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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Blog Posts by Joe Strechay

National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the United States Business Leadership Network's Career Link Student Mentoring Program

Well, yes, it is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this is a month that we celebrate the movement. Yes, the movement to get disability employment to be on the mind of the public and employers. Truthfully, I spend my whole year doing this, but this is the month with a big national and international push for inclusion. During this month, you will see many blog posts on AFB's CareerConnect Blog and from our family of websites. AFB CareerConnect plans on bringing it hard, so stay up with us. We have already brought you a slew of new content and advice on the CareerConnect Blog and from the

White Cane Day 2015: Let's Go Back to the Future with Slim, My White Cane

That is right, it is White Cane Day 2015, and Slim and I wanted to celebrate with a little trip down memory lane. I can remember my first white cane lesson in New Jersey where my instructor told me I was a natural. That is right, I was meant to use a white cane. The purpose of the white cane is to provide a tool to utilize for orientation and mobility. One of my professors from Florida State University's Visual Disabilities program told me that there are three purposes to the white cane: The white cane is used for mobility and clearance as you travel through your environment safely and efficiently. The white cane

It's What I Can Do at Work That Matters, Not My Disability or Blindness

As National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) continues, we are going to keep pumping out the most relevant advice possible. When I meet people in the public or employers at meetings, there is typically an “elephant in the room”. I have to be prepared to address my value as a professional. When I walk into the room with white cane and my snazzy suit, I have to be prepared to address the “elephant in the room”. That is right, it is a lot like I walk into the room with a big purple elephant. The elephant is my blindness or visual impairment. I think my great looks and smooth personality breaks the ice quickly. Most people don't have

Forget the Major League Baseball Playoffs; It Is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

I know the Major League Baseball playoffs are really heating up now that it is October, but so is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. AFB’s AccessWorld and AFB CareerConnect staff have teamed up to create this month’s employment focused issue of AccessWorld. Each month, AccessWorld comes out with a new issue of evaluations, commentary, and interviews related to the latest technology and trends for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. I spend a lot of time reading each issue in my travels via my

Get Your Disability Disclosure On and Embrace Your Diversity

Okay, it is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), and I am passing the message about disability disclosure. I spend a lot of time traveling the United States speaking to youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired, their associated professionals, and employers about specific topics. Disability disclosure is one of my passions, as so many don't understand the right way to disclose about their disability to an employer. I ran into this recently, as I was getting my thing on with my "Tell me a little bit about yourself" and being practical about your disability. I was mentioning that a young lady around ten years old once said to me, "Keep

"My Disabilities Are Just One Part of Who I Am”

It is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the national theme is "My Disability is One Part of Who I Am." AFB and AFB CareerConnect wants to support this theme, and here is my contribution to the cause. I am an individual with disabilities. I grew up with a learning disability that impacted how I learned and accessed information. I can remember what a struggle learning to read was for me. I can remember hiding assignments that overwhelmed me in my desk. I am also a

Using the "Fight Song" to Fight Through Transitioning As Someone Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Persons who develop disabilities, vision loss, or blindness deal with adjusting to this new self, as our view of ourselves changes and often the view of the world changes. The adjustment process is a cycle, and there are steps forward and steps back during the process. I speak to people around the United States about this process and taking control of it. You have to reach people where they are, and as a professional, I need to embrace this theory. Everyone deals with loss or adjustment differently, but many experience common aspects. The commonality is that we all have to take control as to succeed in life and the world. Recently, my amazing and talented

The AFB Helen Keller Achievement Awards and Interview with Charlie Cox

You might have heard that the American Foundation for the Blind presented Charlie Cox with a Helen Keller Achievement Award on Thursday, June 18 in New York City. Apple Inc., Vanda Pharmaceuticals, and Ward Marston were also presented with AFB's Helen Keller Achievement Awards. I have voiced my love for Apple on our blog in the past and that definitely

I Am, I Have, and I Will: A Message to Youth Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired and Their Families

Recently, I had the opportunity to provide a keynote address at a transition from school to work event provided by the State of Maine at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME. I provided other specific sessions for youth and for families while there, but I wanted to reflect a little bit on my message to the youth and families. As AFB CareerConnect's Program Manager, I get asked occasionally to speak at conferences and events on different topics. Typically, I have an outline for my speech or presentation, but I often will adapt it to the audience and from inspiration. Well, I had some inspiration on my third and final flight of the day on my way

Microsoft Creates a Large Impact with Their Accessibility Answer Desk and Seeks Talent

I recently attended a great presentation, Accessibility Support and the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk, at the CSUN Conference in San Diego, the largest disability-related technology conference. I had heard about their Accessibility Answer Desk and their work to provide support to individuals with disabilities. Well, I had an excellent opportunity to learn more about it at the CSUN Conference, as Mary Bellard presented on their program and Microsoft's efforts. I was really blown away with their

