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Maintaining Employment As a Person with a Visual Impairment

Group of multi-ethnic business partners discussing ideas

We recently discussed landing a first job as a person who is visually impaired. We reviewed what it takes, from sound blindness-specific compensatory skills to sufficient interview preparation, and I mentioned we would continue the conversation to discuss what it takes to maintain employment as a person who is blind or visually impaired.

To maintain standard, competitive employment:

  • It takes satisfactory Orientation and Mobility.
  • It takes proficient literacy via braille or print-with-magnification and typing skills.
  • It takes use of assistive technology for note-taking, computer use, and access to print.
  • It takes organization of your work space; time; and print and electronic documents.
  • It takes negotiating job accommodations.
  • It takes negotiating assistance.
  • It takes courteous social skills. This entails using proper body language which will be visually interpreted.
  • It takes displaying consistent positive work habits.
  • It takes presenting oneself professionally with good hygiene and mature clothing choices.
  • It takes exceeding employer expectations.
  • It takes appropriate problem-solving techniques.
  • It takes staying relevant in one’s job field by continuing education and training.
  • It takes self-awareness, likely gained from pursuing constructive criticism. If a necessary compensatory, technology, interpersonal, or job-specific skill set is inadequate, pursue training.

Please utilize our free, accessible, and self-paced Maintaining Employment and Advancing Your Career eLearning course to guide you through developing many of the above characteristics.

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It’s Valentine’s Day and You’d Love to Secure a First Job

Red and white Valentine's Day card with red hearts

Happy Valentine’s, my friend. Maybe your mind is on your special date this evening or perhaps it’s on Singles Awareness Day (It’s legit, look it up!). Regardless, allow me to turn our attention from that ever-so-cute and chubby cupid to that ever-so-overwhelming and important job hunt.

Take heart, folks who are blind or visually impaired can be successfully employed. Case in point—browse AFB CareerConnect’s success stories and note the variety of jobs held by people with visual impairments.

Yes, it’s possible for people with visual impairments to secure jobs, as well as exceed expectations and advance in careers. I think this begs the question for first-time job seekers, what does it take to land the job and perform well?

Let’s focus today on what it takes to land the job, and thereafter we’ll focus on what it takes to excel in the job.

AFB CareerConnect is here to guide you through these processes. Here you can gather expertise and ask questions. However, don’t forgo working with a local service provider; if you do all of the above, you will be best equipped to land your first job—one I hope you will love!

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Pre-Employment Lesson Plans for Consumers with Multiple Disabilities

We previously discussed occasionally wishing we had a lifeline (in “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” terms) when it comes to teaching our students who are blind or visually impaired with multiple disabilities. We want to ensure we’re not overlooking important skill sets, we wonder what practical skills are imperative for students with multiple disabilities succeeding in the workplace, or we’re new teachers and want a starting place. As a lifeline, I offered pre-employment skills and activities for consumers with multiple disabilities.

Today, I’d like to bring AFB CareerConnect’s lesson plans to your attention. They are geared for use with young teenagers who are blind or visually impaired preparing to transition to college or the workforce. I want to be sure you know many are appropriate or can be tailored for our consumers with multiple disabilities. Take note of the following FREE series of lesson plans.

Two female colleagues working with a laptop computer

Free Lesson Plans for Students with Multiple Disabilities

Social Competency Topics

  • Social Skills - provides consumers with an overview of verbal and nonverbal techniques for conducting themselves considerately, appropriately, and positively
  • Assertiveness Training - equips consumers to acknowledge their interests, desires, and concerns; advocate for what is important to them; manage conflicts; establish boundaries; and decline requests
  • Stress Management - presents endeavors and relationships that enrich emotional health and well-being, equipping consumers to manage work-related stress before it feels overwhelming

Employment Readiness Topics

  • What Is Work - builds an understanding of the basic components of work, such as planning and fulfilling responsibilities, contributing to a group, and working towards a shared goal
  • Journey to a Successful Work Experience - prepares teenagers who are blind for summer work experiences
  • Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide - prepares students for competitive, integrated jobs and careers
  • Problem Solving - introduces a systematic approach to problem solving through a motivating, practical application: fundraising for a celebration or field trip
  • Leadership Training - presents the self-advocacy and social skills necessary to become an effective leader
  • Money Management - introduces clients to spending and saving money intentionally and wisely

I hope you will find these series helpful. If you are familiar with additional lesson series or resources for working with consumers who are blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities, do share them in the comment section below.

