Cornell Williams is the lead porter at Alphapointe in Richmond Hill, Queens. It’s a sprawling plant, which manufactures everything from mops for the federal government to face masks for the military.
Williams said it took him a month to get the lay of the land when he began working there about five years ago.
“It took me a while because it’s huge! It’s 19 buildings, there’s four blocks radius,” said Williams.
It’s an impressive timeline — considering Williams is legally blind.
“If the light is totally bright, I will not see you at all. You’ll be a total shadow,” said Williams.
Williams was born with albinism. While he is African-American, his skin, hair and eyes have no pigmentation.
It’s also affected his vision. He said he was completely blind as a child, but around his twelfth birthday, he started gaining some vision.
“Gradually, it started growing. My vision started growing and I could see bigger objects,” said Williams.
Williams explained that, because he considers the little vision he has gained such a gift, giving back to others has become a huge part of his life. He was an essential worker throughout the pandemic, commuting an hour each way between his home on Gun Hill Road in the Bronx and Richmond Hill. Even still, he found free time, and helped homebound seniors in his neighborhood by running errands for them.
“Even if I had to take the money out of my pocket to help them, I would do that,” said Williams.
But in June, Williams said he fell ill with COVID-19. He spent a week at Jacobi Medical Center.
“It was one of the darkest times of my life,” said Williams.
But after the hospital stay and a 28 day quarantine, he was fully recovered.
Williams said he couldn’t wait to get back to work. More than half of Alphapointe’s 374 employees are blind or have a high degree of vision loss.
“When I do plumbing or electricity work, one of the things people say to me is you shouldn’t be doing this. I turn around and tell them, ‘You can’t put no on me,’” said Williams. “The company takes the impossible — and makes it possible.”
It’s something Williams tries to do every day.