baby and while in the incubator, he received too much oxygen which burned out his retina and optic nerve. The medical term for this is retrolental fibroplasia, or RLF, an abnormal buildup of blood vessels that can scar the retina and irreversibly destroy eyesight. This was an epidemic that was stated to have been in full swing by the post-war baby boom. Public health officials were warning of a blindness epidemic among premature infants. A famous RLF victim from Saginaw, MI is the great Stevie Wonder. As decades passed the disease name was changed from RLF to ROP, Retinopathy of Prematurity which is an eye disorder that can occur in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina. The eye begins to develop at about 16 weeks of pregnancy, the blood vessels of the retina begin to form at the optic nerve in the back of the eye. During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy the eye develops rapidly. If a baby is born prematurely, before these blood vessels have reached the edges of the retina, normal vessel growth may stop. This is the most common cause of vision loss in childhood and can lead to lifelong vision impairment and blindness. According to the National Eye Institute in 2019, about 400 to 600 infants each year in the US will become legally blind from ROP.

David has always used braille. He started using it even before he began attending school. He went on to attend school at the Oklahoma School for the Blind where he was able to learn and use braille in his everyday studies. Interesting fact, The Oklahoma School for the Blind was founded in 1897 and is a fully accredited school that offers a complete educational program, tuition free, for blind and visually impaired students from pre-school through high school. A vital learning experience was his Daily Living Skills class (DLS) which is taught from grades 3 to 12. It taught students ways to be able to function independently within society. For example, when David goes to the grocery store – he prepares his braille labels at home before he goes. When he adds an item to grocery cart, he puts the label on it – right there in the store – so when he gets home to put all his items away they are labeled and easier to organize.

David likes working at Clovernook Center because he enjoys talking to other people who have a visual impairment and those without. He feels like it is a real “eye opener” for people to learn that visually impaired people can do things even though they can’t see. While it is important to teach yourself and learn how to do things, he feels like the most frustrating times are when he shops and items are not labeled in braille. David would like to see braille used more on items in stores and beyond. David feels like his biggest issue with being blind is transportation. He always must rely on someone to take him where he needs to go. Unlike those who are able to see, he can’t just jump in a car and take off.

In David’s spare time, he likes bird watching. David can identify hundreds of different birds by ear, including their calls and songs. David also enjoys attending and singing in his church choir at the President of the Nazarene International Mission. After losing his wife and father last year, spending time with his family and friends has become even more important over this past year as he has learned how quickly life can change.

Thank you, David, for all your hard work day in and day out and for always having the end-user in mind with everything you do here at Clovernook Center.

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