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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 October 2011 Issue  Volume 12  Number 10

In This Issue

Editor's Page

AccessWorld Celebrates Disability Employment Awareness Month

Lee Huffman

Mobile Technologies

AccessWorld: There's an App for That!

AccessWorld is proud to announce that you can now download the AccessWorld App on your iPhone! —Ricky Kirkendall and Darren Burton

Product Evaluations

Product Evaluation: Braille Sense OnHand Notetaker and PDA from HIMS, Inc.

HIMS Inc. has introduced a new member of their Braille Sense line, the Braille Sense OnHand. The OnHand is a very small and powerful braille notetaker and PDA with both braille and speech output and is capable of interfacing with loads of off-the-shelf mainstream products. —Deborah Kendrick

Employment Issues

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Employment Resources that Work—Revisited and Updated

Over the past 12 months, we've seen some exciting changes and amazing additions to the employment opportunities available for people with disabilities. —Joe Strechay

Making the Right Impression: Interview Tips for Applicants with Vision Loss

Some tips and advice on preparing for a job interview. —Joe Strechay

Employment for People with Vision Loss: A Brighter Forecast

Though the current employment picture is not particularly positive, there are many signs that point to better times ahead for job seekers with vision loss. —Joe Strechay

The Current State of Employment for People with Vision Loss: National and State Perspectives

A round-up of some of the initiatives and programs around the United States that are providing employment assistance to people with vision loss. —Joe Strechay

Letters to the Editor

Responding to Paul Schroeder's Article, "Responding to Shifts in Technology: Accessibility in a Changing Environment"

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News


Editor's Page

AccessWorld Celebrates Disability Employment Awareness Month

Lee Huffman

Dear AccessWorld readers,

In this issue of AccessWorld we celebrate October as Disability Employment Awareness Month. We take this opportunity to focus on employment with articles that provide strategies, insider perspectives, and information about employment resources.

October is a time to celebrate the skills and accomplishments of American workers with disabilities. Further, it's a time to illuminate and discuss the employment barriers that still exist and to pursue with renewed vigor their removal.

The effort to educate the American public about issues related to disability and employment began in 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

As you will see from reading this issue, AccessWorld writer Joe Strechay has been quite busy authoring four employment-related articles, each of which provides an important perspective on the employment of people with vision loss. I am also sure you will find Deborah Kendrick's review of the BrailleSense OnHand a very informative read.

I encourage you to respond to the two surveys you'll find described in AccessWorld News. By participating in this research, you can help improve accessibility for the over 25 million Americans who experience vision loss.

I am also very excited to announce in this issue the launch of the brand new AccessWorld app. Read Ricky Kirkendall and Darren Burton's article to learn how you can have AccessWorld on your iPhone!

I hope you enjoy this issue, and I hope you will join AccessWorld in recognizing and celebrating the inroads individuals with vision loss—and all types of disabilities— have made in the world of employment.

Sincerely,

Lee Huffman

AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief

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Mobile Technologies

AccessWorld: There's an App for That!

Given AccessWorld's mission of keeping readers up to date on the latest in accessible technology, we are proud to announce that you can now download the AccessWorld app on your iPhone!

This free app allows you to browse and read the entire AccessWorld collection up to the latest issue—it's like having 10 years worth of AccessWorld at your fingertips! The app also allows you to locate the contact information for any member of the AccessWorld team, should you have any questions or comments.

The app is optimized for VoiceOver and other accessibility features, and is compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch devices. Simply visit the App Store and search AccessWorld.

The AFB TECH staff has been evaluating iOS apps for a couple years now, and we have expanded our AFB Consulting work to evaluate apps for clients.

Given today's trend toward mobile applications and the popularity of Apple's highly accessible iOS devices, the AccessWorld app was a logical next step for us. Ricky Kirkendall, AFB TECH intern from Marshall University and co-author of this article, worked in conjunction with his mobile development company, FloCo Apps LLC, to create the AccessWorld app.

We encourage you to download the AccessWorld app and to check for updates as we make improvements and add features. We look forward to hearing your feedback on our latest AFB projects. Stay tuned for more news and announcements as we continue our involvement with mobile applications and other accessible technologies.

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Product Evaluations

Product Evaluation: Braille Sense OnHand Notetaker and PDA from HIMS, Inc.

In conjunction with opening its first US office in Austin, Texas, the Korea-based HIMS, Inc. introduced a new member of their Braille Sense line, the Braille Sense OnHand. The OnHand is a very small and powerful braille notetaker and PDA with both braille and speech output. It's designed specifically for blind people and is capable of interfacing with loads of off-the-shelf mainstream products.

Product Description

The Braille Sense OnHand measures 4 by 7 by 1.5 inches high, and comes in a sturdy protective case with shoulder strap. All buttons and ports are accessible without removing the case. The device sports a white top panel on a black body. The top face of the unit has an eight-key Perkins-style keyboard below which is a row of four evenly spaced function keys. Below the function keys are the 18 cursor routing buttons and their corresponding 18 8-dot braille cells on the display. The braille display is particularly pleasing; all keys and buttons are logically and conveniently located.

