This post is about the road to employment for job seekers with vision loss, and it is actually an excerpt from a correspondence with an adult who is blind or visually impaired. It includes some of my key messages, while trying to address some of his concerns.
The issue of not finding employment has been a battle for many. In a tough economy, we have to be even more qualified and skilled. You have a lot of training and experience as an accountant, and I am hoping you have kept up those skills. I saw that you have offered your skills as a volunteer, have you offered these skills to local organizations? I would bet there are a number of organizations willing to take your help locally. Are you engaged in your community? Are you a member of any professionally related organizations? Have you been networking with businesses in the community? I have lots of questions. Finding employment is a full-time job, and I believe you have been working really hard on the task. We have to be creative and set ourselves apart from the crowd. We have to be a notch above the rest.
Tip: Interviewing is a skill, just like playing a sport or anything else. We have to practice it, get help, and solicit feedback from others. It shouldn’t be a skill we just break out for a big interview. How often do you practice your interviewing? Make opportunities to practice, set up times with trusted business persons or even just friends and ask for feedback on your interviewing. Set up mock interviews (we have information on this in the Job Seeker’s Toolkit. Practice!
How to Disclose Your Disability
Disclosure of your disability: My preference is towards the time of the interview or in the interview itself, depending on the situation. (Again, this is something we cover in the Job Seeker’s Toolkit.) We all have to keep our skills up to date and fresh. Even the best candidates work to improve their skills. I practice interviewing, take advice on my resume, and practice networking with people in the community all the time. APH CareerConnect is a program and part of AFB’s family of websites; it began as a database of mentors who are blind or visually impaired and successfully employed. You can register for free and contact mentors who work in various fields. You can ask them for advice.
Tap Your Community Resources
Tip: Use the resources in your community; there are likely more than you realize. They may not all be educated on visual impairment or blindness, but we can learn from all of these resources. My advice to a job seeker: “There are tons of resources out there, even in your local community. Colleges often have career centers, and some of these are open to the community, as they receive public support. There are employment centers and places to get advice on interviewing and resumes. It should be your job to get yourself out in the community and to connect with resources.”
Be Positive and Proactive
Tip: Be positive and proactive when working with associated professionals from vocational rehabilitation agencies and community rehabilitation providers. Some advice to a job seeker: “It sounds like you had a great relationship with your counselor in Las Vegas, and I bet that was because you were positive and proactive. Continue being positive and proactive, a positive attitude in interactions goes a long way.”
Get Comfortable with Explaining Your Disability
Tip: We have to be comfortable speaking about our disability in practical terms as it relates to employment and particular job duties. Some advice to a job seeker: “We need to practice how to explain our disability. Most likely you are disclosing every day of your life. We disclose information all of the time, but we have to practice and be comfortable.”
Get Feedback on Your Conversational Skills
Tip: Interacting, relating to persons, and conversing take practice. It takes practice and feedback from others to know about our conversation skills. We don’t want to dominate a conversation. Most people want someone to listen to them, and that means we have to practice being a good active listener without taking over the conversation. My advice to a job seeker: “We have to practice connecting and communicating with people, relating to them on different topics— this creates a connection.”
Choose a Professional E-mail Address
Tip: Your email address should be something appropriate and simple, possibly the first letter of your name and last name. Employers are turned off by childish, strange, or inappropriate email addresses. I know employers who will rule out an applicant just from their email address. I know when interviewing this is something that I look at, as well. My note to a job seeker: “You may want to change your email address. I am assuming you were born in 1969, but the BFranklin69@domain.internet address might bring the wrong idea. 69 has some inappropriate social implications or innuendo, just a thought.”
Do you know of www.disabledperson.com? It is a website of job postings from employers looking to hire persons with disabilities. They have over 40,000 jobs on their job boards; it is something to check out. There is also GettingHired.com, which is a website aimed at persons with disabilities and employment. Just another resource to check out.
The American Foundation for the Blind works to create resources for people who are blind or visually impaired, professionals working with people who are blind or visually impaired and their family members, and helps with policy and technology development. We hope that we have provided you with some new resources and encouragement.
You can check out the October issues of AccessWorld, AFB’s free online technology magazine that provides evaluations of mainstream and assistive technology specific to the needs of persons who are blind or visually impaired. The October issues have an employment focus in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Did you know you can download the app for AccessWorld through the Apple app store for your iPhone or iPod Touch for free?
Visit CareerConnect’s Useful Links for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired for more useful websites to explore, and be sure to check out all that Careerconnect® has to offer, too.