Framing Blindness


Framing Blindness

     “Sir, I’m looking for a job. I heard you have several openings. As you can see,” the young blind man held up his white cane in emphasis as he addressed the business owner, “I am blind and because of it, I’m having a very tough time getting employment. Did you know that nearly 80% of the blind are unemployed? For centuries, blindness has been viewed as the worst handicap a human can have, but it is all a lie, a great misunderstanding. With the right tools,” raising his cane again, “a cane or dog guide, and with Braille or for some, large print and other blindness skills, we can do most jobs, just as good as a sighted person. But we don’t usually get a chance to prove it.” Lifting the cane for a third time, “Usually people can’t see past this and we get pity, doubting thoughts and seldom an equal chance. Would you give me a try in one of your job openings?”

     “No, I won’t. And I’m going to tell you why.” The business owner, ernest tone in his voice, palms flat on the countertop, leaned forward. “I listened to you, heard every word, processed the difficulties you laid out concerning the non-acceptance and unemployment of the blind. But think about how you framed your story and what you set me up to think. You walked in, gave me the woes about being blind, hit me with 5 negatives, to one positive and you want me to think you’ve got what I’m looking for in an employee?” Slapping a palm on the counter top in emphasis, “But this is what I’ll consider --- I want you to go back outside, take a minute to think about how you need to present yourself to me, then come back in and try your spiel again. But concentrate on telling what you can do for me.”

     Surprised at the businessman’s response, the blind guy nodded, accepting the challenge, turned about and using the best cane technique he had, exited the building. Minutes later he came back in.

     “Sir, you are looking to hire a customer service representative. I believe I have the skills to fill the position.” Indicating the cane in his hand, “As you can see, I am blind and if you would hear me out, I would like to explain how I feel I can make this a success.” Getting a go-ahead sound, he continued. “Your job ad listed a requirement for competency with a PC. I use a PC every day. And the way it works for me, I use what is called screen reading software with voice output. This software will usually work with most computer applications. And if we find that it doesn’t work right out of the box with your company system, we could call my state rehab counselor and she can have her IT specialist come in to evaluate your system and tweak my special software to work with yours. Second, you require customer service experience and though I haven’t been paid to perform that duty, I’ve had a couple of volunteer positions in which customer service was part of my responsibilities.”

     “The answer is still no. Better, but still not good enough. I now know that you have abilities, special tools and some backup to aid you if you need technical assistance. However, although I’m feeling there is employment potential, but it appears to come with an equal weight of potential problems that I would have to overcome. So 'no' again, but I'll give you one more chance. Go back out, rethink and come back in and convince me that you are the best person for the job.”

     Not fully surprised, though somewhat dismayed, yet encouraged, the blind guy knotted, turned and exited the building. Minutes later he came back in.

     “Sir,” reaching out his right hand to give a shake in greeting, “my name is John. You have an opening for a customer service rep, it is one of my best skills and I want to talk to you about hiring me for the job. I’m a very competent PC user. I have references I will present that will vouch for my ability and reliability to be at work every day, on time and that I always give 110% to the job. May I talk to you about your position?”

     “Yes, let’s talk,” responded the business owner.


e-mail responses to

**1. As usual, I really enjoy reading your Thought Provoker. To me this situation shows that we as blind people have a tendency to wave the flag of disability and pity. Seems like we are our own worst enemies. We don't seem to feel the need to promote ourself as a person that can do the job.
Don't put all of the problems and fixes out there in front, put yourself and your skills out 1st. Let the other stuff come later in the conversation.
Stop creating the negative situation and acting let down when the prospective employer does just what you led them to do.

tammy cantrell

**2. How often to we go into situations as though we were armed for battle? We have either had so many experiences ourselves or we have heard to many horror stories. And yet is this approach any better?

We talk about, at least some of us, equality in all facets of life. We want to be treated just like everyone else, but then when given the opportunity we lament about inequality. As they say, "There is a time and a place for everything".

