Posted by: Department of Rehabilitation Services-Bureau of Education & Services for the Blind
As a teacher of students with visual impairments, incorporating the expanded core curriculum into lessons for our younger students is one of my major responsibilities. Some areas of the expanded core curriculum are easier to incorporate into lessons than others. For our younger population, birth through early elementary age, the recognition that there was a void for our students in the area of early exposure to career choices and meeting blind or visually impaired adult mentors in the workforce I knew needed to be addressed. Where typical sighted peers may gain information about potential jobs and work experiences by traveling through their environment on a daily basis, our students need this information to be brought to them so that they can have the same opportunities to explore possible job options as their peers do.
You can replicate this model for your students in three easy steps;
1. Reach out to Vocational Rehabilitation or Business Enterprise counselors in your community to make connections with blind or low vision professionals and career options you can showcase.
The Vocation Rehabilitation Counselor I reached out to was able to connect me with a legally blind small business owner, Judy Potter. Judy’s involvement of the day provided a wonderful opportunity for communication with the children as they naturally asked questions about blindness. Judy’s independence and orientation and mobility skills around the park gave our families a glimpse at what their children have the capability of achieving as their skills improve and they grow from dependent children to independent adults.
Choosing the site I did, Gillette Castle State Park, also allowed for an introduction to The Randolph Sheppard Act of 1936, which established the Business Enterprise Program (BEP). BEP was designed to help people who are blind gain financial independence. The on-site licensed blind vendor, Brandy Altergott owner and operator of Sherlock’s Grille, shared her experience with the families including how she grew up with BESB services beginning in the School Age division and transitioning to college with the support of our Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and eventually leading her to owning her own business through the BEP training program.
2. Locate a family friendly site to host your event, providing some sort of entertainment such as a music therapist, arts and crafts, etc.
The site I chose, Gillette Castle State Park, is a very popular destination in Connecticut. Judy, owner of “It’s Theatre Time”, incorporated theater into her story telling as she invited the children up to participate and act out the story she read. Music, singing and audience participation were woven into each play, and the children had the opportunity at the end of the performance to come up and strum Judy’s guitar for the ending sing along.
3. Invite your young families to come and participate in a fun and informative day!
For our younger students, families are still learning about services we as an agency provide. I wanted not only our students to be aware of options for them as they get older, but also to educate the families as well. Being able to highlight the talents of our clients as well as tap into valuable agency resources made for a wonderful experience for the students and their families. The day incorporated a number of areas of the expanded core curriculum, with a specific focus on career exposure for our students and we were able to showcase successful blind and low vision adults in the workforce as mentors for our students.
The model I created allows families to learn about the many supports BESB offers as our students grow into adulthood. Exposing our students at an early age to possible career paths gives them the confidence and understanding that they are capable of anything that they set their minds to.
For more information please contact Beth Borysewicz
Contact: Beth Borysewicz, Teacher of the Visually Impaired
Phone: (860) 602-4073