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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

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Solutions or Excuses? Which Describes Your Actions As a Job Seeker or Employee Who Is Visually Impaired

The title of my blog may cause you to raise your brow. As a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) working to prepare my students who are blind or visually impaired for the workforce, I find myself raising my brow when I hear excuses from students who choose not to locate or utilize known solutions to be successful in school, successful in the workforce, and well, just successful period! All of my students with vision loss are capable of achieving their individual greatness in this world, and I know you are too.

I get it. I'm guilty of making excuses too. We all are. Excuses are often our way to deter our regrets or humiliation and protect ourselves from criticism. When I didn't exercise yesterday by going on my daily walk, I blamed it on the Florida heat. It was a credible excuse, but I also had an alternate option to workout inside. Our excuses make us feel less accountable, but unfortunately, they can be self-handicapping.

A quote by Tony Jeary (author and coach for top executives such as Walmart) inspired my focus for this week's blog: “If you choose to live in solutions, the world eagerly awaits your dreams and provides every tool and opportunity you need to turn them into reality.” There is truth in Jeary's quote.

Are your excuses preventing you from reaching your goal of employment or advancing in your career as a person with vision loss? If so, it's time to make changes by "living in solutions." How? I offer you three suggestions:

  1. Evaluate your current employment situation. Where are you in the workforce right now as a person who is blind or visually impaired? Are you employed? Are you volunteering but desire a permanent position? Do you want to advance in your career by being promoted? Are you working part-time but need a full-time position? Has a rapid decline in your vision prompted you to consider making a career change? Are you unhappy at your current job?

  2. Acknowledge your employment situation. This is the step where you may find yourself swallowing the lump in your throat or taking a deep breath. It takes courage to admit a situation exists, especially a situation which is not working or needs change.

  3. Initiate and follow through with a plan for change. Now’s the time to follow Jeary’s advice and use the "tools and opportunities in the world to make your dreams a reality." AFB offers solutions and tools to support your plans as a job seeker or employee who is blind or visually impaired to create employment opportunities for yourself. I’ve gathered some for you to review.

Tools to Support Your Employment Plans

The tools available to you extend beyond what I listed. The next time you make an excuse for your employment situation, write it down and find a solution to the excuse. Better yet, locate a resource for helping you overcome the barrier which may indeed lie within your excuse for not using the "tools and opportunities" to make the dreams you have about your employment status a reality.

If you found inspiration in Jeary’s quote, share a solution you used in place of an excuse to create an opportunity for yourself. Another reader may find inspiration in your example!


Topics:
Employment
Low Vision
Planning for the Future
Transition

Taking a Dog Guide to Work As an Employee Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Are you living with vision loss?
Interested in starting, extending, or restarting your career?
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a dog guide to work?

Two different guide dogs have been a part of my life over the last 10 years. Naturally, working in an office setting forced me to make some adjustments to my personal routine. When the changes became good habits, taking a guide dog to work became easier.

As you create your career action plan, consider these basic suggestions for taking a guide dog to work.

A man sitting at a desk with this guide dog looking at the camera

Suggestions for Taking a Dog Guide to Work

Wake Up Early

Getting ready for work every morning was a snap when I relied on a long white cane. However, shortly after Cody became my new guide dog, I quickly realized time management was a top priority.

Catching a timely ride to the office meant changes were necessary. Two things needed to be accomplished for Cody to start his day. First, a trip outside to be relieved. Then, a delicious bowl of food. Yes, that is all. But, 15 to 20 minutes could be spent on these tasks.

I began waking up about 30 minutes earlier than normal. This change gave me plenty of time to care for Cody and to finish my own morning routine. This little change made our mornings run smoothly.

Pack the Food

Feeding myself was my sole priority during the lunch hour at work. After Cody joined me, I realized he also needed some food and water throughout the day, so I kept a small bowl for him by my desk.

Cody's second meal of the day came at 5:30 p.m. or right after we returned home from work. Quite a long time for him to go without some food. I learned to stash a bag of treats in my desk drawer for that purpose.

Occasionally, I had to pack his dinner for certain days we had to work late. I set reminders on my smartphone for them. Otherwise, his dinner would be about two hours late. Yikes!