Diversity and Inclusion - A Diverse Workforce That Includes Employees Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Diversity and inclusion within corporations has become an important effort around the United States, and I want to take a few minutes to address this topic. As you probably already know, I am the American Foundation for the Blind's CareerConnect Program Manager. In this role, I manage this program with a great team, but I also travel the country doing workshops for youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired and the professionals who work with them. I feel lucky to also work with the United States Business Leadership Network's (USBLN) Career Link Student Mentoring

Erik Weihenmayer: His Story As a Blind Adventurer

You might recognize him from the film Blindsight, the ABC television show Expedition Impossible, or maybe you know him from the Nature Valley commercials. But did you know that Erik Weihenmayer is a blind adventurer who has summited the highest mountain on each continent?! I have to say that he is one of my role models, not because I aim to climb mountains, but for the fact that he sees no barriers and changes perceptions. He is a former teacher, turned world-class adventurer and athlete, but he is much more than that. He is a husband, a father, and someone who pushes others to aspire for more. Erik Weihenmayer took the time to connect with our AFB

Our Stories Interview with Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs – Constituent Relations for Walmart and Blind, Russell Shaffer

The work of our team at the AFB CareerConnect Program at the American Foundation for the Blind allows us to bring you such great stories about our top notch AFB CareerConnect e-Mentors, and the latest story is no different. The Our Stories Section is packed with inspirational and educational success stories about our mentors and friends who are blind or visually impaired. The latest story is the "Interview With

Looking Back on Our 12 Days of AFB CareerConnect for Job Seekers and Workers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

If you didn't stay up with all of the 12 Days of AFB CareerConnect with tips and advice for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired, I wanted to take the time to provide you with a little ESPN Sports Center highlight reel of our own. Each day provided you with new tips, advice, and links to resources that could help with your preparation for employment or that next position. Let us know what you thought about the series and the posts. 12. On the Twelfth Day of AFB CareerConnect, we posted this post from Katy Lewis,

The Fourth Day of AFB CareerConnect: 4 Tips on Disclosing Your Disability to an Employer As a Job Seeker Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

The Fourth Day of AFB CareerConnect brings us to talking about disclosing your disability. I am quite passionate about this topic and get to speak about it around the United States with youth, adults, and employers. I wanted to take the time to provide four tips specific to the subject to continue our 12 Days of AFB CareerConnect. We have covered job search tips, resumés, volunteering, inspiring stories, and much more. Here are a few tips and advice that could help you in the disclosure process. 4 Tips on Disclosing Your Disability as a Job Seeker Who Is Blind or Has Low Vision 4. Take the time to think about how

The Fifth Day of AFB CareerConnect: 5 Ways to Turn Volunteer Work into Job Experience for Workers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

For the fifth day of AFB CareerConnect, we wanted to bring you five ways to turn volunteer work into job experience. The fact is that volunteer experience is important regardless of whether you are employed. But, for those looking for employment, volunteer experience gives a person the opportunity to keep his or her résumécurrent. Besides keeping your résumé current, volunteering offers experience in developing references and connections. Review our tips and advice below on turning volunteer experience into job experience: 5. Treat volunteering like a job, and make the most of your time volunteering. Volunteering can be an

The Sixth Day of AFB CareerConnect: 6 Ways to Relieve or Manage Work-Related Stress As a Worker Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

As we continue the 12 Days of AFB CareerConnect with our sixth day, we felt addressing stress was appropriate with the holiday season upon us. Depending on your work, you might deal with deadlines, coworker absences, floods of customers, increased hours, frustrated consumers, or stress on your own personal budget. Every worker faces stress on the job at one point or another. You could be working in an office or in fast food, but all jobs have instances of stress. Successful workers typically know how to handle stress in a healthy manner, and I am not talking about hitting your computer or cash register with

The Seventh Day of AFB CareerConnect: 7 Ways to Get Organized As a Worker Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

As we continue our 12 Days of AFB CareerConnect with our seventh day, I wanted to bring you some new tips and advice on staying organized. During this busy holiday season, it is easy to create clutter in your work space, get behind on projects, and become overwhelmed. Check out how these seven organizational tips can help increase productivity and reduce frustration at work and in life. 7. Keep on top of your filing system: Whether you are using an electronic folder system or a paper filing system, it is important to keep the folder titles straightforward. Common

The Eighth Day of AFB CareerConnect: 8 Thoughts and Considerations on Job Accommodations for Workers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

For the eighth day of AFB CareerConnect's 12 Days of AFB CareerConnect countdown of great tips and advice, I will be providing you with eight thoughts and considerations on employment accommodations for workers who are blind or visually impaired. As I travel around the United States providing workshops for youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired or professionals, this topic comes up a lot. So, here is a little holiday gift for you: Eight Thoughts and Considerations on Job Accommodations 8. Knowing your own accommodations or possible accommodations: The fact is you should have a good idea about your possible accommodations for work. You

The Ninth Day of AFB CareerConnect: 9 Ways to Wow an Interviewer As a Job Seeker Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

As we continue the 12 Days of AFB CareerConnect with our ninth day. The ninth day brings you our 9 Ways to Wow an Interviewer. You have read about getting a resume ready, and it is time to wow an interviewer with 9 great tips and a few resources. 9 Ways to Wow an Interviewer 9. Connect with current and past employees from the organization, and be prepared to ask appropriate questions about the organization. With past employees, be aware that information might not be current or accurate (depending on why and when they left the organization). 8. Create a connection with the interviewer. Listen to the

Attention, Employers—This Is Employment Discrimination: "Do you have a driver's license?"

