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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Blog Posts by Steve Cardenas

Paying It Forward as a Visually Impaired Mentor

Have you heard this before? You can’t change the world, but you can change one person at a time! As I reflect on my challenges and accomplishments as a person who is blind, two visually impaired people come to mind. They helped me understand what is possible, and their advice changed my outlook about living with vision loss and starting a career. My First Mentor The first one, I’ll call him Darren, was someone I had never encountered previously. My father learned about him through a newspaper article and thought I should read it too. It featured a story about Darren. It highlighted the fact that he was a blind business owner. He ran a karate studio and was


Maintaining Your Drive in the Face of Adversity

By now, you may know retinitis pigmentosa (RP) barged its way into my life during my college years. My CareerConnect blog posts have documented many of the challenges it created while pursuing goals, but I want to talk about maintaining the drive to reach them. Let’s be honest. No one anticipates losing their vision. It’s quite a surprise to be told blindness is inevitable. Shocking news of that sort can derail the best-laid career plans. My eye condition interrupted my drive to earn a


Adapting to Vision Loss

Over the last 20 years, my eyesight has transitioned from low vision to blindness. Of course, it hasn’t been easy. The emotional effects of vision loss wore me down more than anything else. While there is hope and help, I’ve got one word for you, Adapt. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect you to adapt to vision loss by simply snapping your fingers. I know, first hand, it is a process. In some cases, like mine, it’s a long-term


Steering Your Way Around Office Politics as a Blind or Visually Impaired Employee

Among the numerous challenges of working in an office are the conflict and the tension created by office politics, but when two or more people work together, it’s inevitable. When we spend eight, nine, or 10 hours a day at the office, it starts to feel like we’ve got a second family there. Drama included. Of course, the drama leads to conflict and tension within the staff. Try as we may, sometimes it gets difficult to stay above the fray. I’ve worked for companies with 10,000 or more employees to companies with less than 20 employees, none of which were immune to office politics. Those places and the people I worked with taught me some valuable lessons about


Creating Customized Resumes That Stand Out for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Do you sit at your computer wondering how to customize your resume? Do you have a hard time figuring out what to take out or what to leave in? Psst! I’ve got a little secret for you. Use the job listing as your road map for your resume. A few years ago, I was really interested in a particular job listing. I sat down to type up the best resume possible. But, I got stuck. Of course, I considered a hasty response. I could have submitted a slightly outdated resume, but I thought better of it. The problem wasn’t how to


Negative Feedback: How to Handle It and How to Use It

Are you familiar with feedback yet? You know. When someone like a teacher or a manager tells you what she thinks about your performance or your progress. Sometimes it is called constructive criticism. Oh yes, now you remember. If you’re in the academic world, then feedback may be coming from a teacher, a professor, or an advisor. If you’re in the professional world, then feedback is coming from a manager, a


Workplace Note-Taking Skills for Blind and Visually Impaired Employees

No matter what line of work you choose, note-taking skills will be necessary. You will have to take notes for many reasons. Most often, it occurs when you attend a meeting like a staff meeting or a one-on-one meeting with your manager. Managers use these kinds of meetings to relay information, to assign tasks, or to obtain status updates about projects. You must be ready to take notes when you attend them. Naturally, vision loss challenges your note-taking skills in the workplace, but the simple act of doing it can help set you apart as a professional. So let’s talk about ways to develop this skill. Identify an Effective Note-Taking Method What is the easiest way for you to take notes,


The Right Way to Archive Career History

Last week, a friend encouraged me to submit my resume to a nonprofit organization. She told me its executive director began searching for a new grant writer. Years ago, I would have dreaded the burden of updating my resume, but I was ready for it last week. See, I used to think a resume was a dump for all of my work and educational experience. The more experience I had, the more pages I needed to capture it all. So, I turned in these four- to five-page resumes when I applied for jobs. Ten years ago, I picked up a helpful tip about archiving my career-related history. Credit for this tip goes to


Turning a "Can’t" Into a "Can" As an Individual with Vision Loss

There have been many times in my life where I had to tell myself, Steve, you are your own worst enemy! Simply put, I made excuses for myself. Whether justified or not, I was my own worst enemy. I prevented myself from making timely progress. Timely is the operative word. No doubt, from time to time, I chose to say, I can’t, rather than, I can! Fear, anxiety, and despair crept into my mind, clouding what I knew was the right course of action for myself and my career. Early on, my skills for living with visual impairment were insufficient. I told myself I didn’t need any training. I had a lot of vision left, so no need for me to bother with basic skills, right?


