THOUGHT PROVOKER 41
What My Counselor Said
Last Updated May 29, 2003
To Provoke Thought Is The First Step To Beyond
“Hi, where are you going?” My friend asked. We had just met up at the bus stop.
“To work.” I said, “They changed my hours. Hey, did you find a job yet?”
“No.” My friend said, sounding stressed.
“Boy, its been a long hard road for you.” I said, then thinking about how my friend sounded I asked, “You seem down or troubled. What’s up?”
“Well yeah, something like that… I just came from a meeting with my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and was going home. Guess you caught me reacting to something he said. So let me tell you what it was and then I’ll tell you how I feel.” He shuffled his feet, the tip of his cane scraped on the cement of the walk and he said, "Ah… My vocational Counselor just pointed his finger right into my face and said, ‘You will not be employed until you get positive and get serious. He said, If you really wanted to work, you could have gotten a job a couple of years ago. He said you’ve got to learn to feel and say I can. I will. Also that I can not allow obstacles to get in my way. Then he told me, there is a career out there for me and a way to get there. Then he said, Find it.’”
“WOW! How do you feel about that?”
“Well…” My friend began.
**1. “It strikes me at times that some blind people think that they have problems that sighted people don't. And of course this is true. But they go a step farther and decide all their problems are because they are blind. Self pity, lagging behind one's ability to assume responsibility, lack of ambition and
just plain depending too much on someone else are things that can crop up in any life. If you want to do it, you have to get in there and dig for it, whatever your circumstances. You have to BELIEVE.
I don't mean to be harsh, but I get so weary of hearing people blaming everything but themselves for their failure to reach out for things they need and want. If you don't think you can, why should anybody else think you can. And why would anybody want you for a job if you let them know up front you have
doubts that you could do it. If you are able to do the job, there is no reason you shouldn’t get if. If you aren't able to do it work day and night until you prepare yourself. Then just go out and do it. If you know how to prevent yourself from starving to death, then you know how to get the other things
in life that you want. And that may be the key. Does this guy really want a job or would he rather be discouraged blind man. We all get depressed . But you make yourself a loser if you stay there.”
FROM ME: “Can blindness be the all-evil that some folks make it out to be? What do you think needs to be done for that person who gets into that frame of mind?”
**2. “hmm, well, this story certainly brings to mind many feelings for me. I'm not quite at the point in my life where looking for a job is near, but it's fast approaching. If my DVR counselor said that to me, I would no doubt be disappointed. After a period of time, however, I would probably consider what he
or she said and expand upon it. I have a difficult time imagining myself in this situation at this time in life. I am curious as to what other adults who have established careers have to say on this topic.”
Stacy (Wisconsin USA)
FROM ME: “Adults, here is a high school student who is asking. What do you have to say that will help her develop the right attitude or approach or level of self confidence in order that she not need to have this specific experience?"
**3. “You're not going to like my answer to this one, but I feel I have to be
totally straight-forward and honest. This thing about positive attitudes
being the key to success and finding a job is just plain garbage. I'm the living proof of that. For the past ten months I've been looking for another job. I've been doing as much as I physically can for the job
search and showing a positive attitude - laughing and smiling at every last bend in the road. It's gotten me no where, definitely not a job, not even an interview. All a smiling face does is say to the guy who's
supposed to be helping look for the job that 'hey, it's all right that
you're not looking hard enough' or to the person denying you the
position, 'Hey, I don't mind being discriminated against" All it's going
to do is make it happen more. Oh, of course the person who's supposed to be helping in the search would prefer a smiling face, than someone who's telling it like it should be. He's not doing his job. It's not my fault and I'm tired of being the one who's getting blamed because I can't find
another job. I neither have the time nor the resources to do it entirely
on my own. That's one of the reasons there are placement counselors out
Telling a handicapped person they have to have a positive attitude if
they hope to ever land a job, is like telling a terminally ill cancer
patient that they're going to be all right. Oh, it's great for the
cancer patient to have a positive attitude. After he's gone people will
remember him in a very upbeat way, but if he was honest and fought for
his life, he may still be here today.
So I say, being honest and straight forward about what you want and need
is the more important thing - even if it sounds like whining and
complaining - that sugar coating it.”
Patricia Hubschman (Levittown, New York)
FROM ME: “So what about all that this lady had pointed out? Is it okay to get down, stressed and some negative while performing a job search? Is it possible to ‘tell it as it is’ and still be positive? (And yes, that rehab staffer better be doing his/her part; that goes with out saying.)”
**4. “How would I feel? Motivated! The first counselor I had told me at our first
meeting. She did not have time to hold my hand so get into your wheel chair and follow her outside did and have been taking responsibility for myself ever since!
A counselor can do only so much if you don't do your part you will never get a life. I've been trained by tough counselors, and am one tough old lady am surprised at the statement two years he should have gotten tough with him earlier.
Do you suppose he was using his vision loss as a crutch? Poor baby learn to live with it Life goes on. Get with it, or get left behind!”
FROM ME: “This approach I am sure is just the ticket for some people. Would it work with all clients? Which ones would it work with? Which ones not? Why?”
**5. “Hi, first of all, I resemble that friend, or rather, I did resemble him. I
am now almost 50 years old, and only recently have I decided what I want to
do when I grow up.
I have had councilors like the friend's who didn't really do anything except
send me to several schools. It was only this last year that I realized that
I am the only person who can decide what I'm going to amount to, and that
I'm the only one who can make a difference in that respect.
Often, councilors forget that they're not just administrators of funds, but
that they have a responsibility to help their clients grow up and be
someone. A positive attitude about what a person, blind or not, has the
potential to be, and helping the client explore those possibilities, is one
thing that I find to be lacking in most Commissions for the blind, or DVR
B. Alan Mattison (Rio Rancho, New Mexico)
FROM ME: “’…I'm the only one who can make a difference in that respect…’ Is it possible for a good VR Counselor/placement specialist to carry, help along a client who is not fully self confident or positive? Have you ever seen it happen, that some essential changing within a person comes after they are o the job?”
**6. “I believe the basic message this counselor was trying to deliver is correct.
I am a counselor of the blind with a state agency. I am also legally blind.
In my opinion, there are two reasons why some blind people are less successful than others. They have a lack of self esteem and a lack of a goal. Obviously, many sighted people have these same problems, but they can more easily take any old job until they find themselves. It takes much more
effort for someone who is blind to acquire the same job as their non-disabled peers. If you aren't truly
committed to the work, it is hart to be motivated.
In most cases, I would approach these issues in a kinder, gentler way than the counselor in the story, but some people need a "kick in the pants" to get moving.”
Mary Ellen Ottman (Daytona Beach, Florida USA)
**7. “Positive attitude is a powerful thing -- and a necessary focus in overcoming obstacles to securing gainful employment. But attitude alone is nothing without being able to clearly define what it is you have to offer a potential employer. It is essential to recognize ABILITY and be able to present yourself in
such a way that you are selling ABILITY and not focussing on DISABILITY. To know your strengths and be able to give examples of how you use these strengths will demonstrate to an employer how you might benefit his company. Positive attitude provides fuel for the seemingly endless job search and interview
process, and that attitude comes from knowing yourself and what you have to offer.
That Rehab Counselor is correct in encouraging positive attitude, but could be far more helpful if he/she assists the client in recognizing and in learning to "sell" his strengths to potential employers. The poor guy in the scenario is left adrift, not knowing what the "next step" is supposed to be!”
Kae Rausch (Revere, Massachusetts USA)
FROM ME: “What are all the major elements needed for a blind job seeker to have it all together for the job search? Positive attitude is one, being able to sell your strengths is another, etc.”
**8. “Personally I can see where the counselor is coming from. We do need to be
positive, we do need to make our dreams happen. However he didn't state
*how* to do this. Its one thing to say do this, but if your not given the
skills on how to achieve how can you expect too?”
Steph (Victoria, Melbourne Australia)
**9. “Since we don't really know the friend in this story, it is hard to determine whether or not what the vocational rehabilitation counselor said was accurate. However, I suspect that the friend, like many of us visually impaired people, is positive and motivated and has made every attempt to find a job and the
counselor doesn't know what he's saying.
It seems to me that vocational rehabilitation counselors have either had very little or no training in working with the visually impaired or come from another planet. One visually impaired friend of mine was told by her counselor to go to Wal-Mart with her Ocutek telescope and watch people going in and out of
the store. Another counselor suggested to a totally blind friend, who wanted to learn computer skills, that she try using her sighted friend's computer, which has no screen reader. About twelve years ago, when I was looking for a job, a counselor, who was a man, I might add, asked me if there was anything
I could do to look older. Are there any vocational rehabilitation counselors, besides Robert Newman, who know what they're doing?”
Abbie Johnson (Sheridan, Wyoming, U.S.A. firstname.lastname@example.org)
**10. “I wonder... What man this is (the friend). It sounds like he needs to go to one of the nfb rehab places. I just got a friend of mine to go to the one in Louisiana (how ever you spell it).
I like this one. I am doing a manual on the interactions between blind people and the sighted. This councilor seems to be a very good one. I have only
had one councilor say that to me.
If you have any ideas on how I can help others (the sighted) interact with blind people, please send them to
Like I said, I am making a manual on how to interact with blind people (the two schools of that). I am talking about the nfb type where they say you should be blinded and then work your way from there or the other one where you are to use the last bit of site. Also, 65 (a message from the last PROVOKER) is
the type of thing I am looking for. How have you been treated as a blind person from the sighted? What would you say to sighted people to help them deal better with the blind? Robert, sorry about this message to the list, but I wanted to get as many people to help me with this manual. Your name will
not be mentioned (unless you want it to be). I am making this manual for a class project). I attend Texas A & M. Thank you for your help.”
Reinhard Stedner (College Station, Texas USA)
**11. “Chances are, if that had been my counselor, I'd have wondered how to
commit an unsolvable murder. That wouldn't have meant necessarily that the counselor was wrong, of course. It certainly would have meant, though, that the counselor had failed utterly at that moment to convince me that he or she was right. As it was, I had a counselor for a time who
said to me, "I'm not here to hold your hand," when I was asking her for information that I thought she was in the best position to have. (I refrained from replying that her grubby hand was the last one I'd want
contaminating my own.) And, though I had my lazy moments, I generally worked hard either to get a job or to try to get my solo law practice more than two inches off the ground, and eventually entered a career as a computer programmer. So I think I can say accurately that any such
comment as the counselor made in this story would have been misguided at best.
Having said all that, I didn't come away from this story with a settled opinion about the counselor or the friend. Had they dealt with each other for a long time? If so, was this a last-ditch effort of the counselor to
get this client off his or her duff, or was it blaming the client because things largely out of the client's control might deny this counselor a
closure and a buralicratic pat on the back? Or, was this some new "positive thinking" zealot who needed to discard the canned slogans of simplistic speech-making and learn both the substance and the customized,
detailed implementation of a solid, equalitarian philosophy of blindness that must conquer the old, can't-do myths that affect both the client and the larger world? Was the counselor blowing off a little steam, risking
whatever trust there may have been in his or her professionalism, or was this harsh wording a calculated attempt to spur somebody to action? Will the stress this client is feeling prompt new thoughts about improving his or her job prospects, or will they merely increase the frustration and
doubt that can make "try again" sound like a call to self-immolation?
There are probably many questions I haven't thought of, but I hope these few will be useful.”
Al Sten-Clanton (Boston, Massachusetts USA)
**12. “Hi, Sounds kind of like a slap in the face to me! On one hand the counselor is telling this person to think positive and get serious. On the other, is shaming the guy for not having found a job two years ago! I don't know the whole story but I do believe that unless you know where the job openings are, and unless the rehab folks are networking with people to get that information, it's not fair to put somebody down for what is past. My opinion is that: 1.