Recently, I have been hearing from state vocational rehabilitation counselors, job seekers, and noticed this myself employers are using job descriptions and online application systems with a question similar to this: "Do you have a valid state driver's license?" This question could be introductory or listed as an "Additional Requirement" even when driving is not an essential job duty or task specific to the job. The tricky part is that this question is most likely filtering out applicants who say "no" to the question. What are job seekers who are blind or visually impaired supposed to do? Well, it leaves answering "no" to the question or lying by stating

Providing "Mad Props," Resources, and Thanks to Our Veterans on Veterans Day

The American Foundation for the Blind and AFB CareerConnect appreciate the sacrifice of our veterans on this day and each day. We wanted to take the time to say thank you and let you know about some veteran specific information. AFB's VisionAware offers a great resource for veterans and their families, as veterans could lose vision later in life or experience vision loss from incidents during military action. Our family of websites offers resources and these VisionAware resources developed around the adjustment

Geared Up for the Fall CSAVR and NCSAB Conferences in Miami

I am making preparations for the 2014 Council of State Administrators for Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and the National Council of State Administrators for the Blind (NCSAB) conferences in Miami. No, I am not packing my bathing suit and sunscreen; I am packing my suits, hats, white canes, and my game plan for the week. I am looking forward to connecting with people from different states and creating new connections for future partnerships, workshops, and lines for dissemination of resources. I love getting the inside scoop on the new innovative programming coming out of the states,

AFB CareerConnect® Launches a Halloween Treat: Using AccessWorld® Magazine As a Transition Tool

By now I hope all of you are aware of Lesson Plans for Teachers and Professionals, a special offering from AFB CareerConnect(r). Our newest consultant, Alicia Wolfe, a lead teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) from Pinellas County, Florida, created a Halloween treat that you will not want to miss. No, there are no ghosts or goblins haunting this offering. Rather, Alicia has developed a series of lesson plans on how to use the popular online technology magazine,

Getting Empowered with My Top 12 Job Search Tips As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

AFB CareerConnect(r) has been using the Department of Labor's Office on Disability Employment Policy's theme of "Expect, Employ, Empower" to help celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month. As we near the end of the month, I wanted to leave you with my top 12 tips to empower your job search as an individual who is blind or visually impaired. Let's get empowered! Here are my top 12 job search tips straight from Huntington, West Virginia. 12. Get your resume up to par. This might involve having professionals in your field review it,

A Salute to Our CareerConnect Mentors: Disability Mentoring Day

I am currently in Northern California, spreading the message of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). I have a meeting with staff from Lighthouse for the Blind-San Francisco this week, and I am speaking at the California School for the Blind, Cupertino schools, and San Francisco State University. As I make the rounds out here, I am also making time to connect with CareerConnect mentors, AFB contacts, and other impressive people who are blind or visually impaired. I am always preaching the importance of having mentors who are blind or visually impaired and mentors who are not. I want to take this time to salute the CareerConnect mentors who volunteer to respond to queries, questions, and surveys for our program. I know for a fact that they are making a

Celebrating White Cane Safety Day As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

White Cane Safety Day or White Cane Day is celebrated on October 15, and I felt this was the perfect time to tell you about traveling as a person who is blind of visually impaired. I have a white cane nicknamed "Slim" that travels with me everywhere. It isn't always easy, but I wouldn't do it any other way at this point in time. I have been a cane traveler for a number of years now, and it isn't always perfect. I choose to use a heavier and more durable white cane as I travel a lot and my cane takes a beating. Recently, I was traveling through Grand Central Station in New York City when I hit something with my cane. There was

Eyes On Success Hosts Profile Successful People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired and Much More

This is a blog post written by the hosts Peter and Nancy Torpey. Eyes On Success is a weekly, half-hour radio show/podcast that covers a wide range of topics of interest to the visually impaired. In the growing archive of over 200 episodes, one can find shows on new products and technologies, interviews with leaders in the blindness community, as well as human interest stories of visually impaired individuals with rewarding professional careers and fun hobbies. The hosts and producers of the show are both retired research scientists with doctorates in physics.

