Technology and an Unexpcted Life Change

Signal Centers Low Vision Services

Ernest Tshisweka was born in the Democratic Republic
of Congo. He speaks eight languages and has a Bachelor’s
and Master’s degree in theology and counseling.
The 56-year-old came to the United States in 1996 as a
Nigerian refugee. He returned to Africa in 1997 as a missionary,
working in Congo, Ghana, and Zambia. Because
of rising tensions with militias and
the Congolese government, Ernest
moved back to the US in 2009, never
expecting that he would experience a
major change in his life.
In 2015, Ernest suddenly lost his
vision, which greatly affected his ability
to continue working. At the time,
he was working for Life Bridges as a
Direct Support Professional, helping
other individuals who had disabilities.
His sudden vision loss made it
extremely difficult to use computers
and telephones, and to get around
safely in his environment. He was
referred to Signal Centers by Southeast
Vision Rehabilitation, and began
training on computer and phone access, orientation and
mobility (O & M), and adjustment to blindness classes.
Ernest became quite skilled in the Cooking without
Looking class. Lana Little, the director of the program,
recalls his first introduction to cooking. “When Ernest
first came to us, he was literally eating cold food out
of cans,” she explained. “We asked him to bring in
some recipes of the kind of cooking he missed from his
homeland, and we helped him figure out the process of
how to make those meals.”
Ernest now cuts up vegetables like a prep cook and
makes Nigerian stews in a crockpot by himself.
Assistive Technology Services then helped connect Ernest
with the Senior Community Service Employment Program
(SCSEP), a federally-funded program run locally by
Goodwill. That program was able to find
meaningful work for Ernest at Vive for a
Dream Immigrant and Refugee Services
in Cleveland, Tennessee. “As a former
refugee, I am very concerned about the
lives of refugees, especially in situations
where people are trying to flee from one
dangerous place to another,” said Ernest.
“That’s why I am here at Vive, because I
love refugees.”
Ernest is able to support himself with the
help of assistive technology and using his
knowledge of other languages. He is also
in the process of bringing his wife and
two children to the U.S. “Because I was
introduced to the phone and how to use
it, I found a better way to communicate
with my family using apps like
WhatsApp,” he said. “I prefer to communicate with them
using WhatsApp rather than the regular phone because
it is easier to use by myself.”
Technology has helped Ernest work, and keep his family
together. He is one of the many people who have experienced
unexpected vision loss. With the help and support
of Signal Centers’ Assistive Technology Services, many
individuals develop the skills needed to enhance and
maintain their independence.

Charity Name
Signal Centers
Photo Credit
Signal Centers