Job Searching Considerations For Blind And Visually Impaired Individuals
By Mason Murphy
Clients with visual impairments encounter many unique challenges when conducting a job search. Searching for a job can be a challenge for anyone who is fully sighted. When counseling clients with visual impairments the career counselor can approach the appointment from a holistic prospective. Concerns outside of the search process must be addressed, including the impact of the new job on the client once he or she begins the job. Here are some suggestions that might help career counselors assist these individuals.
Disclosing A Disability
The method of disclosing a disability will always be based on the individual’s personal preference. From my own personal experiences and working with clients who are blind or visually impaired, I have found the best time to discuss a disability with the hiring manager or supervisor is at the end of an onsite interview. The reason for this strategy is that the client has the opportunity to showcase his or her ability throughout the interview. The interviewer has time during the interview to see the individual’s examples of success. Once the interview is over, the individual can discuss their disability and directly connect the successes they have showcased. This strategy will provide the employer with results oriented examples of when with provided accommodations this individual will be successful. Career counselors can help a client role play the disclosure conversation in various stages of the interview and job search process.
Some individuals may feel comfortable disclosing in their cover letter, which can be effective if discussed positively. It is not recommended that a disability be disclosed in a phone interview. Disclosing by phone can leave too much up to the imagination of the employer, and the individual could miss the opportunity to more clearly explain their successes.
Learning Workplace Culture
Learning workplace culture can be a major challenge for someone who is blind or visually impaired. One of the best ways people learn about workplace culture is through group observation and becoming aware of team members non-verbal cues or behavior. By not being able to pick up on these cues, individuals may be perceived as timid or aloof at first, possibly receiving negative feedback from co-workers. Persons with visual impairments can utilize these moments of feedback to educate co-workers on how they manage their disability in the workplace. Persons with visual impairments can use their listening skills to observe the patterns in tone and inflection of the voices of co-workers. Listening to co-workers without the ability to visualize them can become a great benefit because the individual can learn about dynamics such as power structure, sub-groups, and conversational topics to avoid. Career counselors can assist clients in developing their ability to hone in on verbal cues.
Transportation Is A Hidden Issue
Having effective and affordable transportation to and from the job is critical to the success of someone with a visual impairment. Lyft and Uber are revolutionizing how individuals can become more mobile. Individuals often seek positions in larger urban areas that have established public transportation. However, this can limit an individual’s job prospects. Career counselors can help the individual become familiar with convention and visitors bureaus because these resources list local shuttle and cabs services. Also, there is an increase in employers offering car pool or ride share matching programs because it is a way to support the company’s sustainability initiatives. Local community center, civic and religious organizations may also offer weekday transportation programs, typically for seniors but are flexible in their client base. Career counselors can help clients in navigating internet based searches to find the most efficient transportation options. Also, career counselors can discuss and investigate employment options that don’t require transportation (such as virtual work, i.e., working from home).
The first week in a new position is critical for a person with a visual impairment. Having the right assistive technology in place before the employee begins is critical to his or her success. The employee needs to hit the ground running and be able to succeed early. Once an individual receives and accepts an offer of employment, the conversation about accommodations should begin with human resources. The individual should have a list of requests ready, so the process can move smoothly. For example, if a larger monitor or speech to text assistive technology is needed, the employee should know the monitor dimensions and software packages they need. Not only can career counselors help their clients develop a list of the possible accommodations they will need, but also they can conduct role play activities to make clients more comfortable in seeking accommodations.
These are just some of the aspects of the job search that individuals with visual impairments have to manage. By examining the job search from all these perspectives, career counselors can more effectively assist their clients. Most individuals with visual impairments worry about how to address these issues in the context of the search process. Career counselors can guide conversations about these issues and related fears the client may have about the job search process. The fears that arise from the need to overcome obstacles are as real as the obstacles themselves.
National Career Development Association Resources: Internet Sites for Career Planning – Disabilities. Retrieved from http://ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/resources
Mason Murphy, MEd, MPA, works as a Career Counselor at Texas State University. He is visually impaired and holds a MEd in College Student Affairs, an MPA in Public Administration, and is pursuing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. His research interests include international students and students with disabilities. firstname.lastname@example.org