Bridges From School to Work — Philly Brings You Interview Tips for Teens with Disabilities

During the summer, I had the great opportunity to visit the Marriott Bridges From School to Work location in Philadelphia and meet with the enthusiastic and bright staff there. Bridges from School to Work engages employers, schools, community resources, youth, and their families to help businesses meet their workforce needs while offering young people with disabilities the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed through employment. I believe Bridges does an amazing job preparing youth for employment and creating partnerships with employers. The organization's success rate is top notch because the staff really investigate

Find Resources, Tips, and Updates Related to Blindness, Visual Impairment, and Employment in Our Newsletter

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) CareerConnect staff is excited to unveil the new CareerConnect Newsletter! This newsletter will provide information about updates or changes to the program, introduce new staff or volunteers, share helpful tips, offer options for becoming more engaged in mentoring or the use of the program, and give a peek behind the scenes at AFB’s efforts to expand employment possibilities for people with vision loss. The team has been working hard on this newsletter, and we will be bringing this to you quarterly. Stay tuned to all of the latest news about our program and new resources for job seekers who are

Interview with Christine Ha, Visually Impaired, New York Times Best Selling Author, Chef, Writer, and TV Show Co-Host

Over the past two years, you have seen a number of posts from me about the talented and amazing Christine Ha, winner of the FOX Network's MasterChef Season 3, New York Times bestselling author, and co-host of "Four Senses." Well, I have wanted to give you an update for a while now. I took the opportunity to ask her when seeing her in-person at the Helen Keller Achievement Awards this past June. Christine is busy preparing for the start of season 2 of her show, "Four Senses," which is a television show in Canada. I hope this show gets picked up in the United States in the near future. When I first connected with Christine, MasterChef Season 3 was only a few weeks in. I felt

Travel Independently and Interdependently As a Professional Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

I have been using my orientation and mobility skills in typical and more complicated travel situations a lot lately. You really have to get out there and use your skills to keep them up to a high level. I have been a bit too complacent about my skills lately, and I knew my skills needed some sharpening. I have been putting my skills to the test quite a bit over the past month in New York City and New Jersey. Because I've been in the area doing work and such, I've been taking a lot of trains, subways, and generally navigating through different communities in the New York City area and boroughs. I can tell you that I have become more comfortable with

Vanda Pharmaceuticals on Working from Home or Self-Employment for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Recently, I have been contacted by a lot of job seekers interested in working from home or self-employment. I have written about these topics a number of times in the past, so I will review and link to my past posts about these topics. The topic of working from home has been highlighted a bit more because many people who are blind deal with the condition Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, or Non-24, and Vanda Pharmaceuticals, Inc., has developed a treatment for the disorder. I was asked to do a podcast for them specific to the impact of Non-24 on employment and some considerations for those impacted. The fact is that I have a lot of friends who battle with this

A Visit to the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired's Joseph Kohn Training Center, and a Few Mentors

I did a teen employment workshop recently in New Brunswick, NJ at the Joseph Kohn Training Center, which is the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired's vocational rehabilitation training center. I happened to work there for a little while right after graduate school as an orientation and mobility instructor with other duties as "Joe lobbied for." I say that because I was always asking for new responsibilities or to try out new ideas. I arrived in New Brunswick, New Jersey to do a three-hour teen employment workshop for 21 young people who are blind or visually impaired from around the State of New Jersey. I arrived early in

Look Out Davey Crockett, AFB's Crew Is Heading to San Antonio, TX for the 2014 AER International Conference

The Alamo and the Spurs should watch out, as AFB is all set to take San Antonio by storm. I am packing up and preparing for my presentations at the 2014 AER International Conference in San Antonio, Texas. A number of AFB staff will be rolling out to the conference. I am looking forward to the networking, resources, and visiting with friends. I hope to see Amy Guerette (FSU), Dave Henzy (UTSA), Pat Leader (AER), Mickey Damelio (FSU), Sandra Lewis (FSU), Kitty Greeley (FSU), Annie Gallagher (Vanda), my NJ friends (Pura), the AFB Family, the AER staff, my friends from around the United States, and all of you!

Professional Development and Workshops for Youth Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

I am packing up my stuff to head to Maine for a few days of work. I will be doing a session with the professionals up there on transition-related topics, as well as conducting a teen employment workshop and a post-secondary preparation session for youth. I will also participate on some panels. I value getting the opportunity to work with the professionals and youth there. I have now conducted something like 47 teen employment workshops around the United States that reached well over a thousand youth. The workshops have specific components, but they vary a bit by the population and audience needs. As a

What Happens In Las Vegas, Doesn't Stay in Las Vegas: Heading to 2014 ACB Convention

I was able to go and speak at the 2014 NFB Convention in Orlando, Florida, but I wasn't able to make it back to the convention after some storms cancelled my flights. Lee Huffman (AccessWorld), Paul Schroeder (VP of Programs and Policy), Carl Augusto (CEO), and Mark Richert (Policy Ninja) are preparing to head out for the 2014 ACB Convention in Las Vegas. I will attempt to come back with my money and belongings (I joke!). We are excited to see all of the new products in the exhibit hall and network with our friends from around the United States. I know Lee Huffman will be checking out the

What a Long Strange Trip It Was: The Importance of Getting Back to Basics

Yes, I did just reference the Grateful Dead in the title of this post, as I am definitely a fan. I wrote a post recently about how I use my iPhone and apps in many aspects of my life. I was using it last night to take notes on a project that I was reading through on my computer, while sitting on a bed with technology on my lap and all around me. Picture a guy with ear buds running to two different devices at all times. That's pretty much how I spend most of my life. I was traveling to a meeting the other day

Rolling Out Dapper to NFB Employment Day and AFB Breakfast at the 2014 NFB Convention in Orlando!