I think we should leave it to the employer to ask questions. TMI never helps anyone. When I was a manager I could not stand it when potential employees went on and on about their troubles and why they needed this job. Employers, like anyone else, are selfish and want to know what you can do for them. People will see the differences, as that is human nature, so there is no need to point those differences out drawing more attention to them. More often than not, if only out of shere curiosity, people will let us prove ourselves and make judgements from there.

Final note, please don't play the pity card. We've had enough of that. Whether you, me or society wants to believe it we are just as capable and we do not need pity to get a leg up.

Bridgit Pollpeter, NFB

**3. Interesting, I am actually looking for a job and I would never make a point of my blindness. I just attended and employment conference and one of the things I learned was to take a laptop with you so you can show the future employer what you can do and how the software works. I however, don't think any employer would give someone 3 tries to get their act together; this is something that should be practiced before hand. I think it is very important for the population of blind and visually impaired people to present a confident and positive picture of themselves, not only when looking for a job, but always since you never know who is watching.. I say this because you never know who you will run into or talk to during your day.

Yvonne from Lancaster, PA, ACB NABS

**4. Actually, that story had less to do with the blind than good interview techniques. Disabilities aside, you never go into an interview and list your negatives, even if you cast them in the light of how you overcome them. That simply is not good sense.

Even today, most sighted people have never encountered a blind person, if even seen one. They have doubts that are understandable, even if not reasonable. An affirmative attitude cannot disguise the fact we are blind, but it sure can go a long way to undoing negative prejudices.

Dan Blind-X

**5. I wish more potential employers would show that kind of approach. In addition, I believe the candidate learned some good and valuable lessons.
We should always focus on the positive and by all means, the handshake is a plus.
Good for both of them.

Joyce P. West Virginia

**6. This is one of the best I have read in a while.

The blind person may be thinking that he is talking to a sighted person but may not realize that the person behind the desk may also have a disability. It is possible that many employers already know a blind person. I overheard a conversation one time at my work. A person had come in for a job interview and could not find her way to the chair or the office. Someone brought her in and placed her in the chair. The employer review all these factors.

Another job interview, the employer had asked for specific documents such as photo ID passport or citizenship papers, but the job seeker did not bring them in. Being prepared is the key to success. I also liked the attitude of the employer. He was willing to give a chance to the blind job seeker and gave him three chances to get the right information. Many employers do not look at our resumes as they have nothing or too much.

Yasmin Reyazuddin
Information & Referral unit
Department of Health & human services

**7. How I wish a scenario like this was possible for every job interview that starts off badly. I've always gone into job interviews with a positive attitude and the ability to show how a job could be done by a blind person.

There was one situation, however, in which I would have loved to have a "do-over." The job I was applying for was with the Nebraska Department of Game and Parks. All I'll say is that I wish I would have taken the time to do more research so I could have been better prepared for the physical part of the interview. I learned a lesson that day.

Bonnie Ainsworth Lincoln, Nebraska USA NFBtalk

**8. This is the best one in awhile. I wish all blind people used the third method. I wish that all employers would give us the chance to.

Sarah Jevnikar ACB NABS

**9. My initial observation of this young man has nothing to do with him being blind. Personally I don’t feel he understands the involvedness of job hunting.

We first see this young man approach the business owner. The initial fixation we learn is that he is having trouble finding a job; because he is blind. He says that the blind population doesn’t want pity; however this is exactly what he is looking for. I feel you shouldn’t bring attention to your handy-cap. Be positive and let the employer see the man, not the disability. The business owner is asking him questions which if he was prepared he should have supplied before being asked. This shows me this blind man isn’t prepared for the business world.

When you are searching for a job you should investigate the position, and learn what will be expected from you. If this man gained knowledge of this pending position he should have dropped off his résumé, and cover letter to whoever is in charge of hiring. What does this man say? Will you give me a try in one of your job openings? If he knew the job was for customer relations, he should have targeted this job title in his first few words. He says “I believe I have the skills to fill the position.” He believes he can handle this position. By saying he believes, this is already putting a question in the employers mind. Don’t allow any negative thoughts to be revealed. Be confident that you will have no problem with this position.

Then the blind man says he has some experience in customer relations; he has had a couple of jobs doing this as a volunteer. Volunteer work is fine, however name the employer, and address what your duties were state how long you held this position.