Consumers need to know who is expected to do what in the relationship between consumer and rehab counselor and teacher, 2. Consumer should have some training in resume writing and/or know at least the area of interest being pursued, and 3. Both parties should keep in touch on a regular basis so that both stay positive about employment or anything else that comes up during the time the consumer is receiving services, training, life situations, etc. 5.
It's a two-way street and I don't believe the consumer is or should be obligated to take the first thing that comes along. 6. If the rehab counselor is having a bad day, it's not the consumer's problem. 7. If a consumer is depressed and discouraged as I have been sometimes, I won't tolerate a lecture unless I have screwed up big time, and then I would expect it to be constructive so I don't go away feeling like I've been walked on! Something's wrong there and while I don't know the whole story, attitude problems seem to be at the heart of it all.”
Jo Taliaferro (ACB-L)
FROM ME: “I bet there are more slants out there about this THOUGHT PROVOKER. How about taking the time to give yours, like this person did.?
**13. “Your thought provoker brings up far more questions in my mind than answers. What kinds of job-readiness services have been made available to this person? Does the program include job placement and job development services? Do counselors maintain a list of employers interested in hiring persons who are blind? What kind of support is there for someone who goes on interview after interview without landing a job? How much discussion has there been between the counselor and the blind client re what the client might do differently to be more successful? Why is the client being overlooked for employment? How much of the difficulty lies with the client and how much with the counselor and the rehab program? How much has to do with the client's attitude and how much is actually the attitude of the counselor? How much faith does the counselor actually have in the abilities of the blind client? And how much faith does the blind person have in himself? How much is simply outright discrimination on the part of employers who are afraid to hire blind workers? Does the counselor recognize such discrimination when it occurs? And how willing is that counselor to advocate on behalf of the client? What kind of a case-load does the counselor have - how many are blind, and how many have other non-vision related disabilities?
These are just some of the questions that go through my mind as I read
this scenario. I have met few blind people in my life who are unwilling
to work. I have met many who are ill-prepared, both as a result of poor
or inadequate training and because of low self-esteem and lack of
confidence. Too often I have seen counselors, who either lack the
creativity or freedom or both to effectively help the blind client; and I have seen far too many inadequate rehabilitation programs that
discriminate subtly (and often not so subtly) against persons who are
blind and visually impaired.
Rehabilitation services for blind Americans face many challenges
today. For one thing, there are too few counselors and too many cases and far, far too much paperwork. Because many states do not have separate programs for the blind, blind clients are often given to already overloaded counselors who do not have the time to provide the more involved services many blind people need to become job ready or to remain employed. Also, many general rehab counselors lack the skill or
specialized knowledge needed to provide the kinds of rehab services
necessary to help clients who are blind. They have little or no knowledge or understanding of blindness, and, sad to say, many counselors lack the confidence that blind clients can actually do anything. They simply don't believe, for example that someone with little or no vision could actually perform the duties of a secretary, a teacher, a scientist, dispatcher or a trainer or a factory worker. From their perspective, few job exist that don't require sight to perform; so they do not advocate for the blind client.
Many programs do not have adequate job development or placement
specialists and lack contacts that would be interested in hiring blind clients. Furthermore, other programs that serve the general public have little knowledge about how to work with placement of persons who are blind, so the blind person is forced to come back to rehab for
assistance. For many counselors, who must always look for successful 26
case closures, it is easier to retrain and place someone with a back
injury who can see, for example, than it is to invest the time helping a blind client find work, whether the work is appropriate or not. And
whether the job is a good match or not, other problems often arise
between the blind employee and his or her supervisor and/or coworkers.
This is not to make excuses for our rehab providers. Also, it is not to
discount the outstanding work of caring, interested, well trained and committed counselors who know how to provide the kinds of services
necessary to train and place blind persons and who aren't afraid to advocate on our behalf.
It is only to say that we, as blind people, must be prepared to take a
close hard look at blindness programs and whether or not they currently
meet our needs; and we must look at constructive ways by which we can
improve blindness services across the country. We need to start asking
ourselves what's working and what's not working. We need to publicly
acknowledge and reinforce what's working well; and we need to be talking with one another about what could be done to fix what's broke.
We need to be exploring the kinds of services necessary to effectively
address our unemployment and underemployment issues. We need to be
looking at ways to improve technology training and our access to it. We
need to focus on the attitudes of rehab providers, teachers and others
that will enable them to provide the kind of guidance, training and
support necessary for independence and successful performance of life's
We must be willing to challenge educators, teachers, counselors and
other service providers when we become aware that they are not providing the kinds of positive and supportive services that blind people need. And even more important, we must be willing to challenge the current and woefully ineffectual rehab system as a whole.
We must go to Congress and to our state legislators to make sure laws are in place to support our participation in society, and then we must be willing to make sure those laws are properly carried out. We must be
willing to support blind individuals to the fullest extent possible, in
the courts and elsewhere as necessary, when those individuals have faced discrimination. And We Must Be Willing To Acknowledge that there Is discrimination - even when we don't want to believe it.
And for blind people discrimination is rampant. We go on a hundred, two
hundred job interviews in our field of expertise, and even with a
Master's Degree we can't get hired. Our blind children cannot get the
same quality of education as their sighted peers because the local school systems claim they can't afford to pay for special teachers or equipment. A blind child in the first grade of the local public school district gets half an hour a week of Braille, while sighted schoolmates get at least an hour a day to learn reading and writing. We apply time and time and time again for job promotions we never get, even though we're fully qualified. We have to ASK for information in accessible formats, and even then we often don't get it. We are often overlooked for the better paying and more challenging vending opportunities because we're perceived as not having sufficient vision to run a more complex and demanding program, or because the training is not geared to the needs of low vision or totally blind persons. We go to our rehab counselor for assistance in finding work and are told that there is nothing out there a totally blind person can do. College entrance testing materials are not accessible to us, forcing us to require the services of a reader and additional testing time; so our tests are specially flagged to indicate that we are disabled. -- and so the list goes on.
What My counselor Said
And the ability to fight for change always requires courage and often
requires money -- courage and money we don't always have.
I realize I've gone off on something of a tangent. I can say only this in my defense: There is so much work to do and such a tremendous need to remain constantly vigilant. Life was truly better for blind persons in the twentieth century than it was in the nineteenth, but there is still so much to do to ensure an even better quality of life for us in the twenty-first. We're a long way from being where we need to be, and the person you discuss in your thought provoker is a keen reminder of the issues with which we must still grapple on a daily basis. We always
remind our corporate managers that if an employee is performing poorly,
such poor performance is much more likely to be because of poor
leadership than because the employee is bad. I think the same can be said of many (though certainly not all) rehab counselors. Now, having said all these things, let me put my money where my mouth is,
so to speak and say this: that I am willing and eager to participate in a positive unified effort to take a close, hard look at our current rehab system and come up with recommendations for improvement. If there are others out there - teachers, parents, counselors, agency directors,
governmental officials, consumers - who have similar concerns, perhaps
it's time to come together for change. Regards,”
Pat (Pat Shreck with R&P Associates
Your Social Security Experts (ACB-L email@example.com)
FROM ME: “One question this brings to mine (among a bunch of them) is the issue of a stand-alone agency or commission of and for the blind, verses rehab services being housed in a larger general rehab agency. Whish do you prefer and why?
What My counselor Said
Write pat about her quest if you would like.”
**14. “How about doiWhat My counselor Saidng a story on respect. I don't feel I get much of it because I'm handicapped. I'm also annoyed that others ask me questions like, well, what can you possibly do.? I know, or so I hope, the job search is getting closer. We did an intensive search on the Internet yesterday and the National Center for Disabilities is hosting a job fair for people with disabilities only. I got a special invitation.”
Patricia Hubschman (New York USA)
FROM ME: “Sure, some day one on respect. I’ll have to think on it. I appreciate suggestions. Thanks”
**15. “One of the first things I thought on reading the current scenario was: It's amazing that a counselor is telling this person to get on the ball, rather than being limiting and discouraging as many counselors are. If I were an agency client, I'd love to have a "go-get-'em" counselor like that. Lack of "bedside manner" wouldn't bother me, as long as the person is sincere.
Is the counselor not taking time to listen to what blind client needs or desires?
Is client lazy, or has he/she had the tools and training to actively go after a job?
Is client neat, clean, well-dressed?
In other words, does the client have a real gripe because the counselor is saying "do it" without taking time to elaborate; or is client having a pity party?”
FROM ME: “Answer her and what else might you think of, share it with us.)
**16. “Wow! This really does bring back memories!!! I had a counselor similar to this guy. I remember it like it was yesterday. He even went as far as to say that I did not deserve a degree from Calvin. At the time, Calvin was a top ten school in the country for colleges its size. I really resented his heavy handed attitude, and I don't feel it was a help. After all, I was the one reading those depressing rejection letters. The problem was the lack of experience.
I made the decision to begin volunteering. The counselor remained a thorn until employment was found. Even after I found employment, I found that some of his claims for assistance came with unexplained conditions. Today, I try very hard to never model his negative approach. I can usually get my point across with being a thorn.”
Marcia Beare (Martin Michigan USA
**17. “I read into this story that the counselor and client have known one another and work together for some time. I’m also going to assume that the commission is a good one for philosophy and over all record of placement. Then the scene makes sense to me. I’ve known more than one blind person that needed to be hit on the head with the reality of their mixed up sense of adjustment. There are some out there that go through the motions of being a together blind guy and talk big about being positive and being a main stream type of guy and the reason they give too often for why they are not working and or not happy is that all the sighted world is against the blind. To put it more plainly, they are the problem and not the world. But I can also see the character in this story being like another type of blind person that we can also see around us and they are more openly negative and lacking in confidence and as a result can lack in seriousness about approaching a job search. I really think this is more the person the counselor is talking too. So if anything, I’d fault the counselor for not saying this before now! And I also know that the story had to be short and quick and there is the opening for us to think about what should happen next. That leaves me with the question in my mind- how do you change a person like this?”
Ronald Placker (USA)
**18. this is indeed a great case to look at .. Depending on the education the unemployed person has and his location will depend on whether in some situations if he is really employable. In many cases blind or not a person must want to work and must remain positive in job searching.. How ever if one shows up at an interview in a negative outlook, then a personnel manager will spot it right away. I will just
say there is two sides to each story ,but there must be some " get up and go" before most folks can get a real job. If the V R counselor is to hold his hand it will never happen..”
Lee A. Stone (Hudson,New York USA. stonedge @mhonline.net)
FROM ME: “So among several things, Lee points up that even the best of us can get into an employment market where there just aren’t enough jobs to go around. If this is so and if there are jobs elsewhere and services to assist in the hook up (if you want it), then what about moving?”
**19. “Well, I can imagine a couple of replies from the blind person in the scene. One, he might say: "Yup! I admit that I've been lazy...I've GOT to see what I can do! And, I WILL find it!!"
Or the other, if it was the other way around...the guy's in a state of what I have given thought for this Thought Provoker as shared below...
How would I feel? Intimidated!! The frustrations involved with gaining decent employment mounts up easily for many who are disabled/impaired.
The counselor was most likely trying to get his client to DO something with his life...to either "get off the couch of negative’s" or "square-up and resolve to be positive". Well, to me, it's easier said than done! And, of course, this scenario will all depend upon where the responder is coming from as far as location of residence is concerned. As I'm responding to this Provoker, I had to really think about this one simply because I live where there is no public transportation...only pay-(expensive)-per-mile volunteer transportation working for the County Social Services. For me to have any counselor to tell me that I must "Find it" is asking for almost next to impossible. Impossible because: transportation and job opportunities in the rural area is next to nil or grossly limited. The closest bigger towns are 25 miles one way from home.
For the sake of this Provoker, let's say that I was living in the urban location. Again, same problems: transportation and job opportunities in the immediate area which one could either walk to or pay minimal per-mile rates from volunteer drivers. What to do next if this is not going to materialize? Well, it's moving into the city, IF there is funding to do so! Housing is expensive in the city; besides a higher rate of crime. Again, how is the transportation? Will that transportation get me to the job and back home in reasonable time? Then, how about the prospective employer? It is really going to help to have a strong positive attitude on the part of the prospective employee. It's going to take a lot of selling toward that prospective employer to take on someone who is disabled/impaired but has a convincing approach that the job can be done!
