Off To Work We Go


Off To Work We Go

     It is a Saturday morning, three of my friends and I were having coffee at a local restaurant. The topic of discussion was the present status of our employment or non-employment as blind people.

     "I'M buying the coffee today! It's in celebration of my ten year anniversary on my job. Can you believe it?" I said.

     "Congratulations!" Said my friend seated across the table from me. "I've been at my half-time job for about nine months now and am still looking for what my degree qualifies me for."

     "At least you've got that. I've working fulltime to find anything." Said my friend to the right.

     "Yeah, I'm taking kind of a break from looking." Said the friend to my left.

     Then this guy that none of us knew comes up to our table and asks, "What's this 70 percent plus of the blind are either UN-employed or under employed thing all about?"

e-mail responses to

**1. "Sometimes I think that to often the blind person, who is looking for
his or
her dream job, sits at home and waits for it "the job" to fall in their
lap. They sit back and pass up opportunities to volunteer, intern, and
work jobs that are less appealing but would give them more work experience.
Such folks are too frequently, highly qualified and skilled, to allow
their fears to rule their actions in such a way. What keeps them from
jumping in with both feet and working more meanial jobs like their sighted
counterparts is difficult to understand? perhaps it is fear, lack of
self-confidence, or purely ignorance, that holds them back. whatever the
case, the blind are in some instances needlessly under-employed. I think
Garth Brooks said it best in his song the "River".

You know a dream is like a river
ever changing as it flows and the dreamers just a vessel
that must follow where it goes
trying to learn from what's behind you
and never knowing what's in store
makes each day a constant battle
just to stay between the shores
too many times we stand a side
and let the water slip a way

until what we put off till tomorrow
has now become today
so don't you sit upon the shoreline
and say that you're satisfied
choose to chance the rapids
and dare to dance the tides

FROM ME: "I feel your response and know not what to say to heighten
its clarity as one scenario. If these truths are so, what can we do to
lessen and eliminate them?"

**2. "Boy, you sure picked a great time for this message. I have had a
recent negative experience with employment, so I feel I am qualified to give some
feedback on your thought-Provoker.

There are many reasons why blind people may be unemployed. Some of these
aren't too complimentary. I certainly don't mean to offend anyone, but I
think there are some realities here I need to address. Some blind persons
may not have jobs because they are afraid. They fear that they may not be
able to go into a job where "normal" people work and do an equally good
job. Some people may be intimidated by the idea that they are working
with sighted people. Some may fear their employers will resent them for
having to make special accommodations for them because of their blindness.
Some people are just lazy...its easier to live off the system than it is
to go out and get a job. Then, there are those who probably work their
buns off to get a job and aren't hired because of their blindness. I am
sure there are blind people who are perfectly qualified to do a job but
they aren't hired because discrimination is a reality we all face
sometimes. These are all just guesses on my part, but I believe all of
these scenarios apply to blind people in our world today.

I had a terrible experience with my first job that I had recently. I
didn't ask the right questions when I was first hired and as a result, I
wasn't properly prepared to work when the time came. I eventually had to
quit my job because I felt I couldn't do the work that was expected of me.
I will always regret that decision in a way, because it left my employers
with a bad impression of blind people. However, there were positives that
came out of that experience. I now have a different job at another
company and I am going into this job much more prepared and emotionally
aware than I was at my last job. I also feel a world of difference as far
as my mental health goes...having a job can make you feel great about
yourself if you put enough effort into it. My advice to those who are
unemployed and who may be seeking a job is to not give up. For those who
have had bad experiences, know that the greatest lessons in life are not
taught, but learned."

Ryan Osentowski (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: "Lessons learned! Yes, oh yes and sometimes the best of
experiences and/or achievements hurt before it gets better, gets great!"
What do they say, "No pain, no gain. And for the "why" many of us find
ourselves starting from that do we or do others assist us
to not have to come up that way?"

**3. A. "First, is this a dependable figure? People quote a lot of things that are not verified. And who is this joker, asking a question of these
folks??? Grin. The obvious answer is the attitudes of the blind persons
looking for work. If one wants to find work, it is there. But wait... not
always. There are always determining factors and generalizing things is
not my choice of analysis. Availability of transportation, job market and
attitudes of the employers all factor into the equation. One would not
generalize about certain races and their attitudes and employment status,
why us?? I also have a problem with the lack of expectation and
competition among the disabled. No goals or drive to out do someone else.
Whew. Lots to talk about here."

B. "sure, put my name on it. I don't care. The working question. Hmmm. I
can only anser for me, and that is hard enough. I feel unchallenged and bored
by not working. To work is to put myself open to failure. But i love to
work and of course, it is necessary. So, yes, I do want to work, but when
it is so full of hassles and back stepping, I lose interest and get even
more frustrated. There is the conundrum. It sometimes is more hassle to
work than not. All things considered. School forever. A happy medium.

Perhaps if entering the work force was not such a big hassle..."

C. "I keep thinking of a pool of quicksand when I think of the workplace.
I know it is silly, but the fear is still there, lurking in the shadows of my
mind. I , too , had a negative experience in the workplace and would like
to aboid another. That is a simple human reaction to a failure. Setbacks
are always imminent when you are moving. But so is progress. Standing
still is the worst of all . Maybe we all need a cattle prod!!!"

Pamela McVeigh (Herman, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: "The NFB is one of the organizations saying that the 70%+ of
blind people either being unemployed or under-employed is a reality. And
as for there being circumstances out there in the employment environment
which are deterrents to getting to work, you're right, its not always the
blind guy's fault. And as for the size of the number (70+) you tell me, it
is said to reflect the number of folks who say they want to work, do they?"