On either side of the braille display are two keys that can be used for scrolling the display for reading, or activated in concert with other buttons and keys for a host of operations. The front edge of the unit holds a 3-position audio mode switch and five buttons related to audio functions; the left side of the unit holds the AC adapter port, a USB port, and a convenient lock switch; the right side holds the SC card slot and external microphone and headset jacks. On the top panel of the unit, between and above the dots 1 and 7 keys of the keyboard is the external speaker. On the bottom back edge of the unit is the battery door. The OnHand comes with a unique battery that has clear tactile guides to assist in its removal and replacement.

General Features and Overview

The Braille Sense OnHand offers both braille and high-quality speech output. Either can be turned off at any time with a keystroke. The unit can run on either its user-replaceable battery or AC power. It comes equipped with a spare battery and clever battery charger with audible indications to notify the user that the battery is ready for use (a full charge takes about 3 hours).

The OnHand's range of capabilities is truly impressive. You can use it to take notes; keep your calendar; track addresses and other contact information; listen to music, podcasts, audio books, or the FM radio; read your e-mail; browse the Internet and stream content; build databases; and access both text and audio DAISY content. You can pair the OnHand with your smartphone or other Bluetooth device, use its built-in compass and GPS capabilities to map out routes to desired locations, and even play games. You can, of course, check the time and date, set alarms and reminders, use a scientific calculator, and read a wide variety of file types transferred from your computer or other devices. Five versions of the Bible, both New and Old Testament, are fully searchable and easily navigated by book, chapter, and verse once loaded onto the unit.

Navigating

As with other Braille Sense devices, getting started with the OnHand involves learning some basic navigation functions. In general, Braille Sense navigation patterns are somewhat like the patterns used to find your way around a Windows-based computer. The primary operations of the function keys, for example, will remind you of your Windows Start key, Alt, Tab, and sometimes other operations. Pressing F1 brings up the File Manager, which is home base. While there are shortcuts to most applications, you can always locate everything by starting with the File Manager. Once there, press Enter to go directly to any selected file. Navigation at this point is typical, moving from available drives to folders, sub-folders, and ultimately files. The device sometimes got stuck while navigating this way, but starting over at the File Manager solved the glitch each time.

Once you've selected the file you'd like to use, the OnHand will usually open it in the appropriate application automatically. The list of file types this product can access is fairly extensive: doc, docx, pdf, txt, rtf, brf, brl, and hbl (Braille Sense braille files). The media player will play mp2, mp3, mp4, ogg, wav, and wma files as well as a host of less common file types.

Again, finding your way around the Braille Sense OnHand is often similar to finding your way around a Windows-based PC. You can have multiple applications open, and switch with a few keystrokes (F2 + F3) from one to another. You might be writing a document in the word processor, for example, while also listening to your favorite NPR station on the FM radio or your favorite Tim McGraw song in the media player. Concurrently, you can open the Web browser to look up the weather forecast, or check your e-mail through the OnHand's e-mail program. You can check the title bar of the particular program in focus or rotate from one application to another with F2 + F3.

One tiny navigation aid I especially appreciated throughout the Braille Sense system is the numeric location indicator. For example, if you are reading e-mail, you will see "3/25" on your braille display to indicate that the active message is the third of 25. Similarly, the Braille Sense will always show you how many items or applications are open at a given time.

The OnHand always opens with whatever application and/or file was displayed when you last shut the unit down.

Features

The Braille Sense OnHand has far too many features to elaborate on each application extensively. All applications function well and many function extremely well. Online help is always available from within every application.

Web, E-mail, and Contacts

Because the OnHand has both wireless and Bluetooth capabilities, you can access the Internet from anywhere.

The Web browser's Favorites lists is pre-populated with selections of particular interest to blind users. The browser allows navigation by links, headings, or chunks of text, and has no problems downloading files or streaming audio content.

E-mail reading and navigation is effortless. The OnHand's e-mail program translates your contracted braille-written messages into standard text for your recipients, and translates incoming messages into Grade 2 braille.

The address manager includes all of the usual fields as well as an unlimited multi-edit box for inserting any text that might help you remember details of a particular contact.

Other Features

Upgrades to the OnHand can be downloaded and installed by the user.

The word processor, which opens a blank document when launched, allows you to select, cut, copy, and paste as you would in any similar program. You can format files for braille or print output and send them to a printer or embosser.

The FM radio allows you to type in a target frequency, scan for frequencies, and establish presets. The radio always displays the frequency of the current station. The utilities installed on the OnHand include a scientific calculator, stopwatch, and alarm clock. The Braille Sense OnHand can be connected directly to a computer for use as a mass storage device, a feature long overdue in the world of braille notetaking devices. Simply connect the device to any computer and it will show up as an additional drive for the seamless transfer of files to and from the unit.

If you have an account with Bookshare, the OnHand can download and unpack a book for reading with just a few easy keystrokes. If you choose a DAISY-formatted version, the book can be easily navigated in the Braille Sense DAISY player, moving forward or back by page, heading, time, or bookmark depending on the mark-up of the particular book.

Finally, while not yet available at this writing, the ability to download and play digital talking books from the NLS BARD site set to be released soon.

Shortcomings

It's surprising to me that a device so rigorously designed is missing a couple basic elements. First, although general notes of any sort can be entered into a blank word processing document or entered into the schedule or address manager, a simple notes feature— an instantly available location for entering a quick bit of information— would be extremely useful. Secondly, although a free dictionary has been included in the Favorites list within the Web browser, a built-in dictionary would be more expedient.