I say "intimidating" because it just simply IS! The frustrations and the lack of transportation in the general U.S. is almost shameful. The country is driven by one-man/one-car driving. Public transportation with reasonable rates in rural and urban locations are rare. The only way a disabled/impaired person is going to succeed with a decent job is seemingly by sheer luck and good transportation service. Not every client that a counselor has will be easily placed with a job even with positive attitude and positive motivation. When the situation is hard to figure out, it would appreciated that the counselor offer some concrete suggestions for the client to consider rather than having the client "Find it” for himself. It would truly help if that counselor would put himself in the shoes of that blind person. The counselor is the one who should have resources to assist the client as the client may have completely run out of resources, or even lack the resources, to work with.”
Ade Haugen (Olivia, Minnesota USA)
**20. “ So it is not always the persons fault when they fail, They will definitely fail if they don't put their best foot forward. A positive attitude is a must for us that all ready have a few strikes against us. I believe the councilor gave the person some very good advice. For a positive attitude and appearance
goes a long way. I don't know how the councilor came across doing the session with the client, or how the client has acted in the past, so I can't comment on either position on the subject.”
R.J. Fugagli (Franklin, Pennsylvania USA)
**21. “From the prospective of the blind person, I think I would be offended and somewhat discouraged by what the counselor said. It is true that attitude has much to do with whether anyone, blind or sighted, gets a job. But, after searching for a long time and running into opposition and being passed over for jobs, the attitude would certainly be effected. So, although the counselor should encourage the client to keep up his courage and try to be positive, he needs to realize that going in with a positive attitude alone isn't going to secure a job. It's also going to take a lot of hard work to educate the prospective employer about the abilities of the applicant.
Maybe the counselor could consider how he can better assist this blind
person to be as prepared as possible before going on an interview. It's much easier to be positive if there's something to be hopeful about.”
Cindy Handel (Willow Street, Pennsylvania
FROM ME: “What do you all think about the Counselor going in ahead of the client with the purpose of educating the employer about blindness? Or how about the Counselor making a follow-up visit to the employer to answer questions and/or further educate?”
**22. “I will not say all the things that come to mind after reading this piece. No, I will not say all the things I could say because if I
did, I'd fill gigabytes, not kilobytes or megabytes but gigabytes.
This piece illustrates one of the biggest myths in the rehab field
today. This myth is that the person who is blind or has another
disability has all the burden for getting a job. Notice that the
fictional counselor gets angry at the blind man and says, you have to
get up get out and be positive and start thinking you can. He says to
him to get serious!
Yeah, that's a joke, a real joke. Do you suppose that the 70% of the
blind who are of working age are not serious!? Do you suppose that
that 70% is not positive and doesn't think that they can?! what a
joke! But there is a real lesson here, me thinks. that is that
somehow it is the blind man's fault if he isn't employed. He's
failed. He's a nothing. He's negative. He's ill equipped. It's all
the blind man's fault!
I haven't noticed anyone on blind-x or blindfam complaining that
they've been offered five jobs this week and refused all of them. I
haven't heard anyone complaining that gee, they received ten phone
calls this week from employers to whom they sent resumes. I haven't
heard anyone complaining that they wanted to stay home and do nothing
and all these people were after him/her to work, and they flatly
refused, said they didn't want to, wanted to remain on SSI or SSDI.
I'll stop here. If I don't, I'll be writing all night. Yes, these
stories are simplistic, but they do have, at times a core of truth to
them. I shall say no more.”
Ann K. Parsons (Rochester, New York USA
**23. “Being recently unemployed, I certainly do have some thoughts on this thought provoker! I see a number of different things here, actually.
First, the counselor saying that the guy is lazy, which is the reason
he didn't find a job: Well, we don't know the guy. Maybe he *is* lazy,
but I tend to doubt it. Besides, that sounds like a pretty judgmental
thing for a counselor to say, anyway.
More to the point of the issue though, "There's a job out there
waiting, go find it." Much easier said than done, I'm afraid. Some may
disagree with me on this, but finding a job when you're blind is very
difficult. Where some people maybe can get by with a little knowledge
of a field, or maybe none, it seems to me that we have to find jobs
that we either exactly meet, or preferably exceed, entry requirements
for the job. My experience tells me that if a potential employer can
find a reason to hire someone that isn't you (that isn't blind,
probably), that employer will do so. That means we have to give that
employer as few reasons as possible to overlook us, because we have
one *big* reason that they *can* overlook us--we're blind, and a lot
of people don't know what blind people *can* do. They probably feel no
real ill will toward us, but...well, someone else's job is the right
one, the one we're offering just won't work. I've heard stories of
blind people searching for years without finding a job, other times
less. It seems to me that, most of the time blind people do get
successful jobs, they've found the right break. That's a good thing,
but I wish there were more of those right breaks! The job that I was
just released from after two years was one I found because of the
right break, but it was a job where I stagnated and knew within only a
few months that I'd never advance beyond as long as I was at that company. So, while being fired was certainly inconvenient, it also was
probably a good thing in the long run. That doesn't pay the bills, but
it's some consolation.
So I've decided I have to make my own break. I've decided to get into
adaptive technology. I won't make a ton of money in that field, but I
think I can do some good, and it's something I've been interested in for quite some time. So I am now in the process of making that break
for myself. It's too bad that this isn't more widely encouraged by the
state agencies--or it isn't as far as I've been able to hear.
Now I'm not saying that there aren't lazy blind people or anything like that. Of course there are. Of course there are blind people who
don't want to work. There are other blind people who gave their work
everything they had, but it wasn't enough and they can't do it
anymore. There are some who are tired of always being "on". Probably
quite a lot of the latter kind. But I think that there are a lot who
want to do something productive and support themselves. When I was
able to break ties with government aid (SSI, Medicaid, etc.), it was
tremendously gratifying and an amazing confidence builder. The thought
of having to go back on government assistance frankly makes me crazy. So I will try to make my way, find that right break, or make
that break myself. I think that most blind people want to do the same
thing, but it's hard, hard work.”
Buddy Brannan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
**24. “How would I feel? It's HAPPENED to me! During a painful time in my life, back in 1973, I was striving to find work after losing my job to a bus strike and dealing with a counselor who was more of a hindrance than a help. I was 'not qualified' for this and 'not qualified' for that and when I asked for nursing training, he flatly rejected the ideas as too expensive. I had to get off the dime myself and do his work for him. While taking training that I had paid for, I found that the school was running some kind of scam so that they could get my money but not get me a job. Since part of their contract with me stipulated that a job was guaranteed, they had worked the deal very carefully. I was interned to a doctor who sexually harassed me to force me to quit. I later learned that he had done this to three other students with that school and they used him to rid themselves of "problem" students who might be difficult to hire out after graduating! When I wouldn't quit and wouldn't give in to his attempted sexual activity, he fired me and the school had a perfect "out" and they took it! I was devastated and telling the world how I felt!
Someone in the school's counseling department then took me to one side and said to me "Sylvia, what's wrong with you?" I unloaded. "I'm out three thousand dollars, no job, no diploma, I'm homeless and living on five dollars a month because I'm not legally blind and inelegible for aid! How should I feel?!"
She told me something that changed my life. "Sylvia, have you noticed that nobody wants to sit with you in class? Nobody wants to deal with you? You are whining, crying, complaining constantly and carrying a black cloud all around with you. Sylvia, I'm not saying that your problems are trivial. what was done to you is unconscionable, but evil people exist and we all have to cope with them. You are trying to work in the medical profession. That means making people feel well. You can NOT make people feel better if you, yourself are projecting misery at them! You are legitimately unhappy at being visually impaired, being screwed over by a greedy school and being without a place to stay and being poor, but you must NOT give that to others! A surgeon can be an avid gardener at home, and his hands legitimately covered with soil from his rose bushes, but when he goes into that operating room to heal someone ELSE, his hands had better be CLEAN!
Leave your burdens at home! If you cannot do that, you'll never make it in nursing! Suck it in, stand up and smile and give people a REASON to want to be near you. Your chances of success may be slim, but without that attitude of success, your chances are nonexistent! It's do or die, Sylvia, and I think you can do!"
I was stunned. At first what she said seemed heartless and horrible,
particularly since she WORKED for that school but as I thought about it, I realized that for that moment I had been handed the Truth on a silver platter and it was up to me to use it or lose it. She hadn't hurt me, her higher ups had. No, it didn't solve my problems. I was five years paying off my debt and I never did get employed in the field I wanted (physician's assistant) and I never got that doctor back for trying to rape me, BUT, I
did succeed in other areas rather than fall apart. I've never forgotten
what that woman told me and while it's hard, I make certain that I never give people any reason to avoid being near me. I am happy with who I am.
Sorry this is so long, but that's the way it happened and it's hard to trim for length.”
Sylvia Stevens (USA)
**25. “I think that everybody blind or not should have the choice to work, or not to work. Although I feel it is important to try to boost self image I also feel that people should be allowed to be the person they really are. If they want to have a job then they should be offered every opportunity to achieve this. however, they should also have the opportunity of not working. I feel that
I wonder what the vocational councilor would say if a person said that they wished to carry on as before, being a vagrant.”
From Jayne and Miller (High Harrington, Cumbria England)
FROM ME: “How about Client Choice?”
**26. “First of all, the counselor has some good points. A positive attitude is pretty much required to get a job. If you come in for the interview with a negative one the employer will sense that, and probably think that you are hiding something or that you are like that all of the time. Employers don't want someone
who is continually pessimistic around. They'll either get other people in a bummed mood, or not be able to get any work done because of their attitude, or both.
However, I don't agree with the counselor's way of getting his point across. Yelling at someone and sticking your finger in their face is not going to make a pessimist have a better attitude. I don't care how you do it. All it is going to do is to make that person feel rotten, which is how I'd feel.
The client needs to be rehabilitated, not made worse.
They both need to change their attitude. Maybe the counselor more than the client because the only way he/she is going to be of any help to the client is if he/she takes some of his/her own advice and "learn to feel."
Brent Heyen (Chadron, Nebraska USA)
FROM ME: “Okay, so for some this would be the wrong way to handle them. What might be yet another wrong way?”
**27. “As a blind person one can get discourage easy when they feel as if they had been turn down for jobs. Often times if the vocational counselor who maybe sighted really does not know what it is like to go out there as a blind person seeking jobs. They might assume tough advice would push the client into getting out on the job market.”
FROM ME: “Makes me want to ask, ‘Can a sighted counselor be as effective as a blind one?’”
**28. “This sounds remarkably like what my TRC (Texas Commission for the Blind) counselor told me before he transferred. Before my RP worsened to the point of no longer being able to drive, I was a community psychologist working for the Department of Mental Retardation/Mental mental Health. I live in a town without public transportation and due to my license requiring supervision; I
am retraining so I can work without it.
However, he wants me working......I believe counselors get some kind of
points for getting clients back to work, sly grin. Now the jobs that are available in my current field are up to an hour and a half away........does he see any hardship in that? Nah..........does he see the hardship it put on my family?.....Nor Does he see the fact that I spent three hours on the road plus an eight hour day.......nah. Does he see that I have two young children, one not in full day school.....nah. Does he see that my husband is a tennis coach and often not available to be at home for the kids?
His solution?...........MOVE to a better area of the state, like Houston, Austin or Dallas. Or leave my husband and kids during the week.
