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Yes, it’s only January but Get Ready to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act this July!

American with Disabilities Act logo

This post comes to AFB CareerConnect from one of our talented and enthusiastic mentors, Katherine Schneider.

Twenty-five years. Not all that long ago, but access has really improved in many ways for the 19% of us who have disabilities because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is still a work in progress and involves much negotiating for access in many situations. But, perhaps, you’re someone who’s benefitted over the years from some of the following accommodations:

  • Assistance animals; more people know laws
  • Free I-bill reader and Eyenote app for the blind so those with vision loss can differentiate denominations of U.S. paper currency
  • Schneider Family Book awards for children's books with disability content are receiving more entries every year showing mainstream interest in disability and diversity
  • Checkers, Scrabble or other accessible board games are more widely available
  • Ramps are more common although not universal like to pulpits in churches
  • Signs about hearing loops are starting to appear
  • Interpreters and captioners are at work in more places like medical appointments, school graduations, etc.
  • Playground equipment usable by kids with mobility impairments is more common
  • Large print programs at worship services and public events are more common
  • Accessible medical devices such as blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, glucose meters, and insulin pumps are now available
  • Print/braille books are sometimes available at public libraries for blind parents and sighted kids or vice versa to read together
  • Buses that have access for wheelchair users and some taxis are normally available
  • Voting machines with audio capabilities are now in use so blind people can vote independently
  • Numerous cell phones, including iPhones, are accessible for the blind or visually impaired as well as iPads and other electronic devices
  • Local sources of gizmos from Independent Living and Aging and Disability Resource Centers are around so newly disabled can try before they buy
  • Powered carts with baskets to ride at grocery stores
  • Hearing assistance devices and Captioning devices provided in movie theaters
  • Occasional audio descriptions provided in theaters and on television
  • Captioned and/or audio described movies available at libraries
  • Audio and touch-tours of museums are more common
  • Electronic access for blind to websites, newspapers, email, etc.
  • Occasional Braille menus, bank statements, greeting cards, utility bills, etc. are not uncommon; just ask for them
  • Para-transit
  • Reasonable accommodations so jobs are accessible and, if they aren’t, job candidates have leverage with the ADA to correct the situation
  • Electric doors are common which helps those in wheelchairs

Those of you who advocate for access for yourself, friends, family and the rest of the 19% of us who need it will make the next 25 years of implementation of the ADA even better. Consider doing the following in your community to celebrate and continue raising awareness. Celebrating might include:

  • Arranging city or county board resolutions in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA
  • Helping arrange a display of adaptive equipment at a local library or museum
  • Offering to Braille messages at a celebration event
  • Contacting your local news outlet with a story idea about how the ADA has benefitted you, a friend or family member, etc.
  • Get involved with a state or local organization for those with disabilities
  • Offer to speak at a local school (middle school, high school or community college) about the ADA and people with disabilities.

When people think of the ADA, they tend to think of ramps and curb cuts. Let's help them realize there is a lot more to celebrate! Let’s give it all we’ve got by way of celebrating and thanking those who made these improvements possible, while reminding everyone that as things change there will always be a lot more to do.

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D.

Senior Psychologist, Emerita

Counseling Service

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire:

Author of Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities and a children's book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold Blog:

CareerConnect app icon Take the time to 'Like' AFB CareerConnect on Facebook and Download the Free AFB CareerConnect App in the iTunes App Store.

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Counting Down to Graduation: January, Understanding Your Options

Close-up of a resume with pen and glasses on the table.

Question: What are your personal goals?

Can you believe it is 2015? I can’t. To be honest, I thought this year would never come, but I’m glad it did. Like many other students out there, I am graduating in just a few short months, and I couldn’t be happier!

Whether you have a plan set in stone or don’t quite know what you are doing, graduation is an exciting and stressful time. Many students will ask themselves, “What am I supposed to do next?”

It is important to weigh your options. Although there are many to consider, the most common options are either finding a job or furthering your education. By now, you should have considered the types of accommodations that would be necessary for your chosen career, and this would have involved a job analysis, evaluating the job duties and skills necessary compared to your own skills and abilities. This is always a smart idea as an individual who is blind or visually impaired or with any disability.

But before you decide the right path for you, you need to be aware of your personal goals. Are you interested in a career? What about going back to school? Is there a line of work that sparks your interest? These are just a few questions among many to consider.

Fortunately, you are not alone. Just like thousands of other soon-to-be graduates, I still have a few things to figure out before I earn my diploma.

For example, do I want to jump into the work force right away? And if so, how do I prepare myself? What type of career do I realistically see myself doing? Does that career require additional education? Have I clearly defined my personal goals?

Take some time this month to figure out your goals; Because whether you will be graduating high school or college, it will be here sooner than you think. Creating specific goals with objectives can help to map out your path toward success or independence as an individual who is blind or visually impaired.

Join me these next few months as I explore my options for the future with the help of AFB CareerConnect. Check out the first module about self-awareness in the Job Seeker’s Toolkit to help you clearly define your interests, skills & abilities, and values.

CareerConnect app icon Take the time to 'Like' AFB CareerConnect on Facebook and Download the Free AFB CareerConnect App in the iTunes App Store.

