Nov 2020 West Bloomfield Beacon

Tyler FeilLife hasn’t always been easy for Tyler Feil. The 23-year-old Keego Harbor resident and former Bloomfield Hills School District student was born with a genetic disorder known as Usher syndrome, which is characterized by partial or total hearing and vision loss and can worsen over time. Feil has some vision. He utilizes “pretty high prescription no-line bifocals” to help, and has a cochlear implant in one ear, which has helped give him limited hearing. Usher syndrome also affects his speech.

What it has not affected is his interest in being employed. Approximately three years ago, Feil’s mother, Jennifer Breining, conducted a search online to try to find somewhere that could provide job assistance for adults with disabilities. That search helped lead her to JVS Human Services in Southfield. JVS was able to help Feil land a job at a local Salvation Army store.

Things have gone so well that he was recently recognised as a JVS Employee of the Year. Feil’s duties at the Salvation Army include unloading trucks, collecting donations that have been dropped off and working in the store’s stock room. The job has provided him with more than just his first stint as an employee in the workforce. “I think it’s been a great builder of self-esteem and independence for him, and just given him the confidence that he may have some limitations on things, but nothing’s impossible if you work hard,” Breining said.

Clinton Township resident Shirley Viviano is a job developer/placement specialist at JVS. She shared her thoughts on Feil’s recognition as a JVS Employee of the Year. “I am so super thrilled,” Viviano said. “It shows his dedication, his wanting a job, his performing the job. It’s great.”

President and CEO Paul Blatt described JVS as an entity that “helps the community create inclusion by employment and creating an equitable place for all. Sadly, I think that people pre-assess what a person with a disability is able to do,” Blatt said. “We need more education, and (to) let people know how we can help their business by bringing all types of people into their workplace to create a better work environment.”

Feil enjoys his job enough that Breining said he was “going crazy” when the Salvation Army store was closed earlier this year due to COVID-19. He was without a job from approximately late March until early June. “He loves it there,” Breining said. “All of his coworkers and his boss, they love him. He comes in early. … He doesn’t (want to) use his vacation time. He doesn’t like days off.”

The social aspect of his job may also be playing a part. “Friendships didn’t come as easily — it was friends of the family and family members that he spent most of his time with,” Breining said. “Having a job, it’s made him feel a lot more independent. He’s a little bit more outgoing. He likes the camaraderie of being around coworkers, his boss, and being around other people that aren’t friends and family.”

Feil typically works 30-32 hours per week, according to Breining. Gardening, being outside, swimming and playing video games are some of the things he likes to do for fun when he’s not working. Feil hasn’t let Usher syndrome define him. “He’s pretty much dealt with it,” Breining said. “He doesn’t really see himself as disabled. He knows that certain things are harder for him, but he’s also been a huge advocate for himself.”

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