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Meet Belo Cipriani: Visually Impaired Author, Teacher, and Freelance Journalist

Belo Cipriani with his guide dog

Beaten and robbed of his sight by childhood friends, Belo Cipriani was unexpectedly thrown into the world of blindness. He suddenly found himself learning how to walk, cook, and even date in the dark at age 26. But instead of letting vision loss defeat him, Belo has triumphed in his new world of contemporary blindness as an author, teacher, and freelance journalist.

When Belo first lost his sight, he struggled to find stories similar to his for encouragement and advice. He suffered from depression, anxiety, and PTSD because of his attack, so his therapist suggested he journal to help him cope. And it worked! As a result, Belo released a book, Blindness: A Memoir. The book chronicles the two years immediately following Belo's assault.

"I am proud of the fact that I was able to do this so quickly," Belo explained. "I lost my sight in 2007, started writing the book in 2009, and it came out in 2011. I got through so quickly because my book was a diary. Had I waited any longer, I would have lost all of those details. I am happy I got it out there before the memories were gone."

Read more of Belo's story here!


Topic:
Employment

Where Were You 26 Years Ago?

By Neva Fairchild

Americans with Disabilities Act 26th Anniversary Banner

It may be hard to remember where you were personally on July 26, 1990 and perhaps you weren’t even born yet, but to identify where people with disabilities were prior to the signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act is fairly easy to do. There were few protections for access to public services such as cabs, restaurants, or stores. Elevators didn’t have braille, apartment complexes had steps, and if a person with a disability was working, it was the exception, rather than the rule. Unless you worked for the government, your employer or potential employer did not have to offer any accommodations and few employers understood the benefit to diversifying their workforce. Most employers thought diversity meant hiring people of different races. Assistive or access technology was a relatively new industry and many people with disabilities were not able to afford the technology that would help them to work and live more independently. Prior to the passing of the ADA, people with disabilities didn’t know they could ask for an accommodation, nor did they necessarily know what to ask for.

Fast forward through a little more than 2.5 decades and the picture is a bit different. The expectation of employment for people with disabilities is the norm not the exception today. Because of this expectation, the educational systems that prepare young people to go to work have changed and although we still do not live in a perfect world, the availability of access technology has significantly increased. Does this mean that everyone with a disability who wants to work is employed? Unfortunately, no. However, the protections put in place by the ADA in 1990 and the subsequent revisions and regulations give you, as a person with vision loss, a platform from which to start.

Employers must offer accommodations throughout the hiring process to anyone who discloses a disability. There are resources for employers to help them know their responsibilities and for you to know your rights, when you are an applicant or an employee. There’s more awareness in the general public of the abilities of people with disabilities and again, although it’s not perfect, it is more common to see people in the workplace with disabilities and we know there are many more with hidden disabilities working now as well.

Change does not happen overnight, or over a couple of decades, but nevertheless progress is being made. As we celebrate the anniversary of the historic civil rights legislation for people with disabilities, we must strive for a tomorrow where similarities among people are noticed rather than differences, and everyone is given the chance to reach their full potential.



Read More About ADA

Americans with Disabilities Act: Why We're Thankful and Where There's Room for Improvement

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

Disability Rights Resources for People with Vision Loss

Research Navigator: The ADA at 26- Networks, Numbers, and Knowledge for the Next Generation


Topics:
Employment
Personal Reflections

Americans with Disabilities Act: Why We're Thankful and Where There's Room for Improvement

The ADA logo: Americans with Disabilities Act, four squares with symbols for hearing, wheelchair, blind pedestrian, and sign language

Think about the last time, maybe as a child or teen, you fought against seemingly-monstrous ocean waves. You were pummeled backward by their overwhelming power; adrenaline pulsed through your veins; salt water threatened to choke you time and again. Yet you stood up, refused to relax on the shore, and determined to remain on course.

This is the mental imagery I have of those involved in the disability rights movement; those who have fought tirelessly against the thrashing current of societal barriers.