On his final attempt he does show some more competence, however still not enough.

If I were the man in charge of hiring, he wouldn’t have gotten a second chance. I would have said in not so many words, there is the door, don’t let it hit you on the way out.

This blind man is certainly not prepared for a job interview; the most important part of a job interview is to sell yourself. All I saw were negative qualities in this man. The main objective of this store owner or any business owner is to make money. Not to feel remorseful for this blind man, and his woes of finding a job.

I also feel this latest mind teaser is improbable. We’re not playing make-believe. What employer is going to do what we just read? You get one chance to sell yourself.I felt right from the start this blind man isn’t marketable.


**10. I guess you have to make your potential employer "blind" to your blindness by representing yourself as someone ordinary and "normal" by not emphasizing the obvious and focusing on the potential and the goal at hand.

I went to the dentist today. The dental hygienist told me she was surprised that my teeth were so nice for a blind person. I guess she thinks that people who can't see, can't possible use good oral hygiene. Of course I laughed out loud, showing my magnificent pearly whites. I wondered how many blind peoples teeth she had cleaned in her career? Not too many, she told me. I, bemused, corrected her and told her that blind people are very capable of good hygiene of all kinds. I told her I was not unique and that she might want to reconsider her attitude about how blind people fit into the scheme of things. I was nice about it because I wanted to be able to touch something in her that she could not see. I wanted her to be able to contemplate her thoughts about blindness.

If a blind person is believed to not be able to groom themselves, how could one be a customer service representative, right? We must represent ourselves FIRST, before we can believe we can represent anything else.

We sure could write a book about our experiences, can't we? It seems that each thing we encounter renders a remarkable, stunning experience. You have to laugh. And as you are laughing, don't forget to smile broadly, showing your very excellent oral hygiene.


**11. I agree, however I like the way it was put as it is. The employer wanted a person, never mind blind or sighted. He wanted to see the personal atributes and see the person first. Blindness could be brought up later in the interview. I don't walk up to people and introduce myself as, Hi my name's Aziza and I'm blind but... and launch into NFB philosophy. You teach as you go. So, this blind guy should've simply asked to talk about the job and explain the reason for his interest. Later in the interview the employer would be given more information about how to handle blindness in this type of job.

Just my thoughts.

Aziza NFB Writers' Division Mailing list, STYLIST

**12. Very good, the blind aren't going to sell themselves as blind people, but the deal will be sealed when they sell themselves as competant people.

Judith Bron NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**13. This is good and I especially appreciated the feel of the whole piece, the human interaction.
however, as it is about framing blindness, shouldn't the applicant have come back in the third time with what you gave him to say, plus one or more reasons that blindness was in fact a positive in his favor as an applicant?

Jim Canaday M.A. Lawrence, KS NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

...FROM ME- "I asked Jim to provide us with a couple of examples."

**14. okay Robert,
well, if you grow up tall, you've got more likelihood of playing good basketball. if you're a guy and you're big, muscular, sturdy, you're better equipped to play football, as a lineman as a guard for example. So, if blindness is an equivalent sort of trait, then it must have advantages as well as disadvantages. the big football lineman might not be a good gymnast, for example.

if the job applicant in your fine thought provoker was applying for a telephone CSR position, then one might conclude that in successfully functioning as a blind person, he'd learned to listen well, a positive attribute for such a job. we blind people aren't distracted by appearances.

or, his experience in mental mapping as an independent travel blind person might also make his mind sharper for thinking through a computer program algorithm.

there's a couple examples.

Jim Canaday M.A. Lawrence, KS NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**15. JC, The problem with your suggestion is that most of the world perceives blindness to be a negative. If you are trying to sell yourself for your abilities, sell those abilities. After a person gets to know you they will quickly realize that blindness, as they see through you, is another handicap. People are not defined by their handicap. They are defined by their talents and accomplishments.

Judith Bron NFB Writers' Division Mailing List

**16. it is really nice that employer was willing to give the chance to present himself three times. Butthe blind man should have already thought about what the employer want before he present himself first time. You want to kept blindness down when you are interview the employer usually got that you are blind when you come into his or her office.

