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Are You Prepared to Succeed in College As a Student Who Is Visually Impaired?

Once you graduate from high school, your adult life as an individual with vision loss begins; a life that will be shaped by the decisions you made in high school.

After you receive your diploma and toss your cap, will you have a plan to succeed in the workforce and to fulfill your dreams as an adult who is visually impaired? If your plan includes pursuing higher education to obtain a college degree or attending a career school (also known as technical or vocational school) to learn specific skills needed to perform a job, you’ll want to be fully prepared to pursue your dreams.

Five Questions to Ask in Preparation for College Success

So, how do you become college ready as a student with vision loss? Start by asking yourself five important questions and then use the suggested resources to develop a plan for making your dream to attend college or career school a reality.

  1. "Am I prepared with the skills I need to earn a college degree?"
    Review Lesson 11: Skills for College Students with your personal network and teacher of students with visual impairments to determine if you need to spend time learning and practicing additional skills such as how to study with a human reader.

  2. "Does my Individualized Education Program (IEP) include instructional goals to prepare me for those critical skills I will need to succeed as a student with vision loss in college such as effective note-taking skills, college-level study skills, time management skills, etc.?"
    Attending college or career school as a student who is visually impaired is an educational journey unlike high school. It encompasses more than the freedom you have been longing for. Higher level skills are needed to be successful in college. Complete Lesson 13: Transition IEP Goals to Prepare Students with Vision Loss for College with your teacher of students with visual impairments or vocational rehabilitation counselor to determine if you need specialized instruction to learn additional skills for college success.

  3. "If I applied for college today, would the volunteer and extracurricular activities I list on my application demonstrate my leadership skills?"
    Your grade point average (GPA) and your scores on standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT are important factors when college or career schools review your application for admission. The institutions are also looking for information to determine if you are involved in extracurricular or volunteer activities that will help demonstrate your character, commitment, and what you would contribute to the campus. Use Lesson 14 to learn more about the importance of volunteer and community service on your college or career school application.

  4. "Am I prepared to submit a well written college essay that creates a self-portrait of myself as a student with vision loss for the admissions review committee?"
    Get your essay showcase ready by utilizing Lesson 15: College Essay Writing Practice.

  5. "Is my decision to attend college as a student with vision loss a good decision for me?"
    Use Ask a College Graduate with Vision Loss for Advice to help you make an informed decision about your future educational plans. When we make big life decisions, it can be helpful to talk to someone who has made the same decision we are considering. A college graduate with vision loss can offer you valuable advice and share his or her perspective about attending college as a student who is blind or visually impaired.

When it is time to leave the halls of your high school campus, will you be prepared to succeed in college or career school as a student with vision loss?

Resources to Prepare Students with Vision Loss for College

Transition to College: Program Activity Guide for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

College Bound As a Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Post-Secondary Education Options

College Knowledge for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

The Degree I Need to Succeed in the Workforce

Admissions Requirements for Visually Impaired Students

College Costs for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Paying for College and Completing the FAFSA

Scholarship and Grant Opportunities for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Taking Out a Student Loan to Pay for College


Topics:
Education
Employment
Low Vision
Online Tools
Planning for the Future
Transition

Paying for College As a Student Who Is Visually Impaired

piggy bank surrounded by coins

When you hear the words "college education," do you automatically think "cha-ching?"

It’s quite normal to associate dollar signs with attending a post-secondary institution, especially as the costs of a college education continue to rise in our country. Unfortunately, many teenagers and adults with vision loss often assume college is not an affordable option for them to pursue. Have you made the same assumption for yourself? If so, I encourage you to reconsider. Attending college or career school may be more affordable than you think.

The reality is there are many resources available to assist you as a student with vision loss for paying the costs to attend college or career school. In fact, most students don’t pay the "sticker price" for tuition and fees. Explore the new lessons in the Transition to College: Program Activity Guide to learn more about:

One of the best decisions you may possibly make is to learn more about the resources available to fund your college tuition, which could lead you to make an informed decision to attend! We at CareerConnect want you to pursue your dream of attending college or career school. Your future employment opportunities may very well depend on it.