Counselors have a horrid tendency to overlook the individual circumstances of their clients' lives; zeroing in on only one aspect and not seeing the impact of job searching on the total family. There are many aspects of my future job that I will have to consider........not only the aspects concerning me as a blind/deaf job seeker but those of a mother, a coach's wife and frankly my own insecurities coming from a state job that refused to accommodate me. TRC has not done much to help relieve those fears and their constant pushing without even considering my fears as valid leave a very sour taste in my mouth. Their actions really do a discredit to the
Debra B. Streeter (Victoria, Texas USA)
FROM ME: “I did not edit this response because I find constructive criticisms to be of value. Another point here, personally/professionally is that I have a genuine desire to improve myself and others, This is why I created and maintain this forum and my website in general. Thus, let us mine all responses to discern what is there and seek to find what it is that will aid us, to support and improve ourselves.”
**29. “I have to be honest here and say that how I would feel if my counselor said something like this to me would greatly depend on the history of the situation. in this case, we don't know that history. The counselor could have a very valid point. The "friend" in this story may not have a positive outlook, or may not really believe he can get a job. If that's the case, the counselor was justified in their comments, and hopefully this friend will think about it. Although I do have to say that even if the criticism was justified, it would put me on the defensive for awhile.
However, because we don't know the history, it could be a different situation entirely. Getting a job is not an easy thing. I have watched other blind friends struggle for long periods of time in getting a job, and it had nothing to do with their outlook on blindness, or the fact that they 'let obstacles get in their way." At the same time, their vocational rehab counselor was on their back about it. in that type of situation, I feel the counselor is in the wrong to say such things, when that accusation is not true. If it were false, I would be very angry, and I would probably wind up in a verbal argument with the counselor.
Anyway, just my two cents, even though I know it's confusing."
Alicia Richards (Lincoln Illinois USA)
**30. “A lot of things went through my mind.
1. Who was being negative?
2. Is it the counselor's job to help, advise, suggest, and encourage---not to put down and knock a person down and step on him.
3. On the other hand, the individual perhaps had a very low self esteem, or did not follow through on suggestions, or just plain wasn't skill trained.”
Ann Schroeder (Madison Wisconsin USA)
**31. “This is Ron Brooks in Albuquerque. I don't have enough information to respond to the counselor's comments. However, I agree that there is usually a career option out there, for someone who knows what he/she wants, and assuming that he/she works effectively to attain it. I think that the real problem is that our rehabilitation system often does not teach the skills necessary for the average blind person to be effective. For example: our rehabilitation system provides some adaptive equipment sometimes, and it subsidizes education and training sometimes; and it offers job placement assistance sometimes. What's missing is training and assistance for blind people to be effective dressers, travelers, presenters, problem solvers and thinkers. I think that the rehabilitation system generally teaches dependence rather than empowerment, and the only blind people who succeed are the ones who do so on their own. For me, the ideal rehabilitation system
would include things like educational training and adaptive technology, but it would also include empowerment and advocacy skills, effective O/M, social etiquette, how to dress and keep tabs on styles, and most importantly, how to independently solve problems. Frankly, these are things which should be taught at an early age by family members, but our families typically teach us the opposite, and our schools generally don't do it either, so I guess it's up to the rehabilitation system. I also think that effective blind people need to serve as role models for those who need role models. That's one of the most critical roles for the consumer organizations because this modeling is one thing that I think the rehabilitation system is probably not suited
Ron Brooks (Albuquerque, New Mexico USA)
FROM ME: “Okay, how important is empowerment? What is it within a family that may not lend itself to the empowerment of a blind child? What would need to go on in a school setting relating to empowerment? Then how about the benefit of modeling of good philosophy and action by competent blind or visually impaired persons? How about rehab and schools using members of a consumer group?”
**32. “This is an interesting conversation and one that more counselors perhaps should have with some of their clients. Having been a counselor for several years and now having the task to do interviewing and hiring, I can see what the counselor is getting at. I wonder if the counselor in question is trying to jolt the client into changing the way he thinks and behaves. Of course, the conversation here may be more simplistic or one-sided than it might be in reality. Actually, I have been tempted to say similar thoughts to some of my past clients, although I generally prefer a less confrontational approach.
I have to think that this counselor has been working with this client for sometime with little success and I'd bet that he/she is becoming
frustrated by what is seen as the client's counter-productive behavior and attitudes. What we think about ourselves and others are generally communicated to those around us, influencing how we react to situations and how others observe and react to us. How we appear and behave are crucial in getting a job and in trying to achieve many other things. It is much easier to accept and work with someone if that person is a positive thinker and willing to try things!”
Doug Hall (Daytona Beach, Florida, USA)
FROM ME: “Essentially for shock therapy? Well… how about if all the correct expectations and services were provided by the counselor and service agency and you still had a client/student who showed behavior similar to this individual” Might a good sharp, no holds barred touch of tough love be used? How else could this counselor have done or said that was as strong and as shocking? (Some might term it a wake-up call)”
**33. “it would depend if the vocational counselor was blind or not. Those that are mean well, but don't really get it. If this was said to someone recently let go by a dot.com, everyone would understand that it is the economy or blame some other factor outside of the person. I have heard of blind people being asked to jump higher and through more hoops that able bodied people. It is the evolution of things - hopefully this will change as technology and social awareness slowly penetrate the culture. While attitude is important for everyone, the disabled have already coped with far more than their able bodied cohorts will ever dream of. It is a cheap device to always lay it on attitude and "if you just try harder" - blame the client strategies. I have worked with sight and with impairment and thus know this to be quite true. It is similar to what minorities and women endured in a different sort of way. The disabled are the last big minority group and our civil rights are behind the other groups.”
Catherine Alfieri (Pittsford, Pennsylvania New York USA)
**34. “I want to address this getting a job problem that we all deal with. Anyone who wants to support them selves have felt the pains of going threw the processes. One alternative to it is to start your own business. This is a way that one can grow to there own potential without going threw the interview
and special accommodation process. I write material on this very philosophy of blind people batting it out in the real world. it deals with issues from blindisms to personal empowerment. My only conclusion is that it is hard, it is very hard, but it can be done. The only ones who don't think it is hard are those who have made it quick
It is really nice to hear your thought provoker and hope you keep up the good work.”
William Benjamin (Vancouver Washington USA)
**35. “..hmmmm well it sounds as if our person has not been employed for quite a period of time .... I can in some respects understand the forthrightness of the rehab officer however I probably would have bitten the finger if it had been waved in my face truth be known .. I do not do confrontations like that well .. perhaps it was a combination
on the rehab persons party of seeing a very able person who was held back by a variety of factors in venturing out
into work .. I think that is the nub of the matter why after all this time aren't they working? There are so many obstacles we can place in our way when unemployed and as time goes by it becomes a cycle so easy to sink into and just flow along with ... how would I feel bewildered, angry, lost, ashamed, frustrated, and soooooooooo stressed! In this situation I was given a list of my shortcomings and what I should be doing as in 'pull yer socks up son' BUT I am still left directionless. What are my skills? What are the areas I need further work in? Where do my interests lay? Have these options been explored for me? Have I undergone assistance in people skills, assertiveness and confidence because I sure do not feel too confident in myself. Is there a specific reason for my stress and feeling adrift? Has it been explored and addressed?
In this case it may be that I need a structured form of part time
employment or volunteer work to get a routine going and see that life is okay and yes I can work I can contribute I do count. I need support and understanding of my positives not my negatives. I don't need or want to be told I could have been out there working years ago I ALREADY know that! I don't need a finger in my face I need a person who will sort out why or what it is that is holding me back. I also need options to choose from as being away from the workforce for so long I am feeling unsure of my abilities. I need also to be surrounded by positive experiences such as success whether it be in a volunteer capacity where we can look back and say yes I can do that. How would I feel? Welllll I think the first thing I would be feeling is I need me another rehab person to talk to. The fact after so long I am still feeling so unsure within myself is an indication someone has not LISTENED to how I FELT and picked up on what I have not said - the unspoken messages in my voice - and acted on them. So I think instead of get positive and I can do it being mumbled to myself which is not going to change anything if in fact there is a real problem inside me I
still have not faced regarding work so I need someone who can help me over that obstacle and then know the right time to fade out and let me get on with my life.”
Julie Robottom (Northern Region, Gresswell Cluster, Australia)
FROM ME: “What about consulting a different counselor? Can it be possible that not just any counselor works for you? How about a reassignment of cases? When might this be okay?”
**36. “I'm sure my response is not going to be nearly so complete to set forth all the thoughts I have going through my mind right now, but it seems to be this counselor's point may also be made with respect to other situations as well, and not to just blind and/or other disabled people. I remember that my growing-up experience was in many respects, it not most, positive, although there are still some aspects of it I would have done vastly different but for lack of foreknowledge. Many of these thoughts stem from the last thought provoker "Taking Out the Garbage", and so there may be some spillover. First, I think
the point of this counselor's comment is "Confidence!" That was my father's watchword for me, as he always tried to instill it in me when I got down on myself. But I also had a sibling who didn't respect my dignity, who issued orders, who said I couldn't do A B or C. Often I didn't listen to him and did them anyway, and became a more advanced member of the human species in the process. In other instances, though, I did listen to him: "Don't bring that cane with you, you look like a jerk." (Read: "You look blind.") These and other comments he made implied that I was somehow less attractive, less worthy of getting dates, getting married, etc. So while I knew I was competent in most areas, even if my parents failed to teach me some small items of
housekeeping which I later learned, I was not confident in some social situations and so didn't expect myself to really be worthy of a serious committed relationship, no matter whether it was gay or straight. My father's watchword, though, didn't sink in until, I feel, appallingly late (I'm thirty-six now). So while the counselor's comments were about employment, I feel they could have applied to many other situations besides. So getting back to what
the narrator's friend might have felt, I can only relate yet another anecdote about my fiancée. In one of my weaker moments last summer I expressed the view to her that "I don't know what you see in me, why you'd bother with me." Her response to me was not nearly as thunderous as the counselor's I the present story, but its effects were. "Don't you realize" she said, "that you're killing us? It's as though you question my judgment and I wish you'd stop thinking that way. If you don't stop it, you're basically calling me a liar." I'm paraphrasing a bit, but that was the basic point. So in an extremely
circuitous, roundabout and verbose manner, I'm going back to what one of the previous responses said in the last PROVOKER. You need to be taught confidence and self-respect. If not, you basically don't advance. You can't give what you should or could give in the workplace and in the rest of society; you can't give to your boss, your colleagues, friends, lovers, whatever. And while it's not an easy battle to win, I'd say the only difference between it
and the lottery (which, by the way, I still play but don't expect to win anymore) is that there's no money but probably just as much satisfaction. You learn to push back and, hopefully in a diplomatic fashion but sometimes when needed in the most harsh form, "Hey, fuck off, I do what pleases me and if you don't like it get therapy." Just my thoughts, and if I've offended, I'm only a little sorry.”
John D. Coveleski (New York, New York @email@example.com)
**37. “ Boy, what a scenario!! I can't imagine a counselor saying something so direct to a client, but if it happens, good for them! When I lost my sight, I got such a wake-up call from my wife, after months of patience with my rotten attitude. I just wish she'd have been a little less patient with me!
If I were the object of this counselor's speech, I would probably be angry at first, and then probably have hurt feelings. But one of the hardest things for anyone to do, sighted or blind, is to examine one's own shortcomings. After my initial emotional response, I'd probably start to think about what was said. It is often hardest to convince ourselves that we are capable of doing things due to fear or frustration. One thing the guy in the story has going for him is good cane skills (or at least I assume so, or else he wouldn't be taking the bus by himself). Maybe
this could be a positive. If he really thinks about it, maybe he'll realize, "Hey, if I can do *this*, maybe doing *that* isn't out of the question, either.” Learning to get around without help is a big step, and can be a real self-esteem booster.
Maybe this spiel by the counselor will be a wake-up call for the individual in the story. He has basically been told, "OK, it's up to you to make it happen."
Realizing that you are actually the one in control of your own destiny is very empowering, and can sometimes come as a huge shock when you've felt helpless and out of control.