Reducing Work-Related Stress for Blind and Visually Impaired Workers

I handled work-related stress poorly early on in my career. The mix of failing vision, ambition, and despair about my future created a hard to handle emotional state. After a bad first full-time job experience, I landed in a much better situation. Although it was better, it had its stresses too. Learning a new job, coping with vision loss, and pushing for perfection put a ton of pressure on me. I wasn’t prepared to handle all that stress. Frankly, I didn’t anticipate it becoming such a burden though. After a tough day at the office, I'd pour myself a drink and repeat that process one, two, or more times during the evening.


Striving for Financial Independence As a Blind or Visually Impaired Worker

Earning an income is the first step on the path to financial independence. But, earning income is dependent on securing employment. For those of us living with blindness or visual impairment, financial independence may feel out of reach. My vision began declining before I landed my first full-time job. Of course, it was a bummer. The uncertainty of the situation made my head spin a bit because I worried obtaining employment might elude me. Thereby, throwing my ability to earn income into chaos. Let me be honest. I had goals. Goals that depended on making money. I wanted to marry my girlfriend, buy a house, start investing for retirement, and start a


Setting the Table for Success: What Visually Impaired Job Seekers and Employers Can Do to Improve Disability Employment

Imagine you have just taken a seat for a job interview. Your skills and your training have led you to this moment. You’re confident. You’re ready for it. When the interviewer asked you which reasonable accommodations will be necessary for you to perform your job responsibilities, you confidently explain what you need, including a screen reader, like JAWS, to do your computer work. Then, instead of a long, uncomfortable pause, the interviewer says, Great. Our


Employment and the Pursuit of Happiness As an Individual with Vision Loss

If you are an American, no doubt, you have heard the phrase life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For a large majority of Americans, I feel this is still a big part of our overarching aspirations. In many places around the globe, it is very likely people pursue those ideals too. But, perhaps called by different names. When disability enters the picture though, it is often accompanied by uncertainty and fear; the two exact emotions that haunted my mind following my graduation from


White Cane Reflections

I had reached that point in my life where a decision needed to be made: to become a long white cane user or not. It was the summer of 2001. Six years since the doctor diagnosed my eye condition. As the time passed, my vision slowly worsened. My ability to walk safely and independently worsened too. I bumped shoulders with other people at the store. Walking dim hallways created anxiety for me. Basically, the growing blind spots in my field of vision were threatening my mobility and my independence. More importantly, I began working full-time, and I needed a safe, reliable way to get around. The only choices


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.


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


A Career Highlight Worth Sharing on the Americans with Disabilities Act Anniversary

I touched upon this noteworthy job experience in a previous post, but, in celebration of the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I felt it deserved a deeper dive. Why? Because it is my favorite job experience where the ADA is concerned. Let me elaborate. The Job Search It started with a simple job search. Believe it or not, I found the job in the want ads of a newspaper. Yeah, a


Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodations

My time in the workplace has spanned nearly 25 years. During that time, I have used low tech and high tech equipment to do my job. These items have comprised my arsenal of assistive technology in the office. Some of these items include: Video magnifiers, Screen magnification software, Screen


Struggling to Disclose a Visual Impairment

Lessons Learned from Experience Let me start by saying I feel it is important to disclose a visual impairment during the hiring process. Especially, if a visual impairment is known and if a reasonable accommodation will be needed. That opinion comes from trial and error in my own experiences. I know the inner struggle very well though. I wanted to earn the jobs on my own merit and my own abilities. I did all I could to avoid my visual impairment from being interpreted as a weakness by others. Shortly, I will share with you four times I was in this situation. As I recollect, I was


My Evolving Perspective and Understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Twenty-seven years ago, a historic piece of legislation was on the verge of becoming law in the United States. For millions of Americans, it was a moment which had taken years to finally arrive. Little did I know that this legislation would one day be significant to me. Yes, you guessed it. The legislation I speak of is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It was the summer before I began my


Summer Work As a Digital Nomad? Could This Be a Suitable Opportunity for You

Are you looking for summer work? Are your computer skills the envy of the dorm? Do you have work or volunteer experience on your resume? If you have not landed a summer job yet, it is not too late. So check this out. First, let me say I had never heard the phrase, "digital nomad" until a few days ago. USA Today published an article called, "5 Summer Jobs You Can Take with You to the Beach." I like the beach. Just returned from one a week ago, so it caught my attention. Have you heard of this before? Digital nomads are defined as "people who work from wherever they want, whenever they want, and for