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National Mentoring Month: Importance of Mentors for Those who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Photo of older woman receiving computer training

AFB CareerConnect® applauds a telling survey recently conducted by the National Mentoring Partnership which, according to their report, finds that one in three young people reach adulthood without ever receiving help or support from a mentor. This compelling report, The Mentoring Effect, "is the first-ever nationally representative survey of young people on the topic of both informal and formal mentoring.” Simply put, it finds that “youth with mentors experience [greater] significant positive outcomes” than those who do not receive mentoring.

Being that CareerConnect, the career education and exploration program of the American Foundation for the Blind, has its own long term active mentoring program we were not surprised to see these results. The helpful mentors of CareerConnect work in over 300 occupational fields. They are here to help any blind or visually impaired youth in transition, as well as adults with vision loss that are trying to get back to work, climb the ladder, or change careers.

AFB CareerConnect® mentors have often acquired a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience that would benefit blind or visually impaired job-seekers as they search out their own particular path to independence.

January, National Mentoring Month, would be a great time to check out our CareerConnect Mentors. And, if you are an adult with vision loss who has employment experience we think National Mentoring Month would also be a great time to welcome you into the CareerConnect family as a mentor where you can give the gift of your knowledge and experience. You, too, can help blind and visually impaired adults and students in transition to succeed in achieving independence in their lives by reaching their career goals.

Read more about becoming an AFB CareerConnect mentor. Also, Visit CareerConnect’s Making Connection section, and find out about contacting mentors who are blind or visually impaired.

Our expectation for young people and adults who are blind or visually impaired is that they will be helped with career exploration and education through this online program and our mentors. This, combined with great transition teaching will allow those who are blind or visually impaired to be more engaged, better prepared, and more ready to work than those who do not take advantage of mentoring opportunities.

Visit AFB CareerConnect to learn more about mentoring, and visit "The Mentoring Effect" to view the full report.

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Job Carving: Creating a Job for a Person who is Blind or Visually Impaired with Multiple Disabilities

A woman and a visually impaired young man working with an ipad

A person who is blind or visually impaired with multiple disabilities has…wait, hold up. I'm not fond of the term "multiple disabilities". People should not be defined by any "dis-" or any list of inabilities, but should instead be defined by who they are and secondarily by what they do offer the world. To my knowledge a better term for "multiple disabilities" does not exist, but know that I am not looking through the lens of "people with multiple inabilities", but people with unique circumstances and non-standard abilities.

Ok, let's continue.

People who are blind or visually impaired with multiple disabilities, particularly those with significant intellectual or cognitive disabilities, have unique abilities and unique barriers to work. Many will not fit the standard roles in workplaces, but will have an assortment of skills to offer employers. Enter job carving.

Are you familiar with job carving? Job carving means to 'carve out', or create, a job for a person with multiple disabilities. The value in carving a job lies in creating a job that meets the unique needs of an employer and utilizes the specific skills of a person with multiple disabilities. It's a win-win.

Typically a job is carved for a person with multiple disabilities by the individual's job coach, who is provided by a state Vocational Rehabilitation agency. The job coach will locate a company that would benefit from the individual's skills. Ideally, a job is found that relates to the individual's interests, provides a well-suited workplace culture (such as a quiet office for one prefers it), and one that benefits both the workplace and the individual.

Suppose you are blind with a cognitive disability. You enjoy talking with people, listening to and sharing stories. After talking with you and your support team, your job coach realized you would be a wonderful conversation partner at a nursing home. Though this job did not yet exist, he communicated with several facilities and introduced you to an interested hiring manager. You will be paid minimum wage to converse with residents six hours per week, creating a warmer environment for the nursing home and providing you with a previously unavailable job that utilizes your skill set and preferences. Win-win? I think so; you would too.

My point is this: If you, your family member, friend, or client is blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities and would like to work, it is entirely possible. If a standard job is not cut out for you, carve out your own. To find local information and support regarding job coaches and job carving, utilize AFB Directory of Employment-Services Listings.

CareerConnect app icon Take the time to 'Like' AFB CareerConnect on Facebook and Download the Free AFB CareerConnect App in the iTunes App Store.

Low Vision

Cooking Without Looking Boot Camp for Blind and Visually Impaired Students

Image of four people standing behind a stove on the set of the program Cooking Without Looking.

You’ve been reading on AFB CareerConnect about the Cooking Without Looking TV Show; now you have an opportunity to attend the Cooking Without Looking Boot Camp in conjunction with the Florida International University (FIU) School of Hospitality. This course will be taught by Cooking Without Looking’s blind chef, Don White. This is an FIU course, which includes specialized tips and instruction for blind and visually impaired students.

Chef Don White is classically trained and has worked around the world and alongside the likes of American celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme, one of Louisiana’s most famous. As well, Chef Don has also owned and managed restaurants, so has that entrepreneurial experience to share.

Blind and visually impaired students are welcome and encouraged to take the 10-day course. At the end of the course, students will receive a certificate that may help them to obtain employment in the hospitality industry. Students can also use the certificate to help start their own catering business.

The 10-day Cooking Without Looking Boot Camp will be held in August 2015, with dates to be announced. Cost is $1,950. If you are a counselor needing further information, please contact Renee Rentmeester at 305.200.9104 with any questions.

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