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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

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Who's Responsible for Your Job Search When You're Blind or Visually Impaired

Magnifying glass over newspaper classified section with 'Job Opportunity' text

As a person who is blind or visually impaired…

A transition team goes to bat for you while you're in high school. They aim to instill the skills you need for future success as an adult.

A Vocational Rehabilitation counselor may further train you and assist with purchasing assistive technology for job use, looking over your resume, and directing you to job leads.

As a transition specialist myself, I am a witness to the benefit of these services. I recognize an individual with a visual impairment needs assistive technology and other accommodations, and certainly benefits from direction instruction in conducting a successful job search and maintaining employment and advancing in a career.

So these services are all you need for a successful job search, right?

Not so fast.

These services are important for leveling the playing field between a potential employee who is blind and one who is fully sighted, but these services are not the ticket to employment.

While attending the 2016 AFB Leadership Conference, I heard several presenters discuss preparing teens and adults with visual impairments for employment. I noticed that the majority of them were concerned with a high number of clients asking "How will you get me a job?" or other similar question.

So here I am reminding you that YOU are the ticket to successful work. You do have employable skills; you can train for gainful employment; you can be a valuable asset to a company; and you may even run that company in time. There are no limits.

You are responsible for your job search. Train. Network. Apply. You've got this and we’re here to support you. Here’s to a successful job hunt!


Topics:
Education
Employment
Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future
Transition

If You Are Deaf-Blind, You May Qualify for Free Communication Technology

Technology innovation

We need each other. Living in isolation is no way to live.

If you (or your loved one, consumer, or student of any age) have qualifying hearing and vision loss, as well a qualifying income, and you desire to increase independence and/ or to further connect and communicate with others, you can obtain free communication technology.

But who provides the technology? The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), a product of the Communication and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, provides an iCanConnect representative in every U.S. state, in D.C., and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But what technology? This is dependent on the technology needs of each individual. Your state’s iCanConnect program specialist can provide a wide range of hardware, software, and applications that enable those who are deaf-blind to place telephone calls, send e-mails, access the internet, and use other communication technology.

Examples include specialized keyboards and headsets, braille devices, computers, smartphones, tablets, signalers that alert the individual to a phone ringing, screen readers, and screen magnification software.

But how will I (or my loved one) learn to use the technology? The qualified program specialist will not only identify and provide the equipment needed, but will also install software, provide technology training, and extend ongoing support as technology issues arise.

You can learn more details about the program by reading AccessWorld’s article.

Next, utilize this link to see if you qualify and to find your state’s iCanConnect program.

It’s time to connect.


Topic:
Technology

Sizzlin' Summer Travel Tips to Get Your Rest-From-Work On! (For Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired)

Pile of yellow luggage on a resort beach with a blank wooden sign post

We made it! We practically made it to summertime that is. I think a vacation is in order. I’m feeling a little warm, how about y’all?

Sure we didn’t have to wait until summer to break from work, but with our children on summer vacation and the warm sun shining, I always find summer an inviting time for respite.

Where will you vacation this summer? As for me… We are moving to Delaware this month [Another move! This time last year we moved to Texas from Japan.] and have decided to road trip to our destination, stopping in large cities (Dallas, Nashville, D.C., etc.) along the way. Our vacation will include hotels with pools (for our little ones) and attempts to find the best “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants (for us!).

Whether you visit the beach, take a cruise, road trip, travel abroad, or explore a nearby city, take advantage of AFB’s travel-tip resources:

If you have yet to decide on a destination, gather suggestions from and participate in the conversation on the AFB travel suggestions message board thread.

I leave you with these questions: What has been your favorite travel experience? What made it so memorable? Where would you like to explore next?


Topics:
Personal Reflections
Social Skills

Why Should Blind or Visually Impaired Individuals Practice Orientation and Mobility Skills?

By Neva Fairchild

male orientation and mobility instructor shows a woman how to use her white cane

Are you thinking, “What’s the Point? I’m not in school, and I don’t have a job. Where do I need to go, anyway?”

