The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 10, 2013

Program puts workers on the right track

Eight-week program features classroom training, hands-on experience at area businesses

When customers call Land to Air to schedule rides to the airport, Lily Poss does all the normal booking work — giving the customer route options, taking credit card information and scheduling the trip.

But customers often ask her about the soft, fast-talking they hear in the background. She tells them it's her assistive computer telling her what's on the screen.

Poss was born with limited vision and lost all sight in 2006. Her laptop computer — which reads 120 words a minute or more and talks quickly to Poss — allows her to work rapidly and with ease.

"It tells me everything on the screen. I get to drop down boxes by certain key strokes — the 'c' key gets me to the box where you pick which credit card they're using," Poss explained.

Jason Mekalson, general manager of Land to Air, who hired Poss in 2011 after she completed a jobs training program at MRCI, said Poss also works quickly because she has a near photographic memory.

"The first day she was here she pretty much had our whole schedule memorized. I still get confused on it. She can remember phone numbers from days ago," Mekalson said.

Poss also has a smartphone app that lets her scan bills that customers hand her when they are in the office and paying by cash. The app reads out what denomination each bill is as she accepts it and makes change.

"People are interested. They ask me about how the different things work," she said.

The permanent job was made possible for Poss by the MRCI Track to Success job skills training and placement service, an eight-week program that features classroom training and hands-on experience at area businesses.

"The goal is to give our employees the skills they need to work out in the community and to be able to be competitive to get a job and to hold a job," said Tom Rivers, coordinator of the Track to Success program.

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