by Shannon Carollo
- Bad breath. Work environments involve prime breath-smelling distance with coworkers and clients on a daily basis. I've come to understand two primary causes of smelly breath: poor oral hygiene and eating halitosis-inducing foods. Make sure to practice good oral hygiene. I'm going to assume you brush your teeth twice daily and visit the dentist every 6-12 months, and I'm also going to assume you're a lot like me and forget to floss more than you'd care to admit. Let's both prioritize nightly flossing. As for food, I'd suggest skipping garlic and onions in work-day breakfasts and lunches. (Even though this makes me sad, as I could eat onions in every meal.)
- Incessant chatter about me-me-me. Think about your most recent week of work. In casual workplace conversations, did you talk about more than just your life situation, insane workload, and upcoming weekend plans? Did you ask how others were doing and find out their upcoming weekend plans? If you recognize your conversations were lopsided (as I frequently recognize in my own conversations), don't wallow in embarrassment. It's never too late to correct this common social error. Read Communicating on the Job and develop a few relevant goals for yourself.
- A dirty work space. It's generally understood that some desks are organized and others define "organized chaos." There's grace for the somewhat-messy, typical-artist desk. On the other hand, it's not generally accepted that it's okay to leave a desk, office, office kitchen, or communal space truly dirty. Wipe off the desk from time to time to remove crumbs and dust, promptly discard all trash, make sure your guide dog's shed hair has been vacuumed at least weekly, and clean up after yourself particularly well in communal or shared spaces.
- Eating another's food from the communal fridge. If you're looking for free entertainment, just browse the Internet for fridge-raiding-in-the-office stories. It's that prevalent. And it's also highly maddening. Unless you purchased that frozen meal or soda can, leave it be! If you are blind or visually impaired and want to be sure it's truly your food or drink you're grabbing, go ahead and label it. You can add a braille label or write your initials on food packaging; you can place rubber bands around your drinks. Labeling will also help deter fridge-raiders, though some refuse to be thwarted by a label. (Y'all, some refuse to be thwarted by a half-eaten lunch. Seriously.)
- Lacking follow-through. If you say you are going to resolve an issue, make a phone call, or assist with a project, go on and do it. Otherwise, unreliability is extremely frustrating and disrespectful to coworkers and supervisors. We're human; we forget or get interrupted. Anticipate that you will forget and implement a system that enables you to remember and prioritize your commitments. Read How to Improve Your Organizational Skills on the Job and utilize the strategies.
- Unwillingness to Solve Problems. The printer is jammed again. A frustrated client calls. You were asked to create a spreadsheet document, but you don't understand the process. Instead of handing the problem to another, learn and use problem-solving techniques. You may need specific training in technology or job processes in order to solve problems independently—don't hesitate to seek training opportunities.
This list could really get long if I let it. I could include coming to work while noticeably sick, picking your nose or toes or teeth in plain sight, wearing strong perfume or cologne, having a consistent doom-and-gloom attitude, forgetting to verbally appreciate others, acting too touchy-feely, using off-color humor, or failing to respond to e-mails. Okay, you get the drift. Avoid common workplace annoyances and focus your attention on developing positive work habits and exceeding employer expectations over time.
by Shannon Carollo
Maybe you are among the vast numbers of individuals who are blind or visually impaired who would like to work, but have been unable to find or retain a full-time job. Don't despair. There is something you can do while you search—something that will benefit your community (on behalf of those folks, I personally thank you for giving of your time and talents) and you. Read on to learn 8 work-related benefits of volunteering.
- Obtaining a volunteer position in a career field of interest can help you to qualify for a desired job. For example, if you are looking to work as a child care provider, you may seek a volunteer position within a children's community organization. Your volunteer training and successful experience will help qualify you for related paid work.
- Networking, Networking, Networking! You may meet your future boss on site; you may work alongside someone who recommends you to your future boss; hey, you may even work for your future boss. Meet and get to know those around you and let them know you are eager and ready to work. Expose your strong work ethic and demonstrate the traits of the perfect worker.
- Speaking of the perfect worker, volunteer positions are good training grounds for developing general work skills. You can practice positive work habits, successful communication on the job, and problem-solving at work.
- You've heard of a functional disability statement, no? If not, it's the prepared words you share with a potential employer to address his concerns. You will want to describe how, though you have a visual impairment, you will be safe and productive on the job. Volunteer work gives you material to share. You can convince the interview panel you're safe and productive by describing how safe and productive you are while volunteering. Give specific details and examples.