Walk It Off

Under the right circumstances, you may want to take a short walk with your guide dog during breaks or after lunch. Sitting all day is hard on our bodies. Frankly, guide dogs get a little bored laying around all day. I addressed both issues by taking a brief stroll on the grounds of our office buildings. On a nice day, we would find a seat outside and enjoy sunshine and fresh air.

Incorporating short walks into your work day breaks the monotony of an office job. Before long, you and your guide dog will be looking forward to your time together.

Get Some Relief

Speaking of taking a walk outside, guide dogs need a chance to relieve themselves a few times during the work day. Disposable bags are a must for picking up after your dog!

Lucky for us, lots of nice grass grew around our office building, and a nearby trash can was conveniently situated along the side walk.

Store a package of disposable bags in your desk drawer. Take one with you as the two of you go outside for a break. Be kind and courteous by disposing of the mess. Locate the nearest trash can on premises or ask for directions to one.

Creature Comforts

Make a guide dog’s time in the office comfortable. When he arrives at a destination, it is quite common for him to take a nap. My office was big enough to place a large dog bed in a corner of the room.

If your work space is small, consider using a thick bathroom mat. He will appreciate it! It will become his special spot regardless of the size.

Occupy his time while you work. Other creature comforts are chew bones and chew toys. If your budget allows, buy him some different, yet safe, chew toys and rotate them weekly. Give the chew toys a good cleaning too. Be sure to protect your coworkers from tripping on the toys. Put them in a safe place when the day is over.

If you are living with vision loss, a guide dog could be right for you if you seek to start, extend, or restart your career. They are capable of helping you travel to any destination where opportunity awaits. Contact a reputable guide dog school to learn more about their services. Tell them about your aspirations and goals, then ask how a guide dog can help you too!

Information About Dog Guides for Individuals with Vision Loss

Dog Guides for People with Vision Loss

Guide Dog or White Cane? Mobility Tools for Individuals with Vision Loss

Process of Raising a Dog Guide for a Person Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

If Your Guide Dog Could Talk


Topics:
Employment
Getting Around
Low Vision
Planning for the Future

Turn Fear into Action, Part 2: My Story of Losing a Job and Changing Careers

In the first post of Turn Fear into Action, I wrote about a possible scenario where job security evoked fear and how to handle it proactively. This time I will share a personal story of turning fear into action. Can you pinpoint the elements from part one in this story?

My Story of Turning Fear into Action

In early 2008, one of my biggest customers sent word to me that they would be ending a sales and service contract by the end of the year. This customer accounted for 60 to 70 percent of my self-employment income. A significant chunk of revenue. From the moment I heard the news, my stomach began turning, and my head began hurting.

I dreaded the loss of income and what it meant for my family. As each day passed, I worried more and more about our future.

Regardless of my disappointment, I still had to provide top quality service. All contact with my customer’s representatives were handled professionally. No need to endanger future opportunities with a short temper or a bad attitude.

Brainstorming New Ideas

Brainstorming new opportunities and career goals happened accidentally. I had to keep track of the thoughts somehow. The fear forced me to think critically and to take notes about my ideas. I typed out the best and worst case scenarios, emphasizing the worst case since it was inevitable.

My notes reflected my strengths as a writer, a speaker, and in the field of business. Next, I evaluated potential opportunities based on my strengths. Would I do well in a new line of business or working for a new company?

It took about three months before an opportunity presented itself.

Utilizing My Social Network

I was a little over a year into serving on the board of a local nonprofit organization. Its mission focused on helping the blind and visually impaired live independently. As a portion of my volunteer hours, I accepted several speaking engagements on their behalf.

By this time, I had developed relationships with several other board members including the executive director, Mr. Tuttle. On one particular presentation, Mr. Tuttle asked me about my business.

I opened up about my situation. Discussed how losing that one customer jeopardized my entire business and lamented that I was in the process of figuring out my next endeavor. He asked me if I had considered nonprofit management and/or grant writing as a career option.

That suggestion blew me away. It never crossed my mind. Mr. Tuttle’s suggestion set the stage for a significant transition in my career.

Refining My Action Plan

I got back to work on my action plan. Nonprofit management and grant writing became two topics of interest. I researched online sources for more information and discovered educational programs through local universities and other agencies.

Before I knew it, I registered for a nonprofit management program. Talk about fear. I felt all alone among the 70 to 80 people attending the monthly workshops. My faithful guide dog kept me company though. Honestly, her presence encouraged me to persevere through the adversity. She became a topic of conversation among the workshop attendees. People wanted to know more about her and how she helped me.