I would like to have heard what the final version was completely presented.

Dexter Terry

**17. It would be nice to think that a businessman and potential employer would coach someone that way, but the sad reality is more like, "We have 4 people ahead of you for the job, but if there is a vacancy, we'll be glad to call you." Of course the job never materializes because he is correct, the blind are 85% unemployed. Most companies consider them unemployable, especially in today's economy, where it's an employer's market and an employee can be fired if the colour of his eyes doesn't match the boss's carpet.

Carolyn gold Clearwater, FL

**18. I really enjoyed reading this story. Although most people are not given that second or third chance to make a first impression, the employer gave the applicant much to think about that is useful when applying for jobs in today's depressed market. The hard truth about finding a job is that most employers have a large pool of applicants from which to hire, and they do not want to hire workers they feel would not be the cream of the crop. If there is a typo on a resumé, that resumé goes into the trash. If a person does not have above-average interpersonal skills and the ability to sell one's self, the interview will be short and they will not be hired. An employer wants to know what a potential employee can do for them, not the other way around. In the last scenario, the applicant showed what he could do for the company.

Jan Brant Nebraska

**19. this is by far the most effective thought provoker ever placed on your web site. I plan to keep a copy of it near for the mentoring of blind and visually impaired teens and adults. You definitely hit one out of the ballpark with this one!

Dr. kimberly Morrow

**20. The employer impressed me greatly. He handled the situation with logic, and professionalism. He wanted John to present himself as a potential employee, not a blind person. Afterall, isn't being blind secondary to who we are, and the abilities we have? It makes sense, being blind does not dictate what we can or can not do (aside from seeing that is,) it simply makes what we do slightly altered in technique and method. So, if it is that trivial, why must we make such a big deal out of it in situations that don't call for that level of attention to be drawn to the fact.

Aziza, (Student, Southern California)

**21. When I read this TP all the way through, I thought of how I might respond in a similar situation. As a matter of fact, I thought of how I responded during the interview for my current position as an administrative assistant at a local nonprofit. The key is not to focus on the negatives which, although it may seem difficult for some, isn't that hard at all. I will admit I was a bit tense walking into that interview, but I think not having a representative from my state VR agency in attendance was enough to tell me everything would work out just great. I have since often wondered--and people have asked me--how I would've responded had a VR representative been in attendance. To this day I'm not quite sure, but I think that I would've been much more tense and nervous. I've said this in previous Thought Provokers and I'll say it again. VR is not for everybody. At least this is how I have felt for years. There are just things which the so-called VR professionals don't pick up on for whatever reason. Perhaps it is because they are not trained well. Perhaps it is because they're just too stubborn and refuse to change their ways. Or perhaps it's a combination of these factors. I think the latter is definitely the case in my state. Perhaps these factors go hand in hand too. Funding is most definitely a problem in most if not all cases, but what if the issue of funding were put aside, and the other issues I've just mentioned are focused on? But back to the current TP. On the morning of my interview I got up early and got ready for the day's events. I had a good breakfast. My life-skills tutor came over to help me get ready for the interview. He had previously worked with me extensively on the route to and from the office. He also helped me fill out the application. When he left for the day I walked over to the office and went inside. I was immediately greeted by the person who would interview me. We had met previously as she had been working at our organization for a little while, but we did the formal introductions anyway. Then she and I walked back to the conference room and started the interview. I gave her my completed application and she looked it over. She then asked me several questions about why I wanted to work there and why I felt I could work there. Immediately following the interview she gave me feedback on how I did, and thanked me for coming. I thanked her for the interview and then left. Not long after that she called and informed me that the final decision had been made. I was hired. Throughout this entire interview, I stressed the positives. I am a "people person." I have very good computer skills. There's still more I want to learn, but I feel I can do it. I am always on time, if not early, for things, and if I know ahead of time that I'll be late I make a point of notifying the appropriate person. I admit the issue of VR was in the back of my mind, but it definitely didn't become the focal point of my interview. How I would get a screen reader was not an issue, as I have known System Access to Go and Non-Visual Desktop Access for a few years. I installed NVDA on two computers there, and all I had to do was use SA to Go and navigate to the NVDA website and the corresponding links. Once I got NVDA up and talking, I unloaded SA to Go and was guided through NVDA's talking installer. I have been working at this organization for 3 years now and love it. The work is stimulating, and the people are wonderful.