**4. "This thought provoker takes me back to an address Dr. Jernigan made
during a general session at an annual convention. In that address, he said that
we, as blind people, needed to rise above a minority mentality. While it
is true that prevailing attitudes work to bar full participation in many areas of life including employment, we also hold ourselves back so long as
we think of ourselves as a repressed group lacking the resources or tools
to control our own destiny. We need to revise our self-concept to that of
having arrived. We have the resources now to claim equality on every
level. We need to see ourselves as capable of being full participants in
society now even if statistics indicate that many of us are struggling. I
recognize that changes need to take place in society but I also feel that
we can do much by recognizing the need for change from within. With this
in mind, I believe we will realize wider acceptance and greater opportunities."

Bob Deaton (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: "I too read that address by Dr. Jernigan. I believe our communicating with our fellow federationist and friends is a small effort
on our part to help bring about that change. Let us make sure we put forth
our best in what we share (from the heart) and not be afraid to challenge
what another may say. Thank you for bringing this to our forum"."

**5. "Wow! About 70 percent of blind people unemployed, or under employed?
If the stats are that high, I would say that there are too many variables
to cause such a rate.
Your blindness and sharks for example. Too many blind people refuse to
jump in the bigger water. Then there are those who do, but get
disappointed when not accepted because of blindness. Some people are
skilled in a trade, lose their sight, and can't seem to find a different
trade that they would be happy at. Overall, I am sad to say that this is
too close to your first thought provoker."

Gary Crane (Plattsmouth, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: "Yes, they are related. But even if in some eyes it is the
splitting of a hair, it is something we have to wear. But again, let us do
get down into the specifics of this all but too important desire of ours to
be able to say off to work we go."

**6. "Let me first tell you how much I really appreciated the "Blindness and
Sharks" discussion!! Very interesting, indeed. Think you're doing a good
thing here!

As for this second question on blindness and employment, here's my
thoughts. Please do not print my name. Thanks.

I believe the 70% unemployment rate for blind people is due, in part to
three things.

1. The lack of understanding or ignorance and stereo types
of the sighted public/employers.

2. Unfortunately, blind people are all held up and viewed as examples of
what/who a blind person is and what they can do. When one blind person
gets a job (be it volunteer or pay) their performance is filed away and
used to determine the opinion of other blind folks to come. This is not
fair, but it happens. So, say that a blind person goes out and gets a job
and is extremely successful. This makes the path much easier for the next
blind person to come along and have a chance. If the blind person screws
up big time and doesn't get the job done-shows up late, etc. then it
hinders the chances of the next guy.
This is unfortunate, as I believe people should all be judged on their own
merit, but, we know it doesn't always happen that way.

3. Some blind people choose to sit at home and live off the government."

FROM ME: "Thank you for your three points. They cover things well,
if we only look at the problem of it. Zeroing in on the "role model" part
of it for a moment: Because the down-side of blindness is still to
intimately connected with the characteristic of loss of sight, there are
Still too many unenlightened people out there to the human ability to
successfully live with blindness. So we have folks doing the
"generalization thing" to all of us resulting in a view that we are all
alike. And from that, what I do, what you do will effect how the next
blind guy will be received. It rolls on from there, on and on..... But and
so how do we break that cycle?"

B. "I think that cycle of all blind people being compared to one another,
can be broken when people begin to look at each individual for who he/she
is. It's a dream, I know, but that's the only way I see."

**7. "The claim that 70% of blind persons are either unemployed or
is either completely erroneous or unintelligible and/or maybe both. What
may be correct and more helpful is the statement that 70% of blind persons
are not in the workforce. That may be correct and offers the possibility
of meaningful comparison with the situation of everyone in and out of the
workforce. At any given time, approximately 33% of the population between
the ages of eighteen and sixty-four are not in the workforce. There are
many reasons for this, such as retirement, family rearing, education and
training, rich, temporary illness, etc. These same factors will affect the
blind also and leave about 37% who are not in the workforce for reasons
related to blindness. I call this group "disemployed" rather than
unemployed. They are not in the workforce because of discrimination,
disincentive, discouragement, disability and disinclination. These are the
things we can actually work on to alleviate the situation. There is no
actual mechanism for determining the unemployment rate among the blind; at
least, not one that is comparable with the one we always hear from the
Employment Service. This figure is around 4.3% right now and that 70% for
the blind sounds pretty horrendous by comparison. Unfortunately."

B. "On March 13, 1998, President Clinton issued an Executive Order that
a Task Force on employment for disabled persons. It was composed mostly of
cabinet level persons, chaired by the Secretary of Labor with the director
of the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities
as vice-chair. It had all kinds of things to look into and make reports on
a periodic basis, starting with November this year and ending around the
end of 2002. One of its last duties was to devise some reliable method for
tracking the unemployment rate for disabled persons. The whole executive
order is printed in the ;May Monitor. But, the fact that the Taskforce was
given this statistical responsibilities simply underlines the extreme
difficulty in coming up; with reliable information in this area."

So says James Nyman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: "Thank you for this part of "the rest of the story."

**8. "i'm old and not working now. I did work for about sixty years, that
was before I was old and blind. My counselor read me what you blind kids
(I call anyone that under sixty) have wrote about your lives and work. I'm
no psychologist, but I don't think setting a child up for life is any
different for the blind kid as it is for the sighted kids. My daddy made
us tow the line. He wipped us when we misbehaved and he and mother hugged
us went we brought home good grades or got a skinned knee from a fall.
They made us all work around the house, we took turns milking and hoeing,
drawing water for the bath and all.

I had a younger brother who had bad eyesight and I don't know why he was,
don't think they knew back then. He was treated like the rest of us. My
parents didn't know any different how to treat him from us, they wipped and
hugged him too. He was one of the two of us nine kids that went off to
college. But he didn't get a chance to finish. He got killed crossing a
street. He didn't have a cane, they didn't know any better back then. I'd
tell parents to not take it easy on their kids, not any of them, but get
smart about blindness."

I interviewed this individual, wrote what they said and asked if I could
include their name and they answered "What is in a name, that's not the
important point of my story. Robert L."