- Although you may not currently be employed, you will have a superb answer ("I volunteer my time with...") when the interview panel asks about the time elapsed since your past job or schooling.
- As stated in Cornerstone to Success, you will have an answer when folks ask you, "What do you do?" You're still in the work scene. You work, though it may not be a paid job (yet).
- Volunteering your time shows potential employers you are an involved citizen, one who cares for others and is potentially a good team player.
- Volunteering can raise awareness of personal interests you didn't realize existed. Say you volunteer at a local art museum and are asked to help with a fund-raising project. You may learn you enjoy fund raising and begin searching for related paid work.
Looking for work? Get on out there and volunteer!
Interview with Christine Ha, Visually Impaired, New York Times Best Selling Author, Chef, Writer, and TV Show Co-HostPosted on 8/20/2014 at 1:02 PM
by Joe Strechay
Over the past two years, you have seen a number of posts from me about the talented and amazing Christine Ha, winner of the FOX Network's MasterChef Season 3, New York Times bestselling author, and co-host of "Four Senses." Well, I have wanted to give you an update for a while now. I took the opportunity to ask her when seeing her in-person at the Helen Keller Achievement Awards this past June. Christine is busy preparing for the start of season 2 of her show, "Four Senses," which is a television show in Canada. I hope this show gets picked up in the United States in the near future.
When I first connected with Christine, MasterChef Season 3 was only a few weeks in. I felt lucky to connect with her and spread the word about this fine example or role model for persons who are blind and all persons truly. She took the time to answer some questions for me at that point. As the show progressed, you saw the amazing cooking talent that is Christine Ha. She is not an amazing person who is blind, but an amazing and talented person. I was quite happy with the overall portrayal of her on the show.
In the past, I have sent her messages here and there to keep in touch and follow up. I was truly excited that AFB chose to provide Christine Ha with the Helen Keller Achievement Award, the highest honor provided by our organization. I can tell you that she is as poised in person as she is on television or during any interview. You can go back and read my initial interview with Christine, and I suggest you read the latest installment, as I catch up with her about her life post MasterChef Season 3. Read the latest interview, Catching Up with Christine Ha, New York Times Best Selling Author, Television Show Co-Host, and Winner of MasterChef Season 3.
We were delighted to come across another recent interview with Christine Ha, in which she shares what she's reading lately, what she's writing, and some great tips for people who are newly blind and are still shy around the kitchen. Christine urges people new to vision loss to experiment in the kitchen and not to be afraid of making mistakes. "Yes, play it safe at the beginning by having a sighted person around to help. But you only get stronger by making and learning from your mistakes."
Shortly after she went on to win that season of MasterChef, AFB CareerConnect interviewed Christine about her career goals, her training in blindness skills, and the assistive technology she uses in daily life.
The American Foundation for the Blind was delighted to honor her this year with a Helen Keller Achievement Award, established to acknowledge extraordinary efforts and promote the achievements of individuals and organizations that have improved quality of life for all people with vision loss.
If you or someone you love are new to vision loss, be sure to visit the AFB Directory of Services to find a local agency that can help train you in safe cooking techniques after vision loss, and visit VisionAware to find more tips for blind cooks, including a video showing some important techniques for "cooking without looking." You can also find tools for cooking independently in our product database.
Follow Christine on her blog, TheBlindCook.com.
by Shannon Carollo
If you are using screen-reading software, you might have missed a phenomenal pun. Note the canine "P-A-W-S" as a replacement for "P-A-U-S-E." Tell me I'm not the only one smiling! Now on to business…
You are on the hunt for a stellar job, or already have a (phenomenal, mediocre, or highly-unfavorable-but-you're-keeping-it) position. Now you are considering a dog guide as an orientation and mobility tool. How well do the two merge: full-time work and a guide dog?
I personally have never used a guide dog as a mobility aid; I only have textbook answers. But I'm going to do you a favor and refrain from boring you with textbook answers. I enlisted the advice of three friends who are or have been employed full time and used guide dogs to aid in traveling to, from, and within the confines of work. Thank you to Toni King, Parker Cuddy, and Carlos Montas for sharing your experiences with me. Extra props to Carlos for bearing with a horribly intermittent Skype connection—Carlos lives in Florida and you may remember I live in Japan.
