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™.
by Joe Strechay
AFB CareerConnect® has been using the Department of Labor's Office on Disability Employment Policy's theme of "Expect, Employ, Empower" to help celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month. As we near the end of the month, I wanted to leave you with my top 12 tips to empower your job search as an individual who is blind or visually impaired.
Let's get empowered! Here are my top 12 job search tips straight from Huntington, West Virginia.
12. Get your resume up to par. This might involve having professionals in your field review it, and also looking at the format. The formats need to be adjusted overtime. You can read more from a past post on this topic.
11. Use searchable terms that relate to the jobs you are applying for within your resume or cover letter. Many large companies or recruiters use keyword searches to find candidates.
10. Take the time to customize your resume and cover letter for the positions you apply for; the same activities or work experience might not be applicable to every position of interest.
9. Keep in touch with references and don't be afraid to set up a time to coach them on aspects that you think might be relevant for potential employers. For those with disabilities, this could be a great opportunity for an employment reference to address how your disability did not negatively impact your work and address any misconceptions they might have.
8. Your job search is more than a full-time job, and you will get out of it what you put into it. It takes time and effort to land a first or new job. Many people think investing a small amount of time and then waiting on a position is the best bet. Most people apply to many more jobs than they receive offers from—keep researching and applying! Read more about how your job search takes time and effort.
7. Do your research on employers. You can read more about this from a recent CareerConnect Blog post. You want to be up to date on the organization that you are applying with. Know the organization's current issues and learn about their competition.
6. Have your sales pitch ready, as this is so important for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired, and I would say more important for us than our competition. Being prepared to sell yourself in life can open up opportunities for your next job. Read more from a past blog post.
5. Keep records of when you applied, who you applied with, and contact information. As of this will make following up with the employer so much easier. Along with this information, you should keep records and notes about anyone you connect with from the organization.
4. Mine your personal network: If you are currently not working, don't be afraid to put it out there to your friends and connections that you are looking for this type of work. Ask for assistance because we are often connected to people who either work in the same field or know people who do.
3. Have a LinkedIn profile and use it: More and more, businesses are using these profiles for research, background, and the recruitment of new employees. The more complete your profile, the better. Remember, this is not a resume, but it does provide an introduction to who you are and the skills and experience that you offer.
2. Research your connections to businesses of interest and contact them to get the inside scoop and possibly a foot in the door. Many businesses value when employees recommend or bring them trusted applicants.
1. Join professional organizations that will surround you with people who are influencers in your field. You want to be around and interact with people who do the work that you want to do. Often, talent will recognize talent and you might be recommended as a potential candidate. Open positions are often filled or employers have quality applicants in mind prior to the job's advertisement.
I wanted to provide you with my top 12 job search tips, but I could have given you a lot more. Take the time to comment and provide me with your top job search tips. Get empowered and take your job search to the next level.
by Katy Lewis
Happy National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)! As we continue to celebrate NDEAM, it is important to review the second element of this year’s theme, “Expect. Employ. Empower.” A huge part of why we have NDEAM is because of those employers that provide jobs and those employees who work hard to get hired. After searching through CareerConnect’s Career Clusters, deciding on a career path that is right for you, and seeking advice from mentors online, it is important to put those resources to work. But what if you are worried about your job interview? Or if you aren’t sure how to disclose your disability?
Employ. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired have obstacles to overcome during a job interview, but that does not mean that they are not qualified for the position. It is important to come prepared and be confident in yourself. If you don’t believe you can do it, neither will the employer. Make sure that you have taken the necessary steps to ensure your career success. The Job Seeker’s Toolkit is an accessible, self-paced, and free online course that helps prepared job seekers for all aspects of the employment process, including the interview. The Toolkit also offers modules in self-awareness, career exploration resources, finding employment, and maintaining employment. So let’s say you just got a call from a potential employer to set up an interview, but your employer is not aware of your disability? Well, the course has advice for that! It is important to put your potential employer at ease and address any concerns they might have. This helps you have a better interview and a better chance of getting the job. So let’s say you have the disclosure part down, but you get nervous during interview questions and are not sure what to say. Well, the course has advice for that too! Check it out for yourself on the Job Seeker’s Toolkit Interview Module.
by Joe Strechay
I am currently in Northern California, spreading the message of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). I have a meeting with staff from Lighthouse for the Blind-San Francisco this week, and I am speaking at the California School for the Blind, Cupertino schools, and San Francisco State University. As I make the rounds out here, I am also making time to connect with CareerConnect mentors, AFB contacts, and other impressive people who are blind or visually impaired.
I am always preaching the importance of having mentors who are blind or visually impaired and mentors who are not. I want to take this time to salute the CareerConnect mentors who volunteer to respond to queries, questions, and surveys for our program. I know for a fact that they are making a difference. Their number one complaint is that they are not contacted enough. The CareerConnect mentors provide field-specific knowledge from their own lives. They have lived it and proved themselves in over 300 different career fields.