Because of these past and current members (advocates with and without disabilities) who have stood up and defined basic civil and accessibility rights, individuals with disabilities (theoretically) have equal opportunity to pursue education, work, home life, transportation, and recreation independently.

Do you know the result of their tireless, life-long work? If you need an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), read Disability Right's Resources for People with Vision Loss; learn the organizations who are responsible for upholding various directives of the ADA and read where you can make a complaint if an organization is non-compliant.

Such important feats; is it now time for the disability rights movement to relax? I don’t think so.

Today I want to create a space to share where ADA shines and where we have room for improvement. Let’s have a conversation.

I remember former CareerConnect program manager Joe Strechay sharing his frustration over the job application question, "Do you have a valid driver's license?". In fact, he called it discrimination. If driving is not a primary job responsibility, asking if the applicant has a driver’s license is discriminating against those with visual impairments (and other disabilities).

Perhaps Strechay would state ADA has room for improvement in its implementation and employer awareness.

What would you add? What other work is yet to be done?

I’d love to hear your voice; your thoughts; your experiences. From your frustration with locating restrooms and accessing public transportation, to your gratitude for reasonable accommodations on the job, let’s talk and learn from one another.

Let’s survey where we are and know where we’re going.

There is important work to be done, and we won’t relax.



Read More About ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act: 25 Years of Celebration

25 Years After the ADA: Blind Still Missing from the Workforce

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


Topic:
Employment

AFB CareerConnect Launches the Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide

A man sitting at a desk looking at the camera

AFB CareerConnect is proud to announce the addition of the Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide on the CareerConnect website. With the national implementation of the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA), states are working to increase pre-employment transition services to youth who are blind or visually impaired to assist them in accessing and succeeding in the workforce. AFB CareerConnect has responded to this innovative and important act by developing activities to support these youth in learning to research, apply for and ultimately land a job, work experience or internship, while they are still in high school. Yes, high school!

Community Rehabilitation Providers, Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, Teachers of the Visually Impaired and other professionals preparing these youth for employment, can utilize the activities to facilitate workplace readiness and work-based learning experiences. The activities in the guide are unique in that each activity has a corresponding electronic braille file (BRF) in the Unified English Braille (UEB) Code ready to be downloaded and embossed.

Some of the activities within the Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide include the following:

If you have a Summer Transition Program underway or are preparing to support students in locating a part-time job before they head back to school, be sure to check out the activities.

As you move forward with implementing WIOA, keep in mind the ultimate resource kit to enhance your student's employability skills can be located on AFB CareerConnect website and includes the Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide which should be used in tandem with the Job Seeker's Toolkit and the Maintaining and Advancing in Employment Course.


Topics:
Education
Employment
Transition

Growing Your Career

Happy female employee sitting at a conference table with coworkers

Now that we are entering into the gardening season, I think of many analogies relating to employment. Just as one needs to cultivate and care for a garden, we all need to cultivate and build upon our own areas of career development. It is always good to reassess your career and/or career goals and to refocus. Some tasks relating to this may include cleaning up your resume, learning some new skills that will add to your value in the job market, and developing new job contacts. It is a good idea to review your resume periodically, looking for outdated entries, adding new skills or experiences you may have gained since your last revision, and reviewing for relevance to your current job goals.

Just as gardening requires specific tools for specific tasks, so does the labor market. It is good to look at requirements for various jobs you are interested and then evaluate whether or not you have the needed skills. Such an evaluation might lead you to find that you need to develop skills in certain areas, for example, written communications or staying on task, or possibly learning a specific software application. You could then work on improving these skills. This could be done by looking for volunteer experiences or part-time jobs in positions where you would be utilizing the skills that need improvement. Other suggestions could be to try to focus on staying on task more in your daily life or possibly volunteering on a board or committee that would allow you to further develop these skills. You could also take a course, such as those offered by local community colleges, libraries, the Hadley Institute for the Blind, or AFB CareerConnect’s Job Seeker’s Toolkit.

So just as reaping a good harvest from a garden requires planning, attention to detail, staying on task, and focusing on the big picture so does preparing for a job. I hope that your career will reap a bountiful harvest this summer.


Topic:
Employment