**9. "There is a lot to the unemployment, underemployment and disemployment
blind people. I think the solutions are numerous and require a little
creativity on all of our parts.
Advocacy for good health care is important. There is a percentage of
blind people who cannot afford to loose government health insurance
without picking them up somewhere else. The good news is that many sighted
folks also find themselves and their families in this bind. Part of a
person's networking might need to be investigation of the health benefits
available through an employer. I think some help is available through
traditional government sources when people are working also. Not all education comes from college. If anyone needs a JOB application
and some materials for job applicants, please call me or Robert. I would
be delighted to get those to you.

Speaking of coffee in eating establishments, would a monthly meeting for
job seekers or people with specific employment-related interests be
helpful? They have JOB breakfasts at the NFB national convention. All we
would need to do would be to pick a topic a month, publicise it, go to the
designated place and network. Maybe some mentoring relationships could be
started between people looking for jobs and another person who is currently
working. We might even have speakers from different companies come talk to
us about their employment opportunities.
I think discussions like this at least get us all thinking in a positive
vein of action. Let's face it: Whether we are blind or not, nobody is
going to give us a job if we are not taking the incentive to look for one.

If you get wind of a job, e-mail it to anyone you know that might want to
know about it."

Nancy Coffman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: "You gave us several considerations and/or actions which may
lead to changing the status of the blind in employment, let's tick them
off: 1. Looking into health options via the employer or the government to
not allow this factor to be a deterrent to seeking and accepting a
position. 2. Education concerning the filling out of applications and
other needed materials and/or knowledge can be gained from friends and
professionals. 3. Job breakfasts was another; good talk, good food, good
support. 4. Discussion such as this. Peer counseling, another method for
sharing important information and encouragement. 5. Finally your idea of
passing on leads via E-Mail. Another fine and easy method or use of
E-Mail. Thanks, Nancy a good start. How about the rest of you/us?"

**10. "well I gave it some thought, and I have a few things to respond with.
I am not entirely sure about the 70% figure either, but even at 37% we
have a
lot of issues to think about. What society believes about us blind people
is of course a part of the problem, and educating the public can help, but
just who is suppose to do this. The state services are expected to do
this, and we try to do as much as possible, but we all have a lot of other
things that we are expected to do as well. These days we are being asked
to do more of this sort of thing when it comes to employment issues, and I
hope we can do more without hurting our other efforts to help our clients.

The leadership of the NFB is expected by all of us to educate the public,
but you know I don't think that the folks in Baltimore have the time or the
resources to spend talking to the employers here in Nebraska. This is
where I am going to get into some trouble, but I think it's time we ask
ourselves some tough questions. How many of those 37% of the blind that
are unemployed are taking the time to individually or as a group contact
employers to educate them about blindness or the good resource blind people
can be to their companies as employees? I am always thankful that the NFB
is there when it comes down to a fight for someone's rights, but the real
purpose in having an organized army is to avoid going to war. And, it
isn't just a matter of scaring the other side into not picking a fight, you
need diplomacy, and that means building a relationship with the other side.
In the same way we need to be getting to know the employers, and arranging
for them to be gettingh to know us as well. You can't simply give somebody
a call one time and tell them about the NFB and expect it to make a
difference, we will have to build an on going system in every chapter to go
out in teams to meet with employers as concerned members of our community
seeking to help businesses and other organizations to find both new markets
for their products and a good source of reliable effective employees. By
the way, those of us that are working have a lot less time for this sort of
effort, but we can make this same kind of effort with our own employer and
the business contacts we have each day. If you believe that things need to
change, then you have to be a part of making it happen.

The other tough question is about the choices we are making as blind
people when it comes to setting our goals for employment. It seems like a
lot of us are wanting to be counselors, computer technicians, or lawyers,
all of
which are perfectly fine professions, but why are so few of us choosing to
become scientists, engineers, or medical technicians? As an organization,
we have always said if you want to work, you have to go where the work is.
Well what about all those other people looking for jobs in counseling,
computer technology, and as lawyers, and how many companies are looking for
scientists, engineers, and medical technicians?"

FROM ME: "People! Here are 3 quotes, a sentence from Jeff's
comments, an NFB mission statement and/or slogan and an old time saying.
1. "If you believe that things need to change, then you have to be a part
of making it happen." 2. "We are changing what it means to be blind." 3.
"Seeing is believing." I find these concepts to be intimately related,
not saying all that there is to be said on the topic, but what do you

**11. "On the job situation, I have not thought much about it, I know I put
in my time, quite a bit of conflict with the company I worked for, because
of wanting upgrades. A guy has to keep trying to better himself, or you
stay in a rut. I was successful in several cases, but lost a few also. Well
that's all I have, so will get out of here."

: "And so it goes in life, for each of us, some getting a fair
shake and some not. But bottomline you've got to give to get."

**12. "In reference to the matter of employment. The visually impaired seem
to fair better in the employment field because of the easy access to aids
for the vision that they still have. I have two daughters who are both
visually impaired and one works at a bank where they have accommodations
for her. The other works at an assembly plant part time and has recently
opened a business of her own which she works at part time also. Because
they have eyesight that they can use, they didn't have any problem becoming
employed. We shall see if that is true as their eyesight continues to
fail. Had either of them been totally blind, I do not think that they
would have the jobs that they have. Not because they couldn't do them, but
because they would not have been considered capable. We have seen that
over and over with my husband. When the employer finds out that he is
totally blind, they say, "We don't have anything for him at this time, but
maybe sometime in the future. Don't bother to fill out and application, we
will let you know when something comes up." It appears that the biggest
problem we have encountered is people who do not have time to even discover
what the blind can do for them. Our son is presently employed at a place
that wouldn't hire my husband. Our son is visually impaired, my husband
totally blind. That is the what we have found over and over. Education
of society is still one of the biggest factors to overcome. When society as
a whole treats the blind with the same respect as the sighted, then the
blind will also have more confidence in getting a job.

: Give us your best on this special request, " How do we get
the two together on this, the society in which we live in and the blind?"

