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Thank You, Mentor! Happy National Disability Mentoring Day

It’s National Disability Mentoring Day! Established by the American Association of People with Disabilities in 1999, this day of recognition and appreciation has become a year-round initiative. But today, we are especially excited to acknowledge the support, guidance, and advice our mentors provide.

We are thankful for our AFB CareerConnect mentors who have dedicated their time and expertise to helping job seekers who are blind or visually impaired find gainful employment. Mentors, you have provided us with so much. You have offered us:

  • Insight from your first-hand experience in the workforce
  • Knowledge of workplace accommodations and assistive technology
  • Advice during the disclosure process
  • Clarification by answering our questions
  • Opportunities through networking

You have helped us realize our strengths and weaknesses so we can reach our full potential. You have helped ease our transition into the world of work.

So from one mentee who has benefited from having mentors, I thank you.

If you have a mentor, be sure to thank them and acknowledge their support today (and every day). Thank you, mentors!

CareerConnect Shows Appreciation for Mentors

Cue the Applause: Celebrating Our Mentors on Disability Mentoring Day

Celebrating Disability Mentoring: Saying Thanks to Our CareerConnect Mentors

A Salute to Our CareerConnect Mentors: Disability Mentoring Day

Do Young Adults Have Role Models? Qualities to Look for In an Inspirational Role Model As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired


First Steps in the Employment Process for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Young man with glasses sitting and smiling at camera

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is the perfect time to jump start your path to gainful employment as a student who is blind or visually impaired. But how do you begin to take control and move toward your goal of having a job?

Simple! The best way to learn something is to do it. Working while you're in school is the most important thing you can do to prepare for the workforce as an adult. It's hard to imagine that a part-time job after school, during the summer, or on weekends is so important for your future, but research tells us it is the single best predictor of being successfully employed once you finish school.

CareerConnect's new Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide can serve as a roadmap to get you started. You can work through the guide yourself, but I suggest you reach out to a teacher or rehabilitation professional who is willing to help you take that first step in employment.

First Steps for Students in the Employment Process

Step 1: Take Charge of Your Education

Start where you are in school by taking responsibility for your educational goals by being more involved in your Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. Work toward running the meeting yourself, directing your IEP, and eventually you will be ready to direct your Individualized Employment Plan with your state vocational rehabilitation program. By taking an active leadership role in your education, you can discover what fields interest you, whether or not you need to pursue higher education, and explore all of your available options.

The step-by-step guide in Lesson 1: Student-Led IEP Meeting of the Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide will help empower you to take the lead in these important meetings. But don't stop there! Continue to work toward this goal while tackling the other steps in the employment process.

Step 2: Avoid the "First Job" Pitfall

Many young people fall into the trap of wanting the "perfect job" as their first job, and they won’t or don’t accept anything less. Avoid this pitfall by talking to people you know about their first job. It is very unlikely that it was even related to what they are doing now, and yet the jobs they have held led them to where they are today. For a first-hand account of this very situation, check out my "first job" story in "Resources You Haven't Thought of Before As a Visually Impaired Job Seeker."

There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between a career and a job. As a job seeker, you need to be able to distinguish this difference so you can make good decisions about future jobs. Lesson 2: Job Versus Career will help you think about how you're going to achieve your career goals through jobs that fit your immediate needs as well as lead in the right direction. Although it would be nice to start your first job with a big salary, benefits, and paid vacation, it’s not realistic. Most first jobs are minimum wage, no benefits, and if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

Step 3: Inventory Your Employability Skills

Although you have been developing employability skills since you first learned to walk, talk, follow directions, ask questions, and put your toys away, you probably aren’t able to verbalize them. Employability skills are those transferable skill sets all employers seek in employees that are not specific to a particular job.

Lesson 3: Employability Skills will walk you through the process of identifying and evaluating your transferable skills. You can begin to sharpen those skills you are good at and develop those you lack or need to improve. Work through this lesson more than once as you continue to explore the world of work. Some jobs will value certain skills over others and the more you know about yourself and your skills, the better prepared you will be to choose the best opportunities in the future.

More Advice for Students

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

10 Resources for Transitioning from High School to College or Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Hey Teens, Let's Talk Summer Jobs

Conducting a Successful Job Search

Low Vision
Planning for the Future

What You Need to Know About Hiring a Person with a Visual Impairment (#InclusionWorks)

Older man and young man shaking hands while sitting at a desk

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and as such, I want to speak to employers and highlight #InclusionWorks.

Let’s assume you recently interviewed an individual who disclosed he is blind or visually impaired. His education and experience point to his know-how, but you’re (let’s be honest) very hesitant about hiring the individual. I hear your concern—blindness and low vision are low incidence disabilities; hence you likely have no experience working with an individual with a visual impairment.

You’re wondering:

  • Can an individual who is blind complete the essential job functions?
  • How expensive are his accommodations?
  • Is this individual a liability?
  • Can we communicate effectively?

You’ve come to the right blog post. I will give you brief responses to your probable concerns and provide you with resources to further subside your reservations.

