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for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide

The Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide was created for Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP) Providers, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies, and Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI's) working to improve employment outcomes for teens and young adults who are blind or visually impaired. Youth with visual impairments belong in competitive integrated jobs during and after high school like their sighted peers. In order for this to happen, youth with vision loss need to have an edge on the sighted students competing for the same in-demand part-time, after school, and summer jobs, and this edge is only achieved if the youth receive specialized instruction in workplace readiness training no later than age 14. This is especially critical considering across the nation the age youth can begin to work ranges from ages 10 to 14. Overall, if the employment rate of teens and young adults with vision loss in the workforce is going to increase, work-based learning needs to start early and the implementation of the specialized instruction for these teens and young adults needs to be widespread.

Given the new requirement of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), states are required to reserve funds to provide pre-employment transition services to youth who are blind or visually impaired. Vocational rehabilitation agencies are responsible for making five required activities available to students: (1) job exploration counseling, (2) work-based learning experiences, (3) counseling on opportunities for enrollment in comprehensive transition or post-secondary educational programs at institutions of higher education, (4) workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living skills, and (5) instruction in self-advocacy. The activities included in this guide are for service providers to utilize to provide instruction and services to clients with low vision in three of the five required areas: job exploration, work-based learning, and workplace readiness training.

The activities place an emphasis on teens and young adults who are blind or visually impaired developing a foundation in workplace readiness skills through exploring and holding jobs prior to moving into career exploration. As teens learn to identify their interests and skills, they need to understand these aspects of their character change and evolve as they grow and have experiences. In fact, teens with vision loss need exposure to and opportunities to work in jobs to fully develop an understanding of their current skills, abilities, and interests.

Holding jobs will also facilitate opportunities for these youth to learn, develop, and practice new skills as well as realize their abilities and develop new interests. Teens are often asked, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" The phrase "grow up" associated with the term "career" can be overwhelming to any student at the age of 14, regardless if they have a disability or not. This is a very complex question, and the reality is young teens who are blind or visually impaired are often in the process of learning what they are capable of doing. Instructors can facilitate this learning process by helping teens explore "what they want to be" through the provision of job exploration and work-based learning activities.

The facilitation of on-the-job training opportunities, internships, and job shadowing experiences will give visually impaired students the opportunity to learn basic employability or transferrable skills, skills that can be learned at any job and used to pursue any career. Opportunities for teens to hold jobs and even internships will help them determine what type of career they would like to pursue. Instructors need to help youth understand that holding a job can be their career, or they can obtain further education and training to pursue another job as their long-term career. In fact, holding a job at an early age can help a teen determine or realize if his future might include post-secondary education at college or technical school.

Students with vision loss who do not have experience holding a job may make premature decisions about their career path that are based solely on their perception of the career and not their actual experiences associated with holding a job. Therefore, students with low vision need to explore jobs and have employment opportunities while they are still in high school.

Visually impaired and blind students need experience and practice finding their own jobs. When work experiences are pre-arranged for students, they miss out on learning the skills needed to be successful in the long-term working world. Students need to participate in the entire process of locating and obtaining a job — from completing job applications to being interviewed to starting their first day of work. Students who do not participate in the job seeking process may have misconceptions that finding and being hired for a job is a quick and easy process. Having experiences locating, applying for, and interviewing for jobs will help students learn they are accountable for their employment success as well as give them a solid foundation for obtaining future employment opportunities on their own. Overall, as students work with their vocational rehabilitation agencies, they need to understand and be active with their role and responsibilities in their employment process.

Introduction to Materials

The materials were developed with the intention of providing instructors easy access to a variety of activities in several formats to meet the learning medium needs of all of their students. The activities can be printed, accessed electronically, and even e-mailed. The activities are also available as electronic braille files (BRF) in the Unified English Braille (UEB) Code ready to be embossed. The BRF files are available for download at the bottom of each lesson. Right-click and "save as" to download a file to a computer.

The materials were designed for youth whose primary (and possibly only) disability is their visual impairment. Activities can be modified for individual student needs and for students with additional disabilities. The activities are designed to facilitate individual and small group instruction. The activities can also be used to facilitate distance instruction with students in rural areas if/when face-to-face instruction cannot occur or is limited. The provision of feedback and guidance from instructors is imperative for students to receive in order to maximize the student's learning and understanding of the content from completion of the activities.

Individuals with vision loss should receive instruction in career skills based on their assessed needs. The activities have been numbered in a format which progresses from instruction in basic career skills to more advanced. The activities should be used in tandem with activities from the Job Seeker's Toolkit to provide comprehensive training in workplace readiness. Ideally, students should complete all of the activities in the toolkit and activity guide. However, some students may have more advanced skills and instructors can access the activities according to the instructional needs of the students. Several of the activities will direct you to a lesson within the Job Seeker's Toolkit. Users will need to register with CareerConnect to access these activities.

The foundation of the activities begins with students leading their own IEP Meetings. If students become invested in making their own decisions about their futures early on, they will be more likely to become employed or attend college. Additional activities facilitate self-exploration which will guide youth who are blind or visually impaired in determining if they have the skills and abilities needed to pursue college, technical school, and/or employment. Students who engage in self-directed and inquiry based learning may be more realistic about their capabilities and therefore may be more successful with their chosen direction.

Students need to recognize their learning needs and to have opportunities to drive their learning experiences. The ultimate goal is for the student to take initiative as well as accept responsibility and accountability in the process of planning and making decisions about their future. This process is driven by students who are blind or visually impaired receiving and using realistic feedback about their performance from their teachers, counselors, family members, and other people in their personal network. Students who use the feedback in a positive manner to improve their skills will be better prepared to receive and use feedback from future employers and supervisors thus increasing their success as an employee.

Additional activities will be uploaded to the guide over time. Future activities will be included for parents to complete as they have a stake in the transition process and influence the path their children take in regards to being employed.

This document is available as an electronic braille file. Right-click and "save as" to download "Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide" to your computer.

The Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide was developed by Alicia Wolfe for the American Foundation for the Blind.

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