Jan 16, 2014
ROCHESTER – In 2003, the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI)’s Contact Center embarked on it’s first national initiative when it was contracted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide information via hotline to concerned parents, companies, government agencies, and the general public about lead-based paint and lead poisoning.
Back then four people served as information specialists answering the calls. It was a learning experience, to say the least.
“There was no real way to know what to expect, or what we would encounter, when they called in. In fact, until we got a sense of what information the callers were looking for, we were literally flying by the seat of our pants,” said Michael Douglas, 57, who was one of those first four information specialists.
“This was new ground we were breaking,” said Michael. “Yes, the beginning stages were somewhat intense, but all in all, it has become a labor of love knowing that we are contributing to the safety and well being of children and adults throughout North America.”
Michael, who is legally blind as the result of a childhood illness, stuck out the initial trials and tribulations that accompany any start-up business unit by learning everything he could to answer all of the phone calls, emails, faxes and document requests coming into the hotline with the high level of customer service that ABVI has always prided itself on.
“If I was a concerned parent calling into the hotline because I thought my child’s health was in danger, I would want Michael to be the one talking to me. He is so kind and knowledgeable,” said Carrie Abbott, Contact Center Manager.
Michael has been a key player in why two other EPA hotline contracts were awarded to ABVI’s Contact Center. Due to his data entry accuracy and attention to details, in 2008 the EPA’s Toxic Substance Control Act line was added to the Contact Center. To provide the highest level of service to callers on this new line, Michael did all he could to learn about the subject matter of the hotline, which involves toxic substances, the dangers they pose, and the process for documenting, importing and exporting the substances.
A year later, Michael accepted the challenge of taking calls for the Federal Lead-Based Paint Program hotline. This hotline documents the certification of trainers, companies, and individuals in numerous jobs associated with lead paint removal and remediation. Michael took on this new responsibility while in the midst of increasing call volumes and extended hours to assist with new government renovation, repair, and paint regulations for lead-safe practices contractors needed to learn, follow, and obtain certification for.
“Michael has stepped outside of his comfort zone to assist training his colleagues to learn these EPA contracts. He has shared his knowledge of the vast federal EPA regulations, as well as passing on his exceptional customer service skills,” said Carrie.
2013 was also a special one for Michael, as he celebrated 10 years of service with ABVI.
“The reason I have stayed at ABVI for as long as I have is because the organization has made things available, as well as accessible, to empower me to do my job well,” said Michael.
His computer has been adapted with software that will enlarge items and reads things aloud that appear onscreen. He also utilizes a CCTV to view printed materials.
“I consider myself very blessed, and proud to be working for ABVI as a Contact Center representative,” said Michael.
One of the more amazing facts about Michael’s 10-year tenure with ABVI is that he has never called in sick. He attributes this achievement to his strong faith in God, trying to live a healthy and active lifestyle, and the example his father’s strong work ethic set for him.
“Michael is the kind of employee every manager hopes for – kind, reliable, conscientious, intelligent, excellent performer, and an absolute pleasure to work with and to know,” said Carrie.
As a result of his many contributions and accomplishment throughout his career with ABVI, the organization is pleased to recognize Michael Douglas as its 2014 Peter J. Salmon Employee of the Year.
About the Peter J. Salmon Award
As ABVI’s Peter J. Salmon Employee of the Year, Michael will accompany ABVI President and CEO Gidget Hopf to the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) National Conference and will be considered for the national award.
The award was established in 1968, and is named after the late Dr. Peter J. Salmon, one of the nation's outstanding advocates for people who are blind, who was instrumental in the passage of the original legislation that created the AbilityOne Program. Nominees must not only demonstrate successful on-the-job performance but also for other positive activities, both at work and in the community.
Todd Pipitone, APR
Public Relations Manager