The conversation might have gone something like this:
"Um, well, I really didn't like what my counselor had to say. At first, I was really angry, and what he said made me very upset. But on my way out of his office, I started to think about what he said. Maybe he's right. I've spent a lot of time worrying about what I can't do, and haven't really thought about what I can do. You know, I've always wanted to get into computers, but I just figured it would be too hard for me."
"Maybe not," I replied. "You can probably get good financial aid for school. That's how I got my degree. And a screen reader sure does make life easier. If you're really serious about it, why don't you come by my place and let me show you how to do a few things on the computer. It's not so tough when you get the hang of it."
"OK," said my friend, "I hadn't thought about it. You made it, after all. If you made it out there, so can I!"
David L. Thurmond (Atlanta, Georgia USA)
**38. “ Well I guess I will start out by saying that I agree with this story. I have been in similar situations in school and in other areas of my personal life and have been told the same thing. Although, if the counselor used these exact words then I would have to disagree. There is a proper time and way to criticize someone and by just saying get out there and do it, think positive, and the other parts of the comments maybe was not the best way to approach it. I know that as a future Social Worker I will have my cases where I do not do my best and I make mistakes but I can hope that I am able to put someone down and yet give them ideas or suggestions to help them
resolve there problem or to over come the obstacle. When I read what the counselor said I was very disappointed in the way it was handled I think the counselor could have assessed the client and then s/he could have given some suggestions to the client. Of course I was not there and do not know the whole case. Also there are those people who you just have to be straight forward and say the types of things this counselor said to this particular client.
Anyway sorry for the long post. Take care everyone. Sincerely,”
Jannel Morris (NABS)
**39. “I love the story you posted from the thought provoker. it was a unique and a true story for all people who are blind and have also gone through the same circumstances as we all have gone through.
thanks again for this story I truly thought was very true to me and all my blind friends as well too.”
Amy sabo (NABS)
**40. “That's a tough one. I've just read this, and I think we'd have to know what kind of person that counselor is. Is he/she fully sighted, the body-whole, body-beautiful type with no physical handicaps? If so, a person like that may well look down on those of us who have handicaps. We'd have to know more about the counselor to put that comment of the counselor's in proper perspective. Also, do I understand correctly that this is a friend of yours who had to deal with this counselor's harsh comments? If so, does it seem to you and others who know your friend that your friend had a negative attitude? We'd have to know more about your friend to put this incident in proper perspective.
Please keep these provokers coming, Rob. I like them, and I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.”
Steve Britt (NFB-talk)
**41. “I Have a little trouble with that counselor's attitude. It's true; sometimes confrontation is necessary to get a person started, make him stop sitting on the fence, so to speak. But, speaking from experience, it's not just a matter of will-power and can-do attitude. I'm looking for a job, but I admit not desperately. I'm not only blind but 55 years old. It's very easy for a personnel department to choose to fill a position with a younger person or one who won't need any adaptive technology. They write you a nice letter, praising your qualifications but saying, "We've chosen another application whose
background more closely suits our needs but will consider you in the future.” And there is another factor. I've been listening to the job postings on a telephone hot line operated by America's Job Bank. A lot of them are in small towns in which you need a car to get around if you're to have any life at all. I won't look for a job in any of these small towns. In my case, I worked so many years that I could get away with retiring on disability and some income from a trust fund. I keep looking, though, because I want to make a further contribution, but since I only have relatively few working years left I've decided to be a bit choosy about my work environment.
Each vocational rehab case has to be handled individually, with no blanket assumptions by well-meaning professionals.”
Susan Knight (NFB Human Services listserv)
**42. “I think what this counselor said sounds good on the surface, and it may have been applicable to that client's situation, but our employment rate is only thirty percent. Most of the seventy percent of the unemployed blind aren't slacker's with negative attitudes. I landed a position two weeks ago and I'm still waiting for a screen reader. The state should have a few of these in stock for immediate release to the newly employed. There is other software I need which can be bought off the shelf at any good tech store. The funds for these purchases should be readily available to persons who land jobs.
Being positive, getting serious, and not letting obstacles stand in one's way are important qualities, but they won't guarantee success in the employment market as long as discrimination is so prevalent.”
Albert Griffith (NFB-talk)
**43. Everyone responds differently to the loss of vision. In my observations, the coping skills that a person has acquired over a lifetime helps them in adapting.
If a person has had only negative experiences, then it is unreasonable for them to be aware that a positive experience exists. However, it is not unreasonable
for them to become neutral. If you can't get positive at least try neutrality, there is a 50-50 chance that life will go either way. A person can't "sell"
anything unless they believe in it. It would seem that the counselor would be more effective by placing the student in a situation where the student can
use the same skills required for employment with a sense of accomplishment. Different agencies require volunteers all the time. The only reason people
fail to pursue their goals or even set goals, is fear of failure. This fear of failure will effect them in all areas of their life, not just career.
We all hit depression and must give ourselves permission to have our feelings. However, in my adjustment I have learned that each accomplishment as I adapt
lifts me above the depression. Being blind or handicapped does not stop us, it only slows us down until we find a different way of doing things. I am
a 50 year old woman who has accomplished and overcome many obstacles in this lifetime, therefore, I have developed coping skills. My 22 year old son who
is legally blind also, hasn't developed those coping skills because he hasn't had the life experience. However, he will never develop them if he doesn't
challenge himself. Young people need permission to fail and succeed. Life is a series of experience, some good some bad, but experience all the same. The lessons we learn from those experiences about yourself helps us to have confidence and gain knowledge in who and what we are.”
Sandra Oliveira (Long Beach, California USA
**44. “I went to Ill. obtained a transcriptionist training from the Light House for the Blind and then came back to Nebr. I worked at one job location for almost 15 years and then was terminated due to equipment changes, going from job locations being given through a head-set to being digitized on a desk monitor. The main complaint on my work was errors that ended up to be a lack of double spacing after periods and nothing else but they were still counted as errors. Well on with this. Even with a 15 year work record I looked 35 different places in the area and couldn't find anything. My svi help came in after the fact when I located the job in the first place and did pick-up the tab stuff, and when looking for another job became my situation I looked and they somewhat monitored how I was doing it but didn't really do any of the gut work to back me either. In the mean time I did in home care with A family who knew me and the wife was a nurse and so I did hoyer lift and wheelchair transfers etc etc and had this job going until the family moved from the area due to family relocation needs. My immediate family now live in Florida and Michigan and my daughter would like the warmer climate so just how long we stay in this area is a real question as my daughter will be graduating from high school in a year. Do I really want to re-contact any svi services for help, probably not but I am always willing to give people their chance to make a difference and I hope that people will send a little of that difference for the good my way as well. Looking forward to Lincoln and the acb convention.”
Sally Baird (Nebraska USA)
FROM ME: “She is speaking of the Commission for the Blind in Nebraska where I work. I will encourage her to re-contact us, for there have been changes since she last worked with us.”
**45. “Some of the respondents to this thought provoker have looked at
the reasons for the high unemployment rate among blind people.
Although the major reasons are at least somewhat understood,
there are some obstacles to employment that most of us don't
think about very much. One example is the problem of
transportation. Many jobs are in areas that don't have adequate
public transportation if at all. In addition, many job announcements
say that a valid driver's license is required. Although perspective
employees may sometimes attain an exemption from this
requirement, state-issued I.D. cards may not always replace
driver's licenses for job application purposes. My bottom line is
that we, the blind, are not responsible for all of our barriers to
employment and no amount of positive attitude on our part will
eliminate discrimination on the part of employers. Just my
thoughts. This is a good provoker. Keep the responses coming in.”
Michael Alvarez (Monmouth, Organ USA)
FROM ME: “Positive attitude, transportation… and what other skills make up what it takes to be successful for a blind/visually impaired person to become and maintain employment?”
**46. “Two thoughts of my own came to me while reading the replies. I'd like to pass them on to your readers as they may be of help to those who are now job-searching.
(1) The NFB has the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program and JOB will be hosting a top notch job fair one afternoon during the NFB annual convention
in Philadelphia this July. See the website,
www.nfb.org for the details on convention and details on the JOB Fair. This fair will include some very large employers offering preliminary interviews on the spot.
(2) The NFB developed and is installing Jobline all over the country, as fast as it raises the money in each state to pay for it. Jobline(R) is "AMERICA
ON LINE" but you listen to the job openings on the telephone, using the numbers on your Touch Tone phone to control what you choose to play. No computer
is necessary. Jobline is a spin-off from the Newsline for the Blind(R) program that the NFB developed, which lets qualified persons (legally blind) read
three or more daily newspapers by telephone. Where Jobline and Newsline have been installed, they are totally FREE to the blind user. If your readers
want to know whether it exists near their homes and how to get connected, they should contact local NFB leaders or the NFB headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland:
NFB office: (410) 659-9314, email questions to
and check the website at
Lorraine Rovig, Technology Dept., National Federation of the Blind (HQ) (Baltimore, Maryland USA)
FROM ME: “The largest consumer group of the blind in the USA and a website with many links to a variety of services.”
**47. “There is this concept of "tough love," which asserts that an effective way
to motivate is by harshly and boldly telling someone what they need to hear,
and the consequences be damned.
Having come from a good Midwestern religious background where such love is
practiced on a regular basis, I can say that it works sometimes but hurts
more often. Personally, I think that the best approaches for serving
include 1) modeling or setting a good example; 2) providing the right tools
(e.g. good training in all the relevant skill areas and presentation areas;
and 3) empowerment.
My feeling is that this counselor projected his frustration to the client.
It's sort of like punishing your child because you're mad rather than
correcting the child with a clear aim in mind. If I were the counselor, I'd
try to find out why the client was having a hard time. If it turned out
that it was the client's attitude (which it well could have been), I'd try
to get the client to conclude that he needed to change. Then, I'd be there
with the tools and the training in abundance.
I think you can get a lot farther by offering support (not for bad behavior
but for good) than you can by brow-beating and cajoling.
Just my thoughts!”
Ron Brooks (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)
**48. “It seems to me that Kae Rausch has the right idea when it comes to searching for a position. The part about learning to "sell" his strengths to a potential
employer are very important. Has this counselor assisted him in putting together a resume? Many times a person doesn't realize what their strengths are until they put it together in a format form such as a resume or letter of introduction.
Secondly has this counselor done any role playing with his/her client to practice the delivery of skills during a mock job interview? It seems that he could least suggest getting together with friends and doing that if he weren't willing to tackle the task. It seems to me that the counselor needs
to really get in there and cover some bases with the job seeker. Of course ultimately he is the one that has to do the footwork and go in for the interview, but there are allot of steps along the way to become a polished professional awaiting that job. Does this client get to appointments on time?
The really important thing is the positive attitude, not just a smiling face, but an assertive person who knows that they are qualified and has taken all
the steps to present themselves as the best person for the job. Visualize themselves in that position, then knowing their rights if they are denied.
The counseling session is a dance of sorts, where each person is responsible for doing their part.”
Suzanne Lange (Chico, California USA)
**49. “I think there are several things involved in finding a job from know your
strengths to being realistic in what careers are available for blind people. I'm having to rethink my career choice. This doesn't mean I still can't do what I set out to do, but the business I was going in to has had
some changes over the years.
I think there is something to be said for having a positive attitude, but I
also think it can be a cop out for the councilor who can't find their client a job. The person in this story could have may have made the wrong career choices or employers in his area of the country just may not be hiring blind people. I try to have a positive attitude, but I also try not
to have a kick me sign. I think people are not aware of it, but some people even unknown to there selves get some entertainment value from our trials and tribulations. When we are not the person that is just smiling and going along with whatever is going on, they get upset if they here us
There are a few successful blind people on this list. I congratulate them on finding a job and anything else they have found. Their success gives me hope for the future. However, I keep hearing from a few (not necessarily every one that is successful) that they found a job so there can be no
excuse for a blind person to be able to find a job. They've just gotta be more positive or any number of things. "If I can do it, you can do it,” doesn't always work. It may provide a bit of inspiration for a few seconds but every one has their own set of circumstances different from the
circumstances of other blind people or people in general.
