For a guy who was just named one of the state’s top employees who is blind, Jerry Berrier is surprisingly humble.
“My secret is really just showing up every day and trying to do the best I can,” he said.
Berrier was honored last week with the 2017 Carroll Society Award, which recognizes Massachusetts employees who are blind or visually impaired and who have made significant contributions in their workplace by their outstanding ability and job performance.
Berrier, who works at Perkins School for the Blind as a program manager for iCanConnect, said, “It is a real honor to get an award like that. I wasn’t expecting it.”
The award is given annually by The Carroll Center, a Newton, Massachusetts-based nonprofit that offers programs for people who are blind or visually impaired. Berrier was one of six individuals honored on June 1.
The Carroll Society Awards recognize employees “who are making a difference,” Dina Rosenbaum, the Carroll Center’s chief program officer, said when announcing the winners.
“We look for special qualities that distinguish this person, making him or her a valuable member of the department or company – characteristics that demonstrate to those around them that vision is not required for success,” she said.
Berrier, who was born with an eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity that eventually left him completely blind, has made an impact both on and off the job.
In his position at Perkins, Berrier helps manage the FCC’s National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (commonly called iCanConnect), which provides communication equipment and training for individuals with significant combined hearing and vision loss who meet federal disability and low-income guidelines. He manages the program in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and provides database and equipment support to partners in the 19 other states where Perkins leads the iCanConnect program.
Berrier brought to that job decades of experience in customer service and technology. He previously worked at the Verizon Center for Customers with Disabilities, and as an access technology consultant for the Mass Commission for the Blind (MCB).
He also brought intangibles that separate an ordinary employee from an exceptional one.
“I have a great desire to support Perkins in any way I can,” he said. “I feel very grateful to be here. Every day I feel that way. That’s part of it. But it’s also that I come from a family that has a pretty good work ethic.”
Away from the job, Berrier is an avid hiker, and helped the Mass Audubon produce a booklet that explains how to make nature trails accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities, including blindness. He’s in his third year as president of a computer user group for blind or visually impaired people, and was recently appointed to the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee.
But, even with that list of accomplishments – and a shiny new Carroll Society Award plaque that lauds him for “being a positive influence on others” – Berrier insists he’s just a regular guy.
“There’s nothing special about me,” he said. “I mess up all the time. But the thing is, I keep on going.”