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Services for the Blind spokesperson to celebrate DeafBlind Awareness Week June 25-July 1

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

NORMAN, Okla. -- Glenn Cleveland from Norman made a successful transition in June 2020 from the comfort of an assisted-living facility to the challenges of owning his own vending machine business, Wayne’s World of Vending.

Today, Cleveland, who is deafblind, employs three people and supplies 1,450 male inmates and their weekend visitors with popular food items and pop at Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, Joseph Harp Correctional Center and Lexington Correctional Center.

He is also the Oklahoma spokesperson for DeafBlind Awareness Week celebrated nationally from June 25 through July 1 in honor of Oklahomans who are deafblind and world-famous author, educator, lecturer and disability advocate Helen Keller who was deafblind.

Cleveland was selected for the spokesperson honor by DeafBlind Services in Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired at the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

DeafBlind Services provided career counseling, food service training and purchased initial inventory that helped Cleveland become a certified food service manager in SBVI’s statewide Business Services Program, which helps licensed managers who are blind establish their own food services businesses. SBVI also assisted Cleveland in relocating from assisted living to a private home.

Cleveland and his workers keep 36 vending machines operating and stocked with popular entrees that can be heated such as hamburgers or soup, as well as pop, chips, candy and his most popular item, jalapeno cheese.

“We make sure everything is up and running and everybody is satisfied with the product we sell,” Cleveland said in an interview in his Norman home. “When we first started, we would go every day, Now, we have changed to three days a week. We are off on Sundays, but we go and collect the money in the machines, make sure everything is proper and make the deposit in the bank.”

A work crew hired by Cleveland was busy during the interview converting his home garage into a cold storage unit where he will store candy and other products at 60 degrees.

Cleveland and his older brother experienced hearing loss after contracting German measles at 2 and 3 years old. Cleveland has Usher syndrome, which combines hearing loss from childhood with progressive vision loss that began in adolescence.

He is proficient in sign language for the deaf but became aware of vision problems in the eighth grade during a football game.

“We were going into the locker room at the fieldhouse,” Cleveland explained. “We had to run across the field to get to it, and I had no problem because the light shone on it. But coming back to play I noticed I couldn’t see because the light was in front of me. So, I decided I would follow the helmet (in front of me).”

“I’m not totally 100 percent blind. I will say about 95%. Out of my left eye I can see the light, but I can’t see nothing definite. Just the light. I don’t see shadows. If I close my left eye and open my right eye, I can’t see nothing.”

“There have been some struggles, but Glenn is making progress and is able to have his own business,” SBVI DeafBlind Specialist Kelley Gutierrez said. “Glenn is learning and growing and supporting himself. I’m pretty proud of him and proud that he is active in the deafblind community to help others get the same type of assistance.”

Cleveland will be a speaker at DRS SBVI’s DeafBlind Awareness Week recognition event on 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on June 27 at SBVI’s Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at 300 NE 18th Street in Oklahoma City. SBVI chose June 27 because it was Helen Keller’s birthday.

“This will be a time for the public to join members of the deafblind community, advocates, clients and DRS staff in recognition of Deafblind Awareness Week,” SBVI Administrator Tracy Brigham said. “Our program will include speakers, client stories and spotlight services provided by SBVI that empower Oklahomans with dual vision and hearing losses to become employed and live full and productive lives.”

Clients qualify for DeafBlind Services who are legally blind or have progressive visual disabilities that will result in legal blindness and severe to profound hearing loss. or significant communication difficulties. There are no age requirements for services, although the program primarily serves adults.

For more information about services for Oklahomans who are deafblind, contact (580) 310-5318 or email kgutierrez@okdrs.gov.

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Wayne’s World of Vending owner Glenn Cleveland (right) and employee Aaron Smith load food items for his vending machines.

For more information

Brett Jones, DRS Communications Officer

Cell: 405-651-4594 

Last Modified on Jun 13, 2023