by Joe Strechay
Recently, I have been hearing from state vocational rehabilitation counselors, job seekers, and noticed this myself — employers are using job descriptions and online application systems with a question similar to this: "Do you have a valid state driver's license?" This question could be introductory or listed as an "Additional Requirement" even when driving is not an essential job duty or task specific to the job. The tricky part is that this question is most likely filtering out applicants who say "no" to the question.
What are job seekers who are blind or visually impaired supposed to do? Well, it leaves answering "no" to the question or lying by stating "yes," and finding another text box to add a clarification. In some situations, the application doesn't have another area that would fit that explanation. In my view point, the wording and use of this question is discriminatory. I have to say, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on television. I do interact with a lot of human resources departments and employers, that really doesn't count for much either. I don't think this is purposefully discriminating against people who are blind or visually impaired. I would assume it is aimed at persons who have lost their license for specific reasons. Either way, this question has become a barrier to employment or even just the hiring manager.
I would bet that the applicants who choose "no" are not even seen by the hiring manager. If you are an employer or human resources specialist, make sure you are not discriminating against applicants who are blind or visually impaired. I found these types of questions in all kinds of jobs, even jobs specific to the field of blindness. Stop discriminating and adjust the wording to this question before this goes to the courts and employer's names end up in the media.
I left a message with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has offered their thoughts on the issue, and even offered a letter to provide to employers. You can also check out Crista Earl's commentary on driverless cars for insight on the related discrimination to persons who don't drive. Have you been encountering this issue?
by Katy Lewis
Finding a job or selecting a career path can be a difficult challenge, but job seekers who are blind or visually impaired should not be discouraged. Anyone who is willing to work hard, find available opportunities, and make connections will achieve success. Although it may seem impossible at the time, it is important to remember that there are many other people just like you that have found career success.
Internships are an excellent way to gain work experience and make connections. They allow students to gain hands-on experience by working with professionals and provide students a chance to determine which line of work is best for them. As a first time job seeker, having one or two internships on your resume will increase your chances of getting the job. Internships are also great for making connections with potential mentors or potential employers. Employers often view interns as prospective employees. If you do a good job during your internship, it might lead to a full-time position after you graduate.
Mentors are essential to the employment process. Someone somewhere probably has the type of job that you want to have some day. With years of experience, mentors are the best source of information if you are curious about how someone who is blind or visually impaired does their job. By asking questions or addressing any concerns you may have, mentors will help prepare you for your future career.
Once you have picked a career, it is important to apply for the position or positions that interest you. More often than not the first job you are hired for is not your dream job, but having this additional job experience will increase your chances of achieving your career goals. As long as you do your best in your current position, the rest will come with more experience.
By following these recommendations, you can be on your way to gainful employment. Need proof? Check out how AFB's National Technology Associate, Aaron Preece, followed these suggestions and landed a once in a lifetime job opportunity.
Read Aaron's story now.
by Joe Strechay
The American Foundation for the Blind and AFB CareerConnect appreciate the sacrifice of our veterans on this day and each day. We wanted to take the time to say thank you and let you know about some veteran specific information.
AFB's VisionAware offers a great resource for veterans and their families, as veterans could lose vision later in life or experience vision loss from incidents during military action. Our family of websites offers resources and these VisionAware resources developed around the adjustment and practical tips. Unrelated to Veterans' Day, you can check out the video that VisionAware did with Assistant Secretary of the Department of Labor, Kathy Martinez. The video about resources for older workers launched in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), but you have to check the video out today.
Wait, there is more. Did you read about the utilization goals added to the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). Well, federal contractors and subcontractors are encouraged to have 8 percent of the workforce as veterans (for employers between 50 to 100 employees). For federal contractors and subcontractors over 100 employees, they are encouraged to have 8 percent within each job category. All of these organizations are not going to meet these businesses, but they should be able demonstrate how they are working toward these utilization goals. This is exciting information and these utilization goals were initiated around March 24, 2014. Organizations are definitely making an effort to get employees to disclose and to recruit veterans.
There is more, a few weeks back I had the great opportunity to speak on a conference call specific to the services provided to veterans who are blind or visually impaired. It was a honor to provide them with my thoughts on resources and strategies around disclosure and navigating the employment process such as you might find in AFB CareerConnect's free Job Seeker's Toolkit online course.
Take the time to give your props and thanks to our United States Veterans for their service and sacrifice. Visit VisionAware and AFB CareerConnect to find some great resources for living life and navigating the employment process.
by Joe Strechay
I am making preparations for the 2014 Council of State Administrators for Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and the National Council of State Administrators for the Blind (NCSAB) conferences in Miami. No, I am not packing my bathing suit and sunscreen; I am packing my suits, hats, white canes, and my game plan for the week. I am looking forward to connecting with people from different states and creating new connections for future partnerships, workshops, and lines for dissemination of resources. I love getting the inside scoop on the new innovative programming coming out of the states, and these conferences are the place to find out what states are initiating.
The services provided by these agencies are of extreme importance and need to be protected. The vocational rehabilitation agencies provide assessment, training, resources, linkages, and case management around helping individuals who are blind or visually impaired to get employment ready. You can find resources on protecting specialized services on AFB.org.
In addition to the value of these conferences, I often meet a lot of leaders from the disability service community who I respect for their work to improve opportunities. Among them are a number of state administrators, including David DeNotaris from Pennsylvania, John McMahon from Maine, and Dan Frye from New Jersey. On the national level, there will be professionals such as NFB's Fred Schroeder, who I am always blown away by, as he provides his updates in a very digestible format. All of the individuals are blind or visually impaired, and much more than that, they are advocates and role models. If you are interested in connecting with a respected leader in your field but can't make it to a conference, check out AFB CareerConnect to find mentors who are blind or visually impaired. Check out the Make Connections section today.
I hope to see all of you at the CSAVR and NCSAB conferences in Miami. Remember, you will not find me by the pool, as I will be listening, learning, and connecting with the administrators from the different states. If you are at NCSAB, check out my presentation on Thursday.
by Joe Strechay
By now I hope all of you are aware of Lesson Plans for Teachers and Professionals, a special offering from AFB CareerConnect®. Our newest consultant, Alicia Wolfe, a lead teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) from Pinellas County, Florida, created a Halloween treat that you will not want to miss. No, there are no ghosts or goblins haunting this offering. Rather, Alicia has developed a series of lesson plans on how to use the popular online technology magazine, AccessWorld®, as a transition tool. That's right—she's created a detailed series of lesson plans that provide many activities on getting started with AccessWorld and on skills related to preparing for the future.
Review the 10-lesson Active in AccessWorld module right away. It offers informative activities on topics such as transportation and basic researching skills online, and is sure to be a hit with your students. While you're at it, take the time to also check out some other modules, such as Money Management, Social Skills, and Leadership.
Alicia will be working on other modules that will be launching over the next few months. Please check these lessons out online and through the CareerConnect App™.
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