Coming Next Week to the Transition to College: Program Activity Guide

  • A lesson on the skills students who are visually impaired need to acquire to be successful in college or career school.
  • An IEP Goal Bank for teachers of students with visual impairments to use as a resource for preparing teens transitioning to college or career school.

Resources for Teachers of Visually Impaired Students

Transition to College: Program Activity Guide

Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide

Lesson Plans for Teachers of Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

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


Topics:
Education
Employment
Low Vision
Online Tools
Planning for the Future
Transition

Introducing the Transition to College: Program Activity Guide for Students with Visual Impairments

Across the nation, it’s a critical time of the year for teachers of students with visual impairments and other professionals responsible for providing services to students who are blind or visually impaired. We are actively engaged in a state of preparation and planning for our students as they begin their journeys into the new school year. Not only are we responsible for teaching and supporting students with visual impairments in learning the skills needed to have a successful school year (academically and socially), but we are also preparing them to be future employees in the workforce.

In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported people with a disability are less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher than those people with no disability. In addition, those who attained higher levels of education were more likely to be employed than those with less education.

Does the reported data cause you to pause and think about your middle and high school students who are blind or visually impaired and are exploring the option of attending college or career school? Do you have clients with vision loss on your caseload who need counseling on attending college to reach their vocational goals outlined in their Individualized Plans for Employment? If so, use the new Transition to College: Program Activity Guide to prepare college or career school bound students for obtaining a degree or vocational training and ultimately employment as an adult who is visually impaired.

 A group of high school age students lined up to take a class picture

Transition to College: Program Activity Guide Lessons

The Transition to College: Program Activity Guide includes over 20 lesson plans (available online and in a braille ready format) for teachers and professionals to use for teaching skills students with vision loss need to learn prior to attending college or career school. Following are suggestions for using the first five activities in the guide:

  • Lesson 1: College Bound As a Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired
    Students with vision loss have a critical need to learn about and prepare for college and career school as early as middle school. Utilization of lesson one will support students in deciding if attending college or career school is the right choice for them. An emphasis is placed on students making an informed choice by researching post-secondary education options so that they plan to transition out of high school accordingly.

  • Lesson 2: Post-Secondary Education Options for Students with Visual Impairments
    This exploratory lesson can be used to guide students in deciding what they need to do to achieve their future personal and professional goals as an adult. Researching post-secondary options, which range from entering the workforce straight out of high school to attending college or a career school to obtain a degree or training prior to employment, is an important component of lesson two.

  • Lesson 3: College Knowledge for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Part One
    Do your students need to learn what a bachelor’s or master’s degree is and what is required to obtain a college degree? Use this lesson to teach students the various degrees of study they can pursue at college and the certificate options available at career school.

  • Lesson 4: The Degree I Need to Succeed in the Workforce As a Visually Impaired Job Seeker
    Facilitate the development of your students’ research skills by using lesson four to help them discover the level of education or training required for the job or career they would like to pursue as an individual who is blind or visually impaired.

  • Lesson 5: Admissions Requirements for Visually Impaired Students
    Meeting the entrance requirements is a key factor in whether students will attend college or career school. Are your students aware of those requirements? Are they following a long-term timeline to meet the requirements prior to applying for college or career school during the beginning of their senior year of high school? Use the activities in lesson five to facilitate your students’ learning about the criteria required to be accepted into the college or career school of their choice.

Vision loss should not limit the options students who are blind or visually impaired have for obtaining a college degree or additional training to increase their employment opportunities. Help change the previously reported statistic by revving up your instructional toolkit by adding the first five activities.

Be sure to check back next week on the AFB CareerConnect website for five additional activities to be launched!


Resources for Teachers of Visually Impaired Students

Transition to College: Program Activity Guide

Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide

Lesson Plans for Teachers of Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired


Topics:
Education
Employment
Low Vision
Online Tools
Planning for the Future
Transition

Pounding the Rock for Blind and Visually Impaired Job Seekers

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the hundred and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” —Jacob Riis (1849-1914)

This quote is displayed in the San Antonio Spurs dressing room. Down here in South Texas, the head coach, Gregg Popovich, is known for his "pounding the rock" mindset and culture he created in the Spurs locker room. It is not Popovich’s quote though. It comes from a book he read during the 1990s. The quote belongs to Jacob Riis, a staunch proponent of immigration rights and decent living conditions in New York during the late 1800s.

