Ray Zylinski wears many hats at the Olmsted Center for Sight, a nationally recognized Center of Excellence helping the blind and visually impaired achieve their highest level of independence.
Ray’s primary role is serving as assistive technology instructor for Olmsted’s National Statler Center. He is also a contact center agent and trainer for 2-1-1 WNY, a link to health and human services. Ray also helps raise money for the Olmsted Center as one of its development associates. It’s not uncommon to hear him at a speaking engagement as part of Olmsted’s community outreach.
“We can prepare people for independence and success if they were born with little to no usable vision,” he says. “We can also teach people how to regain their confidence if they lose their sight later in life. We show them how to acclimate to a new lifestyle.”
Ray is an example of how Olmsted’s programs help people like him to succeed. He started as someone who received services and now works to help others achieve their goals. It’s a trajectory of success made possible in part by Campaign for the Community contributions.
Ray arrived at Olmsted as a 3-year-old preschooler. Having lost his sight two years earlier, Olmsted taught Ray the techniques associated with success following vision loss, everything from reading Braille to navigating his environment, all in preparation for entry into mainstream public school.
But Olmsted provided Ray with opportunities as well as skills.
In high school, with Olmsted’s help, he landed the first of his summer jobs assembling pressure valves at Moog. Aside from the hands-on part of the job he also learned interviewing skills and how to dress for success.
He later became a job coach at Olmsted, training people on many of the tools that helped him become independent, like screen readers that allow the visually impaired to hear the content that appears on computer monitors.
“I had a big support system with my friends and family,” says Zylinski. “But success would have been more difficult without the Olmsted Center for Sight, which played the dual role of educator first and employer later on.
“Olmsted gave me the skills and confidence to succeed in society along with my sighted peers. Now, I can take those skills and bring them to a new generation of sight-impaired individuals and help them realize the same level of success that I have.”