Jake Joehl

**22. So true but why do sighted people not buy it without us having to kill ourselves trying to prove it.

Karim Lakhani Blind-X listserv

**23. I like this one. excelent THOUGHT PROVOKER.

Ermelinda Miller

**24. Good beginning. I liked how the businessman pointed out John's weaknesses and gave him three chances to get it right.

Nicole Michigan

**25. I really like this article, as it illuminates the errors implicit in ways that we (both counselors and clients) approach employers.

Pearl Van Zandt Nebraska

**26. This is an excellent TP. I believe that the ability to present ourselves in such a way that potential employers are excited about our abilities and what we can do for them should be taught at all agencies for the blind. I have rarely seen a blind person who can stir excitement in another person just by his/her words, facial expressions and enthusiasm.

Chris Coulter: Edmonds, Washington

**27. I think the scenario was trying to say that blind people need to be confident and sell their skills in order to get employment - that we'll never get jobs if we focus on our disability too much. I agree with the sentiment, but it's too simplistic. It's too simplistic to say that given the skills and tools we can do most jobs - ok I don't have statistics but the facts seem to me to be that it is getting harder to get jobs in, say, IT based environments because software and web based tools are getting more and more visual. It's not as simple as, give me a screen reader and a guide dog/cane and I'm away. And you have to raise these issues with potential employers or you're living in cloud cuckoo land. I once went for a job as some sort of admin person, on the phone they told me I should go for a higher position as editorial assistant as my CV was more suited to that; I asked about whether they had wheelchair access to their office as I was a wheelchair user and they told me I wouldn't be appropriate and put the phone down.

My brother spent over a year not working because the company who'd given him a job then changed their computer systems and were no longer compatible with JAWS. These are not things that happen because the disabled/blind person isn't confident enough/doesn't sell their skills enough. They're harsh reality and we mustn't let them put us off but we can't ignore them either.

Catherine Turner

**28. The blind man in this story has a non-blind problem. He is a little too hung up on the
baggage, not the actual blindness. What he said might be true, but that's not the
issue. The problem was, he was "negative." All it took was a little coaching by the
business owner to teach him the right approach.

I just wish it were that simple. Very rarely will any employer have that kind of patience.
Rarer still is a man who learns confidence in one quick step. That kind of confidence
is not learned so quickly. Some people have it built-in. Others need coaching and
practice, and they have to work hard at it.

As I said, the root of the problem really has little to do with blindness. You'd be
surprised how many sighted people make exactly the same mistake that this guy did.
How can anybody (blind or not) avoid this? Simple: his elders and peers must be
an encouragement in his life from Day 1. Not false praise, but constructive criticism.
Not overly positive or overly negative, but simply practical. Above all, teach the
person to be calm and casual in his approach to people, in any situation.
Man, I wish I could have told myself this advice when I was five years old! School
would have been a lot easier. So would my job.

David Lafleche

**29. I've always heard, "It's the first impression that counts". I'm afraid this young man wouldn't have had the opportunity to present himself as a viable candidate for the job, in the real world. Most employers would have written this person off, before he finished his initial inquiry. At the same time, the life-long negative view of blindness would have been just reinforced by this job seeker.

The young blind man has some work to do, too. Despite what he says about his abilities, in the third attempt, I don't really think he believes it, himself. If he were truly confident in his abilities, he wouldn't have had to try to play on the sympathy of the employer to get the job. But, I don't think he truly believes that he can do the job on an equal, competitive basis with sighted people. If he believed this, he would have gone in with a resume and anxious to highlight his strengths.

I think there is a time to discuss blindness and answer some questions a prospective employer might have about how a blind person might do the job.
But, this would come much later in the interview. If the initial impression the employer receives is, "Oh poor me! You have to give me the job, because I'm blind", the door would be shut for him and any other blind person seeking a job, from this employer, for quite some time.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**30. Oh, if only such sentience existed in the *real* job market. This blind job-seeker had the totally wrong approach. The potential employer taught him some incredibly valuable lessons, and such employers don't generally exist in the "real world.

