Steven Henry Interview (Windows Media)

Interview with Steven Henry
Clerk/Typist, U.S. Postal Service
By Patrick Barbour

Patrick: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

Steven: Sure, I’m glad to do it.

Patrick: All right, thank you. What is your official job title?

Steven: My official job title is Clerk/Typist.

Patrick: Clerk/typist, okay. What requirements does it take to become a Civil Servant?

Steven: Well in my case, I was hired under a special program in which the handicapped were hired and you had to complete a 700-hour trial period. And that’s the way I was hired. I have been working for over thirty years, so I have been working here a long time, well I’ve just been recently transferred to Gonzales, but I have been working for the post office a long time.

Patrick: Okay.

Steven: So, the requirements I think for my position are, you have to type at least 40 words a minute.

Patrick: Wow, that is really fast.

Steven: Well, that’s not that fast, but you have to be able to type 40 words a minute and then you have to of course have other skills well now. Of course when I entered the postal service, to show you how far back this goes, I entered in 1974 and they didn’t have computers at that time. And now, you not only have to have that typing skill, but you have to have computer skills as well.

Patrick: How did you learn about, and decide, that you wanted to do this job?

Steven: Actually, my father worked for the post office and he talked to the postal manager in New Orleans, Louisiana and that’s actually how I got in the job. You know, because of who my father knew at the time.

Patrick: Are you responsible for getting to and from work on your own?

Steven: Well I did when I was in New Orleans, I used to take the bus.

Patrick: Okay.

Steven: when I was in New Orleans, I took the bus for about 25 or 26 years. And then I got on the dial-a-ride service which was a service for the para-transit. Now that I am here in Gonzales, my daughter Helen brings me to work. But when I was in New Orleans you know, I did take the bus to work, yes I did.

Patrick: What does your work day consist of?

Steven: Now what I do is a little bit different from what I did before, I answer the phone, but before, I worked in the Equal Employment Opportunity in New Orleans, Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina. But what I do now is I answer the phone and people call and they ask about their mail, I can look it up on the zip code. If they sent a letter priority mail or express mail they have a track and confirm number, I can go on the postal website and look up and enter that tracking number and then look that up, and tell them that their letter was received on such and such date. Sometimes people want to know what happened, you know they mailed something and the person hasn’t got it. So that’s the type of thing I do. Sometimes I just listen to people when they have a complaint that they’re not getting their mail, sometimes people just want to be listened to.

Patrick: What kind of education does your job require?

Steven: Well, the job that I have doesn’t require more then a high school education. Although, I have a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree, I have a Bachelor’s in Performance, I play the clarinet, and I was there when Terry Bradshaw was playing, you might have seen him on Fox Sunday NFL.

Patrick: Did you have other jobs before this one?

Steven: I briefly worked for three months for Sears in the early 1970s selling maintenance agreements over the phone. That was a difficult job because when I did that job, I had to take all the names home and write them down on cards, so that job never ended. That was a 25-30 hour a week job, but then I had to take my work home and get all the information. I had to have someone read the information off of the cards, like their name and telephone number, and what kind of appliance they had, and how long of an agreement they had. I was doing maintenance renewals trying to get people to renew their maintenance agreements. So at that time, the technology was not available that is available today, that job was much more difficult to do.

Patrick: Are you comfortable about talking about your visual impairment?

Steven: Sure.

Patrick: How much useful vision do you have?

Steven: I don’t have any.

Patrick: Okay.

Steven: I lost my sight due to retrolental fibroplasia (RLF), caused by too much oxygen. I was born premature.

Patrick: Did you have to learn to read and write braille?

Steven: I learned in kindergarten. You know like people learn to read and write print, I learned in kindergarten.

Patrick: Do you use a computer or other technology to help you at work?

Steven: I use the computer, I use JAWS, the speech program.

Patrick: Okay. Do you use any other assistive technology to help you through the day?

Steven: I also have a Perkins braille writer that I can use to write down things, but it’s easier to write them on the computer because if I have to give the message to someone, I can go ahead and print it.

Patrick: Right. Do you use a cane or a guide dog to get around?

Steven: I travel with a cane.

Patrick: Okay.

Steven: A telescopic cane because I can put it out of the way on my desk. But, it is a telescopic long white cane.

Patrick: Do you like your job?

Steven: Yes, I am very fortunate to have the job I have, really. There are a lot of blind people, not so much in your generation, but there a lot of older blind people, and you can check around, that are really underemployed. Underemployed in terms of salary, there are a lot of blind people that have qualifications but just can’t seem to find a job. It’s difficult, so I am very thankful to have the job that I have.

Patrick: What do you like best and least about your job?

Steven: What do I like best?

Patrick: Yes.

Steven: What I like best is if I can call and be a polite voice and answer someone’s question, help them out, make them feel that they are important. That’s the part I like the best. What I like the least is if you get a person that doesn’t want to listen to what you’re saying.

Patrick: What job did you want to have when you were my age?

Steven: I guess if I had a job that I really wanted to have it would be sportscaster, I love sports.

Patrick: Oh me too.

Steven: So that would be the job I’d like to have when I was your age. Yes, sportscaster, or possibly playing music, but playing music of course is not a secure job.

Patrick: What do you like to do outside of work?

Steven: I like to use my computer, we attend church, my wife and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and we do a lot of work with them, we teach Sunday school class. I like to listen to music, I like to read talking books, and I like to listen or watch sports.

Patrick: Why did you go to the NFB conference?

Steven: Because the National Federation of the Blind helped me not only after Katrina, but they helped me with my job at the postal service when I was first hired. This was years ago when I was in the New Orleans, the postal service said there wasn’t anything that a blind person could do, so the Federation was a legal advocate for me at that time. And so I have always been a part of the Federation. I always go when I can because I feel that the Federation helps blind people to learn to advocate for themselves and if they need help, they will be there to help them.

Do you need any more information, like my age or anything?

Patrick: Yes.

Steven: I was born December 31, 1948. I graduated from the school for the blind, I went to the Louisiana State School for the Blind and I graduated in 1967, and I graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1971 and have been working for the postal service since January of 1974.

Patrick: Did you take the Civil Service exam?

Steven: No, I got in as a special appointment, a special 700-hour appointment.

Patrick: Do you have anything else to add?

Steven: Well I just want to say I’m very happy with the way that the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind are working together today. I’m glad to see the relationship that those two organizations have, and I’m glad to be able to help you because I’m very impressed with the work that you’re doing.

Patrick: Alright, thank you for your time.

Steven: I’m very glad to help. It’s been a pleasure meeting you.

Patrick: It’s been a pleasure meeting you too. Good-bye.

Steven: Good-bye.