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Participant Experiences in an Employment Mentoring Program for College Students with Visual Impairments — JVIB Abstract

Abstract: Introduction: Mentors can help college graduates with visual impairments (that is, those with blindness or low vision) prepare for and seek employment in their chosen fields by serving as role models and sharing their experiences with mentees. Identifying mentoring activities and discussions most valued by mentees with visual impairments will facilitate the design of future mentoring programs. Methods: A nationwide mentoring program for college students with legal blindness was implemented using an experimental longitudinal research design. Career mentors with legal blindness worked with mentees to develop knowledge and skills related to securing employment. Data included engagement in job-seeking activities, most helpful aspects of the mentoring relationship, and a participant evaluation of the program. Results: Most mentees indicated that program activities and discussions related to visual impairment (for instance, disclosure and accommodation planning) and field-specific issues (such as career exploration and professional development) were of greatest value. Participants evaluated the program positively. Discussion: Mentees valued knowledge, support, encouragement, and career guidance provided by mentors. Mentors valued the opportunity to contribute to the growth of young professionals with visual impairments. Implications for practitioners: Students with visual impairments find value in specific aspects of mentoring relationships, and mentors are eager to work with students seeking employment. Topics and activities for future mentoring programs should include disclosure, accommodations, blindness skills, and job-search skills. Level of visual impairment and the career field should both be considered when pairing mentors with students with visual impairments preparing for employment.

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