by Katy Lewis
Happy National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)! As we continue to celebrate NDEAM, it is important to review the second element of this year’s theme, “Expect. Employ. Empower.” A huge part of why we have NDEAM is because of those employers that provide jobs and those employees who work hard to get hired. After searching through CareerConnect’s Career Clusters, deciding on a career path that is right for you, and seeking advice from mentors online, it is important to put those resources to work. But what if you are worried about your job interview? Or if you aren’t sure how to disclose your disability?
Employ. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired have obstacles to overcome during a job interview, but that does not mean that they are not qualified for the position. It is important to come prepared and be confident in yourself. If you don’t believe you can do it, neither will the employer. Make sure that you have taken the necessary steps to ensure your career success. The Job Seeker’s Toolkit is an accessible, self-paced, and free online course that helps prepared job seekers for all aspects of the employment process, including the interview. The Toolkit also offers modules in self-awareness, career exploration resources, finding employment, and maintaining employment. So let’s say you just got a call from a potential employer to set up an interview, but your employer is not aware of your disability? Well, the course has advice for that! It is important to put your potential employer at ease and address any concerns they might have. This helps you have a better interview and a better chance of getting the job. So let’s say you have the disclosure part down, but you get nervous during interview questions and are not sure what to say. Well, the course has advice for that too! Check it out for yourself on the Job Seeker’s Toolkit Interview Module.
by Joe Strechay
I am currently in Northern California, spreading the message of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). I have a meeting with staff from Lighthouse for the Blind-San Francisco this week, and I am speaking at the California School for the Blind, Cupertino schools, and San Francisco State University. As I make the rounds out here, I am also making time to connect with CareerConnect mentors, AFB contacts, and other impressive people who are blind or visually impaired.
I am always preaching the importance of having mentors who are blind or visually impaired and mentors who are not. I want to take this time to salute the CareerConnect mentors who volunteer to respond to queries, questions, and surveys for our program. I know for a fact that they are making a difference. Their number one complaint is that they are not contacted enough. The CareerConnect mentors provide field-specific knowledge from their own lives. They have lived it and proved themselves in over 300 different career fields.
I still have mentors who guide and advise me on my life and career: My thanks to Darren Burton, Bryan Bashin, Carl Augusto, Jennison Asucion, Erik Weihenmayer, Crista Earl, and many others who continue to impact my life. All of these successful people whom I look to as mentors are important to me whether they know it or not. A few of my mentors I may admire from a distance as they are impressive people who are blind or visually impaired who put themselves out there.
Mentors are not a one-size-fits-all type of thing, as I utilize mentors for different areas of my life. I am in a unique position where I am surrounded by these amazing people who are blind or visually impaired. Please take the time to thank and salute your mentors as we celebrate Disability Mentoring Day.
I know Detra Bannister, AFB’s employment specialist, and I are grateful to the AFB CareerConnect mentors for giving their time, guidance, and information to inspire youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired. People tell me all the time that they look through the jobs our mentors have for their own inspiration and read all of the success stories in the Our Stories section of CareerConnect. So, thank you!
Let us know if mentors have impacted your life in the comment section.
by Joe Strechay
White Cane Safety Day or White Cane Day is celebrated on October 15, and I felt this was the perfect time to tell you about traveling as a person who is blind of visually impaired. I have a white cane nicknamed "Slim" that travels with me everywhere. It isn't always easy, but I wouldn't do it any other way at this point in time.
I have been a cane traveler for a number of years now, and it isn't always perfect. I choose to use a heavier and more durable white cane as I travel a lot and my cane takes a beating. Recently, I was traveling through Grand Central Station in New York City when I hit something with my cane. There was no noise, so I felt around with my cane to determine my way around this object. At this point, a woman spoke up as she happened to be the object I had maneuvered around. She began to yell that I had hurt her with my cane. I responded, "Oh, I'm sorry; I really didn't mean to do that." She yelled, "You hurt me; you hit my ankle." I apologized again, but she continued: "You really need to watch out, you can hurt someone." Holding up my cane, I said, "Madam, I am blind and I try my best, but watching out is a literal impossibility." She continued to yell at me, even as I apologized again.
After a few minutes and feeling quite embarrassed, and fighting the urge to make some sarcastic comments, I decided it was time to just walk away. Truthfully, what did this woman want me to do? Stay at home instead of working, living, and paying taxes? This event hurt my feelings a bit, but you just have to keep on keeping on.
I spend a lot of time traveling, meeting with people and business persons. I am so grateful for my life, family, work, my training, and "Slim." I wouldn't be able to do what I do as a person who is blind or visually impaired without my white cane and the training I have received. Having a disability—or even multiple disabilities if you throw in a learning disability and a bit of attention deficit—I try never to take things for granted. For example, if I am in a new location, I can't just see where the closest bathroom is, but maybe I can listen and hear the toilet flush, faucet running, or the hand dryers blasting. There are always other ways to look at things. My white cane is one thing that makes my life easier. My confidence in using it is something that no one can take away.