**13. "I believe in some cases that there many blind people who don't want
become employed. They feel comfortable just sucking money off of the
government, collecting their SSI check.
People, this is the wrong thing to do. Everyone else gets out there and
contributes to giving Uncle Sam our tax money, why shouldn't we."

: "Not saying the above comments mean only this, but does
guilt play any part in this?"

**14. "I know why I haven't worked much. I am nervous about how it will
come out. It bothers me to be doubted or treated like a baby or expected
to be amazing. Mostly I am afraid I will not be successful. Trying new
things I am not use to doing is stressful. Guess I have not done too many
new things in my life. So I will admit, I am afraid to not make it. I can
not take it to be put down."

FROM ME: "What does help us to build confidence to reach out and try new things. What is guts?"

**15. "I am a parent. What I read into many of the remarks in these Thought
Provokers is a split between those who are risk takers and those who are
not. In those who have a basic lack of bravery, a missing willingness to
take risks, there must have been something that didn't happen in their
informative years in the home and school causing this major character flaw.

The advise I give to any parent, especially to parents of a handicap child
is learn about your child's potential. Go to groups who have that
knowledge and make damn sure they have high expectations. This does take
effort and risk on your part too. But What do you want to end up with?"

FROM ME: "Bravery, as this person speaks raises a thought in my head.
Is bravery another one of those nature, nurture things? Second, do you all
know what a self-fulfilling prophecy is?
Third, might this be a prayer for the subject: "Dear mother, father, thank
you for pushing me when you did, supporting me when I was weak, praising me
when I was successful."
And on the seeking out of groups who have knowledge and high expectations;
Yes, Yes, Yes. We in the NFB have the Parents of Blind Children. Do it!
Can you beat that?"

**16. "I have several comments about blind people and jobs though it has
me awhile to respond to this query since it is more concrete than the
"blindness and sharks" compilation which I really enjoyed!

I want to talk about what happens after a blind person is on the job,
since I have held several jobs in my lifetime. The main concern seems to
be reasonable accommodation. Employers and blind persons have different
ideas as to just what reasonable "reasonable accommodation" is. In my
case, I insisted on having the same opportunities to move around the
facility as others. This was a problem only in that other employees
tended to panic when I first came to the place of business. I talked at
length with my superiors and in two separate employment settings, I was
given the opportunity to create my own memo which was placed in each
employee's mailbox. This worked excellently since they could refer to it
again if they forgot or were confused. Also the memo was a good
conversation opener.
I also have insisted on equal access to information. In several jobs, I
had someone available to read memos and other mail. At my latest job, I
had voice-mail and someone was assigned to read the mail onto the message
system. This was great since I could braille out any information I
wanted to keep. Now that Windows 95 is current in many offices, blind
persons can get memos through email with everyone else.
I have always had access to equipment which was accessible to me. In a
secretarial job, I used a standard IBM Selectrictypewriter. When I typed
forms, we worked on a standard form, counting how many lines down, how
many spaces over, and I filled items in. I also used an Optacon for a
brief time. In later jobs, I have used a computer with JAWS (no, we're
not back into "blindness and sharks") and I took notes in braille. I
have used a complicated telephone which can be labeled if I don't
remember all the functions other than number pad, however, I couldn't
read the menu and if using certain key sequences didn't work, I
occasionally asked for help from a supervisor. Having the phone hooked
into the computer could solve that problem since I would have access to
my screen reader.
I know that other people have all kinds of ideas for alternative ways to
do the same work. If anyone has questions and wants to talk to blind
people working in their job of interest, they can call Job Opportunities
for the Blind at our national office at: 1-800-736-5817. We can get all
kinds of information there including a recorded bulletin.

There is also the issue of discrimination on the job. This can be
frustrating and it is a good idea to talk in depth early on to deflect
any later discrimination. Sometimes employers discriminate without
realizing they are doing so and rely on us to "straighten them out" on
these matters. We can always refer them to our agency or to JOB
mentioned above. I have been severely discriminated against in some
instances and in my last job, since I was treated extremely unfairly
along with many others (one means of their perpetuating turnover) I opted
to tell them my family came first and I was out of there, keeping my
dignity and integrity intact. This is not that easy to do when you know
your job will be gone and you have to get out there and beat the pavement
Some people believe that once a blind person has a job, he or she had
better keep it, after all we are lucky to have one. I believe that we
have the same rights as sighted workers. If we like our job and want to
stay and even if this means going to bat for ourselves, then we can do
this. However, if circumstances change and we are better off not in a
particular job, we do have the right to leave and find a new one. We are
not stuck in a dead-end job simply because there are fewer jobs available
to us. We can always work on making in-roads in a new situation. And
yes, we can ask for a raise too, and put in for promotions and hopefully
get them, if we are qualified.

One more thing. I can't imagine how a blind person could do any job
without using braille. In one job, my employers didn't want me to take
notes in braille since they had the age-old assumption that braille is
slow and would slow my production level down. I argued that if the other
employers were writing notes in print, it took no longer for me to write
mine in braille, with a Braillewriter. We had a hassle on this one, but
good memory that I have, I still preferred to take notes to give my
customers more accurate and efficient service. I have heard that though
the underemployment and/or unemployment rate of blind persons is 70%, of
those on the job, 90% use Braille. Some blind persons who read large
print who experience a lot of eye strain have benefited from using
Braille also.
Thanks for giving us this opportunity to participate again in one of your
thought-provoking endeavors. This is fun--and educational!"

Laurie Meryfield (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)

FROM ME: "Where else but from a peer can you get the benefit of the
above quality of information? Also try JOB too at 1-800-638-7518."

**17. "Here are some hurdles that apply to all persons with disabilities
health issues.

Gaps in employment: I tried this one on an application that asked me to
explain all gaps in employment; the guy had no sense of humor so I doubt
that he got it though. :-) "I spent 6 months doing an in-depth quality
assurance study of Abracadabra Hospital; the study was so successful I
followed it with a 2 month similar study of Zydex Nursing Home."

