“I am so grateful to have a job. I did other interviews but was never given a chance. Envision gave me that chance, and I am happy to have opportunities to be independent.”
Johnson Riungu is an E-Commerce Customer Service Representative for Envision Xpress. His story transcends borders, as he was born and raised in Kenya, Africa and recently moved to the United States in 2022. His journey to the United States was marked by perseverance and the pursuit of a dream. After nine years of applying for a green card for himself and his family, 2022 finally brought them the long awaited opportunity. In March, the embassy welcomed him and his family with the words, "Welcome to the United States,” a moment that changed them forever. A month later, they embarked on a life-changing journey, leaving their home country behind.
The move to a new country was both shocking and exciting, but these conflicting emotions are something Johnson has dealt with his whole life. Visually impaired since the age of ten due to Retinal Detachment, he faced many challenges in Kenya. “Accessibility, transportation, housing, and ignorance around blindness were things I had to face every day in my home country,” said Johnson. Though there were difficulties, Johnson persevered, going on to become an Assistive Technology Trainer. However, he didn’t get to this place overnight.
Attending college at age 20, he was confronted with many obstacles that hindered his ability to learn and grow. Though he was versed in braille, none of his teachers knew how to read it and he was falling behind in his studies due to this gap in communication. Though his degree lies in arts and education, he developed a strong passion for assistive technology after he took his concerns to a local Kenya organization, who then spoke to Sight Savers International, an international organization that aims to prevent avoidable blindness. After voicing his concerns, Sight Savers International spoke to a company who provided screen readers and computer training to students.
“After this I became extremely interested in assistive technology,” said Johnson. “Sight Savers International ended up asking me to train other blind and visually impaired students because I was doing so good with the software. I was eventually hired through the company, supported by a local Kenya organization, and I started training students at other colleges as well. I did this for two years.” After graduation, Johnson married his wife, who is also visually impaired and met Johnson through a college study group. They went on to have two children who are eleven and six years old.
After his family relocated to the United States to stay with his brother in Wichita, KS, Johnson was looking forward to living in a country where accessibility was at the forefront. However, he didn’t expect the challenges of job searching as someone who is visually impaired. After applying at many places to no avail, he came across Envision. Originally, Johnson planned to contact Envision for white cane training through the Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center. After making an appointment and meeting with Ray Oddis, Orientation and Mobility Specialist for Envision, Johnson not only received crucial training, but was able to connect with the Human Resources department at Envision and was hired on four months later with Envision Xpress.
“The white cane training I received through Ray was very helpful,” said Johnson. “He taught me how to navigate and look for truncated domes on the pavement, as those don’t exist in Kenya. I also learned how to find sections of road that are brick or different textures as well as how to use street sign buttons to cross the street.”
When asked how his career and adjustment to a new country are going, Johnson responded, “I feel very blessed to have this opportunity for myself and my family. I have colleagues who are so supportive and have helped me to adjust. Justin Morgan, my supervisor, has given me confidence. Most people from other countries have the notion that Americans are isolated and only care about themselves. While I used to think this way, I don’t any longer. I have been shown empathy since the moment my family and I arrived in the United States, and we have received so much support.” Johnson and his family recently moved into their own home before the holiday season and experienced their first snow fall.
Reflecting on his journey, Johnson expressed his gratitude for the opportunities Envision provided. “I am so grateful to have a job. I did other interviews but was never given a chance. Envision gave me that chance, and I am happy to have opportunities to be independent.” Johnson’s story is one of resilience, adaptation, and gratitude. Envision's commitment to inclusivity and support for individuals with visual impairments has not only provided him with a chance to thrive but has also shattered his stereotypes about isolation in American society.