Advancing Your Career Depends on Your Next Step

Life is filled with accomplishments and setbacks. I have had my fair share of both. How about you? Many of you may still be basking in the glow of graduation from either high school or college. Excellent accomplishments indeed! Some of you may be disappointed due to some academic issues that have delayed your graduation a bit. Those of you in the workforce now may be experiencing your own accomplishments and setbacks too. Perhaps you were recently promoted to a new position on the job. In contrast, some of you may have felt the sting of being passed over for a job position. Career advancement


Finding Career Opportunities in the Nonprofit Sector As an Employee with Vision Loss

The nonprofit sector of the United States economy is incredibly robust. It contributes about one trillion dollars to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It employs about 10 percent of the population as well. Nonprofits need people power as much, if not more than, the for-profit sector. Typically, nonprofit organizations are governed by a board of directors. The nonprofit’s bylaws spell out what committees will function as a part of the board’s work. Usually, board and non-board members volunteer for these committees. I believe nonprofit committee participation is an excellent option for career advancement if


Avoid a Rough Transition to Work As a Job Seeker Who Is Visually Impaired

AFB CareerConnect’s Resources Pave the Way Well, here we are in the graduation season. Congratulations to you if you are celebrating at this time of the year. Many of you are transitioning from high school or college to work this summer. For those of you who have not landed a job yet, hang in there, be sure to use CareerConnect resources for conducting your job search. I have a personal story to share about my first career endeavor. It is a cautionary tale. But, learn from my experience and plan accordingly. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=7685" alt="Older man and young man shaking hands while


Are You Ready to Make a First Impression?

A long time ago a coach told me, “You only get one chance to make a first impression!” At the time, I believed the phrase applied only to athletics. However, as my eyesight declined, I discovered it applied to every aspect of life, especially where my career and my business opportunities were concerned. Making a first impression can be challenging for anyone. Yes, blindness or visual impairment compounds the issue, but we can control many of the factors which lead to a great first impression. Preparation is the key. Get ready before you step foot into a job fair, a networking event, or even a sales presentation. Use these tips to


Taking a Dog Guide to Work As an Employee Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Are you living with vision loss? Interested in starting, extending, or restarting your career? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a dog guide to work? Two different guide dogs have been a part of my life over the last 10 years. Naturally, working in an office setting forced me to make some adjustments to my personal routine. When the changes became good habits, taking a guide dog to work became easier. As you create your


Turn Fear into Action, Part 2: My Story of Losing a Job and Changing Careers

In the first post of Turn Fear into Action, I wrote about a possible scenario where job security evoked fear and how to handle it proactively. This time I will share a personal story of turning fear into action. Can you pinpoint the elements from part one in this story? My Story of Turning Fear into Action In early 2008, one of my biggest customers sent word to me that they would be ending a sales and service contract by the end of the year. This customer accounted for 60 to 70 percent of my self-employment income. A significant chunk of revenue. From the moment I heard the news, my stomach began turning, and my head


Turn Fear into Action, Part 1: Dealing with Job Insecurity As a Visually Impaired Employee

A Primer for Overcoming Fear The power of fear is a well documented emotion. Scientists and researchers have studied its effects on our bodies and minds for decades. Every one of us will experience it during our lifetime in one way or another. How about handling fear at work? Numerous examples of fear-causing events exist in the workplace. None more fearful than a threat to your job security. Let us start with an example of how to turn fear into action in the workplace as an employee who is blind or visually impaired. Scenario: Fear for Your Job Security You fear for your job security because


Preparing for Home Based Work As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Millions of Americans enjoy the comfort and convenience of working from home. Specifically, those who are self-employed, and those employees who work remotely for a company. Maybe you are one of them. Self-employment has been my primary income generating activity for the last 15 years. Working from a home office has been a cost effective, convenient option for me too. Plus, no long commutes, no walks in bad weather, and no stress about packing lunch.


Developing the Confidence to Succeed in the Workforce As a Person Who Is Visually Impaired

Editor's Note: Today's blog post is by Steve Cardenas. Steve has a combined 22 years of corporate, small business, and nonprofit experience. His personal mission is to help blind and visually impaired individuals unlock their potential and attain employment and career advancement. Developing the Confidence to Succeed in the Workforce By Steve Cardenas Do you feel frustrated about entering the workforce? Do you talk yourself out of pursuing job opportunities? Do you feel like your skills and accomplishments are inadequate? I confess. I answered “yes” to those questions a few times during the last 20 years of living with retinitis pigmentosa. I am guessing, because you are a CareerConnect reader, you know