Without further ado and incessant rambling, I share with you…
The advantages of using a dog guide while in the employment process
- You may feel more confident traveling with a dog guide than with a long cane. Confidence is important in job interviews and at work.
- You may travel faster with a dog guide than with a long cane.
- A dog guide can give you a social advantage. Talking about the dog can be an easy conversation starter for others, and some think you appear friendlier walking with a charming canine than a cane. Dog lovers especially will be drawn to your team.
- You may feel safer traveling to and from work with a dog guide, as dogs generally deter criminals.
- Walking with your dog guide will get you noticed and remembered. This can be very beneficial to your networking!
- Dogs seem to make their owners a bit happier and less lonely. You get to bring your dog to work. And on business trips. (I'm singing Justin Bieber's "One Less Lonely Girl" in my head.)
The disadvantages of using a dog guide while in the employment process
- It may not be feasible to leave your job while you and the dog guide are introduced and trained. The process takes an average of three weeks depending on the dog guide school.
- Using a dog guide at a job interview makes appearing spiffy more difficult. Think dog hair on your suit and tracked behind your dog. Well, hey, that has an advantage—the lingering hair on the floor will remind the interview team of your presence until the next time they vacuum.
- Try convincing your coworkers and clients to disregard the oh-so-adorable dog guide! It is best if the dog is not even receiving eye contact from potentially distracting onlookers. You may decide to share a fake dog name to avoid further distractions.
- It can be inconvenient to care for your dog at work—especially when it comes to setting aside time to locate an appropriate site for the dog to relieve himself.
- If your job is in a facility requiring no floating hair (restaurant, bakery, manufacturing plant, etc.), the dog guide will need to be secured in an office or animal crate away from you for many hours per day. OR, you can invent a dog-sized hairnet, but this could be a canine traumatizer.
- It's time-consuming enough to physically prepare oneself for work. Now add your dog's weekly baths and daily brushings to the list. While you can be relaxed with grooming guidelines for a pet dog, there is little room for relaxed grooming when your dog's cleanliness reflects your work habits.
- Then there's office or work-site cleanliness. You may need to supplement the professional weekly office cleaning to vacuum and wipe away dog hair.
- Dog odor. Enough said. Actually, I have to say one more thing. Dog odor and dander can be a deterrent for your allergic or sensitive-nosed potential clients.
You may wish to connect with guide dog handlers for further insight. Consider posting a few questions on the CareerConnect Message Boards. For more information on guide dog use, you can read AFB VisionAware's article: Dog Guides for People with Vision Loss.
by Joe Strechay
I have been using my orientation and mobility skills in typical and more complicated travel situations a lot lately. You really have to get out there and use your skills to keep them up to a high level. I have been a bit too complacent about my skills lately, and I knew my skills needed some sharpening. I have been putting my skills to the test quite a bit over the past month in New York City and New Jersey. Because I've been in the area doing work and such, I've been taking a lot of trains, subways, and generally navigating through different communities in the New York City area and boroughs.
I can tell you that I have become more comfortable with many areas and situations. At times, I definitely ask for assistance, such as at Penn Station. Part of the reason is that I don't often have too much time to spare. Another reason is that the trains come in and out on different tracks. It is funny, when the tracks are announced; people literally sprint through the station to get to the train. I understand that people want to make sure they get a seat, but I was quite surprised by this. I remember traveling through there over the years, but I still find this all quite shocking. I utilize assistance for getting to the track. I head to the ticket center for New Jersey Transit, and I ask for assistance. They have been extremely nice to me. "Rosa" (a NJ Transit employee) looks out for me—yes, I know the names of a few of the customer service people who act as guides down to my train.
Coming off the train at Penn Station, I usually follow the crowd to the stairs, which tends to be in a similar place on the platform from track to track as I tend to sit in the same area of the train. I navigate up and I ask people questions along the way. I navigate through Penn Station to the subway, as I have been using the E train quite a bit. I am willing to take assistance, but depending on the time, it isn't always necessary. I have also made friends with people on the train, and one person has been really kind to me. When I have to go to our New York City office at Two Penn Plaza, she has offered assistance, as it is kind of on her way. I take it. As I have said in the past, I am not afraid to take assistance if it will make my life less stressful and a bit easier. If I were doing this commute every day, I would spend a lot more time learning the entire station, but I am only doing a litte work in New York at the moment. And the kindness goes both ways. I have become friends with this person. She needed help with something, and I was able to assist.
