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Commence the [Super Fun] Discussion: Who is Your Favorite Fictional Employee who is Blind or Visually Impaired?

Man in business suit adjusting his collar.

We usually cover heavy topics, I know. Today let’s kick back, relax, and discuss a downright-fun topic. Who is your favorite fictional employee who is blind or visually impaired?

I can’t wait to hear about your favorite character from a book, TV show, or movie, and the accompanying reason he or she was chosen.

As for my favorite fictional employee who is blind or visually impaired, I have to choose the character of Auggie Anderson (played by Christopher Gorham) from USA Network's Covert Affairs. He works in the CIA as a technical genius and a guide (called a “handler”) for the uncover agent and his on-again-off-again love interest, Annie Walker. Auggie occasionally joins Annie on undercover missions, and I love it when he does.

I chose Auggie as my favorite fictional employee because his character is levelheaded throughout chaotic circumstances, charming, stylish, witty, brilliant, concerned with others’ well-being, and a problem-solving mastermind.

In my opinion, he represents the blind community exceptionally well. Auggie demonstrates that he can do all that his sighted peers can do (minus driving); I’d say, in fact, his job performance and dedication far outshine his coworkers’. Viewers of the show watch as he independently travels, uses a range of assistive technology, and assertively requests and declines assistance. It’s clear that Auggie is capable, confident, and an invaluable member of the office team.

I must also mention Auggie’s social skills. He is likable, funny, and protective of his buddies. He may actually be a little too likable, as the single ladies swarm him. (He doesn’t seem to mind.)

Curious folk should check out this VisionAware interview; Maureen Duffy had the enviable task of talking with the actor who plays Auggie, Christopher Gorham. It’s a captivating piece.

Share your favorite character and why. I’ll read all your comments.


This One Goes Out to the Ones I love; This One Goes Out to the Ones [Feeling] Left Behind: A letter to Middle and High School Teens who are Blind or Visually Impaired

group of blind teenagers

Hey guys,

It’s difficult to formulate my thoughts because all I am doing is singing “This one goes out to the one I love; this one goes out to the one I left behind” in my head; It’s on repeat; make it stop! Do you know that R.E.M song? You might not; it’s an 80’s song and I’m an 80’s child.

I’m thinking about that song because, and this might sound insincere but it is not, I really love you middle and high school gals and guys. Man, this is a difficult season and I care about you as you walk through it. I know 90% of you (I made that percentage up, but I aired on the side of caution) feel left behind, out of place, and like you’re not going anywhere. It’s lonely and it feels like it will last forever.

I’m 30 now, but I remember those middle and high school days vividly. I remember, high school days particularly, because they were very painful. I was bullied relentlessly; I felt lonely; I wanted time to speed up. I wasn’t blind or visually impaired, but I had (and still have) practically-translucent fair skin, red hair, and freckles that outnumber the constellations (or so it seemed to me.) Don’t get me wrong, that’s a beautiful combination, but if there’s ever a time you wish you didn’t stick out, it’s middle and high school.

All that to say: I don’t know exactly what you face as a teen with a visual impairment, but I do know it takes courage to accept yourself. I wish I could show you an easy route to self-acceptance, but it’s a journey that takes time. Can I at least put you on the right trajectory or pathway?

  • Focus, today, on what you are thankful for. This is very (repeat, very) important. You get to choose to focus on what you despise or what you appreciate. Like I tell my six and four year old daughters, “You can choose to be miserable or choose to be thankful.”
  • If your goal is self-acceptance, pay attention to who you are; you can’t accept what you don’t know. Think about what you enjoy; school subjects that interest you; what you are good at; what you are not naturally good at; and what you dislike. Your blindness or visual impairment is only one attribute of you; discover the rest.
  • Find support. Meet others who are blind or visually impaired in your school system, through a summer Transition program, and via online message boards and groups. You are not alone; take some time to laugh (or cry) about the hard stuff with others who understand.
  • If you start to feel there’s no way you will have a happy, productive adult life, take a few minutes to read the "Our Stories" section of CareerConnect. Reading the success stories is a good reminder that you can be successful in any number of hobbies and jobs with the right tools, training, skills, and preparation.
  • There’s something about finding a volunteer position that increases our satisfaction. Maybe it feels good to care for and think about others instead having a thought life consumed with our own needs and insecurities; maybe it feels good to be productive; maybe it feels good to learn new tasks and skills; maybe it feels good to maintain responsibility. I’m guessing it’s all of the above.
  • Make lifestyle choices that will set you up for a positive thought life and bright future. Suggestions include hanging out with friends, eating well, persevering in academics and blindness-specific training and tools, staying active in activities you enjoy, and participating in stress-relieving activities.

