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JOB SEEKING TIPS
FOR BLIND AND
VISUALLY IMPAIRED JOB SEEKERS

by Rob McInnes

 

Finding Job Openings
Networking
When to Disclose
Accommodation Requests
Transportation Issues
Useful Links
 

 

Finding Job Openings

Job seeking is seldom an easy task; but it is so much more difficult if you are Blind or have a significant visual impairment. Locating job openings can certainly be a challenge – especially when so many “clues” are in printed form of one kind or another. Have you ever wondered how many “Help Wanted” signs you walk by every day?

One of the first things that you want to do is to develop strategies to help you be appraised of the openings that are out there. You may need someone to scan the classified ads for you. If you are interested in openings at a particular company, you may need to contact them to arrange for you to get copies of job postings in alternate formats. Some companies post all their jobs on internal bulletin boards. You may need an ally to read those postings for you.

Be sure to find ways to peruse online job postings. In addition to the job posting sites like Monster.com and others, many companies post their openings on their own sites. Unfortunately, the majority of online job sites are not designed to be user-friendly to people with disabilities. If online sites present barriers to you, get a “surfing buddy” to spend a few hours a week with you. Of course, if you are working with an organization that has Job Developers, they can do a lot of that for you.

One great resource that is available in most States is America’s Jobline®. It is a free public service provided by state agencies with assistance from the National Federation of the Blind and the United States Department of Labor.  Essentially, it can provide you with personalized services, via telephone, to search America's Job Bank or a comparable statewide job order database.

So, do your best to develop strategies to locate those publicized job openings; but don’t at all be discouraged because you can’t cover all the bases. Here is a little fact to keep in mind: More than 50% of people employed attribute the success of their job search to “Networking”.

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Networking

Sure, as someone visual impairments, you are bound to miss out on a lot of the posted job openings out there. But remember that a lot of those jobs are filled before they are posted. Remember too that posted jobs are like the part of an iceberg that is above water – most job openings are like the 88% of an iceberg below the water – they never even get posted.

Networking is probably your single most powerful job-search tool. Make everybody you know part of your job-search “Team”. Friends, family and acquaintances – recruit them all! Hey, they are going to see those “Help Wanted” signs for you!

One of my favorite examples of Networking was devised by a young woman who is blind. She set up an electronic Networking “team” that I was part of. She carefully explained her career objectives to all of us and gave us each copies of her resume (in hard copy and electronic format). Once a week, she sent us all an email that outlined her efforts in the preceding week – the advice she had been given, the calls she had made, the interviews she had gone to, etc. and always asked us for feedback. It took a couple of months, but she got the job she was looking for and, when she later left that company, she used the same technique to find her next job.

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When to Disclose

I’d recommend holding off on that until the interview or just before it. Let’s face it, many employers are going to be a little awkward about your disability – so let them fall in love with you before you give them your “little secret”!

Seriously, present employers first with your skills, your qualifications, and your enthusiasm. When they are sold on your talents, they will happily work with you to resolve accommodation issues.

Always project your confidence in your abilities and your sincere interest in the job you are applying for. Schedule the interview and then consider calling a day or two in advance with something like: “Hi, I’m scheduled for an appointment on Thursday and I forgot to mention that I’ll be bringing my guide dog with me – just in case anyone in the office has an allergy to dog hair.”; or “Hi, I have an interview scheduled later this week. In case there are any documents that you would like me to review at that time, it would be helpful to me if they were available in large print – say a #24 font size.” 

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Accommodation Requests

Confidence, confidence, confidence… I can’t emphasize it enough. You need to project self-confidence on your abilities in every exchange with your prospective employer. (And don’t get it confused with “cockiness”!) This goes for issues of accommodations too. Don’t frame your accommodation requests as “things that you need to do your job”; but as “tools that enable you to be productive on the job”.

Be as prepared as you can to thoroughly (and confidently) explain your accommodation requirements, how they will work for you, how proficient you are with them, how readily available they are, how much they cost (including any grants or funding sources that might offset them), etc. Be totally knowledgeable about your accommodation needs and totally confident in your ability to perform well with them.

To do this, you will need to research the job as thoroughly as possible. You may want to consult with local accommodations specialists. You may also find the services of the national Job Accommodation Network to be invaluable.

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Transportation Issues

Let’s face it, with many jobs requiring timeliness and/or travel, and with most people relying on their own cars to meet those requirements, an employer is likely to be concerned about your ability to get to work on time, attend off-site meetings, etc. Given that the employer might be hesitant to bring up the issue, work something into your conversation that explains how you get from place to place. Something like: “I arrived here a little earlier than planned today. My brother works nearby and told me that this commute usually takes about an hour. Even with one transfer, the bus got me here in 30 minutes!”

Something similar might work if the job entails air travel. Dropping a few comments about your recent vacation in South America couldn’t hurt!

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Useful Links

  • Jobline® is a free public service provided by state agencies with assistance from the National Federation of the Blind and the United States Department of Labor. All that is required is a touch-tone telephone to establish your personalized job-search profile.
  • The national Job Accommodation Network has some great information on accommodation alternatives for people with varying degrees of visual impairment.
  • eSight Careers Network has online career management resources for people who are visually impaired.

 

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