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Pre-Employment Skills and Activities for Consumers with Multiple Disabilities

Throughout my years as a transition specialist in Tallahassee, Florida, I remember introducing myself to a number of incoming students with multiple disabilities, getting to know them, assessing their pre-employment readiness skills, and working with teams to establish individualized career-related goals. Often the process was straightforward. Other times I wished there was (as “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” hosts would say) a lifeline. Call a friend, poll the audience, anything.

Teachers of students with visual impairments, VR counselors, and transition specialists, if you too need an occasional lifeline, may this be the starting place. Here you’ll find an inventory of skills and activities that will help your consumer with successful employment.

Pre-Employment Skills for Successful Employment

Social Competencies

Orientation and Mobility

  • Basic safety moving within familiar and unfamiliar environments
  • Learning specific travel routes (as simple as a trip to the bathroom or as complex as independent bus travel)
  • Using paratransit services or other transportation options

Employment Readiness

  • Identification of personal strengths, abilities, interests, skills, and limitations
  • Following directions
  • Understanding the principles of work (You can utilize lessons within the “What is Work?” lesson series)
  • Identification of community support, including supported employment

Pre-Employment Activities for Successful Employment

These skills and experiences will begin preparing the consumer for successful employment, whether standard, competitive employment; supported employment (long-term use of a job coach); or employment within an enclave (a workplace with six or fewer individuals with disabilities), mobile work crew (small, supervised group of individuals with disabilities who travel to job tasks within the community), or a sheltered workshop (supervised worksite employing only people with disabilities).

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Common Job Accommodation Questions and Their Answers for Employees with Visual Impairments and Their Employers

An overhead view of a group of adults sitting around a table using different technology devices with the word Access in the middle of the table

Whether you are a job seeker or new employee who is blind or visually impaired or an employer who is considering hiring a person with a visual impairment, I know job accommodations are a significant concern. You want to ensure equipment, workspaces, and processes are accessible; you want an efficient workflow, and you want to minimize the cost of assistive technology and adaptations.

To ease your mind and put you on the right track for accommodating accessibility issues, review this list of common job accommodations questions and their answers:

Job Accommodation Q&A

  1. Who should bring up limitations or performance problems related to a disability? The employee should bring up any limitations or performance problems related to your visual impairment. Generally speaking, the employer should not assume any problem is disability-related.

  2. How can I determine necessary accommodations? Here you will find steps for determining accommodations; additionally review, Job Accommodation Network's "Questions to Consider When Accommodating Employees with Visual Impairments".

  3. What types of job accommodations are available? Learn about the wide variety of accommodations available including both low-tech and high-tech solutions.

  4. Can you give me a few examples of accommodations for people with visual impairments? Review AFB CareerConnect’s virtual worksites; illustrations are provided to give examples of how employees with vision loss can perform their duties in a variety of work environments.

  5. Do all employees with visual impairments require the same job accommodations? No, accommodations vary depending on the eye condition, amount of useful vision, use of braille or print, job duties, presence of additional disabilities, etc.

  6. What are the costs of job accommodations [because I’m in cold sweats]? You will be pleasantly surprised when you read information about the cost.

  7. When the employee requests an accommodation, does he/she need an accompanying eye report? An eye report is not necessary. However, the employer may ask the employee to bring an eye report or other verification if a visual impairment isn’t apparent.

  8. Can reasonable accommodations be requested for a volunteer position? While one can always ask for reasonable accommodations, the volunteer is only protected under the law if technically an employee.

  9. Does an employer have to provide the exact accommodations requested? No, the employer and employee can discuss appropriate options, and the employer can decide which she will provide.

  10. Should the employer fully cover the cost of all necessary accommodations/assistive technologies? First, note that the employer isn’t responsible for supplying personal accommodations or technologies, such as a talking watch, white cane, or accessible calendar. Second, when possible, the employee should use technology or devices already owned. Third, the employee should discuss assistive technology needs with a local vocational rehabilitation counselor, who may be able to provide equipment. Otherwise, the employer should provide accommodations to processes or equipment, assuming it is not placing an undue hardship on the employer.

  11. What are the legal considerations for job accommodations? You'll want to read this overview

Don’t hesitate to ask additional questions in the comments section. It is my pleasure to provide feedback and additional resources.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions from Job Seekers and Employees Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act

Tips for Making Print More Readable

Glossary of Eye Conditions

Statistics on Blindness

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