I reference this quote because the blind and visually impaired community continues facing a significant hurdle. A majority of blind and visually impaired job seekers are unemployed or not in the labor force, even in this day of advanced technology and favorable legislation.

Naturally, the question is "why?" If I tried to tackle all the elements of "why," I could write enough posts to fill a month. Instead, I would like to promote mutual cooperation from our community with employers, especially hiring managers.

In my view, unemployment is the rock, and we all need to pound it. Breaking the rock would signify major progress in lowering that unemployment rate. Here we go!

Group of multi-ethnic business partners discussing ideas

Conquering Unemployment for Visually Impaired Job Seekers

The unemployment rate for blind and visually impaired job seekers appears unchanged. However, while success is not arriving in mass quantities, blind and visually impaired individuals are achieving success in spite of the misconceptions and skepticism in the workplace.

A statistic is a snapshot in time. But, you may feel hopeless when you are one of those stats. It is not your destiny though. It does not define who you are or what you will be. Take hold of your hammer and pound the rock!

1. Complete All the Training Available to You.

Lots of local services are available where you live. State agencies and nonprofit organizations can help you with independent living skills, vocational rehabilitation, education, and job readiness.

Mastering the skills to live and work independently will set you up for success. Like getting a bigger, better hammer!

2. Help Others Pound the Rock

When you find employment, celebrate your success by helping others achieve it too. Consider becoming a CareerConnect mentor. Find ways to share your success with others. Volunteer or give a testimonial with the agency or nonprofit who helped you.

An older man and woman at a desk in business attire working on a computer together

3. Work Your Way Up

In the article, "Meet Kirk Adams, the New President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind," Mr. Adams alluded to blind and visually impaired job seekers being prepared for leadership roles across many sectors. I agree. It follows in the philosophy of pounding the rock.

Even though we may break our own rock, we ought to keep pounding on it on behalf of our entire community. Hence, becoming a leader in your field could bring about the breaking of countless rocks.

Employers, You Can Help Too

I know that lots of companies promote their diversity and inclusivity initiatives. Grants research requires me to read through corporate webpages fairly often. It is fantastic when they talk about its diversity and inclusivity, but, does that word trickle down to all corporate levels? Specifically, do hiring managers understand what to anticipate when a blind or visually impaired job seeker appears for an interview?

In order to break the rock of unemployment, we need employers to be open minded and knowledgeable about the issues and various adaptations or accommodations used by blind and visually impaired workers.

1. Expand Your Knowledge of the Issue

This one is easy. If you are an employer/hiring manager who seeks to learn more about the issue, visit the For Employers section of the American Foundation for the Blind’s website. It is a one stop shop for learning all you need to know about hiring and working with blind and visually impaired job seekers.

2. Pave the Way to Success

Take the next step when promoting your diversity and inclusivity initiatives. Refer to reasonable accommodations in your recruiting materials, webpages, job announcements, etc. Progressive human resources departments ought to be aware of the most common accommodations used for blindness or visual impairments.

I came across this job announcement on another website. It is the first time I have ever read that the employer is open to providing reasonable accommodations in the job ad. This is the kind of ad which makes me, a blind individual, feel comfortable if I were to apply for the job. It tells me the staff is open minded and aware of such necessities. That is excellent!

Take your recruiting efforts to state agencies and nonprofits serving blind and visually impaired individuals. Actively seek talent to demonstrate your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Two businessmen talking, one facing the camera and the other one facing away from the camera

3. Help Other Pound the Rock Too

When a blind or visually impaired worker becomes a success story at your company, share it, appropriately, of course. Learn from the experience and become an advocate. Consider giving a testimonial about the hiring process, the reasonable accommodations, and the level of performance the employee achieved. Find a way to spread the good word about great experiences. Sharing success stories with other employers or hiring managers helps extinguish the skepticism and misconceptions employers may harbor about workers who are blind or visually impaired.

Allow Me to Summarize

Unemployment is a major challenge. Despite advances in technology and disability rights, the unemployment rate is unacceptably high.

Those of us who are blind or visually impaired must stay committed to the process of job seeking, continually sharpening our skills to navigate and contribute to the cause.

Employers must continue their commitment to diversity and inclusivity in their workforce, but go the extra mile to become knowledgeable about this problem.