First of all, happy birthday to Helen Keller! She is an inspiration to us all. I am looking forward to speaking at the NFB Employment Day at the 2014 NFB Convention in Orlando. I feel really lucky to be included in the agenda for the day. I will be speaking a bit about the new developments in AFB CareerConnect, and I will also be addressing some of the recent changes in legislation that impact the employment of persons with disabilities and more specifically people who are blind or visually impaired. There will be many great speakers on employment during the morning at

AFB Launches an App for AFB CareerConnect and It's FREE!

You might be excited or just ecstatic that the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has just launched the CareerConnect App with some of your favorite features of the CareerConnect resource center. Hold your applause and high-pitched sounds of jubilation for the full deal on this momentous occasion. Am I hyping this app? Oh, yes! But I will tell you that this launch is just the beginning of more great things to come. AFB has worked hard to include some of the new and exciting features that vision professionals, job seekers, youth, and parents of children who are blind or visually impaired use from CareerConnect. The CareerConnect App includes four main tabs, and it follows the model of the

Research for Employment Means a lot of Homework for Job Seekers Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

In the past, I have done a post about doing your research on your prospective employers. I am a bit of a "geek" and I want to know as much as possible. I probably ask too many questions and spend too much time learning about employers and clients. I think back to when I was applying for my initial job at AFB. They asked for a few sample presentations and pieces of writing. I sent way more than requested. I made sure to know the different aspects of the program, and I reached out to former employees of the organization for insight into the organization. I wanted to make sure I knew the culture and values of the organization. I can tell you my initial

Accessible iPhone Apps That Help Me Manage Work, Life, and Travel As a Blind Professional

I wanted to take the time to write a little bit about how my iPhone allows me more access. I could say to my life, work, but it is so much more than that. I know my wife might argue that I am a bit too much in love with my iPhone, but it provides access through one device that fits in my pocket like I didn't have prior. You might say this post is five years too late, but the fact is the apps and access has changed since that point. I know many people who are blind would agree with me or provide their own insight into the access created. I use Voiceover on my iPhone, and I truthfully wish I could increase the verbosity of it past the current high end. Apple, if

They See, You Show, and You Share: Words That Equal Employment for Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

As I like to say, "perception is reality." The fact is that anyone you meet for the first time will only know what they see, you show, and you share. It is up to you to sell yourself in a job interview or in your general interactions in life. You need to embrace and practice this throughout your life. I know I do, and I encourage this in all of the people who I provide workshops for and teach. These tips are from a person who is blind or visually impaired and aimed directly to professionals and all who are blind or visually impaired. They See You should be dressed appropriately, and I can tell you this is a huge issue. I am not Mr. "GQ," but I try my best to look good and appropriate. It doesn't take a lot of money to nice and professional. I give the example that

Lessons from J.W. “Bill” Marriott on Leadership: Developing and Listening to People

I learned a lot at the 2014 AFB Leadership Conference, but overwhelmingly people tell me that the conversation on leadership between AFBs CEO, Carl Augusto, and the J.W. Bill Marriott, executive chairman and chairman of the board at Marriott International, stood out as the conference highlight. Personally, I walked away from that session with some new tools in my career toolbox. Most of you know what a big fan I am of Marriott International and the Marriott family, but this conversation gave me some new perspectives about generations of leadership knowledge. Most of us think of Marriott as

Brandon Solomon, Young Man Who Is Legally Blind, Is Working It Out at a Friendly's Restaurant

During my travels for the AFB Teen Employment Workshop Series, I have the opportunity to meet with a lot of young people and the professionals who work with them. I provided a workshop at the Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) in Baltimore during the month of April. The workshops are just one of the ways that AFB and the CareerConnect web program make a large impact around the United States.

Advancing in Employment: Solving Problems and Filling Gaps As a Professional Who is Blind

There are many paths to advancement on the job and in the workplace. Many people are happy enough when they get the job. Many persons with disabilities or who are blind or visually impaired don't find the road to advancement as clear cut. But, if you set the standard, meet or exceed your employer's expectations, and there is a path for advancement from other employees leaving or retiring, you will generally advance up the ladder. However, not everyone wants to wait years and years for an opportunity to advance. I currently manage the AFB CareerConnect Program, but I have ambitions for advancement in the future, and so should you. If a higher position isn't immediately available, you can create your own opportunity by increasing your

AFB CareerConnect Is More than a Website; It's a Resource for Success

This past week, I participated in the American Foundation for the Blind's 2014 Leadership Conference in Brooklyn, NY. I arrived early in New York to conduct a teen employment workshop at the Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, which holds a special place in my heart. I did my student teaching at Edward R. Murrow after completing my graduate work at Florida State University. I worked with 15 high-school-age students on self-awareness related to navigating the employment process as a person who is blind or visually impaired. A lot of the workshop is me asking the participants questions. All of the information is relevant to career exploration, interviewing, and succeeding in life. Throughout the workshop, I provide youth with real-life examples related to the main points. The

