At 13, Kurt Deichmann was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes a loss of eyesight over time. He was told he would likely lose his vision by the age of 20. As fate would have it, he maintained his sight much longer than anticipated and was still able to drive at 42. However, he eventually lost his vision. By that time, he had built a successful insurance career.
Just a couple of months after losing his vision, he came to the Bosma Center for Visionary Solutions to learn the skills he needed to continue in his career. He loved his job and wanted to do everything he could to keep working. “I think I hold the record for client participation,” he quipped. “I worked just down the street from Bosma, and as soon as I was trained to travel safely with my cane, I spent a couple hours a day at Bosma for training.”
As an insurance professional, Kurt was consistently the top producer in his office. He enjoyed working with customers and they liked working with him. He routinely had high customer satisfaction ratings. He was humbled by the support of his manager, who worked with him at every stage of his vision loss. His company made sure he had everything he needed to maintain his high level of performance.
Then his longtime manager retired and Kurt noticed a change at the office. After 22 years with the company, he faced something he thought he would never have to deal with – discrimination. Kurt’s performance never faltered as he progressively lost his vision. Yet now he was regularly passed up for promotions. Kurt believed he had no other option than to stand up for himself, so he filed a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was a two-year process that ended with a settlement out of court but included termination of his employment.
Now Kurt was looking for work. “I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on finding a new job.”
Unable to find work, he used his industry expertise to help others by starting his own consulting business.
But he wanted to work at Bosma. He loved it and the people. He had maintained a relationship with many of his instructors and even played Beep Baseball with some of them.
One day Kurt got a call from James Michaels, Bosma's vice president of programs, to gauge his interest in running Bosma’s rehabilitation center. He was excited at the prospect. “It was a place I knew I had to work,” he said.
A few short weeks later, Kurt was hired as the new rehabilitation center manager. “I love this job,” Kurt said. “I would do it for free. There is an all-star team here and I am just thrilled to be working with them.”
In addition to his work at Bosma, Kurt still maintains his consulting business. He suffers from Non-24 Disorder, which causes him to lose sleep because his body has trouble knowing it is night since he has no light perception. “I am up late at night, so I continue my consulting as a night job,” Kurt said.
As the rehabilitation center manager, he enjoys checking out all the new accessible technology available to clients. “I am a gadget freak,” he explained. “We are currently riding a tsunami of accessible technology. I was talking with a group the other day who is working on a pair of sunglasses that has a camera in it that uses facial recognition and Facebook to alert the user of who just walked in the room,” he said. “There are some incredible things going on right now, and I am excited we are surfing that wave.”
Kurt has started playing golf again. He works with a sighted guide who points him in the right direction. The rest is up to him.