The only serious negative in this product is the user's manual. There are many sections in which the translation from Korean to English is so poor as to render the intended meanings incomprehensible. At other times, instructions are incomplete or even incorrect.

The technical support staff in the Austin office is extremely competent, knowledgeable, and patient, and bridges the gaps in the written documentation. A more usable manual would go a long way toward efficiency for company and customers alike.

The Bottom Line

One dilemma faced by blind computer users has long been the choice between a mainstream product that can enable the user to easily exchange information with sighted colleagues and friends, and the specialized blindness product that offers braille and speech output and features of particular interest to blind people. With its Braille Sense products, HIMS has taken a major step toward incorporating both concepts into a single product, resulting in extremely powerful devices designed for blind users but capable of interfacing with a myriad of mainstream applications and file types. Most promising of all, perhaps, is that the OnHand's easily upgradable status renders it an outstanding product with an ongoing potential for enhancement.

Note: Although this is a review of the Braille Sense OnHand, all functions discussed are also available in the Braille Sense Plus, which has a 32-cell braille display, 8GB rather than 4GB internal memory, built-in LCD display, Ethernet port, compact flash card slot and host USB port. The Braille Sense Plus is larger and heavier and costs about $1,000 more than the OnHand.

Product Information:

Product: Braille Sense OnHand.

Price: $4,995 (Sense Navigation, the GPS application for the Braille Sense OnHand, is based on the popular Sendero GPS software and is an additional $1,595).

Available from: HIMS, Inc.

888-520-4467

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Employment Issues

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Employment Resources that Work—Revisited and Updated

As National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) kicks off this October, I want to revisit the employment resources we presented last year. Over the past 12 months, we've seen some exciting changes and amazing additions to the employment opportunities available for people with disabilities. This is not to say that the employment process has become easy, or that the high percentage of unemployment among people with disabilities is close to being resolved. The problem of people with disabilities being unable to find employment at a level equal to their education persists. If you visit the American Foundation for the Blind's statistics page, you will see that we still have a long way to go before reaching employment parity. That said, it's important to recognize how far we've come, explore where we are currently, and articulate where we need to be when it comes to employment for people with disabilities.

The History of National Disability Employment Awareness Month

In 1945, Congress designated the first week of October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped week in an effort to educate the public about hiring people with disabilities. In 1962, the word "physically" was dropped from the title in order to make the designation inclusive of all disabilities. In 1988, Congress made the decision to designate the entire month of October National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Technology and the Employment Process: Benefits and Challenges

The employment process comprises training for employment; researching employment; applying for a position; interviewing, accepting, and starting a job; and maintaining employment. Over the last 15 years, much of the initial phase of the employment process in the US has moved online, meaning job seekers must have access to a computer and the Internet in order to find, research, and act upon the largest number of employment opportunities. Libraries can be an option for those who do not have a computer with Internet at home, though not all libraries have screen access software available. In addition, due to budget and staff limitations many libraries have trouble maintaining the technology they do have.

The move toward online applications has some benefits, such as the ability to quickly apply for a job in any location in the nation or world. A job seeker can apply to a job listing directly from their smartphone via the Web or an app, which can be convenient and fast. A negative aspect of searching for employment online is the proliferation of scams that offer work in exchange for a small investment or an "easy, work-from-home opportunity."

The ability to network online and connect with people who may be working in your field is a major benefit of technology's role in the employment process. Along with this benefit comes the challenge of ensuring that the people you meet online are honestly representing themselves and their motives.

Another positive aspect of today's job search is that there are many easily accessible sources for job listings. Online newspaper classified ads, corporate and business websites, job search websites, job announcement boards, and online list services all allow for more and faster access to opportunities. With these opportunities comes the increase in effort required to search through jobs that may not relate to your interests.

Technology has also changed the work environment in a profound way. Working from home has become a more accepted practice now that the office is only a call, chat, e-mail, or text away.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Everyone is afforded equal opportunity and access to the employment process under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Civil Rights Act, Rehabilitation Act, Age Discrimination Act, and Genetic Information Discrimination Act. Employers are not supposed to ask prospective employees about their disabilities, but people with disabilities have to be prepared to bring up the topic creatively in order to answer unasked questions related to their ability to perform job requirements. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides oversight over the laws relating to employment and preventing discrimination during the employment process.

AFB CareerConnect

The CareerConnect website is a fully accessible AFB subsite dedicated to promoting the employment of people with vision loss. CareerConnect boasts a number of helpful resources, such as an online mentor database of gainfully employed or retired people who are visually impaired or blind. These mentors can be contacted for career and employment advice through a safe online messaging system. CareerConnect also offers employment-related articles, useful links for job seekers, and career exploration and résumé development tools. In addition, CareerConnect offers useful tools and activities for professionals working with clients who are blind or visually impaired.

Career Clusters

Recently launched on AFB CareerConnect, Career Clusters provides an easier way to navigate government data on popular fields and also facilitates connecting with mentors through field-targeted message boards.

Currently, Career Clusters covers law, education, counseling, and healthcare—more fields are set to launch in the near future.