But mistakes still happen. I have made mistakes exiting the subway stations. I was leaving the E train late one evening and wanted to navigate into Penn Station. I asked for some directions and the directions I received sent me outside of Penn Station. I was pretty sure this was not right. But, I asked a few questions and started walking to the entrance into the main part of Penn Station. Some guy, who seemed to be a bit off, may have started cursing at me incoherently and walking around me. But, I can tell you that security came in quite quickly. It was probably the only negative experience I have come into contact with during this time.
This experience is helping me to get back my top-level travel skills, and I'm remembering a lot of my old rules of thumb.
Joe's Basic Tips For Travel
- If you ask for directions, don't be afraid to ask someone else to confirm their accuracy. I paid the price for this once and it added at least six blocks to my trip because of having to backtrack. There are a lot of people with sight who have no clue about the streets.
- Always check for the gap getting onto and off the subway and train. I have not made a mistake with this one, but I have been around people who have.
- If you are emotional or frustrated, stop and calm yourself down. Just as people shouldn't drive in that state, we shouldn't travel like that either. Being keyed up means you are distracted. Your skills will keep you safe, but paying attention is a big part of being safe.
- Have your ear buds for access to ATMs, your smart phone, and other devices.
- Be smart and aware; don't be too stubborn to stop and ask questions.
- Ask very specific questions, such as asking, "What is the street on my left? What street runs across it at the next intersection?" I really double-check this type of information.
- Be smart and trust your gut. If something seems strange or not right, it probably is worth being cautious.
- Know about landmarks along your travel route, as you will be amazed how many people don't know street names.
- Don't use generic landmarks such as Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Although, I do like a good cup of coffee at times.
- Know uptown, downtown, or toward specific areas such as Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, and Epcot. Just kidding on Epcot, as that is part of Disney World in Florida.
- Good cane technique and dog guide use protects individuals from obstructions, although my cane doesn't pick up low overhangs or poles across walkways. I can tell you I have encountered this couple of times. My hat and glasses have saved me a few times.
- Busy streets are often the friend of people who are blind or visually impaired, as it provides us with a great parallel and proper street crossings.
- Traveling with your head up and shoulders back can keep your line of travel on point, and it would make your mother proud: "Stop slouching and stand up straight!"
- If there is loud construction or noises are making a crossing unsafe, make sure to find another crossing or ask for assistance. It is better to be safe than sorry.
- We all make mistakes, but we will never learn without being out there.
- Technology doesn't substitute for good orientation and mobility skills.
- A long white cane is a beautiful thing—use it, embrace it, and be proud to be who you are as a person who is blind or visually impaired.
I have a ton of other tips that relate to these methods of travel and many others, but I am going to leave it at this. If you have some helpful tips, share them in the comments below. I hope you are getting out there and traveling. The more people who are blind or visually impaired are out in the community, the better. Make our presence known, and show how competent we are as individuals. I have written a few other posts that relate to this topic. Check them out:
- Learn about some of the apps I use in this post, Accessible iPhone Apps That Help Me Manage Work, Life, and Travel.
- I wrote this post while killing some time during some travel for a meeting: Push Your Limits and Take Measured Risks As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired.
- I wrote this piece while on a long road trip after writing about some less-than-positive experiences: Dealing with the General Public Is Typically a Great Experience.
- I wrote this post on the road after thinking about conversations with my understanding and supportive partner, my wife, Jennifer, Thoughts from the Road: Dealing with the General Public and Always Being "On".
- Employment (72 posts)
- Planning for the Future (54 posts)
- Education (47 posts)
- Transition (33 posts)
- Personal Reflections (30 posts)
- Online Tools (20 posts)
- Social Skills (8 posts)
- Getting Around (11 posts)
- Technology (16 posts)
- Low Vision (5 posts)
- Leadership (1 post)
- In the News (6 posts)
- Social Life and Recreation (11 posts)
- Sports (4 posts)
- Arts and Leisure (3 posts)
- Do Your Coworkers a Favor: Avoid These 6 Common Workplace Annoyances; This Is Not a Blind Thing!
- 8 Work-Related Benefits of Volunteering for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
- Interview with Christine Ha, Visually Impaired, New York Times Best Selling Author, Chef, Writer, and TV Show Co-Host