Best of all, I was networking with new contacts and building my knowledge for a new career. I earned a certificate in nonprofit management and leadership when the program ended nine months later.

After completing the program, I registered for several six-week online courses in various aspects of grant writing and nonprofit/business management nicely complementing my existing skills and knowledge.

By the time my biggest customer had terminated their contract, I was grant writing for a fee.

Nearly ten years later, I am still grant writing on a fee basis. I continue seeking learning opportunities through books, workshops, webinars, and peers. My career is still going strong with lots of possibilities ahead.

My story may sound easy and stress-free, but it was quite challenging. Of course, my failing vision compounded the situation. Despite the setbacks, challenges, and the beliefs held by others, I persevered through all of it. Ultimately, by turning fear into action, I successfully overcame the challenges to my career.

You can too!

Moving into a New Career As a Visually Impaired Job Seeker

Explore Careers for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Conducting a Successful Job Search

Connecting with Mentors Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Turn Fear into Action, Part 1: Dealing with Job Insecurity As a Visually Impaired Employee


Topics:
Employment
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future
Transition

Turn Fear into Action, Part 1: Dealing with Job Insecurity As a Visually Impaired Employee

A Primer for Overcoming Fear

The power of fear is a well documented emotion. Scientists and researchers have studied its effects on our bodies and minds for decades. Every one of us will experience it during our lifetime in one way or another.

How about handling fear at work? Numerous examples of fear-causing events exist in the workplace. None more fearful than a threat to your job security. Let us start with an example of how to turn fear into action in the workplace as an employee who is blind or visually impaired.

Scenario: Fear for Your Job Security

A woman with her head down on the desk in front of a computer

You fear for your job security because your employer has changed ownership. You have heard new management plans to implement a variety of changes during the weeks ahead. You are unsure of your future with the company.

Naturally, in that scenario, you might have an uneasy feeling. Changes at work tend to create tension, anxiety, and gossip. You may have had a strong relationship with your old manager and coworkers. They may have accommodated you and learned how to help you do your job more effectively as someone with a visual impairment.

You could respond by getting upset and angry. You could walk away mumbling and grumbling to yourself about how new management may overlook you and your capabilities. In essence, you will have to start over gaining the trust and respect of a new manager. Consequently, you may feel more pressure to perform better and more fearful of failure.

Regardless of who or how the news is delivered to you, take a deep breath and calm yourself. Stop and think critically about the situation before you get swept away by your emotions or by rumors.

Preparing for what comes next is up to you.

Time to Turn Fear Into Action

Maintain Professionalism

Maintaining professionalism boils down to controlling your emotions in the workplace. Do not fall into the rumor mill. Gossip and rumors can quickly lead to an emotional response and hasty actions.

When possible, avoid the people who gossip the most. It is okay to listen to them, but remain neutral and level-headed.

Weight the Options

Think about the consequences of the possible outcomes. For example, best case scenario, your position is retained. This signifies your career is still on track with your employer. In this case, solidify yourself by demonstrating the value you bring to the company. Continue developing your competencies and skills in the position. Seek projects that stretch your abilities and highlight your work ethic.

Worst case scenario, your position is terminated. Your career may be temporarily on hold. In this case, take time to freshen up your resume. Research new industries, new employers, and new or similar job positions. Brainstorm new career paths too.

Preparing an action plan for both scenarios gives you an advantage. Write down or record which actions you will take in the event of either scenario. Review them and refine the details when you generate new ideas. This is your head start when organizational changes occur.

Seek Input

Gather input about the situation and your action plan. Ask for advice from people you trust. Preferably, approach people with no ties to your employer. If you developed an external network of contacts, this step is much easier to complete. Sometimes these contacts can steer you towards new opportunities as well.

Be cautious when seeking input from a coworker. Oversharing your plan of action could lead to unwanted rumors and gossip.

Go to the Source

Businessman sitting with a female employee in a conference talking

Be assertive and ask your new manager for a meeting. If he/she queries you about the reason, simply say it relates to your position and any new changes forthcoming. If the meeting is granted, be professional as you ask questions like these:

  • How will the upcoming changes affect the job position I hold?
  • Will the position require new duties or new responsibilities?
  • Is training provided for performing new duties?