The Job Seeker's Toolkit

Career Connect's Job Seeker's Toolkit launched in the fall of last year. The Job Seeker's Toolkit is a free, self-paced, online course aimed at people who are new to the employment process. The Toolkit consists of a series of lessons and assignments that cover self-awareness, career exploration and job seeking tools, pre-interview and interview skills, and job maintenance. As you work your way through the Toolkit, you can save your assignments—ranging from your network contacts, to your résumé and cover letter, to a list of job leads—to your My CareerConnect portfolio where they can be accessed for future reference or use.

National Industries for the Blind

This year, the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) brought a new spin to their employment training programs by adding management tracks. The NIB now offers a contract management training program in connection with a federal government university program. The NIB's member organizations hold a number of federal contracts, and the program provides the opportunity to train people to manage those contracts. Contract management is a marketable skill that can be taken to other organizations, governmental agencies, and the public sector.

In 2011, NIB's Networking Group will celebrate their first year of providing great off- and online networking opportunities in the Washington DC area. NIB would love to start Networking Groups in other metropolitan areas.

NIB CareersWithVision

The NIB CareersWithVision site is the result of a collaborative effort between AFB CareerConnect and the NIB. The NIB has compiled a large list of jobs from around the United States for positions within organizations that do work in fields related to blindness or that have hired people with visual impairments. A unique feature of the site is that you can submit your CareerConnect résumé with one click to participating organizations to apply for jobs. Create your CareerConnect user profile to get started. This service is provided at no cost to you. Search the CareersWithVision job board to see what's available.

Hadley School for the Blind

The Hadley School for the Blind offers online and correspondence courses for people with vision loss in subjects related to blindness skills, business writing, employment, and more. This past year, Hadley launched an exciting program called the Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship, which offers in-depth information and training for entrepreneurs who are blind or visually impaired and who want to start their own businesses.

Accessing Federal Jobs

Federal agencies have two job application methods available for people with disabilities: competitive and non-competitive placements. Job applicants must meet the specified qualifications and be able to perform the essential job duties with reasonable accommodations.

Jobs that are filled competitively are advertised on USAJOBS, the official job-posting site used by the United States government. There are approximately 16,000 jobs available on the site each day. Once you register on the site, you can set up notifications for job advertisements related to selected keywords. President Obama wants to increase the percentage of people with disabilities working with the federal government—this should mean more opportunities for people with disabilities, now and in the future.

Jobs filled non-competitively are available to those with mental, severe physical, or psychiatric disabilities who have appropriate documentation as specified by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website offers useful connections to resources for self-employment, youth employment, employer advisement, the latest disability policies, and more. This office advises the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies on employment issues regarding people with disabilities.

GettingHired

GettingHired, LLC offers training courses, opportunities to connect with employers, career personality assessments, and other employment resources for people with disabilities. GettingHired has recently announced a partnership with HirePotential, Inc. HirePotential, Inc., will provide specialized training courses for national employers on the accommodation process, disability etiquette training, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs compliance, tax credit utilization, and disability awareness training for recruiters and hiring managers.

Job Accommodation Network

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is an online resource for accommodation advice for all disabilities. The website also allows users to submit questions regarding special accommodations and ADA issues in the workplace. JAN hosts webcasts on the provision of job accommodations; the programs can be accessed through their website.

Career One Stop

Career One Stop is a free resource provided by the U.S. Department of Labor that allows you to search your state's job bank database.

Career Centers

Career centers help people perform research to support professional goals. Colleges, universities, and post-secondary and vocational schools often have career centers, and many are available to the public. You may have to visit, call, or do some online research to find out what is available to you locally. Keep in mind that many career centers maintain robust websites accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. These sites may offer many free resources and materials. Career centers are often underutilized and most are eager to have visitors. Some receive grant money to offer services to the community or state, and some actively recruit people with disabilities to their centers.

Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies

Vocational rehabilitation helps people with disabilities prepare for entry or re-entry into the workforce. Your local vocational rehabilitation agency will offer a range of programs, resources, and services to help you prepare for and find work. The range of programs offered by these agencies varies from state to state, so research your local vocational rehabilitation agency, determine what programs and services you are eligible for, and get registered.

In most cases, these organizations exist to help you become job-ready and find employment. Some may also train you in independent daily living, orientation and mobility, and access technology. These organizations will also know about other available resources in your community and state. To find a local or state agency near you, use AFB's Directory of Services.

Final Thoughts

During National Disability Employment Awareness Month and beyond, take the time to spread the message that individuals with disabilities can be great employees. If you're in a position to do so, open some employment doors for a qualified person with a disability. It's important not to forget the word "qualified," because we are advocating for employment equality. Contact your local state agency for people with disabilities to find out if there are any awareness activities planned this month. Your local state vocational rehabilitation agency, blind services, or community rehabilitation provider would be a good place to start.

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Employment Issues

Making the Right Impression: Interview Tips for Job Applicants with Vision Loss

What better month than October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, to talk about preparing for a top-notch interview.