On a more serious note, how do you explain to a potential employer or
even a current one that although you missed three months of work in the
past year for health issues that next year will not be a repeat.

Health insurance and other benefits: Employers do not like to accept
employees that might be a considerable risk because the insurance
companies that cover them don't like employers that might be a
considerable risk.
Working independently: Does not have the benefits of benefits, so to
The good old Social Security Administration and other government
weirdoes. SSDI benefits are cut off completely and soon followed by
Medicare if you make more than $500 per month, $1050 for blindness.
(Explain that last little difference.) In general those who have
disabilities are encouraged to not become part of the mainstream but to
segregate themselves into a form of just existing, and probably end up
in nursing homes, etc. I fought hard to get out of that quality
assurance study mentioned in the first paragraph!"     

Jim Merryfield (Omaha, Negraska, USA)

FROM ME: "That sounds grim, a catch 44 magnum. Can anyone out there
counter any of the outcomes here? Is there a rule, program or mind-set
being over looked? Are there somethings we just have to live with? When
or ever and how do you bite the bullet?"

**18. "What a grand idea this discussion is! I found it fascinating to read
everyone's comments.
I would add only this--I am in the process of moving from one job to
another. I left my first law job on June 5th. No, not because I could
not do it or because they asked me to leave. It was just too
much traveling, all around the country, and with 2 young children at home
it was just not the right time in my life for this kind of a job. There
were several awesome things which came out of the experience though. The
first was that my employer said that if my new job did not work out, there
would always be a job waiting there for me! The second was that I was
able to land a new job before leaving the old one and the third was that I
learned a whole lot in the process.

What I want to say is this, we must not be afraid to use our contacts.
Sighted people say all the time, it is not what you know but who you know.
The same holds true for us but we sometimes think it is a cop-out to go
"Begging" to those we know and ask them to help us find a job. Hello!
Reality check! How do we think sighted people do it? They knock on every
door where there is someone they know. They say "Gee, I am looking for a
job as a chemist. Do you know anyone who I could talk to?" I got my
first job by going to a trial where this senior partner was representing
the plaintiff. I went up to him at the break, introduced myself and told
him how I came to be there, (his wife and I are old friends). I joined
them for dinner afterwards and learned about the firm, their specialty,
etc. I was very bold in talking about my experience, and how it fit so
nicely into what they did. I followed up with a Christmas card, then a
letter of inquiry, then a phone call, then a resume and the rest, as they
say, is history. Now, you may think this is grovelling, but the bottom
line is that they hired me and that job gave me the experience I needed to
land my next job (which I also got by calling a friend and following the
chain from there).

Finally, do not be afraid to start at the top. Yes, you may be sent down
to the bottom again but you can still say, your president told me to talk
to you and that is worth something. All of this takes incredible courage,
and that is something which I certainly do not always feel. It is also
not always successful but I do think that 1 phone call to a friend or
acquaintance is worth at least 50 resumes or applications, just sent
through the mail or dropped off at an office.

Christine Boone (Mechanicsburg, Pensylvania, USA)

FROM ME: "Like the lady says "Hello! Reality Check!" Have you read
any of the top 10 books on job seeking? This could be a section from any
of them; networking, selling yourself, seeking out the power people, etc.
Assertiveness, smarts, blindness skills, positive attitude and who can
stand in your way."

**19. "A forum to share information and experience is one way to make
another's dreams come true."

FROM ME: "I like that."

**20. "Pardon me for a late entry into an older discussion, but I've just discovered
Robert's wonderfully thoughtful site, and "Off to Work We Go" falls right in
line of what I'm researching and have already formed some personal opinions
on, so if you'd bear with me for being slow...

In my Joe Public experience, having worked over twenty years and in multiple
organizations, I've formed the opinion that most employers look for a standard
physical norming of their employees. This includes physical appearance, size,
clothing, movement, speech, and so on.

The 70% unemployment rate among blind individuals sounds right to me. Why?
Because of all these places I've worked, only one has ever employed a blind
man, and he was employed only short-term (three months). As a side-note, two
individuals were hired for a three-month period at this company, the other
being Native American with an obvious accent. Both were let go after the three
months, much to my dismay since the NA was better at his job than the
individuals with permanent employment (I didn't work with the other fellow).

In support of my "physical norming" of employers... another employer had found
the ideal candidate for a position. Upon meeting him in person and discovering
he was considerably overweight, the position was suddenly "no longer
available" and was, in fact, never filled -- because the best man for the job
was fat. What a shame. The man had skills we were in desperate need of.

In my experience, many individuals are attempting to find jobs, but are not
hired because they don't fall within that "physical norm" that's so commonly
popular. Take two good candidates for a position, and the one who better
blends with the company norm, will get the job.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to add my opinion, and thanks more for

Brett Crow (USA,

FROM ME: "Anyone else made or have read studies supporting the above phenomena/behavior? Are their any employers out that who can respond to these obsurvations?"

