The Sound of a Job Well Done
Print edition page number(s) 518-518
If you ask a class of elementary students, "What do you plan to be when you grow up?", you are likely to receive a wide variety of answers that include nurses, firemen, baseball players, lawyers, singers, pilots, and teachers. No child will say that he plans to be blind as an adult, even though a few of the children in today's classrooms will acquire a visual impairment before middle adulthood. Although acquiring a visual impairment will affect their job choices as adults, it will not prevent them from being self-sufficient and employed.
For a person who is blind or who has low vision, the right job will be in the middle ground between two opposing stereotypes. At one end of the continuum, there is a stereotypical public belief that only a few jobs, such as singing or piano tuning, can be done by blind persons. At the other end of the continuum, there is an optimistic but equally false belief that is sometimes perpetuated by professionals: "You can do anything you want to if you are willing to work hard enough." This is no truer for a blind person than it is for any other person in the general public.
Most professionals have been asked, "What kind of jobs do blind people do?" The question implies that every employment agency should maintain a master list entitled Blind People's Jobs, when in fact a variety of personal factors determine what job is possible, including physical skills, intellect, communication ability, innate talents, and a host of other characteristics. There are a few jobs that are simply not possible for someone who is visually impaired. Some other jobs are possible, but they may require such extensive adaptations that they may not be the most efficient or satisfying jobs for people with visual impairments. The individual who knows what he or she does best and can envision a job that allows use of his or her strengths to meet a marketable need will be successfully employed.
Successful employment of people who are visually impaired requires dissolution of the two stereotypes described above. A person needs only one right job, and there are many paths that can lead to that job. The employed visually impaired mentors featured on AFB's Career Connect web site (<www.afb.org/careerconnect>) provide a glimpse of these paths.
Given the growth of technological opportunities, is not surprising that many of the Career Connect mentors work in jobs that involve technology as well as auditory input and output: audiologist, musical scholar, voice-over actress, and airlines reservations agent are among these.
The following Practice Perspectives feature describes a work opportunity that for adults who are visually impaired to earn a living as sound engineers who are proficient in the use of sound-production technologies. The lead author, Virgina Jacko, was motivated to initiate the program through her own experience of losing vision. Eighteen adults with visual impairments who completed the program are working independently in the field, and the program has been recognized as highly replicable for other agencies. This innovative program reminds us that a creative approach to employment often means recognizing how abilities can be matched with needs to develop a mutually successful opportunity. In this case, the result is inspiring.
Jane N. Erin, Ph.D., associate editor for practice, JVIB, and professor, Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology, College of Education, University of Arizona, P.O. Box 210069, Tucson, AZ 85721; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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