Getting Ready to Present Yourself to a Potential Employer

Though this article is concerned with the interview itself, there are a number of important issues you should devote some preparation time to prior to the interview, such as: practicing your answers to possible interview questions, printing out clean copies of your résumé and cover letter, reviewing the published job posting so the job requirements are fresh in your mind, and determining how you'll disclose your disability. For more information on these and other important elements in the job seeking process, visit AFB CareerConnect. There, you can register to take the Job Seeker's Toolkit, a free, self-paced online course that takes you step-by-step through the career exploration and job seeking processes.

Technology at the Job Interview

Be prepared to demonstrate any technology that you will need to use for work or the interview. Create a checklist of the devices (high- and low-tech) you would use to complete work tasks. Next to each device listed, indicate whether you will bring the actual device or a photo, video, link, description, or other aid for explanation. Ideally, you would bring the technology with you so the interviewer can see how it's used, but if that's not feasible, bring as much information as you can to help explain. You could even create a short video or provide a list of links to videos or sites that demonstrate a given device.

Keep in mind that most employers don't know how people with visual impairments perform job tasks. It's best to be prepared to show your preferred methods and technologies quickly and efficiently during the interview.

Technology can be a great way to break the ice or get the attention of an interviewer, but you don't want your interviewer to be so distracted by technology that he or she misses the most important part of the interview: you. Using an iPhone or other mainstream smartphone can be a good way to demonstrate how such familiar devices, along with the many apps that can be loaded onto them, can provide easy access to information.

Outward Appearance at the Job Interview

Dress & Impress is a lighthearted video aimed at demonstrating the importance of appropriate dress and preparation in the interview process. The series of which this video is a part, Aaron's Adventures in Employment, is aimed at teenagers, but the messages apply to most job seekers.

Dressing appropriately can be the difference between getting a job or being eliminated as a candidate. Wear clothing that is clean (no stains), neat (no holes or tears), pressed (not wrinkled), and appropriately sized. Ask a person you trust to view your clothing to see if it fits well. You should go to stores and try on clothing to find out what looks good and is comfortable. Trying on clothes is a necessity, because clothing from different brands will fit differently even in the same size. I encourage clients and students to take a trip to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or another thrift store to find reasonably priced, appropriate interview clothing. Bring along someone with good vision who is knowledgeable about appropriate interview attire.

For women, there is a great national organization called Dress for Success that offers professional clothing for women who are preparing for employment but do not have the means to purchase interview clothes. Dress for Success also provides coaching and advice on the employment process.

Different employers will have different dress codes. If you can ask someone at the interview site what the dress code is before your interview, do so. If you can't, always err on the more professional side.

Below are some general guidelines and tips for dressing appropriately for an interview. All organizations and jobs are different, but it's usually safest to dress conservatively, especially for a job interview. Select, review, try on, launder, iron, and hang your clothing a week before your interview so you have time to make adjustments or get things dry-cleaned if you need to.

Professional Dress for a Job Interview

Below are the basics of appropriate professional dress for a job interview for men and women.

Men

  • Conservative suit (black, navy blue, or gray)
  • Sports coat, dress shirt, slacks, dress socks, dress shoes, tie, and belt
  • Colors should match
  • Shirts should be a conservative solid color with a matching tie
  • Belt should be the same color as your shoes. If wearing a black or navy blue suit, wear a black belt, black shoes, and black or navy blue socks
  • A watch and/or one ring can be appropriate
  • If you have a talking watch, the alarm should be silenced; talking watches can be a distraction and should be worn cautiously
  • Dress shoes should be polished and in good condition
  • Know your sizes and try things on both before purchasing and prior to an interview—clothing that fits properly is important to presenting a professional appearance
  • Men should wear a white undershirt beneath their dress shirt to present a conservative appearance and prevent sweating through the shirt
  • Undergarments should not be visible
  • Clothing should not be transparent or form fitting

Women

  • Dress suit or pant suit with appropriate blouse
  • Jacket with coordinating slacks and an appropriate blouse
  • Jacket with a knee-length or longer skirt
  • Jewelry should be minimal and subtle: small earrings (if any), one necklace
  • Neckline should be conservative and not low. (Very little skin should be showing.)
  • Shoes should be a dark color (black, brown, navy), closed-toe, with a low or flat heel
  • Ladies stockings should be worn and should be a neutral shade or one that matches your skin tone
  • Undergarments should not be visible
  • Clothing should not be transparent, nor form fitting
  • Handbags should be well-kept, moderate in size, neat in appearance, and devoid of ornamentation
Business Casual Dress for a Job Interview

Below are guidelines for dressing for interviews at companies whose stated dress code is business casual. If dressing for an interview regarding a labor-intensive job, ask what is recommended interview attire. You should always avoid inappropriate or very casual clothing at any job interview.

Men

  1. Dress shirt (button down shirt that is striped or a solid color) and slacks (Docker/khaki type pants), socks, belt, and dress shoes
  2. Some businesses will require a tie
  3. Certain businesses may allow a polo shirt as part of business casual instead of a dress shirt
  4. If unsure, stay conservative

Women

  1. Conservative blouse or shirt, knee-length or longer skirt, dress of an appropriate length and neckline
  2. Slacks can be substituted for a skirt/blouse or dress
  3. Ladies stockings are recommended
  4. Minimal jewelry

Regional/Cultural/Organizational Differences

Some regions of the country have different professional dress conventions. It's important to respect the values of the organization and culture you are applying to work within. Some regions are more casual about their dress because of the climate. For example, ladies' stockings or men's ties would less likely be worn in Miami, Florida or Honolulu, Hawaii. Businesses in a region of the country known for having a traditional culture may be more conservative about dress codes. All of this is important to research and understand prior to an interview. Many businesses have written dress codes for employees (and interviewees) to follow.