Teenagers, standing out becomes a pretty cool thing in the “adult world” if you are kind and respectful to others, and if you accept yourself.

Middle and high school years, the years many crave conformity, are short-lived in the grand scheme of life. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you must put one foot in front of the other to arrive at your destination. In order to move forward, apply some of the advice I provided and you will grow as you go.

We at CareerConnect want to support you. If you have specific questions or concerns, write a message on the CareerConnect message board for teens who are blind or visually impaired.

Your cheerleader,

Shannon Carollo

Social Skills

Perkins School for the Blind Launches New Pre-Employment Program for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Young blind man sitting and smiling at the camera

Spring has sprung! Okay, not exactly, but that’s what I thought when I sat down to write this blog and share with you the new transition offering from Perkins School for the Blind that will be launched during the 2016 spring semester. The Pre-Employment Program (PEP), which begins January 16, 2016, will be offered at the Perkins Watertown, Masschusetts campus every other Saturday through May. And, yes, there are snow days built-in to the schedule – just in case!

This dynamic transition program is offered to give young adults with visual impairments the information and skills they need to explore careers as well as gain the confidence to search for work. The course is tailored to youth between the ages of 15 and 22 who want to strengthen their job readiness skills and break through the barriers that have traditionally kept many adults who are blind out of the labor market.

Perkins School for the Blind has been teaching students with blindness and visual impairment for more than 185 years—longer than any other school in the country. The PEP co-facilitators are Perkins educators who’ve worked with students in the public schools and on the Perkins campus. In addition to working with these educators, PEP participants will hear from and meet guest lecturers with and without visual impairments. Hiring professionals and disability specialists from leading Boston corporations like Wells Fargo and Tufts Health Plan will present to the participants on a range of topics related to employment. Likewise, individuals with expertise in assistive technology and a wide range of other disability-specific skills will describe how to manage competently in the world of work without sight or with low vision.

The young people who graduate from this program will understand what, when, and how to disclose their disabilities in the recruitment process and explain their needs for workplace accommodations or modifications. They will demonstrate their problem solving and goal setting skills by developing comprehensive action plans that will guide their future training and employment experiences. And, they’ll be guided by strong role models who are visually impaired as they make their plans.

In support of their classroom efforts, the students will join and be guided through an online social media site, Yammer, where they can interact with one another and the faculty when they are not in class. This effort will be facilitated and monitored by Perkins faculty to ensure the experience is positive and productive.

Much like spring bulbs, the expectation is that these young adults will bloom and be prepared to enter their adult lives bedecked for success!

The Pre-Employment Program is open to students and young adults ages 15-22. Learn more at

Karen Wolffe, Ph.D., CRC


Constructive Criticism and How to Apply it as an Individual who is Blind or Visually Impaired

Older man and younger man looking at graph on whiteboard.

So you bit the bullet and asked a supervisor, a teacher, a mentor, and a friend for constructive criticism on your job performance and people skills. Or perhaps you never asked, but “got an earful” regarding your need for improvement. You were given any number of suggestions for enhancing your social and work skills. Now what should you do with this hopefully- valuable and hopefully-well-intentioned feedback?