Albert Rizzi, an Advocate and CEO, Who Flys High

After returning from the AFB Leadership Conference in Brooklyn and recovering from two weeks of travel, workshops, meetings, and a wonderful conference, I am all kinds of excited to push a lot of information out to you. My partner in crime, Detra Bannister, wrote an Our Stories piece about Albert Rizzi. She posted her story right before the conference, and if you attended the conference, you might have met him. Mr. Rizzi spoke at the AccessWorld Technology Summit during the preconference. I can report that Mr. Rizzi is the real deal, and he is making a difference for persons

Basics Behind Maintaining Employment As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

In today's economic climate, it's not only be difficult to find gainful employment, it can also be a struggle maintaining a job once hired. This becomes an even bigger issue for people who are blind or visually impaired. There are many individuals (with and without disabilities) who might be recycling into unemployment and the job hunt. There are many reasons for this, but it’s my belief that it comes down to three main issues: compensatory skills, interpersonal skills, or proper training. There are other factors of course, but I'd like to address these specific issues. Below,

Happy New Year and Eleven Lesson Plans that Could Help Students Save Some Cash

I know I am digging myself out of the post-holiday landslide of work. Yes, I did take some time off to celebrate the holidays with my beautiful wife, Jen. I did try my best to avoid work during that time. That doesn't mean that AFB CareerConnect wasn't busy posting new content. That is right; we have some new resources to help you prepare for the year ahead. Get your students started early on their Money Management and concepts with this great series of lesson plans. If you haven't been

Determining Your Market Value, Know Your Current or Future Value

Recently, I wrote about the importance of keeping your resum up to date and current with trends. This is all relevant as I am currently preparing content specific to advancement in employment. I would say another important aspect to advancement in employment is knowing your current market value. Is your current organization valuing you at an accurate level? Not every position has the same mobility or ability for advancement, and nor does everyone have the need to move up. Before you begin this process, you should think about whether you are happy with your current role in your business or organization. Do you believe that you bring a greater value to your organization than your current role? Would you be willing to move to another organization? Would you be

Resumés Need to Be Updated More Often than Your Wardrobe!

Many people submit the same resumé time after time, with little updates or changes. This is a mistake, you should customize your resumé for each position that you are applying for. I would also say that the formats for resumés change over time. What was a common format for a resumé might now be considered out of date. I spent the weekend updating my resumé, as I have to use my resumé for AFB when we apply for grants, subcontracts, and also when nominated for committees or boards. I am pretty good about keeping it up to date, but I spent hours changing the format of my resumé to make

5 Tips for Creating Individualized Transition and Employment Goals with Youths and Adults

The latest issue of the Journal on Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) is focused on employment and transition. This special issue happens to be edited by a friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Karen Wolffe. It has only been out for a few days, but this issue is already a mainstay in my library, as the topics it covers relate to my everyday work at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). I can't say that often; there are not a ton of volumes of anything that relate directly to employment, transition, visual impairment, and blindness. In honor of this awesome issue, I thought I would bring you some insight from my years of working in the world of

Article Explores Employers' Wariness About Hiring Blind Jobseekers

Recently, I was interviewed by the Associated Press' David Crary, who I think did a great job in writing the piece, Employers' wariness thwarts many blind jobseekers. Disability employment issues don't get a lot of coverage in the national press, despite being an important topic. I spent a good amount of time on the phone with Mr. Crary and provided him with links to articles, blog posts, and the NIB study referenced in the article. That study hit me pretty hard, and I had

AFB CareerConnect Brings You "Conducting a Successful Job Search"

As we get towards the end of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), AFB CareerConnect has added a new subsection to the Explore Careers section. The Conducting a Successful Job Search section offers needed job seeker advice and tips for teenagers and adults navigating the employment process. This series of articles provides useful and practical information

Transition Lesson Plans for Teachers and Professionals

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with high school and middle school students who are blind or visually impaired. I love getting the opportunity to work with youth specific to self-awareness, career exploration, and navigating the employment process. Patricia Leader, a program coordinator in Cupertino Public Schools, made this visit possible. She is a shining example of a great teacher who is quite passionate about guiding youth to success. They have a number of great teachers in Cupertino. This visit is relevant because it is October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

How Specialized Services Impacted My Life and Why They Need to Be Strengthened

Recently, AFB has spent a lot of time creating a series of handouts and webpages specific to the strengthening of specialized services. I am a huge supporter for specialized services, as I wouldn't be where I am today without those services. I get a bit emotional because getting connected to vocational rehabilitation services and specialized training opened huge doors for me and allowed me to transform into a confident, independent, and skilled person.

AccessWorld's October Issue Celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Break Out Your Noise Makers!