I still have mentors who guide and advise me on my life and career: My thanks to Darren Burton, Bryan Bashin, Carl Augusto, Jennison Asucion, Erik Weihenmayer, Crista Earl, and many others who continue to impact my life. All of these successful people whom I look to as mentors are important to me whether they know it or not. A few of my mentors I may admire from a distance as they are impressive people who are blind or visually impaired who put themselves out there.
Mentors are not a one-size-fits-all type of thing, as I utilize mentors for different areas of my life. I am in a unique position where I am surrounded by these amazing people who are blind or visually impaired. Please take the time to thank and salute your mentors as we celebrate Disability Mentoring Day.
I know Detra Bannister, AFB’s employment specialist, and I are grateful to the AFB CareerConnect mentors for giving their time, guidance, and information to inspire youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired. People tell me all the time that they look through the jobs our mentors have for their own inspiration and read all of the success stories in the Our Stories section of CareerConnect. So, thank you!
Let us know if mentors have impacted your life in the comment section.
by Joe Strechay
White Cane Safety Day or White Cane Day is celebrated on October 15, and I felt this was the perfect time to tell you about traveling as a person who is blind of visually impaired. I have a white cane nicknamed "Slim" that travels with me everywhere. It isn't always easy, but I wouldn't do it any other way at this point in time.
I have been a cane traveler for a number of years now, and it isn't always perfect. I choose to use a heavier and more durable white cane as I travel a lot and my cane takes a beating. Recently, I was traveling through Grand Central Station in New York City when I hit something with my cane. There was no noise, so I felt around with my cane to determine my way around this object. At this point, a woman spoke up as she happened to be the object I had maneuvered around. She began to yell that I had hurt her with my cane. I responded, "Oh, I'm sorry; I really didn't mean to do that." She yelled, "You hurt me; you hit my ankle." I apologized again, but she continued: "You really need to watch out, you can hurt someone." Holding up my cane, I said, "Madam, I am blind and I try my best, but watching out is a literal impossibility." She continued to yell at me, even as I apologized again.
After a few minutes and feeling quite embarrassed, and fighting the urge to make some sarcastic comments, I decided it was time to just walk away. Truthfully, what did this woman want me to do? Stay at home instead of working, living, and paying taxes? This event hurt my feelings a bit, but you just have to keep on keeping on.
I spend a lot of time traveling, meeting with people and business persons. I am so grateful for my life, family, work, my training, and "Slim." I wouldn't be able to do what I do as a person who is blind or visually impaired without my white cane and the training I have received. Having a disability—or even multiple disabilities if you throw in a learning disability and a bit of attention deficit—I try never to take things for granted. For example, if I am in a new location, I can't just see where the closest bathroom is, but maybe I can listen and hear the toilet flush, faucet running, or the hand dryers blasting. There are always other ways to look at things. My white cane is one thing that makes my life easier. My confidence in using it is something that no one can take away.
- People who are blind or visually impaired either cannot see, or cannot see well. So, please don't lecture them when they don't see you.
- The white cane or long white cane doesn't pick up low-hanging obstructions such as tree branches, poles, and obstacles at head level across sidewalks. Please keep your branches trimmed around the sidewalk, as some of us are around 6 feet tall or even taller.
- Parking on the sidewalk or across the sidewalk obstructs the sidewalk, so you might end up with a ding from my white cane on the side of your car.
- On a related note, don't pull up into a crosswalk because I can't see your car there. If you catch me on the right day, I just might walk right into your car with my sturdy cane swinging. Also, forcing people to walk into traffic is not cool!
- Don't leave things across the sidewalk. The sidewalk is for walking, not storing your lawn equipment, bicycles, or motorcycle.
- Read about the White Cane Law, which requires you to yield for persons who are attempting to cross the street who are blind or visually impaired. It is the law!
- Remember that pedestrians have the right of way.
- If you are using lawn equipment or a jack hammer near an intersection, please stop for a minute or two if you see that a person with a white cane is trying to cross the street. Otherwise, he or she might have to navigate a few blocks out of the way to find another route that is safer.
- People who are blind or visually impaired use the sound of the surging traffic to cross the street at intersection. We first determine the control (stop sign, light, yield), and then we figure out the flow of traffic and how the intersection works. That's right—traffic is often a friend of a person who is blind or visually impaired!
- Resist the urge to grab and drag a person who is blind across the street. If you want to help, introduce yourself, and say, "I was wondering if you would like some assistance crossing this street?" If they say "yes," offer your arm above the elbow (their left hand on your right arm or opposite). You can tap their arm, as this prevents the person from having to feel around. Most of us are not looking to feel around a stranger to find their elbow—seriously!
I feel confident in my travel skills with my sturdy white cane. With these tips, I hope it'll be safer and easier for everyone with a white cane to get around.
Find out how you can get involved in your community's White Cane Day activities by finding your local blindness-related organizations via the AFB Directory of Services.
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