Find More Employment Information at CareerConnect

For more great tips and information related to the employment process, please visit CareerConnect's Job Seeker's Toolkit. The Toolkit is a free self-paced online course that provides step-by-step guidance on navigating the employment process. Best of luck with your job search!

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Employment Issues

Employment for People with Vision Loss: A Brighter Forecast

I can't believe it's National Disability Employment Awareness Month again! Though the current employment picture is not particularly positive, there are many signs that point to better times ahead for job seekers with vision loss.

In 2010, Congress passed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which promises more equality and accessibility to communications for people with disabilities. I am personally extremely grateful for, and optimistic about, the opportunities that will be prompted by this legislation. That said, a tighter economy means that people with disabilities must be more diligent, and better prepared and trained, in order to find and maintain employment. Job seekers who are willing to work harder and more creatively at finding employment will have a better chance at success.

The challenging unemployment rate and weak economy give us an opportunity to be more creative in many areas of our lives. Creativity will come in the form of new efforts to provide training for persons with disabilities. Organizations must find ways to provide better quality training with fewer resources. In the past twelve months, organizations have reinvented past programs to provide useful employment training for persons with disabilities. Non-profits have opened stores with the mission of providing people with disabilities training in transferable job skills. In addition, corporations across the country opened their doors to mentoring and training programs in areas ranging from culinary skills to traditional office jobs.

2011 has also seen an emphasis on promoting education for students with visual impairments in the STEM subject areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), which traditionally haven't been encouraged areas of study for this student population. Tara Annis wrote a great piece on STEM education for students with vision loss in the July 2011 issue of AccessWorld. With advances in mainstream and adaptive technologies, student and future scientists can independently pursue study and research in STEM subjects. This coming year, we hope to look forward to a national and international effort to promote these areas as viable academic and career possibilities for students with vision loss.

Apple continues to push other developers to include quality accessibility features in their products. Lexmark, one of the organizations honored by AFB with a 2011 Access Award, continues to provide improved access to their printers, copiers, and scanners. Read more about the start of the successful Lexmark accessibility program in Lexmark Marks a Path Towards Accessibility: A New Solution for Multifunction Document Centers, from the AccessWorld archives.

Though cell phone accessibility remains a hurdle for workers with vision loss, new smartphone apps are being introduced every day that expand the functionality of these devices in all sorts of ways. There are apps that read the bar codes on products, label objects, and identify money. Not all apps are accessible, but it is amazing how many are at this point. Developers are having some success working on optical character recognition within apps—with some practice, these types of apps can be used in a work atmosphere to access the content of a document.

The world of assistive technology had its own innovations this year, not the least of which was the development of more options for quality screen reading software, including Web-based versions that allow users to access computers besides their own. Scanning and optical character recognition has become available in more portable devices, and with faster processing. These types of technology advances mean people with visual impairments can have more and better access to printed materials in the workplace. Video magnifiers have improved in flexibility, variety, and portability. Hand-held video magnifiers have become smaller, lighter, and better. Check out Ike Presley's AccessWorld article on camera-model video magnifiers for more information.

Technology helps me accomplish things in life and at work that others may take for granted. As more and more job tasks depend on the use of a computer, I find the employment playing field is becoming more level. There may always be accessibility issues, but I find that these days more things are accessible then not. I'm truly thankful for the manufacturers and developers who make their products accessible from the get-go, and appreciate those who speak out for the rights of people with disabilities and take action to make sure our voices are being heard. The more that manufacturers and developers think about accessibility from the start, the fewer barriers we'll have to equal employment.

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Employment Issues

The Current State of Employment for People with Vision Loss: National and State Perspectives

In a tougher economy with tighter federal and local budgets, non-profits and national and state agencies must get creative in order to provide sustained service levels. Here's a look at how select agencies around the country are

National Perspective

Kathy Martinez, The Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, is a great resource for getting the national perspective on employment for people with vision loss. Assistant Secretary Martinez is a strong advocate for all people with disabilities, and, as someone with a visual impairment herself, she's also a great role model.

Over the past several years, Assistant Secretary Martinez has contributed to a number of projects that have had a positive impact on employment for people with disabilities. Among these efforts are: the American Heroes project, which deals specifically with employment for wounded veterans; initiatives that focus on small business hiring and incentives for employing people with disabilities, and the development of a soft skills curriculum through the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). In addition, Assistant Secretary Martinez's own department took on its own initiative. "The Department of Labor hired a human resources manager who will specifically oversee the hiring of persons with disabilities and their needs," she explained.

Among successful awareness campaigns, the "What can you do" campaign, which promotes the awareness of people with disabilities, was featured in AMC theatres. "Employers and the public are starting to get the message and realize how valuable persons with disabilities are in the workforce," says Secretary Martinez. She shared with us these additional accomplishments and initiatives, which you are encouraged to explore:

Department of Labor's ODEP websites.