AFB's ever amazing monthly online technology magazine, AccessWorld, brings you an employment focus for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, October. AccessWorld is like the trusted older brother who knows about the accessibility for mainstream and assistive technology for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Well, every October, I team up with AccessWorld's Lee Huffman to bring you a few articles that relate to employment in some manner. In this year's employment featured issue, I provide the annual Employment Resources article and an update on the AFB CareerConnect website and program. I am bringing you

Insights on Employment from the Hadley School for the Blind

You may have seen my post on the AFB Blog about the "kickoff" of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Well, I am pretty excited about all of the exciting news, content, and resources that will be provided throughout this month. Have you heard about the free seminar from the Hadley School for the Blind celebrating NDEAM by bringing a session with career building advice from successful people who are blind or visually impaired? The session is being moderated by Larry Moffet from Hadley. The successful persons who are blind or visually impaired are being

Packing Up My Hats and Canes and Heading to the United States Business Leadership Network in California

As I prepare for the United States Business Leadership Network (USBLN) Conference in Los Angeles, CA, I have to pack up my hats and canes for the trip. Yes, I wrote hats and canes. I love wearing a nice hat with my suit, and I don't leave home without "Slim," my long white cane. I am looking forward to hearing about all of the new initiatives and efforts by some great corporations to include people with disabilities in their workforce. I haven't been able to attend since the 2009 conference in National Harbor, MD, right outside of Washington, DC. I was truly impressed with the conference the last time, and I came back with a lot of information about mentoring projects, employer contacts, and a ton of connections for our organization. I go

Are You Looking for Funny and Educational Multimedia About the Employment Process for Youth?

Well, AFB CareerConnect has offered the Aaron's Adventures in Employment Series for a while now. I just wanted to reintroduce you to AFB's great friend, "Aaron." The truth is the star of this series lives in Huntington, WV. He is a young man who is visually impaired or blind. Aaron attended a science camp through our Huntington office a number of years ago, while he was in high school or even middle school. This was all prior to my joining the

Push Your Limits and Take Measured Risks

Disclaimer: I wrote this post on my day off; I took the day off for the Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting board meeting. It is actually my first board meeting and orientation to the board. I serve on other boards, and I was truly excited to be voted onto this one. I really care a lot about public broadcasting, and West Virginia has a great public broadcasting system. In October, on AFB CareerConnect, we will be profiling a couple that has their own radio show on WV Public

Kicking Off September with Some Labor Day Employment Resources

Did you enjoy your Labor Day? As September opens with football kicking off throughout the United States, I thought I'd "hand off" some thoughts. All I can say is that East Carolina, Marshall, and Florida State won their openers. We will see what the rest of the season brings. Can you tell that my Labor Day Weekend involved some laboring over these college football teams, and it was well worth it? I know the college season started officially in August, but the National Football League kicks off on Thursday night. I would like to "kick off" this month with a nice post with some employment preparation resources. If you haven't

Dress and Impress: Not Just a CareerConnect Video, a Must for Interviews

I'd like to talk to you about the fact that professional dress when on an interview is a must! Even for interns, no exceptions. (Heck especially for interns.) If you want to impress someone, you should show up professionally attired. Period, end of story. Well, not literallyI actually have a bit more to say. While speaking to people around the country, I keep hearing that people still show up to interviews dressed unprofessionally. I just don’t get it. I consider that just one of the real simple and basic components to interviewing. I am not talking about interviewing to be an underwear model, and then professional dress might

Introducing Dr. Jamie O'Mally from MSU's NRTC on Blindness & Low Vision

I feel lucky to have the opportunity to introduce a friend and colleague from a partner organization of AFB. Dr. Jamie O'Mally from Mississippi State University's National Research & Training Center (NRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision, has been a big supporter of AFB CareerConnect, and we feel the same way about their program and staff. They continue to research, identify, and work to create tools to address the issues specific to employment and persons who are blind or visually impaired. I cannot stress

Experience Drives Inspiration for the Future: Reflecting Back on My Inspiration from the FSU Visual Disabilities Program

As I prepare for the Florida Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired Conference in Tallahassee, Florida, I started thinking about the inspiration that brought me to AFB CareerConnect. I did my graduate work at Florida State University, and the conference is combined with a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Visual Disabilities Program at FSU. Attending the FSU program has impacted my life tremendously. While involved in the program, I was able to

Sharing the Latest News: AFB CareerConnect Connections Newsletter

In case you are not subscribed to our "Connections" list, we wanted to share the latest scoop with you. AFB CareerConnect has not done a newsletter in a long time, but it felt like it was time to let you all know what is going on. You may not have known that AFB CareerConnect launched the CareerConnect Blog last week. That is right, AFB trusts Joe Strechay and Detra Bannister with a blog. The CareerConnect Blog will bring you employment related information and advice with a touch of humor and style. The blog will also provide updates on the program, mentors, and other relevant news. Posts will come from Joe Strechay, Detra Bannister, mentors, and

Do Your Research on Possible Employers: Putting in the Work Pays Off!

