CAREERS & the disABLED Magazine, established in 1986, is the nation's first and only career-guidance and recruitment magazine for people with disabilities who are at undergraduate, graduate, or professional levels. Each issue features a special Braille section.
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Employee of the Year: Frank Facio
Frank Facio was born with the ability to see, but at 17 he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which is a group of rare, genetic disorders that involve a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina - the part that’s the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye.
He knew without a miracle cure, he would someday go blind. “I wasn’t going to let my problems get in the way of living a normal life,” says the mail processing clerk for the Washington, DC-headquartered United States Postal Service (USPS).
“The Postal Service knew about my problem, and supported my efforts to continue working. My eyesight gradually diminished, until I was legally blind.”
At the age of 31, it looked as if Frank Facio needed to consider disability retirement. However, working with management and the union, he’s found opportunities to remain with the Postal Service, and now works on a delivery bar code sorting machine, according to nominator Teresa Navarette, disability compliance specialist at the USPS HQ for the Pacific area.
Facio says he’s blessed with good memory, which helps him when pulling sorted mail and loading trays, and the braille labels added to the bins and racks were a helpful accommodation.
“Franks blindness actually helps him run the machine better than most,” notes a previous supervisor. “He can ‘hear’ a jam starting before most people can ‘see’ one, so he clears it before it becomes a problem.”
When Facio transferred to the San Diego, CA mail processing plant from Phoenix, AZ, he quickly learned a new floor plan and proved himself at a second mail processing facility. “It’s hard work, but I love what I do,” he says.
“Although some are still skeptical, I think I’ve demonstrated to the Postal Service that, with just a few accommodations, people can achieve remarkable things. I’m grateful to my supervisors and coworkers for their support. I never let my blindness get in the way.”
To remain independent, he brought home his first guide dog in November 1992, and each successive one has been a familiar sight around every facility where he works.
“I’ve worked with four guide dogs for the past 27 years,” Facio explains. “It all started with Kelly, a German shepherd, then black Labrador retrievers, Dillon and Gina. And now, my most recent dog, Romano, a yellow Labrador retriever, has recently passed away. She worked with me for eight years.”
“Frank is proud to work for the Postal Service, has a good sense of humor, is an excellent role model, and assists others in the disability family by responding to inquiries regarding working with the USPS,” notes Navarette.
She relates the following example of Facio, who continuously demonstrates vision without sight: “In 1997 he was contacted for guidance on behalf of a carrier who was going blind. With Frank’s input this employee was successful maintaining his employment.”
“It’s simply amazing to watch Frank as he ‘feels’ the mail for proper placement onto the feeding ledge so expeditiously,” says his distribution operations manager, Yvonne Franken. “We’re honored to know and work with such a worthy employee!”
He’s passionate about supporting military and veteran causes. In fact, he’s participated in special events involving the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), the American Legion and Support the Enlisted Project (STEP) as a singer and guitarist with his country band, Steelehorse Country, in which he plays with two other members who are blind.
Facio has processed almost 1 billion pieces of mail during the last 25 years, Navarette points out, adding that he’s been featured in postal and non-postal media recognizing his accomplishments. He’s also met Postmaster General Megan Brennan when she visited San Diego in 2017.
“She sought me out, and wanted to meet me to thank me for my service,” he notes. “So we met each other, and took a photo together.”
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