A feel for precision produces a long career in the Boston Globe
WATERTOWN — Dressed in a long blue smock and safety glasses, feet propped on a ledge below his work table, Pietro Fusco spends his days riveting tiny parts with powerful machines. It is precise, potentially dangerous work, and Fusco, who is blind, does it all by feel. Fusco, 71, has been assembling parts for Braille typewriters at the Perkins School for the Blind for five decades, relying on his heightened sense of touch to place minuscule pins in half-dollar-size plates, using grooves to guide his dry, weathered fingers to the right hole. When he rivets the parts together, he listens for cracking or other unusual sounds to tell him if something is wrong. Fusco puts together 20 of the 50 assemblies that go into each Perkins classic Brailler, of which around 8,000 are sold each year — the most widely used Braille typewriter in the world.
Fusco, who grew up in Italy, had poor vision as a child. By age 40, he was blind. He never learned to read Braille, however, and therefore cannot use the machines he creates.
Fusco arrives at Perkins on foot by 5:45 a.m. most days and makes coffee for the 13 other workers in the shop, tucked into the back corner of the stately campus. Asked whether he likes his work, he sidesteps. “I’m used to it,” Fusco said in a melodic Italian accent. “I never took work for work. I took work like a game.” He has had only one accident in his 50 years on the job, when a press came down on his left ring finger, leaving him with nerve damage.
“In terms of output and quality, he’s the best,” said Dan Roy, the director of operations for Perkins Solutions, which also sells a computerized Brailler.
As Fusco works, the only sounds are the steady hum of the riveter, the clink of metal plates, the whir of the spindle, and the clatter of finished plates landing in a bin. Beside him, another machine, operated by a deaf-blind man, emits blasts of air. Fusco often listens to WBZ on a 40-year-old radio, held together with rubber band and tape and two Brailler knobs.
At the end of each day, he punches out with a timecard that he dog-ears on the upper left corner so he can tell which one is his. At the moment, he has no plans to retire.
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