Finding a job is a full-time job, and most people don't put in the necessary time in the process. The commitment to getting a job requires more than a few hours here and a few there. During the job search, doing the research on employers makes a large difference. Invest the time to know about the organization, the specific field, and the current trends. Check out information on the specific business of interest, but also investigate the competition. No employer will tell you that you are too informed about their business or the current market. I can give some examples of this in practice. I was applying for internships in communications and public relations at the end of my undergraduate education. I was interviewing with a communications firm. I did my homework on

Self-Awareness: Knowledge of Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses Offers an Employment Edge

I feel like I am constantly explaining my belief that self-awareness offers an advantage for any job seeker. It is even more important for people with disabilities, and specifically, people who are blind or visually impaired. The concept seems pretty simple, but I can tell you that most teenagers and adults attempt to navigate life without truly understanding their own strengths and weaknesses. Being self-aware offers an edge when trying to navigate the employment process and probably the education system. I would bet it has a big impact on the success of relationships, too, but I will try not to make too many vast generalizations. You know, this isn't "Vast Generalization Day," but that was always a fun day. (Off topic: "The Douger" and my brother Dan created "Vast

Thank You to Alpha Point in KC!

I enjoyed getting the opportunity to speak to the teenagers from the Alpha Point Technology Camp in Kansas City, Missouri today. I spoke to a group of about 40 participants through a conference call line for about 20 minutes. I was asked to speak about the impact of technology on my life and work. I think this topic is tremendously important, as technology has allowed me to compete at a high level via access technology software and assistive technology. I was asked to speak about the work of the American Foundation for the Blind and my story. AFB does so much, and we make a large impact in so many different areas. I explained about the AFB family of websites including AFB CareerConnect, AccessWorld, FamilyConnect, VisionAware, and I mentioned work of our Public

The Road to Employment Can Be a Rough Trail, But It Is the Best Path

This post is about the road to employment for job seekers with vision loss, and it is actually an excerpt from a correspondence with an adult who is blind or visually impaired. It includes some of my key messages, while trying to address some of his concerns. The issue of not finding employment has been a battle for many. In a tough economy, we have to be even more qualified and skilled. You have a lot of training and experience as an accountant, and I am hoping you have kept up those skills. I saw that you have offered your skills as a volunteer, have you offered these skills to local organizations? I would bet there are a number of organizations willing to take your help locally. Are you engaged in your community? Are you a member of any professionally related

Christine Ha Releases Her Cookbook and Works It on the Fox Network Show, MasterChef Season 4

If you don't remember, I wrote a lot about the FOX Network MasterChef Season 3 winner prior to winning and after. Christine Ha was the contestant who was blind or visually impaired. Christine Ha lives in Houston, Texas, and she was finishing up her graduate program in creative writing. She is also a blogger and a regular through social media. You might have read the AFB CareerConnect interview with Christine Ha, but if you didn't, you should check it out.

Dealing with the General Public Is Typically a Great Experience: Just Bringing a View of the Positive

My last post gave a glimpse into the rare negative experience when traveling. I wanted to let you all know about some of the amazingly positive experiences I have encountered when traveling. Experience 1: A number of years ago, I met an amazing person named Elsa in Austin, TX. This person met me when I was speaking to a group of teenagers about college preparation. Elsa asked me about my plans while in Austin, and I really didn't have any. She asked if I would like to join her, her husband, and possibly her two sons and daughter for dinner. I ended up having dinner with them on two nights, visiting a Presidential Library, and taking in some great music. I make an effort to see Elsa and her family when I am in Austin, and they have always treated me like I was an old

Thoughts from the Road: Dealing with the General Public and Always Being "On"

When I speak around the United States (as also referenced in my commencement address post), I try to mention the fact that we are always disclosing about our disability. I do this constantly when traveling, as I meet many people in all kinds of situations. I vary the information that I provide depending on the situation. This is all my own judgment on the amount of information to disclose. My last trip was a short vacation for some much needed relaxation and unplugging from the electronic world, which was quite nice. My wife and I have discussed one of my

Congratulations to the Class of 2013: A Message to Our Future

Recently, I was provided with the opportunity to speak at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) graduation as their commencement speaker. This was a great honor; it was my first commencement speech, and hopefully not my last. But, who knows! Either way, I tried my best to be funny, motivational, and provide a few pieces of advice. I want to take this opportunity to bore you with a little recap from my speech and experience. It all started out really well, I received a standing ovation. That is just how impressive I am; it wasn’t that I asked them to do that. Well, I actually did ask everyone to stand and give a round of applause, and then I said, “Well, at least I can say my speech started out well

AFB CareerConnect Launches the "Lesson Plans for Professionals" Section

AFB CareerConnect is proud to announce not just a new blog, but an entire new Lesson Plans for Professionals section on CareerConnect! That is right, CareerConnect heard the requests from professionals to have lesson plans based around activities for career education, exploration, employment, and navigating through the employment process as a job seeker who is blind or visually impaired. AFB CareerConnect is working with our good friend Shannon Carollo to develop this series. Shannon Carollo is a talented professional who worked for the Lighthouse of the Big Bend in Tallahassee, Florida. Shannon is a transition specialist, and she did her undergraduate and graduate work