Mark BurningHawk

**31. I really liked this. I particularly enjoyed the response to the first attempt and the final effort. The use of the blind card and the pity story is all to often a reason given by those with a victimhood mentality of why a potential employer owes them a job. I recently interviewed for a position with several other blind individuals. None of the others had a cane, relying on their 20/200 or worse "vision" to get them about, and when possible issues with transportation to the job site came up two of the four of us asked how the company was going to get them to their job if they got it. Such attatudes are extremely unfortunate as it is not only a poor way to live, but has a poor impact on how said employer will view other blind people.

Thanks for another great effort.

George McDermith

**32. Good for the employer! This blind guy was very lucky. I might not have cut him that much slack. None of us, blind or sighted, should make a presentation with negatives. Be prepared to overcome negativity from the employer or customer or client, but never, never present negatives-only positives!

When I worked as a salesman for a time, I had a strict rule: Never ask a question that could be answered by "yes" or "no". Rather, the question would always be phrased to evoke an answer favorable to me, i.e. never ask "Do you need anything today?", but rather, ask "Do you want one or two today?" A refusal to that question takes effort as opposed to just saying "no".

Had this applicant used the third scenario the first time, the employer might have been uncomfortable at first and might have shown doubt, to which the applicant could have responded in a light-hearted manner: "If you're interested in what I have on either side of my nose, we probably can't come together; however, if you're interested in what I have between my ears, I'm your guy!"

Hopefully, this applicant learned a valuable lesson that anyone in an interview situation, blind, deaf, both, or perfectly healthy, should be prepared for.

Jim Theall, Longmont, CO

**33. Part of the way John framed his pitch for getting hired was mentioning the high rate of unemployment of blind persons; in this case, nearly 80%. This is a commonplace with advocacy organizations when framing the problem of blind persons securing employment. It is a myth and, if I may say so, more than a little bit dishonest. It is typically compared with the official unemployment rate, issued monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; that rate has risen lately up to more than 9.5%. The BLS rate and the advocacy claimed rate are calculated on very different factors. The BLS figure as the percentage of the "civilian labor force" that is unemployed during the previous month, but the advocacy rate is based on what is called the "non-institutionalized civilian population over the age of sixteen". Only about 63% of the civilian population is counted as part of the civilian labor force and the remaining 37% are just simply not part of the labor force. The civilian labor force is made up of persons, over sixteen, who are either employed or unemployed and are both available for employment and have made specific efforts to obtain employment. If we counted that 37% in the unemployment rate, each month's report from BLS would have to be around 46.5%: pretty shocking. However, the advocates disregard this 37% who are simply not part of the labor force. If they were brought into the calculation, the most we could claim is that the true unemployment rate for blind persons would be around 33%. Even this considerably overstates the case. In its June report, BLS included an estimate of the unemployment rate for disabled persons at around 13%; this is almost certainly too low. The true rate is probably somewhere between the 33% and the 13%. Not quite as shocking, but closer to the truth: and even truth has its shock value.

James S. Nyman

**34. The use of having the employer giving and in deed instructing this blind man to go back out and rethink his pitch as was portrayed in this story was a very good device to show the wrong way, the almost right and the truly right way to present yourself in the initial stage of a job interview. I do not think it would ever happen in real life, but for a story that is designed to provoke thought, it was brilliant.

...FROM ME: "I got the idea for this sceen from Grand Torino, the recent movie that Clint eastwood played a elderly widower, a guy having a hard time getting use to the changes in life and especially in his neighborhood. This was when Clint took the neighbor kid, an asian, to visit the barber and the two older gents were trying to teach the kid how to interact in a more Americanized way."

**35. I've been doing some soul searching about this provoker on framing blindness. To be honest, I would probably have used the blind man's second response mostly because I've learned to expect the kinds of questions employers are most likely to ask. Since disclosure is kinda freaky territory anyway, I guess I just throw everything on the table regarding how I'll do a job because that tends to be the first question I get asked in the jobs I've applied for. And like John, I guess I've learned to expect negativity from employers because that's what I often get from many sighted people whether they're looking for a job applicant or not. Well, I guess "negativity" isn't the word really. I guess the right word I'm looking for is "ignorance."

