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Who am I, and Why Do I Think Internships Can Benefit You?

Street sign with the text 'New Job' and an arrow.

Before the start of this year my experience in web coding was only slim. Equally as slim was my interaction with people who are blind or visually impaired. So why am I writing a blog to be posted by a foundation who center on these two things? I guess I should introduce myself. I, Ashley, am currently a junior in college studying online journalism and public relations. I started working with the American Foundation for the Blind this past January for the start of what will be a truly rewarding internship. I wanted to work with AFB to help better the lives of others. I have found that AFB's CareerConnect does exactly this by helping all people, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, explore fitting job opportunities and how to create a path to achievement.

My internship has taught me not only about web coding and other tasks, but as well as the importance of preparation and connections before conducting a job search. My internship has taught me that interning and mentoring are super important keys for all people who wish to find a career. I have found that when starting a career search there is no better place to start than AFB's CareerConnect.

When looking for an internship, first you have to ask yourself "What do I even want to do?" Explore your interests and let AFB help you when deciding what career might be right for you. Utilize the Job Seeker's Toolkit, and navigate through the 33 lessons toward your preparation for the employment and life.

Our Stories is an AFB CareerConnect resource that shows successful stories of people who are blind or visually impaired in various career paths. Reading into the work of other people and how they made their way into that specific career is a great way to decide what may interest you.

Another great tool when looking for career guidance is AFB CareerConnect's Mentor Program. After creating an account, the mentoring program allows you to connect to thousands of mentors who provide career guidance and insight directly related to your field of interest.

Finally, it is important to follow other CareerConnect resources like the CareerConnect Blog to stay informed with opportunities and career associated tips. Once you decide on something that interests you it is only a few short steps with AFB to put you on the right path to career success!

CareerConnect app icon Take the time to 'Like' AFB CareerConnect on Facebook and Download the Free AFB CareerConnect App in the iTunes App Store.

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Diversity and Inclusion - A Diverse Workforce That Includes Employees Who Are Blind Or Visually Impaired

Joe Strechay, with his white cane

Diversity and inclusion within corporations has become an important effort around the United States, and I want to take a few minutes to address this topic. As you probably already know, I am the American Foundation for the Blind's CareerConnect Program Manager. In this role, I manage this program with a great team, but I also travel the country doing workshops for youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired and the professionals who work with them. I feel lucky to also work with the United States Business Leadership Network's (USBLN) Career Link Student Mentoring Program. The USBLN offers employers a great network of employers who embrace the hiring of persons with disabilities, veterans, and others whom face obstacles. Their membership organizations celebrate and embrace diversity. The USBLN provides resources, tools, and connection. In addition to all of this, I am an individual who is blind or visually impaired. The above gives me an interesting perspective on job seekers who are blind or visually impaired and the companies seeking employees.

I have to say that businesses are increasingly searching to hire persons with disabilities, and looking to include them in their culture. Diversity and inclusion brings many opportunities for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired. The truth of it is that diversity and inclusion is about making sure you have access to the best talent possible, which is a pretty straight forward and positive idea.

  • Companies have been encouraged to do so in many manners, including for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors who are working toward utilization goals created through Section 503. For Veterans, this would be due to VEVRAA (Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act). The fact is that there are other reasons why companies are seeking out persons with disabilities.
  • Businesses realize that individuals with disabilities are an underutilized talent pool. Persons with disabilities often have to problem solve and adapt, and these skills translate to good employees. Successful people are able to problem solve on the job and in life.
  • Businesses realize that having a diverse workforce who represents aspects of their customer base makes sense. How will you address the needs of persons with disabilities without having individuals on your staff? People can study all they want about disability, but unless you have a disability and experience its impact every day, you don't truly understand. You can understand aspects, survey, focus group, and research all you want. Being an informed company means embracing your customer base.
  • A point that corresponds with the point above—persons with disabilities have spending power that is not often addressed through advertising until recently.
  • Past studies have reported that persons with disabilities stay in a position longer, which means less turnover and cost in the search and training of new staff. This could mean that persons with disabilities are not being promoted as often too, but that is for someone else to expound on.
  • Corporations and businesses with a diverse workforce create diverse ideas, and if large populations of people are not being included, business is missing out on these ideas and creative thinking.
  • I have seen studies from businesses about the atmosphere around the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workforce, and many of these have stated about other employees reporting more satisfaction in their work, after the addition of a person with a disability. I can't speak for the validity of these reports, but I have heard the commentary from employee interviews around the United States.

I could provide many more points on this topic, but I would love to hear from you about your thoughts. Diversity of the workforce is only one aspect, as you have to make sure the organization is inclusive. Hiring a person with a disability is a great first step, but you want to make sure that individual is put in a situation with an opportunity for success. The American Foundation for the Blind strives to expand opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired, and we believe that diversity and inclusion professionals have an opportunity to open those doors for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired. Review our Resources for Employers materials on AFB CareerConnect today.

