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for the Blind

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Is Asking for Help at Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired a Sign of Weakness?

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How many times this week have you (with a feeling of reluctance, a timid voice, and a cringe on your face) asked someone for help?

I recently asked for help—that is, after I spent an hour attempting to troubleshoot a problem I had with my tablet. After I put my frustrations and stubbornness aside, I called technical support, and my issue was resolved in five quick minutes (by a technician who graciously thanked me for calling). Why didn't I just call and ask for help to begin with? I'm sure you can relate whether sighted or visually impaired.

Many of us take pride in being able to figure things out by ourselves and often go to great lengths before having to admit we don't know the answer and succumbing to asking for assistance. I know I sometimes do.

Asking for help is something all of us do (some more than others). However, when you are an individual who is blind or visually impaired in need of assistance, taking the initiative to ask for help may not be something you are comfortable doing, and depending on the situation, it may seem daunting.

Overcoming preconceived barriers about asking for help is essential for your success as a job seeker or current employee who is blind or visually impaired. Do you find yourself contemplating asking for help? If so, let's start by conquering some of the fears you may have, so you can move past your personal debate of whether or not to ask for help when you are at work, at home, or in the community.

Businesswoman sitting at a computer looking confused with her arms bent up at the elbow

Common Concerns About Asking for Help at Work

  • Do you fear others may view you as incapable because you don't know the answer or know how?

This is not the time to let your ego get in the way of asking for help (and secretly pretend to know it all). Asking for assistance might make you feel vulnerable, which can be frightening, but being vulnerable is what makes us human. What's the worst that could happen when you ask your question? As an employee or job seeker who is blind or visually impaired, asking questions are a strength that may set you apart from your co-workers as someone who wants to understand their job duties and maximize their performance at work. Remember, employers value employees who are self-assured and comfortable asking questions when necessary.

  • Do you fear a loss of independence or control when you ask for help?

Asking for help will often facilitate your independence if the information received is applied, and you learn from it. Give yourself permission to ask for help. When you do, you'll get something in return such as learn a new skill or simply receive new information that you can use in the future. If you need to inch your way towards overcoming this fear, review how to solve problems at work for additional strategies you can apply.

  • Do you lack self-confidence in your skills to communicate you need assistance?
Two businessmen talking, one facing the camera and the other one facing away from the camera

As a blind or visually impaired individual, you need to know how to tell others how they can help you. This skill may be particularly difficult if you are an introvert where asking for help doesn't feel natural or easy. Practice asking for help in a manner where your request is specific. For additional practice, review Tips on Negotiating Assistance to boost your confidence in this area.

  • When you ask for help, are you concerned people will only agree to assist you out of feeling sorrow for you because you are visually impaired?

Interacting with a sighted person is your opportunity to debunk any misconceptions that person might have about individuals with vision loss and prove you are more like them than different, especially at work.

  • Are you worried you will inconvenience the person you are asking for help or that you will be a burden?

The fact of the matter is most people are willing to help one another and are glad when presented the opportunity to do so. Don't you feel good when you help someone?

If you need assistance while you are at work, a good strategy to utilize is to schedule an appointment with a colleague or supervisor to ask your questions. Track your questions as the day goes and don't spend too much time trying to solve a problem you could easily get the answer to by asking. Frequent interruptions that impact productivity at work will not be well received. And lastly, I should mention, asking for too much help can be a problem, but I'll save that topic for a future blog.

It takes courage to ask for help. However, when you recognize you need assistance and ask for help, you will grow personally and professionally as you seek employment or work to Maintain Your Job and Succeed at Work as a person who is blind or visually impaired.

If you're still debating whether or not to ask for help, use these additional resources to further build your skills:

Interviewing Tips: The Best Response to "What Is Your Greatest Weakness?"

As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired, Is Your Communication Style Passive, Aggressive, or Assertive?

Assertiveness Training: Introduction

Self-Confidence: How to Foster it As a Person Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired


Topics:
Employment
Low Vision
Planning for the Future
Social Skills
There are currently 4 comments

Re: Is Asking for Help at Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired a Sign of Weakness?



Alicia,
Thank you for writing this post. This topic is one that colleagues of mine have talked about off and on for many years. It is that delicate balance of how and when to ask for help without feeling like a burden. Depending on the workplace there can be some false persceptions of who and what blind people are and what our capabilities are as well. So then when we ask for help the impression can be that we are not as capable as a sighted person, even though sighted people ask for help at work too. Sometimes we are placed in a different category. Or on a higher or lower standard. For example, you should be able to do everything for yourself because we provided all your accommodations. Or you can’t do as well as others because you are blind and that is why you are asking for help. Trying to negotiate that can be tricky but your post was very helpful.


Re: Is Asking for Help at Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired a Sign of Weakness?



Thank you so much for your positive feedback. I appreciate your personal perspective about asking for help in the workplace as a person who is blind or visually impaired. It is an important topic of conversation and with your permission; I'd like to post your comment on the CareerConnect Message Board to facilitate further discussion with other job seekers and employees who are blind or visually impaired.

With the right tools and communication skills, networking for assistance in the workplace can be twofold. It can create a learning opportunity for the individual who is seeking assistance to perhaps further improve his performance at work as well as an opportunity for that same individual to demonstrate confidence in his abilities as an employee with vision loss. The next time you ask for help at work, consider it a chance to positively impact your colleague's impressions of your abilities as an employee with vision loss by clearly communicating your reasons or intentions for asking for assistance.

If you haven't already, you may want to read the following blog post about balancing humility and confidence in the workplace:
http://www.afb.org/blog/careerconnect-blog/self-confidence-how-it-increases-your-employability-as-a-person-who-is-blind-or-visually-impaired/12

Sincerely,
Alicia


Re: Is Asking for Help at Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired a Sign of Weakness?



Alicia,

Great insight. I totally agree with you on the importance of clear communication with colleagues. One of my friends told me about an innovative software called OrCam, that offers tremendously helpful [url=http://www.orcam.com/blind-motherhood-part-path-orcam/]blind accessibility[/url], dramatically enhancing the overall work experience. Basically, it has an advanced camera that can assist with reading, facial recognition, and more through simply pointing at the words. I highly recommend you check it out.

Best,
Gary


Re: Is Asking for Help at Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired a Sign of Weakness?



A sign of weakness? Definitely not when you look at the question as you have explained it. I recently offered to prepare a cup of coffee for a visitor to our office. He wanted Splenda in it, and because I don't use Splenda in my coffee, I had to ask for help. It's a small thing, but it brought to light that our bins of coffee fixings needed to be marked in braille, with which I agreed wholeheartedly. Interestingly enough, I was able to help the person helping me by telling them that Splenda is in the yellow package, relieving them of the need to read each packet without their reading glasses. I think it's important to feel confident enough to help as well as to ask for help when we need it. It's also important not to ask for help when we can do it ourselves, but are feeling lazy. It's a fine line to walk between oversensitive about taking or asking for help and depending on others to do for us what we can do for ourselves. My family has accused me of being stubborn and not letting them help me. I feel like I already need plenty of help and I like to do what I can as independently as possible. I'll take the title stubborn as my own, but I am not afraid to ask for help or to receive it graciously and with the hope of returning the gesture in the future. I think it's important to do what I can to help those who help me. It's called interdependence and humans require it to survive.


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