I think it's really easy to criticise the blind guy in the story. It's clear that interview training would be helpful. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm fully aware that I would have made some of the same mistakes he did and probably have done recently in my search for a part-time job.

I think about the interview training I've received thus far from rehabilitators, other NFB folks, and high school/college and still think that my interview skills are incomplete. I honestly don't know what to do about blindness, disclosure, what to do in tense interviews, that kind of thing since no one really talks about it up front. People who work to train the general public in interviewing don't know what the hell to say when I bring up the question of how and when to disclose information about my disability. Those who work with the blind often make the mistake of ignoring issues regarding discrimination and how to frame blindness because they want us to feel like we can do anything and that the world will see us for who we are. Not always so.
I know that I went into my first job interview thinking this was the case and was horribly shocked to find otherwise. I didn't get that job because I didn't know how to handle the employer's ignorance appropriately. I've never even heard frank conversation about disclosure in the NFB either. Frankly, I'd like some answers as a young job seeker. I would like to know how to deal effectively with employers who can't stop obsessing about how much I can/can't see. I'd like to know how to shelf my tension knowing that i'm battling a 70% blind unemployment rate on top of a rediculous economy. Yeah, I'd like the answers to these questions, and I suddenly find that I don't have them.

To be honest, the feeling of not knowing is scary. I consider myself a capable, confident, and positive person with a lot to offer. To be frank, I'm almost to awake and aware for my liking. But really, I found myself suddenly uncertain about my capacity as a job seeker to overcome the issues that this provoker brings up. I wouldn't ordinarily wear my heart on my sleve like this, but I know there's gotta be someone out there reading this provoker that feels the same way. I'm right with you buddy!

Anxiodus Job Seeker


**37. So, the job applicant doesn't deal with his blindness at all, except to focus the interviewer's attention on his skills and interest in the job. I have had interviews where I just talked about my skills, background and experience that shows I've already done the job, or something relevant. I didn't get those jobs. One was a teacher's aid job I wanted so I could work when my son was in school. I asked someone I knew if she could get some feedback from the people who interviewed me. She said, "as soon as you walked out of the room, they wondered how you would operate a copy machine".

In the scenario in the thought provoker, we have to assume that sometime in the discussion that followed, the blind applicant assured the interviewer that he could do the job as a blind person. If he didn't the interviewer might think that since they don't have talking computers, he couldn't do the job. Interviewers can ask you what accommodations you need, but that doesn't mean they will.

Abby Vincent ACB-L listserv

**36. Giving today's economic down fall we are still on and employment is still
rizing in places, I am happy to have read this little story.

back in December, a counseling company I worked for was down sized. The government cut our program out totally. The company moved all the people from my branch to other parts of the company. However, all the full time positions in this company require one to have a drivers license. They moved and down sized my hours from 20 a week to only 4 a week. I look at it positively, they actually made a position for me so they didnt have to let me go totally.

Since January I have looked every day for a job and I have sent out
about a hundred resumes. It doesnt sound like much but it is because a lot of companies require someone to have a drivers license. I work as a counselor, so unless I do outreach work, it should not be a question. Although I have an advance master's in my field, 6 years of experience and
great references, it does not help me get past the stupid few words of "drivers license required" Someone who only has a BA degree, can get a
counseling job over me having a CAGS just because I do not have a drivers
license. When I ask about it, they just tell me that it is a requirement.
They say that it is not against me, it is anyone who doesnt have a drivers license.

I called my state's comission for discrimination and they said it wasnt
because it would "put a hardship on the company" if a counseling company
would have to hire someone else to do any driving on my behalf.

If anyone has been in the same shoes as I am, I look for advice.