After listening to the feedback, recording it, and thanking the individual for their input (Yes, thank them. They are helping you!), practice the following in order to apply the constructive criticism:

  • Assess the feedback. Was it offered out of malice or jealousy, and therefore not necessarily entirely accurate? Was it offered in order to help you grow? If you’re not sure how truthful or complete the criticism was, ask for a second opinion from a trusted, knowledgeable individual.
  • Identify supporting evidence for the feedback. If it was pointed out that you aren’t usually on time, think through the times you have arrived late to functions over the last month. Accomplish this task on your own time; its purpose is to take ownership of the problem or personal weakness.
  • Determine the order of concerns or topics to address. Decide your priorities and work on one or two areas at a time.
  • Using the counsel in Solving Problems at Work, map out how to work through and address areas needing improvement. You may need to receive training, acquire blindness-specific tools, work with a rehabilitation counselor or Orientation and Mobility specialist, improve habits, seek support, or identify strategies for success.
  • Set goals and seek accountability. Now that you know how to improve your areas of weakness, set realistic goals with accompanying deadlines. Share your goals with a friend, family member, teacher, or mentor, and ask the individual to check in on you to see if you’re doing what you said you’d be doing. This game plan should keep you motivated.
  • After some time of finding success in the areas that were once weaknesses, ask for a follow-up meeting. The follow-up meeting could be to seek feedback on your growth, or it could be a time where you seek additional constructive criticism.

It’s not easy to hear constructive criticism, and it’s certainly not always comfortable to seek constructive criticism. However, seeking and applying constructive criticism could be exactly what you need to cultivate and develop effective work skills and delightful people skills.


National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the United States Business Leadership Network's Career Link Student Mentoring Program

Joe Strechay in a suit speaking to a group of people

Well, yes, it is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this is a month that we celebrate the movement. Yes, the movement to get disability employment to be on the mind of the public and employers. Truthfully, I spend my whole year doing this, but this is the month with a big national and international push for inclusion. During this month, you will see many blog posts on AFB's CareerConnect Blog and from our family of websites. AFB CareerConnect plans on bringing it hard, so stay up with us. We have already brought you a slew of new content and advice on the CareerConnect Blog and from the AccessWorld's employment focused issue.

My National Disability Employment Awareness Month always starts with the end of the United States Business Leadership Network's annual conference. I am passionate about my work at AFB and our partnership with the USBLN. I have been providing disclosure workshops for the Career Link Student Mentoring Program over the past two years. The USBLN Career Link Student Mentoring Program allows college students with disabilities and disabled veterans (typically juniors and seniors or above) to connect with corporate mentors. About 50 percent of the mentors are corporate professionals with disability, and the others often have connection to disability through their family, employment role, or passion for inclusion. As the CareerConnect Program Manager, I want to be connected to programs that make a difference for individuals with disabilities, and the USBLN and USBLN Career Link Student Mentoring Program do just that. I provide the workshops, attend the conference, and facilitate a session or two. I see these students get valuable connections and even jobs. I also see the growth of the students through out the week. The students grow professionally, and more importantly, they grow in their confidence and self-awareness in regard to navigating the employment process.

At events, I stress to the mentees to take advantage of the events and interactions with these successful professionals. I feel like some of the students don't get it until the huge numbers of professionals show up for the full conference. The students even echoed this to me from time to time. I feel lucky to offer any advice possible to students with disabilities, as I navigated my secondary education with a learning disability, and lost my vision from the later part of that education through my college and graduate work.

The work of the USBLN's Career Link Student Mentoring Program embodies everything I hold important in creating a difference for individuals with disabilities. Through my work with our AFB CareerConnect program, I value making the most impact possible. My wife (Jennifer Strechay) and I sacrifice a lot to make sure that I am able to do this. We sacrifice time together, as I travel around 14 days per month, and we are both passionate about making a difference for individuals with disabilities. She works as the State of West Virginia's Commission on the Arts' Cultural Facilities and ADA Coordinator.

AFB works to make a difference in the employment of individuals who are blind or visually impaired everyday of the year. I feel lucky to be a part of that effort. Again, pay attention as AFB celebrates NDEAM throughout the month. Share our blog posts, social media, and resources as part of your own National Disability Employment Awareness Month efforts. Take some time to visit AFB CareerConnect today to explore our resources, and visit the United States Business Leadership Network's website to find out more about the Career Link Student Mentoring Program.