Chelsea’s Albert “Bud” Averyt will be among hundreds of Oklahomans with Disabilities and their supporters who will share their personal stories with state lawmakers during People with Disabilities Awareness Day 2017 set for March 28 at the Oklahoma state Capitol.
Early registration for the event ends Friday. To register, go to www.okdrs.org/pwdad-registration and complete the form. Those who do not register can still do so at the event.
“Engage and Empower” is the theme of the annual event scheduled for noon to 4:30 p.m. at the state Capitol. Those attending are asked to wear green so that lawmakers can more easily identify supporters of the event.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin will present the keynote address at the awards cermony at 3 p.m. on the South Plaza of the state Capitol. The Oklahoma School for the Blind will begin playing at 2:15 p.m. on the South Plaza and will play until 2:45 p.m.
This year’s theme is a call to Oklahomans with disabilities, their families and their supporters to engage Lawmakers and to share their personnel disability stories. Such opportunities help Legislators understand what programs are vital to assist Oklahomans in finding jobs and leading independent lives.
This year, Lawmakers again face a challenging budget, and people with disabilities and their supporters need to share their stories so that vital services that help give them independence continue for others into the future.
Averyt is one Oklahoman who has become a taxpayer through the assistance of DRS, turning his passion for guns from a hobby into a career as a gunsmith.
His love for firearms began at age 17 when he bought and converted a military rifle.
“The first thing I did was cut off the stock, cut off the barrel and crowned it,” Averyt said, smiling a little as he remembered the process. “I had to bend the bolt handle because I added a scope, contoured the receiver, and drilled and tapped holes for the scope mount.”
A gunsmith was born thanks to “a little common sense and a lot of reading.”
Thirty-eight years later, Averyt is still doing everything from rebarreling a rifle to building custom guns.
Averyt has a visual disability due to retinal detachment and diabetes. He received help from Visual Services. VS helped him set up his gun repair business inside General Store Pawn in Chelsea about a year ago.
Before that, “…I did not want to be alive and be blind,” he said. “I know there are people who go through it, and they are fine, but I don’t think I could have accepted it without help.
“This right eye was already blind and two days before Christmas, three and a half years ago. I had a huge bleeder in my other eye, and everything went black,” Averyt explained. “I wasn’t worried when I lost the vision in the right eye because so I still had a good one, but I became worried at this point.”
Diabetes was a factor affecting Averyt’s vision. Lack of oxygen stimulated the growth of extra blood vessels on the back of his left retina which burst, bled and tore the retina loose.
Tulsa ophthalmologist and retinal specialist Dr. Lars Friesberg reattached Averyt’s retina, repaired retinal holes, and removed the extra blood vessels and the blood in his left eye. Cataract surgery was the last surgery Friesberg performed.
Friesberg also referred Averyt to Visual Services assistance with medical expenses.
"I went through multiple, multiple surgeries and they tried to save the right one, but it had been too long,” he explained. “I have 20/80 vision in my left eye except in the center vision where I see nothing.”
A team of DRS Visual Services staff pitched in to help Averyt open his business and return to work.
“Melissa Partee has been my counselor the entire time, and she’s doing a great job,” Averyt said.
In addition to medical assistance, career counseling and referrals to services, Partee authorized the purchase of a milling machine that Averyt uses to do custom work on semi-automatic pistols and install sights on firearms, which represents 30 percent of his business.
Business is good. Currently, Averyt is caught up and ready to repair or customize firearms for his customers.
“Most people know me, and they like the fact that I am here,” Averyt said. “People are picky or pickier about having their firearms worked on than any other service provider – picker about their gunsmith than they are their doc – because of rural America’s love of firearms.”
It will be Averyt’s first Awareness Day, but this annual event has been reaching out to Lawmakers for 22 years.