Jim Walton has a knack for fixing computers, cell phones, and other electronic gadgets.
Some would say that skill comes naturally to most 19-year-olds in these days of Generation Text.
What makes Walton’s ability even more special is that the Clay Center native has been blind since birth. And today, he uses his skills to keep tech systems running smoothly at Genoa Local School District buildings under the supervision of technology coordinator Tom Baker.
Walton joined the staff of the Genoa district as an assistant technology coordinator in January.
He works three days a week, six hours a day.
“He’s a fascinating guy,” said Dennis Mock, district superintendent. “I mean, what he is able to do is unbelievable. I was having trouble with my cell phone the other day and he takes it and fixes the problem in no time.”
Walton attended Genoa schools throughout his entire educational career. As a middle school student, he received a specially programmed laptop that fueled his fascination with technology. Then in high school, his independence soared when he was able to join the high school marching band as a trumpet player.
Walton’s computer education was fine tuned as a junior and senior at Penta County Vocational Center in Perrysburg.
“They said they had a program there that they said would be perfect for me. Really? I couldn’t believe it,” Walton recalled. He received an A-plus certification in computer technology. He is now enrolled at Owens Community College where he will receive another certification in the fall.
He ventured into the Genoa district as an employee by first volunteering to take on an internship with Baker.
“I told Mr. Baker, ‘I want to work with you,’” he said.
Baker treated him like any other, making him go through the interview process and testing his work on the machines. “I was worried at first that we would have to reprogram everything so that he could work on it,” Baker admitted.
But Walton carries a flash drive with a screen reader program that lets him communicate with the machinery with little problem. He did so well during the internship that Baker said he had no misgivings about approaching the administration to see if there was a place for Walton on the staff.
“I don’t even consider it a disability any more. He’s been able to adapt very well,” Baker said.
Walton’s blindness has even given him an edge in some ways. His hearing is one example.
“He has walked into a room and immediately identified the fan as the problem – because he can hear that it’s running different,” Baker explained.
Walton’s daily regime includes a number of projects he is completing for the department. Yet, he is capable of handling the emergencies when Baker is out of the building or away at a seminar. Then you may find him navigating the school hallways with his cane on his way to scope out the latest problem.
And Walton is appreciative of the chance he has been given.
“I don’t want to say I am an example – but I know I am example of what a person can do,” Walton hedged shyly.
He ponders how his life could have been so much different because of his blindness.
“They wanted me to go to Columbus,” Walton said of the push in his early years to send him to schools specializing in handling his disability. “My mom said ‘No, he’s staying right here.’”
And right here is where Walton loves it. He’s making his own money and hopes one day to make his own way.
“I honestly want to keep my job as long as I can. I want to get on my own,” he said.
He lives with his mom now but envisions a day when he is living independently in Genoa.
“That the next step,” he said with determination.