Thank you for this thought provoker
Jonathan Alpert NFB Human Services Mailing List

**38. Hey Jonathan, I know how you feel. I encounter the same issues with not being able to drive which is a requirement for majority of the counseling jobs out there. It discourages me a little that you are having so much difficulty finding employment and that's with 6 years of experience. I have only a year of internship. I've been looking for 2 years now. I have realized it's not what you know but, who you know that will get you in to jobs. Some of the counseling positions I would recommend for you to consider are college academic counselor, state agency rehab counselor or maybe private practice you know something where you can sit in a nice cozy office.

As for me, since I don't have much experience I'm looking to do more free work and meet new people in high places. I'll win them with my charm and hopefully that will get me a job. Please if anyone has any other suggestions for me, Jonathan and others encountering these same obstacles let us know.

As for the thought provoker It's an excellent example of what to do and what not to do. I've used probably two of those approaches in interviews.

Quinto San Antonio NFB Human Services Mailing List

**37. I think that the prospective employee's third approach was the best of all. Rather than just coming in and shooting out all the positive things he can do as a blind person before the employer can introduce himself or talk about the open position, the employee--John in this case--should come in, walking normally as a confident sighted person would, introduce himself and state what position he's applying for. It is at that point at which the employer should have the chance to decide whether or not he wants to proceed with the interview. If the employer proceeds with the interview, the employer will ask questions to which the prospective employee--John--answers the questions accordingly. In turn, the employee--John--asks questions if need be. If, of course, there's a high probability that the employer may hire him, then John would ask for an estimated date when he might hear from the company about their final decision. If John's uncertain whether or not there's a possibility that he'll be hired because there are other employees still to be interviewed, it is at that point that John should encourage the employer to ask questions that arise at any time by phone or in person, and assure the employer that he's available for contact.
The first and second approaches are in-your-face approaches, which are seen as rude and intrusive. It doesn't give the employer a chance to react positively. In-your-face approaches make people back away from you and they tune you out immediately.

Linda MN

**38. I understand how it could be diffecult to find and get a job. I am a callage student, and have not needed a job so far, however I did think of an approacn that may still get the point across and not be quite so agressive. In my openion i would send in the application with only mentioning that I am legally blind. Then if I get an interview go for the interview and have my cane in my other hand when I go to shake my future employers hand. One thing I have learned is that a person with sight naturally picks up visual cues best. My cane will be noticed, so i don't have to mention it in any of the interview so the interview will go as it would with any other future employee. This causes the employer to focus on your credintials instead of the adjustments he will have to make and other things. In my openion if the employer is a good one he will ask what they will need to do to make any acomedations. If they do not ask, then it is probably best to only mention your visual imparement at the end of the interview and then let the employer enquire further. This again makes the employer focus on you credintials first and your vision second. At the same time it gives the employer the empression that you are less likely to use your vision as a crutch or weakness. I am not saying that is what happens all the time, but it still gives a future employer a good empression.

Mytchiko Mckenzie
Co-Lin Community Callege
Mississippi US

**39. I also think this is one of Robert's best thought provokers. I want to share some of my own experiences interviewing as an example. When I started interviewing in and after college, it was at least 10 years before the ADA, so employers were not regularly hiring persons with disabilities. But despite that, I found that, with only one exception, the interviewers were open to listen to me and in only one case dismissed me with disbelief that I applied. (That one was Motorola -- 1984.) But I was invited on onsite interviews by 3 companies so they were willing to spend money flying me out. Also, I brought my CCTV with me to demonstrate how I worked, in case they had a question. One of them didn't even ask to see it, saying that if I kept my grades up, which I had, I must be able to do the job. Now the funny interview: I was sitting listening to the interviewer tell me about the company when he asked me if my reading speed was slow because of the strong magnification. Now if truth be told, I did read much slower than a sighted person, but I was applying for a job doing software development and didn't need to read as much as I would in other types of jobs. So I replied "Well, everyone reads Knuth the same speed." (Knuth was the author of a well known series of computer science textbooks.) The interviewer laughed and I got an offer. (It helps to have a (prudent) sense of humor.)
I am also in a wheelchair so I have to not only concern myself with blindness but also with physical accessibility of the workplace. So what say you about how to approach the interviewer about adaptations he/she would have to make, if any? I know the initial interview is not the place to do that, but it has to come up sometime before start of work.
Good luck to all you interviewees!

Laura Eaves