**21. "1. The Reagan Administration had the Bureau Of Labor Statistics do an
employment survey of the working aged blind. Working aged is defined as at
least 18 years old and no more than 65 years old. This survey was done in
1984. I read about it in the October 1984 issue of Mathilde Ziegler
Magazine. The results were not what the N.F.B. claims at all. The survey
found that 76% of the participants had never had a job. The survey found
12% had part time employment, and the remaining 12% had the full time
employment. It also found that all who were employed were grossly over
qualified for the work they were doing. There is a difference between
unemployment and never having had a first job. The second is far more
serious than the first.
2. One thing blind people need is a good reality check, so here it is. The
only way to avoid making mistakes and failure is to do nothing. As a
computer programmer I fail much of the time when on projects. But guess
what, my blindness does not contribute to or cause those failures. Failure
and failure is temporary for programmers is because we come up with design
concepts that don't work. So what do we do? Well we don't give up and
leave the job. We do think. We do understand that plans are just that,
plans. Plans have errors in them like code. Every good organization
supports failure. We need to understand that if we're not failing we're not
doing anything significant with our lives either. Those who make mistakes
and continue to move on get the job done, the rest of the employees are in
management. As programmers we have been given a very large intellectual
challenge, even to this day the best way to write programs to solve given
problems is unknown. This is because human beings are unique in mind set
and mental approaches to problem solving. That large challenge and the
mistake/failure factor is why programmers rarely finish projects on time and
under budget be they blind or sighted. We as programmers don't get a
project because everything is working. We get the project because enough
isn't working that it will take that kind of work to come up with a
solution. Anybody as a blind employee doing programming and more of our
community will come into that profession in the coming years if things get
done right on the accessibility issues doesn't have to guarrantee that they
will succeed on time and under budget but that they will persevere.
Perseverence gets most of the work done. A project that's on time and under
budget is called a gold star program or something very close to a gold star
program. It is also true that whenever anyone gets a project only part of
their time should be spent doing the project. The other small but critical
part needs to be spent documenting timing. That is, how long it takes to
get each part of that project completed. With that information in the
future as projects build up you get a better idea for how long parts of it
are likely to take and may be able to give your employer some pretty good
ball park estimates as to when a new project will be completed.
Remember the eraser got put on the pencil when braille was in its infancy,
that's because sighted people needed and continue to need erasers more.
Imperfection is not a blind monopoly.
3. After Clinton Welfare reform, its unknown to me what number of lazy
blind people are taking money from the Government for doing nothing. If
employment isn't increasing or doesn't soon increase for the blind likely
serious long-term psychological damage will happen for that whole community
of continuously rejected people. Talking with the Police once I learned
that drug abuse and suicide are both very frequent in the blind community.
This was before the Clinton welfare reform, have no idea what's happening
these days. Drug abuse and suicide don't happen in high rates to a
population that has no trouble fitting in. I remember all of this since
when I attended A.E.B.'s computer programmer training program it was
probably the first day in class and the class was told what happened to one
of the program's recent graduates. He didn't manage to come up with
employment for a long time after graduating. I think he had to wait
something like 3 years. It was 3 months into his employment and he
committed suicide. I think about that in my own context. First I didn't
know what I wanted to do for employment for several years. I was 24 years
old when I took the Strong Interest Inventory test and computer programmer
came out as my best occupational choice. I had read a general book on
computers earlier but wasn't certain this was right for me. I wanted to get
into the work in which I'd be the happiest since I could do my best work
there. I went for computer programming. It was hard yes, and maybe I made
it. I had to wait 6 years I've done volunteer work in my past but none of
it was related to my current path and really taught no useful lessons.
Sometimes you got to shoot straight at the target to hit it. Programming
work has a money barrier to a straight shot since assistive technology isn't
available at Wal-Mart. The only way I managed to get where I am now was
with the help of lots of other people. I remember while attending college I
had gotten an Ampro Little Board Series 100 computer with a versabraille
classic. One weekend I decided to go and buy software for the machine. So
I figured if I took the machine with me to the store there'd be no mistake
as to what software it needed. So I took the machine with me and went to
Software 'n Stuff. I set the machine up and me and the store owner Barbara
Jaworski got into a discussion and I ended up going back to that store
several other weekends since it was a nice place to hang out. I'd be
running my machine and Barbara said it helped her sales. One day I was
having problems understanding something in CP/M. So I call Barbara up and
tell her about it. She said she didn't know, but another customer of hers
named Bob Becker has the same machine I have and might be willing to help.
So I call Bob Becker up and introduce myself and ask my question. Bob
answered it and requested a meeting. I said that was fine and we met. When
he saw that I could work the computer we decided to meet again. At that
second meeting Bob brought over lots of software for the CP/M machine some
of which he had written himself. I learned lots about CP/M because of that
acquaintance but it didn't end there. Bob asked some of his friends to come
over and help me out with reading at college when I had problems finding
readers. The two friends helped out and helped me fill out another SF-171
form. The first one is probably still lost in the Office of personnel that
I had done at A.E.B. This second one and an update to it got submitted at
the Naval Aircraft Development Center in Warminster, PA. This was done by
one of those readers for me. So it's 2 weeks before I graduate from college
and I call Bob Becker up and tell him I applied to work for the Federal
Government. He asks where and I tell him. There's a couple seconds of
silence on the phone and then he tells me he works where I applied to work.
He tells me he'll see what he can do to get me a position there. I had done
a program and shared it with Bob before this happened too and fixed some
problem with it he had suggested. I was told by my college advisor in the
light of the Reagan Bureau Of labor statistics survey not to even waste any
time talking to anyone in the private sector about employment. So I
graduate in June of 1988 and am waiting since Bob Becker told me to wait.
My mother questions the wisdom of such a decission but I decided to wait.
It gets to September of 1988 and I get a letter requesting me to appear at
the Development Center for an employment interview. So I get some help
being driven there and have the interview. It actually turned out to be 7
different interviews starting at 8:00 in the morning and not ending until
12:30 in the afternoon. I hadn't had any coffee or breakfast before the
interviews and my throat was trashed from talking as much as I did answering
the questions. Fortunately I bought samples of my work along with me.
While I was there, those samples of work were taken and put up on a computer
and tested. Those passed. I was told that I'd be contacted at the end of
the interviews and let know the results. In November of 1988 I got
contacted by a letter requesting I report to work January 4, 1989 on a
Schedule A appointment for employment to last at most 700 hours. No other
commitments were made beyond that. Now why did I just write that? To offer
a little advice. We as blind people sometimes do better connecting with
people in other ways and then moving on toward employment with existing
connections. It's unlikely had Bob Becker not seen what I could do with
programming he would have gone as far as he did to help get me that first
real position. That happened because I went out to a software store and
then ran into a computer problem. Life can be strange that way, connections
happen in the oddest ways. Point is, be open to them. If somebody had told
me back in 1984 the specific chain of events that would lead to my
employment I would have told them they needed to get their heads checked out
but there it is. Unfortunately Bob Becker died of pancreatic cancer
February 10, 1993. Bob Becker had lots of political pull in the
organization. He turned out to be number 3 on the organization chart. I
only found that out a year after I had been employed. As it was, Bob Becker
actually died in his office while at work. I never learned he had
pancreatic cancer until after his death. That's just the kind of man he
was. Had I learned, I could have connected him up with my mother who is an
R.N. and perhaps she could have offered suggestions that if followed could
have helped him out. Now we'll never know.
4. If you're employed it helps to have connections. With those connections
I had work while Bob becker was alive. I got 15 projects done. six of
those got letters of appreciation for me. When Bob Becker died, the work
available to me dried up. That situation may be starting to get corrected
this year but time will tell.
5. If blind people fail to get work, the failure isn't only their failure.
The failure once an attempt has been made is properly credited to their
entire network. Remember the only self-made people are those who make
counterfeit currency and the Secret Service has them behind bars. The rest
of us don't do it alone. So one proper question to be asked about failure
for employment is how many people you could consider in your network really
know you can do the work in question? How many have seen you in action
getting that kind of work done successfully? Even with programming we
eventually are successful and with more practice the successes we have get
more spectacular because of that past experience of failure behind us. I
hope somebody gets some ideas out of this for some possible approaches.
Notice the State Agency for the blind wasn't mentioned up until now. Why
not? Although another state agency for the Blind in Arizona was helpful
with the work experience program and did help out with direction for which
way to go in employment their involvement in terms of finding me employment
ended there. This approach won't work for everybody, but certainly State
agencies haven't been all that successful if you remember about the
Employment survey carried out by the Reagan Administration B.L.S. What you
need to remember is that that failure is also shared it isn't just blind
failure it's also failure of those working for the State agencies to be
effective as well. Why does that failure happen? Where do those State
agencies spend their money? The states that spend it on sending agency
employees to all kinds of conferences in Hawaii certainly are accounting for
the 76% of blind working aged population that hasn't had their first job.
These days technology has to be available; information has to be shared, and
commitments made. States do exist where if you want a piece of technology
like a vert 6000 and can write a good enough justification letter explaining
its short term and eventual use for employment you can have the package on
your doorstep in 6 weeks time along with an instructor in a few days to show
you how to use it. In the states where Administration goes to Hawaiian
conferences much of the time and to other exotic locations it's nearly
impossible to get braille paper and slate and stylus funded let alone
approved for distribution. This has been the situation shortly after I
became employed and if it continues to not be standardized across the board
it's incumbent on the blind community to start sharing the list of states
that are bad performers in this area over the internet. It's then incumbent
for blind people to start voting with their feet and moving out of those bad
states into better locations. We'll get more done on our own than with
letislation that won't be enforced once it's been passed anyway."