Disability Employment Initiative—major grant initiative in One Stops implemented jointly with the Employment & Training Administration (ETA) to build capacity in that system to effectively serve people with disabilities.

Several joint policy guidance issuances (with Jane Oates from ETA) directed to the One Stops on serving people with disabilities.

Policy recommendations developed for reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act

Green Jobs Roundtable and action plan to include people with disabilities in the emerging green jobs arena.

Integrated employment toolkit to be released by September 30th—moving people with the most significant disabilities into integrated employment and at least minimum wage jobs.

Partnership with the Womens Bureau to advance understanding and use of Workplace Flexibility by employers.

Aging and Disability Roundtable and action plan.

We are truly grateful for Kathy Martinez's work and the effort she puts forth on behalf of all people with disabilities.

Hadley School for the Blind

The Hadley School for the Blind has many exciting and innovative training opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. Hadley recently introduced the Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship, a unique program that trains individuals who are visually impaired in entrepreneurship. Before launching the Forsythe Center, Hadley offers a course on how to become self-employed with a start-up cost of $5,000 or less. In addition, Hadley continues to offer courses that prepare students for employment and the job search, and they provide a number of employment related webinars on their website.

National Industries for the Blind

National Industries for the Blind (NIB) continues to offer a variety of opportunities for employment and employment training. NIB's contract analyst program continues to thrive, along with their Washington, DC networking group, which launched a year ago and is steadily growing. The group, made up of professionals who are blind or visually impaired, meets quarterly and maintains contact and shares resources through a Yahoo group. NIB would like these groups to spring up in other metropolitan areas in the near future. People typically find their next job opportunity through networking, so don't be left out!

The State Perspective

Each state has different economic battles to fight, but overall everyone is struggling with a tighter economy. State funding is being questioned across the nation, but often it's this money that funds the services that help people get employed. State programs truly give back to the economy by creating more taxpayers and moving people off government subsidies and into the workforce. When it comes to funding vocational rehabilitation programs, the federal government usually matches state funding at a rate close to 3.8 times. This structure means the strain on the states' budgets is truly minimal, though state dollars must be provided in order to receive the federal match. Programs for children and older citizens, on the other hand, typically rely more heavily on state funds. Here is a look at what's going on in disability employment in a few select states around the country.

Alabama

The Alabama Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) and their partners have a highly collaborative and unique delivery system. ADRS works closely in conjunction with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB), which has five regional centers in the state.

Alabama's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services offers technology exhibitions that are open to staff, consumers, and the public. These events highlight the latest technology available for getting an edge in life and the work force. Alabama has always been known for being strong assisting in the transition from school to work, and the state continues to host a national conference on this area.

Recently, Alabama has begun working with partners, including the Alabama chapters of the American Council of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind, to create a statewide mentoring database. This effort is a part of an employment mentoring program that will help provide support to people seeking employment. The state conducted a mentor training for about 70 people who are blind or visually impaired. The mentor program is another way that the state of Alabama continues to create high quality, thoughtful initiatives.

Rita Houston, Assistant Commissioner for Blind and Deaf Services in Alabama offered this statement:

As Assistant Commissioner of Blind Services for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, I am very fortunate to have competent, enthusiastic, and creative staff. Debbie Culver, Coordinator of Blind Services; Curtis Glisson, Administrator; Denise Holmes, Rehabilitation Specialist; Lenore Dillon, Coordinator of Rehabilitation Teaching, and others direct our various programs, which enhance the employability of our consumers.

Colorado

Here is a direct report from the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation:

As economic times continue to effect a wide variety of programs both public sector and private sector, in Colorado, there continues to be efforts made towards collaborating with our partners. One program we have restructured is the Business Enterprise Program (Randolph Shepard program.) The restructuring includes intensive training, both hands-on and classroom time. This has resulted in an increase in interested candidates and an increase in referrals to this program from Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors. Candidates will complete the training program with a well-rounded foundation in business practices and food handling skills.

We have also collaborated with the Colorado Center for the Blind on an annual Federal employers' job fair. This includes training Federal Hiring Managers about blindness and accommodations for employees. There is also a time for mock interviews for a limited number of job seekers who are blind/visually impaired who went through a rigorous selection process.

There have been a number of projects involving call centers and addressing access issues. The call centers are newly established employment opportunities for individuals who are blind/visually impaired. The job duties and technical skills needed by the employer vary depending on the call center. The call centers range from scheduling transportation for individuals or providing transportation options to passengers while other call centers are information and referral centers.

Maine

Here is a direct report from the Maine Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI):

Maine Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI), in an attempt to hone job seeking strategies, support the notion of true job readiness, and reduce the "revolving door" of employment and non-employment for consumers (who gain employment, lose employment, gain employment, lose employment), created a program to specifically address these type of issues.

Maine's Employability Skills Program (ESP) was designed to support the efforts of consumers who are "job ready" and seeking employment, and assist consumers who are not quite job ready to figure out a pathway to obtain the necessary skills to be ready to fully engage in job seeking activities. The program provides training to increase blindness-specific competencies, confidence, and focused job seeking strategies.