Planning for the Future

Counting Down to Graduation: March, Furthering Your Education

Blank scholarship application on desktop with books and laptop.

Question: Do your career goals require additional education?

Do you have a personal goal to go to college? Does your “dream job” require additional education? You are not alone!

Millions of students each year are flooding college campuses in pursuit of furthering their education and increasing their job opportunities, but going back to school is a tough decision. It is a serious financial and time-consuming commitment that should be given thoughtful consideration.

You will need to study for standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT, write college essays, fill out applications, prepare for college interviews, and determine which school can best accommodate your educational needs and personal goals.

As a student who is blind or visually impaired, it is also important to find a college or university that offers various disability services for classroom and test accommodations.

Although these programs are unique to each school, generally the Office for Students with Disabilities can help visually impaired students find readers, get electronic copies of textbooks, or arrange any other necessary accommodations.

For example, my friend from school has someone from disability services take notes for lectures that are presented in PowerPoint Presentations, and he has a reader during the written exam. But he does not solely rely on other people to help him succeed. He has permission to record lectures so he can replay them to study, and he has a personal electronic copy of the textbook to read outside of class.

Each student is different, but by finding what works for you, you will be able to achieve success in any class.

Aside from educational concerns, many students have trouble paying for additional education. Fortunately, there are many scholarships out there geared toward assisting blind and visually impaired students.

The American Foundation for the Blind has several available scholarships for students pursuing a specific field of study, including:

  • The Delta Gamma Foundation Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship
  • The Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship
  • The Paul and Ellen Ruckes Scholarship
  • The R.L. Gillette Scholarship
  • The Gladys C. Anderson Memorial Scholarship
  • The Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship

When applying for any scholarship, you need to carefully review the requirements and submit completed applications with all necessary documents in order to be an eligible applicant.

Whether you want to go back to school, learn a new skill, or earn certification for a specific job, furthering your education is a great way to open new windows. It is important to evaluate your personal goals, investigate the options available to you, and work hard to achieve success.

CareerConnect app icon Take the time to 'Like' AFB CareerConnect on Facebook and Download the Free AFB CareerConnect App in the iTunes App Store.

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Erik Weihenmayer: His Story as a Blind Adventurer

Erik W. rock climbing

You might recognize him from the film Blindsight, the ABC television show Expedition Impossible, or maybe you know him from the Nature Valley commercials. But did you know that Erik Weihenmayer is a blind adventurer who has summited the highest mountain on each continent?!

I have to say that he is one of my role models, not because I aim to climb mountains, but for the fact that he sees no barriers and changes perceptions. He is a former teacher, turned world-class adventurer and athlete, but he is much more than that. He is a husband, a father, and someone who pushes others to aspire for more.

Erik Weihenmayer took the time to connect with our AFB CareerConnect staff, and our talented Katy Lewis wrote up this story.

Erik is no stranger to AFB CareerConnect. He has been interviewed for the American Foundation for the Blind in the past, and he won AFB’s Helen Keller Achievement Award in 2003. People like Erik Weihenmayer, Dan Kish, Stevie Wonder, Richard Chen, Jack Chen, Amy Bowers, and all of the amazing individuals in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering have created opportunities through their efforts to innovate and push limits.

Read the latest piece about Erik in AFB CareerConnect’s Our Stories section, “Erik Weihenmayer: Harnessing Adversity as a Blind Adventurer”.

CareerConnect app icon Take the time to 'Like' AFB CareerConnect on Facebook and Download the Free AFB CareerConnect App in the iTunes App Store.

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Prepared for My Job Interview: A Mildly-Awkward Poem Filled with Resources for Job Candidates who are Blind or Visually Impaired

woman interviewing man for a job

Prepared for My Job Interview

Put my best foot forward, that's what I'll do.

All eyes on me, it's my interview.

I'll be prepared; I'll be ready to go.

See, here's what I've done and know:

I've researched the company inside and out.

I know how to give a first-rate first impression, no doubt.

I'll be on time, shake hands, and introduce myself.

I know the traits, experiences, and accomplishments to share when asked "Tell me about Yourself."

For every common interview question I've rehearsed an answer,

And because it's irrelevant, I'll not mention I was a dancer.

I'll affirm the position precisely complements my experience and strengths,

Don't worry; I'll not discuss my weakness at length.

I know the questions I will ask,

They'll demonstrate I'm up for each task.

I'm prepared to disclose I am blind,

I'll discuss my job accommodations and present my working portfolio to give peace of mind.

I'll thank my interviewer by name,

And I won't say, "Those questions were lame!"

I'll follow up with a thank-you note, but I won't be a pest,

I hope that out of all the candidates, I'll be chosen as best.

If you are blind or visually impaired and preparing for an upcoming interview, please read the links embedded in the poem, as well as CareerConnect's Interview Preparation and Interviewing Tips articles, and listen to Interviewing: Top 10 Tips.

CareerConnect app icon Take the time to 'Like' AFB CareerConnect on Facebook and Download the Free AFB CareerConnect App in the iTunes App Store.

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