Before now, I couldn't consider going to work because of other health problems besides my blindness. Because of these other health problems, I couldn't consider going to work for fear of loosing my health insurance. Now that the Work Incentives Improvement Act has passed, I may now be able
to seek employment.”
Paul Oeser (Hendersonville, Tennessee USA)
**50. “Much has happened since responding last week. I received a call from a supervisor for one of my positions. Apparently, he was having difficulty getting a person into any type of rehab services. Today, the young man goes for surgery. He was told that he will have no sight for several weeks. After that, who knows? I was really startled to hear that he had no idea what equipment was available. I never got a chance to ask what employment plans might be in the future. For myself, I found planning ahead to be the best approach. Employers appeared concerned about my job performance. I prepared a portfolio
of work I had completed. If the employer did not ask any questions relating to my visual impairment, I bit the bullet and expressed my concerns that he/she had not brought up the subject. Some seemed almost relieved that I opened the subject. Unfortunately, it took many years of trial and error to find something that works. Now, I am turning down employment, because I have no more time available. One of my current jobs came from a grant I wrote. I had trouble seconditis. Since I had the time on my hands, I designed my own job and prepared a grant for the position. The initial grant went through and so did others. It is definitely a nuisance to keep looking for funding, but it caught the attention of many administrators. Back in school, I decided I never wanted to deal with destructive employment specialists again! I also learned I was the first blind graduate student to complete grant writing courses.
What is wrong with this picture?”
Marcia Beare, M.S.W. (Martin, Michigan USA
**51. “Well, I agree with Bill in response one in some ways. I know of a fellow blind high school student who is rather lazy. She thinks that people should give
her pity simply because she's blind. "Of course, that's not the case, and sighted peers have mixed feelings on that issue. I think she finds my upbeat talks encouraging at times, but she doesn't always put them to good use.”
Stacy (Wisconsin USA
**52. “Another snotty counselor; huh? I would think that a well-trained counselor would not try to put the blame on his/her client or send him/her on a guilt trip. Shaming isn't the healthiest or most professional means of helping someone.; If that happened to me; I'd say what I thought and maybe find a better
counselor.; The 70% under-' and unemployment rate for blind persons is not a black-and-white matter. It's not totally the person's fault nor that of the potential employer. Factors regarding attitudes toward blindness are involved and tremendous fear. But if the client is exhibiting attitude problems
or tremendous fear then a less confrontive approach by the counselor might be helpful.; However; this might not work for everyone. There are people out there who need to be prodded or even had a fire lit under them before they'll budge; and a good counselor who really knows his/her client well enough to
know if a more aggressive approach might actually work is rare.; Looking for a job can be tiring; depressing; interesting; rewarding; ...but mostly difficult
for anyone but perhaps more so for us. Been there; done that. I can understand how some blind people don't even try; but I sure am excited when they do!; I've also met some blind persons who have not received reasonable enough skills to really be job-ready and that can pose a problem; too. There are
some people who have had good opportunities and refuse to benefit from them and there are those who have never had the good opportunities some have had.; Hang in there.”
Lauren Merryfield (Washington USA)
**53. “I was glad to read response #1 as it reflects how I felt, but I was
hesitant to say "get over yourself and get out there and get a job!"
Sometimes I think I expect too much of people, but if we don't TRY how
will we ever accomplish anything? (I get really frustrated with my
husband about this with his business. "this is the way I've always done
it, and it's the only way that will work" Sorry, but if you aren't
making any money, then something needs to change!--he's sighted by the
way) My daughter (5) learned before she came to us (at 3) how to use her
blindness to get out of doing things. If she wants something, she does a
very methodical search for it. If told to clean up, she suddenly has
this very "bouncy" way of searching, so of course she can't find
anything. We don't accept that! Many, many people do, and I think that
sets the child up to think they can do only what they want, when they
want. Unfortunately, life isn't like that. We have to get out there,
give it our all, try a different way if the first didn't work, and keep
on plugging along.
I'm all for pity-parties~~I can throw a good one. Pitch the pity-party,
then get on with life and work to make things better for yourself!”
Debby A. Brackett (Florida USA)
FROM ME: “ How about it… Sometimes you’ve just got to have that momentary spot of frustration and weakness, and then you suck it up and do the hard thing and go on. Does that sound okay?”
**54. “I think that many times, people become habitually negative. I feel for
the frustrated counselor that truly wishes to help a client who insists
how hard life is and makes excuses as to why this job isn't right or why
he/she "can't" do x or y! I also understand the rut the client gets in
because I've been there myself. I think there has to be a balance in a
person's willingness to take advice, and the counselor's approach. No
one likes criticism or "finger pointing," yet we sometimes need this
sort of thing to "wake ourselves up!" There is no such thing as someone
"giving" you a job, you, yourself, must seek it. I hear people, all the
time, say, "well, I got my job, rehab never helped me do it!" They say
this as if "rehab" should have "gotten" the job for them, which is
untrue! A rehab counselor's responsibility is to train, educate, offer
counseling, stay informed about jobs out there, but it's the client who
has to "get" that job. Counselors are not suppose to "give" us a job!
I think back to when I went to college, simply because I was tired of
living at home!! I really did not go to college for any particular
training, degree, etc. My one and only reason was to leave my family! I
couldn't make rehab "give" me a job, and when I went to the sheltered
shop, they claimed I had too much "potential" for me to work there! So
I went to A.E>B. for evaluation and ended up in the college prep
program. I decided to go to school, because it offered to solve my main
problem--getting away from my family--moving out on my own! Granted, I
probably wasn't ready to do this, but this is what I wanted, and no one
was (or so I thought) really listening to me. I spent years after
graduating from college with that (to me,) useless degree in German,
still trying to decide who I was and where I wanted to be and what kind
of career I wanted. So from 1968, when I graduated from high school
till around 1988 when I finally found my career, I did a lot of things,
but not really knowing where I wanted to go, never found a place! I was
accused by my counselors (went through quite a few) of being
"belligerent" (and that may be true), and "non-co-operative," (and
that's probably true too), but the real problem was that I was never
offered Psychological help, I was never offered career counseling, I was
rather desperately trying to make my way in the world and simply leave
the nest--leave my family--who were not all that supportive in helping
me grow either. I had to figure all this out for myself. It took way
too long, and ramifications of what I did not learn to do for me are
still very much here, as I expressed in the last PROVOKER. I don't know
what the answer is, and I know that a rehab counselor's job description
doesn't include psychological counseling, but until I worked for Human
Services, for a time, they never sent me to a psychologist except for
tests or at a rehab center! I sought some counseling in college, but I
still was able to avoid focusing on what it was I wanted to do with my
life! I am intelligent--I am able to philosophize and turn a
conversation to my advantage, so was able to not deal with stuff I did
not care to tackle! This is really sad, but I see a lot of cases where
this sort of thing happens. Sometimes we who are like this have to
have a real good "ass Kicking" to jump start our brains, I guess!
Sorry this is so long, but these are my thoughts.”
Phyllis Stevens (Johnson City Tennessee USA
FROM ME: “When we hear of someone saying that VR gave or got them a job, what all can we assume they mean? I mean, does VR have jobs they can give away or do you think VR hired them? Or might it be that VR has powers over employers and tell them who to hire? How much power does the VR counselor have? (Bottom-line, who does the client have to impress the HR person or the VR person?)”
**55. I know I can be one of the biggest game players in the world. I know I can do my game playing when a situation gets too much for me to handle. Maybe I do this sometimes too quick and don’t give myself a chance to try, but mush to me is scary. I don’t play games on all subjects, but getting a job is one of my biggest scariest areas. I’ve had four jobs and quit them all. I used an excuse to get out of them, I felt I had too. Writing this is not easy and I’m not going to sign it. How do we get over this being SCAIRED?”
FROM ME: “What is said about change, first you have to recognize there is a problem, then…. How could we help this person to take the next step?”
**56. “I know there can be a whole lot of variables that come into play when it comes to this type of situation. Taking it for face value though the first thing the counselor was wrong for sticking their finger into the persons face. What kind of professionalism is there with this type of attitude.
Even if the counselor was right in saying what was said I think there is always a way to say it. I for example when speaking with a person I'm to be working with and if they don't follow through with what I had suggested in times before I ask the person if you don't like being unemployed what are
you going to do about it? My job or part of my job as a counselor/advocate at a center for independent living is to make people aware of what resources are in the community. I will work with the person in getting a game plan together and I will make my suggestions, but if the person has a habit of
not following through as I have encountered I have to let them know that I'm not going to be able to work with them any longer because of them not following through. I at that time will make my supervisor aware of how this person doesn't follow through. Now if the counselor has not given the
person any information as to what is available to them how is this person ever going to be able to get a job or accomplish something? The counselor sighted or non walking or non they have to have a certain level of
intelligence in what first of all is available to them through their office then what other resources are out in the community. I have encountered many times and even through personal experience there are counselors out there who don't need to be. For example, my significant other who is also blind
has a vocational rehab counselor who contracted with the local rehabilitation center to assist her with finding employment because she was having difficulty in finding it on her own. So this "employment specialist” would assist her with filling out applications, sending out her resume and
driving her to interviews. On this one particular occasion after an interview which by this time had been about #10, this lady suggested for her to buy some rose colored sun glasses because it would enhance her complexion and it would better her chances of finding a job. Mind you this was a
person who was in the position to assist people with disabilities find employment and this was the advice she gave. So it is people like this who don't need to be assisting or trying to provide assistance. So what came out of this was nothing because this lady didn't do anything and now my significant or better half is working on her masters degree in counseling. Sorry for the rambling.”
Luis Roman (East Chicago, Indiana USA)
**57. “As with most of Robert's scenarios, this is an outline, equivalent to the sighted person's "ink blot" test, and we imbue these skeletal outlines with our
own experiences/perspectives. With that in mind, as has been pointed out by several respondents, we don't know the whole fabric of the client and his interactions
with the "blindness system" or this particular counselor.
Currently, I know more than a hand full of blind adults in the area in which I live, with whom I worked when they were literally babes in arms through young
Adulthood. They are still living at home, interacting socially in what any observer of social interactions would characterize as a childish abnormal manner. They
Remain unemployed and are still partaking of agency training services, marking time...
Sure, they can, to some degree, sling words around in a manner which Thomas Cutsforth characterized some 60 or 70 years ago as, "verbal unreality". Despite
The NFB'S knee jerk reaction against academic/medical model analyses of blindness, it's consequences and the attendant culture surrounding it, there is much
we as individuals can learn from reading Cutsforth, Carrol, and Scott--the latter having been an NFB approved perspective on blindness which somewhat disingenuously
attacked the two former pillars of wisdom concerning our community. (grin)
A sociologist analysis of any community, coming from outside it, based upon norms developed outside that community will, per force, make members of the
Community being analyzed feel at least uncomfortable. For instance, in our own community, as within many minority community, I often hear the words, "self-esteem"
And equality bandied about. What we are guaranteed by the Constitution of our Democratic Republic is Equality of Opportunity, and Equality before the Law.
Both are, as is obvious by the growth of the Bill of Rights, ongoing evolving perspectives/processes. But to bring this down to a less theoretical plane.
How many cases does the counselor have: 80, 200? I had 80 adults, and because I volunteered to co-counsel/teach them, about 110 kids in a 6 county area...
I was a Rehab Teacher; however, there were contact rules, every case had to have interactions with the client, and any steps carried out on their behalf--whether
acquisition of volunteer or paid services or equipment documented... As an Undergraduate and Graduate Student, I was imbued with the ideal "service first
then document". Unfortunately, trying to implement that Socially Liberal ethos in an increasingly conservative society distrustful of the actions and motives
of social servants, was stressful, professionally dangerous, and counterproductive for Counselor and Client alike...