This five-day program, which was created specifically for Maine by Dr. Karen Wolffe, utilizes an immersion model that uses the power of peer mentoring and self-discovery exercises related to acquiring additional blindness-specific competencies that will enhance one's marketability…. In addition, the program provided: hands-on training in how to use the state's various online employment tools in its one-stop Career Centers, online career exploration instruments, and numerous presentations on specific strategies to make job seeking more effective. Participants had time to interact with employers to learn about what they really look for in employees, as well as with other individuals with visual impairments who are currently working in the competitive labor market. The participants concluded the program with an action plan for how they will approach their job searches, or for acquiring additional competencies needed before they begin actual job seeking activities.

The final component of this program is a follow-along series of telemeetings based on the job club model. These telemeetings provide a mechanism to offer additional structure and encouragement for one's job search activities, peer mentoring for gaining the needed competencies before the consumer begins actual job seeking activities, and an opportunity to evaluate what is working and what still might be needed.

Voice Your Support for Employment of People with Vision Loss

State and national programs are critical resources for employment training, rehabilitation, preparation, and education for people who are blind or visually impaired. Contact your state and national representatives to voice your support for the types of programs discussed in this article, and to thank them for their continued advocacy and attention to preserving these important resources during these tough economic times.

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Letters to the Editor

Responding to Paul Schroeder's Article, "Responding to Shifts in Technology: Accessibility in a Changing Environment"

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

My comments below are in response to Paul Schroeder's article, "Responding to Shifts in Technology: Accessibility in a Changing Environment," from the September 2011 issue.

I think his article paints a very accurate picture of the current state of information and communication technology (ICT), and the prospects, negative and positive, for accessibility.

I can see two important implications.

First, the speed of technological change requires earlier warning about accessibility jeopardy. By the time products reach the market it is too late to address their design barriers. An active "horizon scan" program that identified technologies that were a few years away from implementation, could both alert industry and prepare consumers. Such a program should have an explicit policymaker audience so that regulatory oversight can be more productive than confrontational.

Second, the profusion of new technologies and their inherent interconnectedness are new phenomena that challenge the traditional approach to accommodation. A word processor running on a single computer will have a predictable accessibility solution because the interacting elements are few.

But a Web-based word processor running on multiple operating systems, browsers, and devices, with real-time collaborative editing, poses an exponentially larger problem. One solution you point to is the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure, which offers a way to integrate accessibility across platforms and devices. Another solution is to focus on collecting and disseminating information about the accessibility of those multiple elements and combinations.

It's as if accessibility developed in a sparse, desert environment, where all you had to know was "Eat the dates; watch out for the scorpions," but it's now a jungle teeming with thousands of fruits, snakes, trees, and bugs that change every day. We need an evolving field guide to keep up.

With best regards,

Jim

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AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

WorkRERC Studying Workplace Needs for Those with Vision Impairments

The focus of Georgia Tech's Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations (WorkRERC) is to further the understanding of employment barriers faced by people with disabilities. Its goal is to enable equitable access to employment, enhanced employment outcomes, and increased participation in the workplace for people with disabilities.

In a recently completed study, a potential barrier was identified for individuals with vision impairments. More information is needed. WorkRERC seeks your participation in a 15–20 minute survey about access to printed or digital information. The survey has been approved by Georgia Tech's Institutional Review Board.

You are eligible to take this survey if you have a vision impairment and are currently employed. For more information, please visit the WorkRERC survey site.

If you have any questions or would like to arrange to take the survey by telephone, please contact Maureen Linden at Maureen.Linden@coa.gatech.edu, or 404-894-0561.

Survey Announcement: Accessibility of Multifunctional Document Centers

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) seeks adults who are blind or visually impaired and who have experience with Multifunctional Document Centers (MDCs) to participate in an online survey.

MDCs are single devices that perform a variety of different tasks such as printing, copying, scanning, and faxing, as opposed to older office devices that perform only a single task, such as scanning or printing. MDCs can range from simple household printer/scanners to full-size, networked business copiers. For example, an all-in-one desktop printer or fax machine that also allows you to make copies would be considered an MDC.

MDCs are becoming increasingly commonplace in employment settings and schools due to their wide functionality. Though MDCs offer improved functionality, they often use complicated and inaccessible interfaces. In response to this issue, AFB is conducting a survey in collaboration with Mississippi State University (MSU) to determine the types of problems that people who are blind or visually impaired have when using MDCs, along with the quality of the accessibility of MDCs currently on the market.

The survey is intended for any visually impaired adult who has experience using MDCs. The survey will be posted online until we reach our desired number of participants. We are interested in two types of users—MDC users who primarily use their remaining vision and/or magnification tools to read, as well as MDC users who primarily use speech output and/or braille to read. If you are interested in taking the survey, please head to one of the links below:

If you primarily use your remaining vision and/or magnification tools to read, take this survey.

If you primarily use speech output and/or braille to read, take this survey.

The survey is expected to take no more than 30 minutes to complete. Following completion of the survey, AFB will provide you with a $20 stipend to thank you for your time and participation. If you would like to collect the $20 stipend, you will be asked to provide your name and contact information at the end of the survey, and AFB will then send a check made out to you to the specified address.

If you have any questions about this survey, please contact Morgan Blubaugh at MBlubaugh@afb.net. Your participation in this survey will help AFB gather important information that we can share with leaders and policy makers in the field of vision loss about the use and functioning of MDCs by people who have visual impairments. We thank you in advance for your time and participation.

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