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Dallas 311 contracts jobs to Envision Dallas, hiring people who are blind or visually impaired

Seven people who are blind or visually impaired, are starting a new contract with the City of Dallas to take 311 calls.

DALLAS — Around 11,000 calls will funnel through Envision Dallas's call center every month through the city's 311 line.

David Stupay, the managing director of Envision Dallas, said a three-year contract was signed with the City of Dallas. Seven people with blindness or visual impairment will be taking 70 percent of the city's municipal court calls. Three of those individuals are bilingual.

Stupay said, "The city manager and the director of the 311 Call Center came to us and said we have this amazing problem. We're dropping hundreds of thousands of calls a year. We're having backup for all of our numbers and our wait times are incredible. And so we started talking about this opportunity." 

The program went through a successful trial period, and now a contract is officially signed between the city and Envision Dallas. 

"There's 150,000 people in North Texas who are blind or visually impaired. 70 percent of them are unemployed," said Stupay.

The call center is located at Envision Dallas's office, where resources are available. Zoomtext is used to help the visually impaired magnify text on the computer. And JAWS, Job Access With Speech, is a program for people who are blind. It recites what's on the screen in a person's left ear, while he or she can hear the customer's call in the right ear.

Esmeralda Paugh is one of the customer service representatives who will be taking the 311 calls. She is visually impaired, diagnosed with congenital glaucoma as a baby. 

Paugh said a career can be hard to find for someone with her condition. "The thing that I don't think people understand is they slap "equal opportunity", but it's really not." She said her skills are often overlooked because of her vision. Envision gave her the career opportunity that many other employers wouldn't. She said, "They've allowed me to essentially create my own career here."

She's looking forward to taking the 311 line calls for the City of Dallas. Most of the calls will be regarding municipal court and letting customers know what their options are. She knows her work will make a difference in the community.

Envision Dallas is a nonprofit and the largest employer in Texas for people who are blind or visually impaired. 

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