Yes, Counselors are often given ?Quotas of Status 26, Case Closures to meet. Yes, it is easier to provide Restorative Surgery, still a legal priority in
terms of allocation of increasingly limited resources, or, to provide a partially sighted individual with a little training and equipment and fit them into an entry
level position, than to work with a totally blind person, who is, perhaps a recidivist in terms of training, acquisition of agency services, and, a member of that suspicious
class of long-term unemployed individuals... (gired grin)
Frankly, society at large, the Human Resources personnel for Private or Public Sector employment don't care a fig about the person's self-esteem, nor, in
most cases, are they given the prerogatives to factor in justifications of or discounting of Cautionary Flags such as long-term unemployment... Like it or not, whether
or not that bruises our sense of "fairness", whether that bruises our all too soft personal sense of ego and who we think we are, that's the way it is... So, it seems
to me, the question at hand is/or should be, how in the hell does a chronically unemployed member of the blindness community change his/her status? Unfortunately,
counselors are rarely infinitely wise Gods or Goddesses, nor, often, do they have any training pertinent to Blindness, or even Rehabilitation for that process,
and, that training is necessarily somewhat divorced from the "realities" of life--if only because the counselor doesn't possess the resources necessary to provide
the optimal level of training, counseling/support services, testing and evaluation, Etc. Etc. Etc., that goes along with a properly managed case leading to an optimal
outcome in the Academic Model... The truth is, most statistical analyses of any regime, medical or otherwise, pertaining to human behaviors have somewhat a bell
curve of results. About one-third of recipients of services are improved, one-third remain virtually the same, and about one-third deteriorate... The more powerful
the regime used, the smaller the middle number, and the larger the improved and damaged camps. Like it or not, that's reality. Consequently, long-term less confrontive
counseling approaches such as the original "Talking Cure" of Dr. Freud, Jung, Etc., have given way to somewhat more confrontive, or even behavioral approaches
as being cost effective...
Let's face it, the original Rehabilitation Act of 1917 or 1918 or so was defined to bring America's Blinded Veterans into the realm of the employed, as
Tax Payers. It's that simple! We may dress it up with rhetoric about doing right by those who've given substantial sacrifices for our country, but really, deep down, we
didn't want to be like Europe with our streets filled with maimed mendicants...
Did Residential School Vocational Rehabilitation programs such as those producing mattress stuffers, chair caners, or piano tuners care one bit about the
suitability of the skill being taught to the carmic/psychic/emotional needs of little blind Johnny? They most probably did not. They wanted Johnny employed and not on
the street corner with a tin cup...
If we'd get our eyes out of our own community for a moment and look at the society around us, we'd see that our well-intended efforts to make post 30's
Depression society more kind and gentle, and reflective of respect for individuals has resulted in a culture wherein virtually everyone either takes the stance, "I
am not responsible, it was my genes, parents, training, society, the agencies, anyone else but me who contributed to my misery", or, alternatively, "every man/woman
has the ability to make it on their own if they just try hard enough". Personally, I think this is a false philosophy. However, most agencies and people don't
have the requisite resources to provide a smoothly operating comfortable social matrix (AKA Nanny State) (grin) in which an individual can grow to flourish and find
their own perfect niche. Similarly, as stated by more than one respondent, there are those go to work to self-destruction, never achieving their self-defined or outwardly
defined and accepted goals". However, I think that Sylvia Stevens (24) has extremely cogent perspectives here. Those of us who are congenitally blind tend to
forget what we share about ourselves in our body postures and facial expressions, just because we can't monitor those of the world around us. And, those combined with
dress are responded to by every sighted person we meet. Just as we often catch sighted people who's words say one thing and their tone of voice says the opposite,
we can parrot the socially accepted platitudes, but our demeanor tells a different story, one given more credence by those who see us...
Once I read an article in the Reader's Digest, that bastion of mainstream cultural values, about an organization which gave away Floor Shine Shoes to men
Who were "down and out and on the street". They didn't just give them to any guy, they looked for individuals who's shoes were well cared for, though worn
out. They felt that it was a little they could and were doing, and that their services would be most appreciated by and responded to by those who were taking care
of that oft forgotten detail, keeping their shoes taken care of--falsely believing that others might see from the top down but not notice that little detail so close
to the ground. One last quick example, I had a little medical crisis in 1985 which, in particular, spawned the direction of my life thereafter. After the "event" my physician
in consternation and embarrassment begged me to forgive him for not having noticed the shine on the back of my pants legs above the knee... I didn't know
what he was talking about until he explained that Type A personalities often sat on the front edge of their chairs ready for fight or flight. He might've predicted
and helped me avoid my little confrontation with mortality had he noticed--but he didn't--I was lucky--it didn't kill me, and I moved into the technology field that had
captured my heart and mind and soul some years prior, but I didn't think I had the requisite skills and training to play a role there. So, from that point forward, I sought
a role, and learned a valuable lesson. If it is really going to work, an individual has to find their own niche, and be so captivated by their vision that virtually nothing
stands between them and their efforts to attain that goal/obsession...
Put another way, you can love someone with all your heart, mind, soul and resources, but you can't prove it to them; they have to have the faith that you
do love them, and lead their life according to that, keeping in their heart that they are comforted and strengthened by that knowledge. That's all a parent, counselor,
individual or society can hope for, and that the individual who has that comforting knowledge will continue to strive toward defining and filling their own niche, despite
the knowledge that when attained, that niche won't be as envisioned--that there are rarely moments--far less long periods of perfection to be found in life...”
W. Nick Dotson (USA)
**58. “Being a rehabilitation counselor myself, I see many individuals in various stages of their adjustment to blindness. Many have done a particular type of
work all of their adult lives and, when they lose their vision, honestly have no idea that work opportunities still exist for them, either in the same area with adaptation, or in a different, possibly related area.
As a counselor, it is my responsibility to assist an individual in identifying their unique skills and interests, and then to provide them with the tools or resources necessary to help them get training and/or a job. Sometimes I am approached by individuals who either do not want to return to work, or who
have not got a clue as to what they want to do. It then becomes my responsibility to provide either vocational evaluation or some form of interest inventory
to assist them in identifying their unique choice of employment. I accept this responsibility happily and am willing to pull any tool from my counseling belt to help that individual. On the other hand, there are also individuals who do not want to return to the work place, for whatever reason. These individuals
are not brow beaten. They are not judged as less of a person because they don't want to work. They are given information about work, the opportunity to choose a vocation, the opportunity to receive training and guidance, and the opportunity to access job developers and workshops designed to help them
find the right job. Though I care whether or not my consumers are successful, it is not my responsibility to define what success is. If an individual
does not want to return to work, and he/she does not, I guess they were successful. Sometimes the tricky part of being a counselor is listening to both verbal and non-verbal communication and accepting the decisions of the consumer. I cannot impose my values and expectations upon another. What I consider
to be valuable (work, family, education, etc) may not be valuable to my consumers. It then becomes my responsibility to assist that consumer to clarify and reach his or her specific goal.
I realize it is frustrating to counselors who want to close all blind people as successfully employed. But whose goal is that? Is it the consumer's or the counselor's? Some people choose not to pursue competitive employment. I have to respect that decision and, though I do not like to see people make
that decision until they are fully informed about their training and other options, if they choose not to be employed, I have still helped them to make their decision. It may not be the decision I would have made, but I cannot make decisions for others.
Educate, train, advocate, provide resources, be a good example, listen and direct, but after the decision is made, support that decision and move forward.”
David Ondich (Dallas, Texas USA)
**59. “Serious I am, otherwise I wouldn't be trained, skilled, and visiting my
blind services worker; my problem is with the "positive." In my community
there are lots of blind people, but I only know about five who actually work
in the competitive work place. Most of the working blind folks I meet are
working for blind services, lots of them counseling people like me to get
serious and positive.”
FROM ME: “I’m seeing this response as a birds-eye perspective on how this person felt; short, focused and clear; built from “serious and positive.” Anyone else out there want to take a few words or phrase out of the PROVOKER and build their response based upon what you choose?”
**60. “This discussion on jobs reminds me of a thread we recently had on another
mail group I belong to, and also what I am currently doing in my job search.
Passing. While, in my resume I mention that I wrote for a disability page
(Halftheplanet.com) I specifically do NOT mention that I am disabled. In
fact, I'm implying strongly that I am sighted. Why? Because to be frank,
I'm sick and tired of being the "inspiration" to others who gets lauded for
being so "brave"... but NOT hired! Since the work I want, humor columnist
or commentator in a print publication, is NOT dependent on sight, I have
decided that the status of my eyes is irrelevant. especially since I wish
to work from home, emailing my column in to the publication.
The problem is, this is dishonest and it does NOT help the unemployed 70%
of blind people! I have not yet gotten a firm lead on my resume, posted at
monster.com and have not had to make the decision YET whether or not to
inform the editor or publisher of my true status. Passing for sighted is
easier than it used to be, in a cyber-world where people corresponding with you in
email and online have no way of knowing what, if any, disability you may
have. Is it fair? Is it honest? I really do NOT know the answer to that.
Since sight is not relevant on the Internet and email, with screen readers
and magnifiers, speech to text and back again, et cetera, then does
blindness, or any disability become something to be hidden or displayed? If
I GET a job it will be as a sighted person, but I will make an effort to
KEEP it as a blind person. Back when women could not hold jobs, George
Sand, a noted author, was actually the pseudonym of a woman. Likewise, many
things published under the rubric of "anonymous" were penned by women.
Perhaps we, the disabled, will have to resort to such subterfuge to get
hired in the numbers it will take to force people to see us as worth hiring.
FROM ME: “Yeah, comments? She has me thinking.”
**61. “This question of what the vocational rehabilitation system should do is an interesting one. I've heard people say, and I think that many (if not most)
people believe that it is the job of the vocational rehabilitation system to get blind people employed. In a general sense, this is, of course, quite
true, but what does or should it mean? For some, it means providing training, counseling, technology and support (such as peer groups, assistance with
applications, transportation to interviews, etc.). For some others, the vocational rehabilitation system is supposed to provide all of these plus placement
In my own experience, and I was unemployed for three years before finding my first job, I have undergone a transformation in what I think the vocational
rehabilitation system can and should do for its blind clients.
First, I think that the first job of the vocational rehabilitation system is assessment. It's critical to know what an individual is capable of and to
respond appropriately. For example: to send someone with the potential to manage into a non-competitive workshop type placement is a waste of that person's
talent. On the other hand, there are some clients who don't (and can't or won't) possess the skills to work non-competitively. For these people, trying
to funnel them into a competitive and sometimes cruel employment arena is impractical at best and unfair at worst.
On ce assessment is complete, then the rehabilitation system can (and generally does) provide training and/or technology to assist the client in reaching
his/her best potential or desired end. In my personal opinion, the rehabilitation systems with which I've had experience, are generally good in the educational
training and technology areas, but they lack in the provision of other areas of training, such as socialization and some of the indirect skill areas which
are critical for success (e.g. personal hygiene, dress, mannerisms, etc.) I realize that these should be learned (and for most people they are learned)
from parents, school and other relationships, but as we all know, many of us aren't supported in this way through the traditional means of family, school,
etc. In my own case, I never learned how to dress, shave or have proper hygiene from my family, which is where I should have learned these things. Instead,
I learned them much later and at great pain.
Once the rehabilitation system has provided a good assessment and trained a client to his/her potential, then I think the rehabilitative system should offer
a supportive environment for the client to do his/her employment search or professional growth, but I don't think that the rehabilitative system can do
these things for the client. For example: I think that the rehabilitation system can provide peer support groups, job clubs, computer centers with advertisements
on line, and transportation to interviews. However, I don't think the rehabilitation should do placement. Instead, the rehabilitation system should do
a great deal of generalized community education about the capabilities of blind people, and about topics like adaptive technology in the work place, and
the tax incentives for small employers who hire people with disabilities.
