A legally blind barber was awarded $100,000 by a Massachusetts commission against discrimination after ruled he was wrongly fired.
Joel Nixon had been working for Tony’s Barber Shop in Norton for a year before his boss discovered the 29-year-old suffers from a disease called retinitis pigmentosa, according to a recent Boston Herald report.
Retinitis pigmentosa affects Nixon’s peripheral vision and makes it hard for him to see at night. He’s been declared legally blind by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, and the barber said there’s a possibility he may lose his sight forever.
“I could wake up someday and be completely blind, but my goal is to have a nice home with a nice backyard for my son,” a tearful Nixon told the Herald. “I’ve never been to Disneyland, and I want to take him. I want to take him before I lose my vision. I’m trying to do the best I can.”
On the other hand, Nixon says his condition hasn’t affected his work. Barber shop owner Tony Morales fired him in 2012 after he tripped over a customer’s legs and then later that day tripped over a chair in the waiting room, Nixon said.
Morales disagrees with Nixon’s account, accusing Nixon of not being a licensed barber and claims he simply wasn’t pulling his weight in the shop. “It’s a bunch of lies,” he told the Herald. “All of this is false accusations.”
Morales said he plans to appeal the state’s Friday decision, which awarded Nixon $75,000 in lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress.
Nixon said after his firing, he struggled to find employment, his condo went into foreclosure and he was forced to apply for food stamps and appeal to charities for Christmas gifts for his family.
He says he’s still cutting hair and his loyal customers call him the “Blind Barber.”