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AEP’s DeVendra to be featured on WOSU TV’s ‘Broad and High’ program

by on July 1, 2014

One good (wood) turn deserves another…and another…and another.

Dennis DeVendra, a manager in IT applications at AEP Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, began turning wood 10 years ago as a hobby. Recently, he was interviewed by WOSU TV for an arts and culture show called “Broad and High.” His segment will be broadcast July 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Dennis DeVendra began turning wood 10 years ago as a hobby.

All this might be considered somewhat unremarkable, except that DeVendra is blind.

A 16-year veteran at AEP, DeVendra knew he was going blind when he was 21 years old and a student at The Ohio State University. The diagnosis was retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease. He stopped driving when he was 27. He started woodworking before he lost his sight, first building a clock from a kit.

“In 2004, I visited a local woodworking shop. They had lathes for sale. The owner of the shop worked with me to try woodturning,” he explained. “From there, it did not take long for me to move from woodworking to woodturning exclusively. Although cutting boards was a lot of fun, I found a greater satisfaction in the creativity of woodturning.

“When I started woodturning, I needed to create adaptations to accommodate my blindness,” he added. “I did not have many role models, so many of the adaptive techniques were trial and error.”

DeVendra now offers his works through his website at www.blindwoodturner.com.

How did he get involved with Broad and High?

“I am a regular watcher of WOSU TV,” he said. “I noticed that a new program about local art and culture in Columbus and central Ohio was being broadcast Wednesday evenings. I looked up their information online and sent a tweet to see if there was any interest in featuring my works. They responded within a day or so. On May 2, the crew showed up to my home and spent about four hours interviewing me and taking video.

“I am a regular at the fall AEP Craft and Collectible show put on by Operation Feed,” he added. “I also have contributed several pieces to AEP charity auctions and special events. Two of my bowls have been auctioned off for breast cancer auctions.

Dennis DeVendra has created a number of beautiful wood pieces over the years.

“I get many special requests for items from my co-workers and others,” he continued. “A couple years ago, a co-worker here at AEP asked me to make him a cane. The co-worker is a military vet who walks with the assistance of a walking cane.”

DeVendra also participates in an OSU program that connects mentors to students who have disabilities and are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, known collectively as STEM. According to Ohio State, students with disabilities are sometimes steered away from high-tech careers by teachers and parents who want to protect them.

“My role in mentoring is to help the students figure out how to form strategies that will overcome those challenges,” he said.

Prior to joining AEP, he was a director at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic in New Jersey, and developer and systems analyst at IBM.

“Recently, I have combined my accomplishments of overcoming challenges in both my work and woodturning with motivational speaking,” he said. “If I can do it, others may be motivated to overcome challenges to find their dreams no matter the obstacles.”

From → News From AEP

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