Rest assured, persons who are blind or have low vision are far more similar to sighted individuals than different. They have individual strengths and experiences, and if the strengths and experiences of this individual are an asset to your employment team, you’ve struck gold. I say that because job accommodations (most of which are free or extremely inexpensive) enable the individual to perform nearly all job functions with no sight or minimal sight, and his experience with a visual impairment has likely fostered resilience and a determined spirit. Research even reveals employees with vision loss often have higher performance ratings, retention, and lower absenteeism than their sighted counterparts.

I’m sure that was music to your ears, but what about liability? Take a minute to read "Are You Looking For a Few Good Workers?" and "Myths vs Realities of Employees with Vision Loss," and you’ll learn employees who are blind are as safe, if not safer, than sighted employees. Furthermore, insurance rates do not increase with the hiring of a blind or visually impaired employee.

Now regarding communication concerns: utilize the tips in "Communicating Comfortably" to facilitate positive verbal communication. If your concern is written communication, realize (1) you can provide and accept electronic copies of documents, (2) in lieu of a post-it note message, call the individual and leave a voicemail and, (3) understand technology exists to both convert printed material into electronic material and to convert printed material into speech.

Hopefully I just made your decision easy!

Now apply the information in the following four resources to facilitate your newest employee’s smooth entry into your workplace:

Planning for the Future

White Cane Safety Day Is October 15!

White Cane Safety Day, or White Cane Day, is this Saturday!

It’s hard to believe we are already in the middle of October (and National Disability Employment Awareness Month). Before you know it, it will be Halloween and then the holiday season! Because I’ve been so busy lately, I thought the best way to celebrate this year’s White Cane Day would be to slow it down with a Throwback Thursday of my favorite posts about the famous white mobility cane.

Join me for a walk down memory lane and check out these posts about the independence the white cane provides for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

Teenage girl walking with cane on sunny day

Remember when Joe Strechay introduced us to "Slim," his white cane? He talked about his first lesson in orientation and mobility and how his cane gave him the independence to navigate his way all around the country. Check out his white cane memories in "Let’s Go Back to the Future with Slim, My White Cane."

What about when David Ballman talked about his struggles learning how to use the white cane? He was embarrassed of the attention the cane brought, but he realized that this tool provided him the benefits of an independent lifestyle. If you are in a similar situation, reassure yourself by reading "Thoughts on My White Cane and What It Means to Me."

Traveling with the white cane isn’t always perfect. Accidents are bound to happen, but how should we handle them? In a post from 2014, Joe Strechay wrote about his white cane mishaps at Grand Central Station. Read how he handled the situation in "Celebrating White Cane Safety Day As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired."

Having excellent orientation and mobility skills comes with some major benefits. Not only are you able to travel independently like a pro with your white cane, but you are more likely to be employed. That's right! Like Shannon Carollo mentioned in her post, this is the understatement of the year. Learn what you can do with this knowledge by checking out, "The Link Between Effective Orientation and Mobility Skills and Gainful Employment for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired."

What are some of your favorite memories from White Cane Day? Let us know in the comment section below!

Getting Around

Drivers, in Celebration of White Cane Day, Here’s What to Do When a Blind Pedestrian Is Crossing an Intersection or Street

maribel getting help from sighted person in crossing street

Since President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress passed its resolution in 1964, we celebrate "White Cane Safety Day" or more simply, "White Cane Day" every October 15th. The purpose of this exhilarating day (Yes, for those of us who are blind or visually impaired or who work in the field of blindness, this day is thrilling!) is to celebrate the independence of those who are blind and to educate drivers on white cane laws.

In honor of White Cane Day 2016, let’s discuss a driver’s protocol when he or she sees an individual holding a white cane or using a dog guide at an intersection or (marked or unmarked) crosswalk.

Older man walking with Mobility Cane

First, you may find it helpful to understand how a blind pedestrian crosses an intersection. He or she must locate the intersection, listen for the pattern of traffic, align him or herself up to cross the street, wait for perpendicular traffic to stop, and ideally cross the street as parallel traffic is surging forward.

As a driver, this means you may see an individual holding a cane who is preparing to cross a street, yet not yet crossing. Your job at this point is to slow down and be prepared to stop should the individual cross at an inappropriate time.

Next, the blind individual should transition the cane from an upright position to an extended position in front of the body; a signal he or she is stepping out. If you are approaching a crosswalk (whether marked or unmarked) or intersection and see an extended white cane, you must stop. Likely, this comes into play if the individual is attempting to walk across the same road you, as the driver, are attempting to cross (such as turning right on red).

group of blind teenagers

As the blind or visually impaired pedestrian is signaling a move forward or moving forward, your job as the driver is to pull up to the crosswalk, but refrain from driving into the crosswalk. This allows the pedestrian to hear the hum of your engine as it is at a complete stop.

Only after the individual has safely crossed the street should you continue your turn or continue driving through the intersection, even if that means waiting a few moments after your light has turned green. This is helpful for the pedestrian to remain oriented.

We can’t over-emphasize the importance of drivers following the above protocol. The safety of blind and visually impaired travelers is dependent on their mobility skills and drivers’ compliance with white cane laws.

Learn More About White Canes

If you are eager to learn more on the topic of white canes, take a look at the following:

Thank you for taking the time to celebrate White Cane Safety Day with us at AFB!

Getting Around
Low Vision