Questions like these should help clarify the status of your job position. Your manager’s answers may point you towards the best case or worst case scenario. If the answers leave you feeling unsure of the eventual outcome, keep your head up, and revisit your action plan. Preparation is the key to your next move.

So there it is. A few, simple actions you can take in a similar situation. Many unique workplace scenarios exist. Some scenarios are more complicated than others, but none are more fearful than losing a job. Not to mention the added complexities caused by blindness or visual impairment.

In part two, I will discuss the fear that gripped me at the same time my eyesight began deteriorating more rapidly and how I turned that fear into action.

Succeed at Work As a Visually Impaired Employee

Communicating on the Job

Solving Problems at Work

Employer Expectations Over Time

Building Positive Work Habits


Topics:
Employment
Low Vision
Planning for the Future

Preparing for Home Based Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Millions of Americans enjoy the comfort and convenience of working from home. Specifically, those who are self-employed, and those employees who work remotely for a company. Maybe you are one of them.

A man sitting at a desk with this guide dog looking at the camera

Self-employment has been my primary income generating activity for the last 15 years. Working from a home office has been a cost effective, convenient option for me too. Plus, no long commutes, no walks in bad weather, and no stress about packing lunch.

Naturally, I was enamored with being my own boss and making my own schedule. Of course, blindness made self-employment and home based work much more challenging for me. It took a few years to sharpen my skills and to learn how to be effective working from home.

Recently, a young man asked me, “As a blind person, how do you stay effective being self-employed and working from home?”

It was a fantastic question. Here I will share the highlights of my answer. If you are planning to begin home based work, I offer you these tips to help you prepare for your own endeavor:

Tips for Working at Home Effectively

Set Up a Workspace

Identify a location within your home. It should be relatively comfortable and quiet. You will be spending a lot of time there. What hardware and assistive equipment is needed to work effectively?

Consider desk size and placement. Is it a good fit for all other hardware or assistive devices you will use? Ask someone you trust to assist you with this process. At times I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of my own home office set up. Thankfully, friends and relatives lent their helping hands.

Set a Routine and Work It

Set a daily or weekly work schedule. Working from home allows flexibility, but do not sacrifice productivity. Work is a top priority, so learn time management skills to be effective and efficient.

Keeping track of time is easier with large number clocks, talking clocks, and smartphones. Use calendar and reminder apps to stay on track with tasks as well. This tactic helps me knockout tasks and meet deadlines.

Get Ready Before Work

The process for getting ready to work in an office should be the same process as getting ready to work in your home office. Get showered, get dressed, grab a bite to eat, or review news articles or social media posts before you sit down to begin work. Save articles you would like to read after you are off the clock.

Take a Break

Nothing is less appealing than being stuck to your desk all day long. Take breaks throughout the day. If possible, get up, move around, or do some stretching. Sitting all day long is tough on our bodies.

Log off your computer. Get away from your desk and take your lunch break. Eating at your desk everyday can make a big mess over time—not to mention the possible risks to your valuable hardware.

In fact, taking a walk with my guide dog after lunch refreshes me, and he loves it too.

Go Home

When your work schedule is finished, treat it just like you would do working in an office. Go home. Organize your desk, turn off all your equipment, and leave the workspace. Avoid the temptation to put off work or to go back to your desk during the evening or late at night. It is easy to fall into this trap. I did so many, many times. But, if you are aware of the problem, you can plan to combat it.

Work and Life Balance

Schedule personal activities and household chores around a work schedule. Interrupting work to do some laundry or to checkout recent posts are productivity killers. I fell into this trap from time to time. Go for balance in this situation. If it is an urgent task, obviously take care of it. However, do your best to manage distractions during your scheduled work hours. If you suddenly think of a personal, to-do item, make a note or a voice memo to remind yourself later.

Working from home has tremendous personal benefits. Yet, this privilege comes with great responsibility. Your employer is trusting you to be productive. Your business success depends upon you. In either case, be mindful and educate yourself about working from home. It may take some trial and error, but if you develop good habits, you will be well on your way to working from home effectively.

Resources for Self-Employment and Home Based Work

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Telecommuting As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Working from Home: Everybody Likes the Idea of It!

CareerConnect Virtual Worksites: Accommodations for Workers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Work-at-Home Scams: How to Investigate Work-from-Home Job Listings


Topics:
Employment
Low Vision
Online Tools
Planning for the Future
Technology