We cannot do this without the teachers, counselors, and other professionals who work with us. If we all, as a team, continue pounding away at the unemployment rock, eventually it will split open.


Topics:
Employment
Low Vision
Planning for the Future

Three Traits That Make Blind and Visually Impaired Job Seekers Stand Out

I am amazed whenever I hear stories about fellow, blind and visually impaired individuals who are unstoppable. Personally, I know a few of them, and their accomplishments take my breath away.

Let me be more specific: it is their positivity, their work ethic, and their grit that I admire. Those traits seem to be drivers of success. By no means am I saying those are the only meaningful ones, but, in my opinion, blind and visually impaired job seekers with those traits can turn into valuable assets for any organization.

Just think for moment. Those of us who are blind or visually impaired learn a killer set of skills. In the course of developing those skills, our mindset develops as well. Where am I going with this?

If you are a hiring manager, let me give you some insight as to why I believe blind and visually impaired individuals can be great additions to your staff. If you are job seeker with vision loss, ask yourself if these qualities shine through in you.

Traits That Make Visually Impaired Job Seekers Stand Out

1. Positivity

Two female colleagues working with a laptop computer

Positivity is a common trait among those I notice in others who are blind or visually impaired. As I recall some stories from my peers, they believed things would get better if they persevered through their own adversity. Rather than brooding over the doom and gloom of vision loss, their positive attitude drove them onward.

Speaking from my own experience, it was very hard to finish college while losing my eyesight, but I managed to earn my degree. Positivity carried me through those dark days after the doctors diagnosed my eye disease. Lots of positive self-talk went on in my head. I kept telling myself I could graduate. If I pushed on through the adversity, then I would get through it.

I realized positive thinking comes from developing skills, smashing goals, and challenging one’s self constantly. That is why positive thinkers are critical to an organization’s success.

2. Work Ethic

Man in business suit adjusting his collar.

All managers look for signs of strong work ethic in their job candidates. It may be hard to grasp unless you have observed an individual in action though.

Again, those of us who are blind or visually impaired have, most likely, participated in and completed numerous types of training while attending college or working. Take, for example, braille skills, orientation and mobility skills, assistive technology skills, and training to use a dog guide. Developing these skills is intense. There is a lot to learn in a short amount of time. Without a strong work ethic, these skills are hard to acquire and difficult to maintain.

We take pride in our work like anybody else. We go above and beyond to show we can compete with our sighted peers. We do our very best and accept responsibility when things go wrong. Blind and visually impaired workers want to succeed on their own merit. A strong work ethic makes it possible and is one more reason to consider us as assets to your organization.

3. Grit

Silhouette of a mountain climber, at the summit, giving a thumbs-up.

If you are not familiar with the term "grit," read Shannon Carollo’s post "Don’t Quit, Develop Grit" to learn more. It makes me think of that old adage, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!"

Sports develop grit. I competed in high school football, baseball, and track before my eyesight was ever an issue. Really, that is where I developed the grit to survive vision loss and all the subsequent adaptations and training to find success.

In order to live independently, we learn a host of new skills the average person has trouble comprehending. Skills that are tantamount to survival. It is the relentless pursuit of our goals that give our community its competitive advantage.

Gosh, there were many times I wanted to give up. I know lots of my peers had the same feeling. But, some people do not give up when things get tough or when things get easy. Blind and visually impaired people develop grit in an unconventional manner, but it is a valuable trait in the workforce. Hiring managers ought to take note of this trait and realize its significance when considering a job candidate.

As I mentioned earlier, these are not the only traits, but in stories from my peers, they are the traits that stand out the most.

If you are a hiring manager, I hope this gives you a little more insight. It is a challenge to live with blindness or low vision. However, people like this are out there looking to become a part of your organization.

If you are a blind or visually impaired job seeker, I challenge you to evaluate yourself. Do you have these traits? Perhaps you want to tell me about other traits that are just as important. Hit the comment button and let it rip!

Resources for Succeeding at Work

Building Positive Work Habits: The Perfect Worker

Employer Expectations Over Time

Communicating on the Job

Solving Problems at Work


Topics:
Employment
Low Vision
Personal Reflections
Planning for the Future
Social Skills