Has your Orientation and Mobility (O&M) instructor asked you to practice what you have learned between lessons? Do you have trouble thinking of reasons to get out or places to go? Are you reluctant to grab your cane and be adventurous? Well, there’s an important reason to build and polish your O&M skills: Good O&M skills are associated with higher rates of employment. So, how do you get good O&M skills? Practice, practice, practice. And, have fun while you practice. Here’s some ideas to get you out of your comfort zone and into the community.

What is your passion? Do you love chocolate? How about Chinese food? Do you have a friend across town that you’ve been meaning to visit? Is there a hobby you have given up since you became blind or visually impaired? Use your interests to motivate your travels.

Research chocolate shops nearby and set a goal to visit one each week to find the one with the very best malted milk balls (or whatever your favorite chocolate delight may be). Map out the route, figure out the buses you’ll need to take, consider the time of day the shop is open, and go!

Try all the Chinese buffets in town. Invite a friend or two to meet you there. Write reviews of the restaurants and share them via social media. Expand your search for the 5 Star buffet to encompass surrounding towns to try your skills at longer distances, when you are ready.

As a person with vision loss, you may have slipped into the habit of waiting for friends to come to you for a visit. Turn the tables. Make it a point to schedule time with a friend at their home or at a public place. Don’t let them talk you out of traveling there independently. They are well meaning, but if they are driving you, you are not building your skills.

What if fishing is what you love to do? Research the fishing docks in your area. Identify the transportation options, pack your pole and gear so you can find what you need; don’t forget to take lunch and a big jug of water and go drown a bucket of worms.

O&M skills are not learned in a vacuum. They are learned by living and doing and going where you want. You can’t wait until you need the skills to learn them. Learn them by doing things you want to do and by the time you start using them for things you need to do, you’ll be traveling like a pro!

Additional Orientation and Mobility Information


Topic:
Getting Around

Principles for Expanding Your Professional Network When You Are Blind or Visually Impaired



Whether you are employed or are in the job-seeking process, I hope you’ve come to recognize the benefits of a strong social network. I mean, really, who doesn’t want to be a member of a mutually-supportive community?

But how do you expand your community? How do you go from knowing a few people to having a thriving social network?

To expand your social network, you must take initiative. You must actively engage others. Though it may feel awkward and nerve-wracking for quite some time, depending on your personality, you must reach out to others.

Consider this: You attend a one-day workshop in your career field or desired career field. You arrive two minutes before the program begins, sit at an empty table, soak in the information, eat your packed lunch, and dart out as soon as the workshop concludes. Maybe that’s how you’re most comfortable. I get it.

Take the same workshop and this time you arrive twenty minutes before the program begins. You listen for where others are congregating and you introduce yourself. You sit with your new acquaintances, you choose to be warm and friendly, you suggest the group walk down the street to grab lunch together, you chat during breaks in order to get to know a few people better, you exchange contact information, and maybe you even stick around a few minutes after the program concludes to engage in further conversation. Depending on your personality, that may have been extremely uncomfortable. Again, I get it. But, in this scenario, your initiative just expanded your social network.

And who knows who you just met! A new friend, mentor, mentee, new client, future coworker, an inspiration, or a brainstorming-buddy.

Here are 3 principles for expanding your social network through engaging others:

  1. Don’t miss opportunities. If you’re invited to lunch or elsewhere and can make it work, go build relationships! If you turn it down, it may be the only invite you receive by this individual or group.
  2. Look for opportunities. Seek professional organizations, workshops, conferences, or courses in your career field and go meet people!
  3. Create opportunities to foster relationships. Invite people you know to appropriate activities they would likely enjoy. Another idea for creating opportunities is placing a candy dish on your desk… you may just get a lot more visitors!

So get out there, don’t limit yourself by your comfort zone, and make contacts. Before you go, refresh your social skills by reading AFB CareerConnect's Communicating on the Job article.


Topics:
Employment
Social Skills