DaShiell, Jude T ()

**22. “Perhaps I'm guilty of having a very overactive imagination, but in my
personal opinion, (whether humble or not, I'll let you be the judge) I
think that we need the kind of job that only we as blind folks can do. It
used to be that nobody wanted to be a dark room tech, so loads of blind
folks got that kind of job, I have this imaginary job in my head that only
blind folks could instantly go anywhere they wanted to go on earth, and if
you think of it for a while, you could just imagine how many companies
would crawl all over themselves to employ us. I sometimes wonder if I'm the
only one who has thoughts like this, please share yours with me.



MY FREE VOICEMAIL IS 1 877 786-2539



**23. "
“I am reading a great deal of animosity towards sighted people, especially
sighted employers, and I wonder if this is showing through during the job
interview. Perhaps when a potential employer gets the feeling that he/she is
being bullied or intimidated into hiring someone, and encounters a "dude with
a tude" (because the person is deaf, blind, black, Asian, crippled, or
whatever gives them the attitude), a defense mechanism comes into play. If I
felt that I was being pressured into hiring someone, I would most likely have
forgotten all about that person by the end of the day, and I would have hired
someone who seemed more like a team player. People are, after all, only
human. Now, sometimes, prospective employers may have concerns about hiring
someone who cannot see that, if you stop and think about it, make sense, but
as you've all noted, it is up to you, the person looking for gainful
employment, to let them know that you can handle the job, you will be safe
there once you learn the ropes, and you want to become a contributing member
of that organization. After all, no one wants to show up to a job and then
not give their best, right? What most sighted people need to know, however,
are what kinds of jobs blind people can do. Is there some kind of list out
there of jobs that are best suited for visually impaired people? Obviously,
airline pilot is out of the question, but are there other jobs at the airport
that can be done blindly? I'm sure you'll not persecute me if I turn you
down for the job of life-guarding my pool, although I'm sure you are quite
capable of swimming, but that is a job that requires good vision. If a child
is under the water, you certainly are not going to be able to hear him dying,
and by the time you grope around in the water to locate him once you've been
made aware that he is, in fact, under the water, well, it could be too late.

So you tell me, what are the most widely held jobs by blind people? Give me
a list, if you can. I'd like to hire someone today to help with household
matters....who's up for that? Can you manage someone else's home? When is
the sighted employer asking for too much from you, and when is the employer
asking too little out of sympathy? How does one know where these fine lines
are drawn? It would be much easier if you could provide a rundown of the
jobs that you would most like to have and be able to handle, because a lot of
people would give handicapped people a chance if they only knew how to go
about it.

Can you help with yardwork.....are you able to solve mathematical
problems......can you work in my clothing store......have you ever chaired a
committee....the questions can go on forever. You don't want to wait
forever, so I guess your job of educating the sighted world just goes on and
on, and if you could collect a wage from that job, you'd have it made in the
shade (oops, not an intentional blindism). So after letting John Q.
Sightedpublic know what you can do and what you want to do, you have to let
him know that you also know how to do it and tell him how he can help you do
it better and more efficiently. Don't be afraid of letting the world know
what you want and that you intend to get it.”

K (Florida USA)

FROM ME: “This person makes and interesting point. What do you think will happen if you, a blind/visually impaired person gets so inwardly frustrated and angry that it begins to show?”