- People who are blind or visually impaired either cannot see, or cannot see well. So, please don't lecture them when they don't see you.
- The white cane or long white cane doesn't pick up low-hanging obstructions such as tree branches, poles, and obstacles at head level across sidewalks. Please keep your branches trimmed around the sidewalk, as some of us are around 6 feet tall or even taller.
- Parking on the sidewalk or across the sidewalk obstructs the sidewalk, so you might end up with a ding from my white cane on the side of your car.
- On a related note, don't pull up into a crosswalk because I can't see your car there. If you catch me on the right day, I just might walk right into your car with my sturdy cane swinging. Also, forcing people to walk into traffic is not cool!
- Don't leave things across the sidewalk. The sidewalk is for walking, not storing your lawn equipment, bicycles, or motorcycle.
- Read about the White Cane Law, which requires you to yield for persons who are attempting to cross the street who are blind or visually impaired. It is the law!
- Remember that pedestrians have the right of way.
- If you are using lawn equipment or a jack hammer near an intersection, please stop for a minute or two if you see that a person with a white cane is trying to cross the street. Otherwise, he or she might have to navigate a few blocks out of the way to find another route that is safer.
- People who are blind or visually impaired use the sound of the surging traffic to cross the street at intersection. We first determine the control (stop sign, light, yield), and then we figure out the flow of traffic and how the intersection works. That's right—traffic is often a friend of a person who is blind or visually impaired!
- Resist the urge to grab and drag a person who is blind across the street. If you want to help, introduce yourself, and say, "I was wondering if you would like some assistance crossing this street?" If they say "yes," offer your arm above the elbow (their left hand on your right arm or opposite). You can tap their arm, as this prevents the person from having to feel around. Most of us are not looking to feel around a stranger to find their elbow—seriously!
I feel confident in my travel skills with my sturdy white cane. With these tips, I hope it'll be safer and easier for everyone with a white cane to get around.
Find out how you can get involved in your community's White Cane Day activities by finding your local blindness-related organizations via the AFB Directory of Services.
by Katy Lewis
Have you ever wondered what happened to the AFB CareerConnect mentors from the Our Stories section? After being gainfully employed and achieving success in the field, what is next for these individuals? Simple, more success! With AFB CareerConnect's new Where Are They Now series, you can catch up with all of your favorite mentors and see what they have been working on.
The first mentor AFB CareerConnect checked in on was recording and performing artist Becka deHaan. The last time we connected with Becka, she released her debut album, "Wait for the Wind," but what has this talented mentor been up to?
As a triple award nominee, Becka released her second album, "Long-awaited, Unexpected: Songs for Christmas" on October 31, 2012. Described as having "a traditional yet soulful, spirited sound," this second album highlights Becka's development as an artist in performance, writing, and arranging music.
“I knew I was never going to need convincing to do a Christmas album,” Becka said. “I’ve had a particular fascination with the Nativity story ever since I started singing solo in 1999; the carols were a wonderful musical and lyrical dwelling place, and it was only a matter of time before I would proudly have a Christmas album in my discography.”
With four nominations for her second album, did Becka ever achieve her first win? Read more of Becka's Where Are They Now story to find out!
by Katy Lewis
It is finally October which means it is officially National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)! This year's theme, decided by the United States Department of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, is "Expect. Employ. Empower," and each week CareerConnect is breaking down these elements and providing free resources for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired. This week we are focusing on "Expect." According to Kathy Martinez, the assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, this year's theme is about much more than just hiring. "It's about creating a continuum of inclusion. And the first step in this continuum is expectation."
Expect. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired must grow up expecting to work and succeed at their job regardless of their disability. It is important to set career goals and go out and achieve them, but what if you don't know where to start? The first step in setting a career goal is to research what career is best for you. AFB CareerConnect offers a variety of Career Clusters from Business to Education or Hospitality to Law for individuals to search through to find which career is right for them. You can select a Career Cluster to learn more about that industry and check out what type of jobs fall under that category. You can also read different Our Stories profiles from mentors who are blind or visually impaired who have worked in the field.
It is important to conduct a thorough career search before setting any career goals. What if you learn that the job you thought you wanted did not fit your personality? A thorough career search will eliminate doubt that you may have when making such an important decision such as a career path.
So pick a career that interests you, work hard to learn the necessary skills for that position, and expect that you are capable of performing that job regardless of your disability.
Want to learn more about a specific career? Check out the Career Clusters!
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