**24. "I do think, Blindness does effect one's
ability to get a job. This, is just my opinion. This has been based on my experiences as a
Perspective job seeker.

More often than not, I have found that Blindness hindered me in being
hired, or better yet, starting a new job. It has been my experience, that the people whom have partial sight, low
vision have more opportunity's than those of us whom are totally blind. I, have nothing against, legally blind people, and want to see as many
people as possible employed.

However, I personally, experienced first hand, Individuals whom had low
vision getting the identical job that I, myself usually applied first.

Normally, I would seek jobs in the Hotel Industry and/pr Customer Service
positions, that I felt that I was qualified for.
I usually, would be hired for most of the jobs in which I applied. The problem came, when, I had to wait for the Technician to see if he could
make the Employers Computer system accessible for me as a totally blind
person. In most cases, I was hired, and the Employer and myself, continued to wait,
and wait, and wait, for the Technician to complete the job. As a result, The Employer said, that they have waited long enough for the
technician, and that they sorry, but they could not wait any longer. The next thing I know, a partial sighted person whom does not need many
adaptations or none at all, got hired at the same job. It is extremely frustrating to say the least, that there are few
Technicians around to even do the specialized work of making a computer
adaptable for us. And, in addition to that, when a technician is sent out to the job site, he
takes too long , and/or can not adapt the equipment. Moreover, I recently got hired for a job. I went through a 2 month
training, and things seemed to get better. There was so much material to
retain as well as learn the adaptive equipment in the Customized
application environment. But, things did not get better. I found it very stressful, one of which ,
one issue I was dealing with was my equipment was not working efficiently. As a result, I lost my job!!

Now, I am back out there, searching for a job, and not having much luck! I think more of these job developers whom supposedly are there to assist
their blind clients, find a job, and then provide additional training,
could do a better job.

I think more, Job coaches need to go to Company's and make them aware that
their plenty of blind people whom are able to work, have skills, and very
interested in giving a chance to work. Too often, some of these blind organizations, find a few Company's, stick
with them, and hire as many blind people at these Company's. Instead, of
expanding their horizons, and finding other Company's, that may be willing
to give us a "Chance.”

Karen Hughes (USA)

**25. Hi, my name is William Spencer and I responded to a few replies about the shark. I worked in a sheltered
work shop for 4 years. I left because they tried to stick me with a telemarketing job. it wasn't telemarketing, I enjoyed that it was a commission rate
job where if people bought into a pre paid legal service you would get 40 dollars. well you could work for weeks and if no one bought into this how do
you support a diabetic wife and pay bills and rent, well the sheltered work shop told me I had to apply for the job and if I didn't take it I would not
bee able to work there. you need to eat, and live, and get to work. the job was at home that is another reason I didn't take the job. right back in the
aquarium, right.”

William Spencer (Sayre, Pennsylvainia USA)
**26. "Hello,
I too am unemployed and a bit depressed about this situation. I have never been so unemployed before. I have an excellent work history. I will admit
that when my loss of vision became more a problem functionally I had to sell myself more and more. I did this successfully up and until 1998 when the
agency I was working for went bankrupt. I lost my job and have been unemployed ever since and I believe this is a direct result of employers fearing the
unknown of blindness. I want to work and am qualified to do so as the state has licensed me to work. Employers however do not, in my opinion believe
this as a true certification of my ability. I get the sense that some employers believe that I did not earn my experience or certificate, diploma or license.
Is this a common problem? I believed that if a reputable institution qualified you or classified you this would over come some of these barriers of insecurity
by the employer to hire the blind. This has not been the case for me and I would like to know if this is a very common problem? I am at this point concerned
of my future though I believe my concern extends to all those who can relate to being blind in a sighted world. How can a blind person pass through the
rigors of a college education and not be seen as capable or able as the next guy? Are the institutions of education doing us the disservice or are there
not enough dissemination of information of the abilities of the disabled while attending these internships, and placements? I hate to think that the education
is just taking our money with little understanding of the difficulties of employment post graduation. Please respond if you can enlighten me on the job

Vince LLanas

**27. "Regarding blindness and employment (or lack thereof).

We have had numerous conversations about this issue with our various therapists and instructors. They mention all of the things folks wrote to you about
in reaction to Thought Provoker Two.

But they also mention a few others.

First, vision impairment due to birth defect tends to correlate with other impairments, including mental retardation. So, we are told, many of the people
who are hard to place in jobs would be hard to place regardless of whether or not they were blind, because they have other disabilities.

Second, we have been warned that many blind folk who have difficulty finding or maintaining employment do so because they are poorly socialized. We have
taken from this the lesson that it is critically important that we make socialization a priority with our daughter--making her aware, for example, of sustained
rocking and other forms of vestibular stimulation.

Kevin (Harrisonburg, Virginia USA)

**28. "Yes it does. I have recently become legally blind due to RP. I am employed
as a legal secretary in a large law firm in Los Angeles. Although my
employer has been supportive they don't know what to do. They have no point
of reference in how to deal with me and my situation. I have discovered
that their comfort level with my employment has to do with my comfort level.
The stronger and more confident I become, the more they are willing to
accept me as an employee with a vision loss. The process has been hard.
Not only because of my own emotional and physical adjustment, but because
there are no resources available for the visually impaired person unless
they disrupt their work environment. There are no classes or support groups
in the evening in the Los Angeles area. Although there are agencies that
say they will give you visual aid equipment, after four months of
applications and evaluations, I am still without equipment. My saving grace
is that I have a strong survival instinct. I bought a cane and put a
blindfold on and went with a friend along my route to get to work. I don't
know if my technique is correct, however, people see me now with a cane so
they move out of my way. There are many concerns for the employed person
that are different than those of the person still looking for employment.

One director of an agency told me that my concerns were petty and that I
should become politically involved instead of worrying about employment. I
have taken the attitude that I may be at a disadvantage, however, I am not
out of the fight yet."
Sandra Oliveira (California USA)