After a person gets a job, I think the rehabilitation system can step in with assistance in adapting a job for a client, but I think its role should be
limited to advice and assistance with technology. Ironically, this is probably one of the biggest challenges for the rehabilitation system because it
seems to take forever for these public bureaucracies to respond with technology, which is a real problem for someone in a new job. This is where the "reinventing
government" could really be useful for the rehabilitation system.
In conclusion, I'm saying that the rehabilitation system can and should provide realistic assessment, thorough and intensive training, sa supportive and
accountable environment for clients to do job searches, positive educational efforts for employers who would hire clients, and responsive assistance to
employers and new employees in the areas of adapting jobs and job sites. I do not think that rehabilitation systems should do placement; this should remain
the responsibility of the client who should always have the biggest stake in his/her own future.”
Ron Brooks (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)
**62. “I'd have to say that this is a positive thought provoker. Although the
experiences of you and your friends are rather bleak, , the man was receptive
enough to come up to the table and become educated. I'll read the thought
provoker again and analyze it further and see if I can come up with anything
that is between the lines.”
Edward Salcido (NABS)
**63. “In response to Patricia in Levitown.. It is okay to get down but girl just
jump right back up..Smiling and positive attitude does help but do not
wait for your V R counselor. He or she may be interested but overwhelmed
depending on caseloads and on the flip side he or she may just not be
interested in pursuing job leads for you.. A positive suggestion is to
pay for a job, as in going to an agency which works for or on your
behalf as that is how they make their money. If you get the job, you pay
them their fee and all are happy.. Give it a go.. You do not pay unless a
job is secured.”
Lee A. stone (Hudson,New York USA.
FROM ME: “Anyone else out there live where this is the practice? If used, to what extent, reason, outcome…”
**64. “I think counselors need to do more of that. I notice it seems that there
is a comfort level for many of us meeting our DVR counselor on a
semi-regular basis and sort of talking about the same things. We can get
use to that!
I work as a benefits specialist for people with disabilities. We use a team
oriented approach to help people gain employment, and part of this includes
regular meetings about once per month. In my job I often see people who are
pretty unsure, lack confidence, are a bit complacent, and as such do very
little toward seeking work. It seems that the counselor was in fact quite
positive stating that this person has what it takes to work and needs to
recognize this. Good PROVOKER!”
Jim McCarthy (Rehab list)
**65. “Sounds like the counselor has very little experience in the real world. Maybe
right our of college or something. I have known a few to many rehab people
like this. That is all I'm going to say on this topic. There is not enough
information to really know what is going on. Dose the blind man have all his
skills down pact and have job skills.”
Charlie Brown (Blindfam)
**66. “I think that, sometimes, people, disabled or not, might need to be directly
confronted to help them get "unstuck" from this situation or thought.”
**67. “My able-bodied son spent three years after college jumping from job to job,
taking temp jobs, and traveling to "find himself" before he settled on a job
without an ending date and with benefits. For us as blind people, job
experimenting isn't an option. We can't just go and get a temp job to see
how we like it. It is unfair for rehab counselors to just say "go out and
find what you want". We need an alternative to working at McDonalds or an
office temp job to get experience and self-confidence. In the sixties and
seventies, the government provided these jobs, to some extent. If you were
volunteering at a non-profit agency, you could turn it into a CETA job. I
know a lot of blind people who got their careers started that way. Too bad
the government decided these programs were taking away our personal
Another way people without disabilities find themselves is in the Army.
Except for a few positions, there's no reason why a blind person couldn't
get training in the military the way many sighted people do.
If you are focused, don't need any external validation, and are willing to
work for nothing for a long time, maybe you can start your own business. If
you know a lot of people in a position to hire you, you may find one that
has a job that fits. The last four jobs I've had, I got because I knew the
person who hired me. The one before that, I got because I used devious
means to get around the drivers license requirement. It's just not
realistic to just tell a blind person to "go out and find your career" and
expect him/her to then use his/her anger to get motivated. It's about time
rehab took a long, hard look at what works and what doesn't, and then use
it's resources accordingly.”
Abby Vincent (Culver City, California USA
FROM ME: “When do you think blind folks need to start getting job experience? Some states do have programs for teens to get job experience, how about this as a VR service?”
**68. “As Robert will create in his short scenarios, he leaves the door open for interpretation. Thus, when the counselor so bluntly tells this young man to go out and “Find it,” I know it would include enlisting all reasonable assistance by the counselor himself. What I read into the story is that this individual had been demonstrating an inability to focus on a single career goal, a coherent method for achieving it and the motivation to carry it out. Thus when the counselor tells him a career is out there and a way to get there, “Find it,” then it is up to him to utilize all there is to achieve it; and not allow any obstacle to stop him.
Sad but true, there are some of us who do allow some of the silliest of obstacles to trip us up and stop us from getting what we really want. Call it lack of confidence or guts; each of us have or carry our own crosses.
This counselor is also opening up the invitation to seek further skill training in blindness skills, in job skills, etc. He’s saying, “if confidence is a problem, do something about it and I’ll help!”
I am sure this is not the only discussion these two have had on this issue”
Ron Black (Boston USA)
FROM ME: “Tough Love- How about this as a counseling tactic? When and how should it be used?”
**69. “What my counselor said. Wow this really struck a nerve with me as I have
seen Blind person's who have lost more then EYE SIGHT by counselor who
have lost interest in doing their Job. As a blind person who has had to
face the real test in life such as not only competing with the sighted
for a job but in dealing with a person who my think they understand what
it is like for a Blind person such as the state counselors who deal with
the Blind every day but seem to forget compassion along the way. Not that
we don't need a healthy dose on reality from time to time with self drive
and a strong will to move forward each and every day
we all need that from at time's. I myself not excluded but I have a Blind
friend who has given up on life thanks to believing he can Not Get a
JOB so he sits on his duff and complains he can not find a job. We may
not be able to find a High paying job but as I see it a job is a job and
if by chance we can educate along the way so much the better. Just my 2
Wanda D. Burton (Benton, Arkansas. USA)
FROM ME: “Starting out with a high paying job… My, what an obstacle! So world, what is the reality for most job seekers? Where do most of us start out? And, for those of us who use this as a stopping point, what do you think needs to be addressed?”
**70. “I've hesitated responding to this one because I have had a long career before becoming visually impaired. I have had at least one chronic systemic disease
since I was a teenager, however, and it seems to me that some of the issues are the same.
In my experience, employers are scared of "differences" of any kind, whether disease-related, vision-related or any other type. With "hidden disabilities."
the job applicant has a choice between disclosure and non-disclosure - and my experience has been that disclosure is a much tougher path to a successful
job search. With severe visual impairment, there's no such choice. Blind people I've met over the years have all told me how tough the job search - and
keeping jobs - is for them, and my profound respect and prayers go with each of you.”
Karen )Dana Point, California USA)
**71. "Well, I want to say that I agree with both the need for high expectations and a positive attitude on a conceptual basis as key to success from both points
of consumer and Counselor. To be sure, the finger in the face is not a workable or at least most effective approach, with adults for sure. However, I want
to make a few comments.
I recall when I was job hunting in the early 80s with a Masters Degree in Counseling and having worked at a Lighthouse as a Supervisor for 3 years as well as at a general rehab agency for about 2, volunteer and part time. one of the best things that happened to me was my VRC being honest. About one interview
he gave me some feedback given to him by the interviewer. She reported that I was not confident, did not address how I would do some things and also that my dress might have been better, that is, I did not dress for this professional position with a shirt and tie. Another friend of mine was honest with me
about my not being selected for a VRC position in a agency where I worked as a teacher. She told me I did not have as much experience and that if I wanted her help, I could quit complaining that the reason I did not get the job is that I was blind and the other person was sighted. In other words both these
folks confronted me but also told me the truths that I did not know about basic skills and the like. By the way I did get the job for the VRC later. I had developed more confidence and probably had the basic skills, at least most of what I needed.
In addition to high expectations and positive attitude, there is this thing about basic skills. In fact, both a positive attitude about blindness and basic skills in alternate techniques are important and go hand in hand toward the outcome of success. This is especially true for the person coming out of school
and considering either college or work in industry or even the Business enterprise Programs. A foundation of basic skills with alternate techniques such as cane travel Braille etc. are essential to building that positive attitude. So is the ability to use the word "blind". The person needs to believe blind
folks can do stuff. This is especially true for those who have some vision. Most students who are planning to go to college or after college go to work have likely not been given the opportunity to learn the basic skills of travel, Braille, and other non vision skills to supplement or take the place of
less than effective vision . They have been trained by the schools and some rehab agencies that vision is better and that their value is based on how much vision they have and how they use it. The basic non vision skills applies to all who are blind , but my experience has been that the better prepared applicant
has the basic skills and has a positive attitude about blindness and that most of these are persons totally blind or those with vision who have attended centers with good basic skills and philosophical approaches about blindness. It is critical in my opinion that prior to college and full time professional
work a person have the opportunity to get both the skills and the attitude. Only then can they have the best chance at meeting the expectation of employment outcome.
So to the college student in #2 I say the above. Also, to the persons who are frustrated about having education and Degrees and not finding employment, I can relate. However, I can also tell you of my frustration in wanting to hire more blind and qualified persons as an employer, but not being able to
do so. Why? Because many of the applicants do not have the basic skills , ability to travel, ability to take notes in a medium they can organize and retrieve in a timely manner, ability to present a positive image of what blind people can do. These are not necessarily limited to college graduates, but at times
include persons who have been hired at an entry level position but do not have the skills or confidence to obtain positions which are higher than entry level.
So, again as I have been doing and will continue to do, let me state that expectations, positive attitudes and basic skills with a sound philosophy and ability to model are critical to employment.”
Edwin Kuns (Austin, Texas USA)
**72. " While I agree with the fact that you as the client have to have a positive attitude and self-confidence as well as have all the tools for looking for
a job and landing a job, I also agree with Resp. 3 in that, you can have all the tools needed in the world, the positive attitude and the self-confidence,
and the determination yet still not succeed in landing a job. After awhile, you can get burned out in trying after receiving rejection letter after rejection
letter or finding jobs that are suitable for you only to find that transportation is not adequate enough for blind people or those who are sighted but
don't or cannot drive.
My personal experience has been that most counselors do not understand that the above happens. They seem to focus heavily on those who are not trying
and then apply that approach to those who are trying and doing all they can humanly do by blaming the client for all the failures in finding that job.
They also seem to have the attitude that, "if I can land a job here at this rehab agency, then you can land a job in your field of training as well".
While this may be true, as other respondents have mentioned, the employer has to be willing to hire that blind or visually impaired person and then be
willing to make the necessary accommodations. Taking such an approach of blaming the client despite all that the client has done, as instructed by the
counselor, is when the counselors don't try to help the client and make him/her do all the work without assisting them. Sure, there are those counselors
who may not honestly know what direction to guide the blind or visually impaired client in finding that job because they don't honestly know what's really
out there and where. However, there are those counselors who do know what's out there and where but just refuse to help the client because they have their
mind made up that the client is being lazy and uncooperative.
One of your questions in response to Resp. 5, Robert, had something to do with whether or not it was possible for clients to gain self-confidence as
they're looking for that job. I think that it is quite possible, provided that the client, him/herself, takes the initiative to build their own self-confidence
up. However, the counselor and any other friends or family around that client backing that client up through support, encouragement, pep-talks, positive
strokes, etc. also make a difference. For one thing, the client is receiving feedback as well as knows that they have people they can count on for support
rather than feel like they're out here on their own to fend for themselves alone regardless of whether or not they find that job in a *reasonable* amount
of time. Clients who do not have continued assistance or positive support from their counselors or friends despite all that he/she has done in search
for a job begin to lose that self-confidence and positive self-image they initially had or gained when they first started job hunting. They begin to feel
that the burden is all on them and/or begin to feel as if they are the problem, not realizing that the counselor may be the actual problem; especially
if the counselor is putting the blame on him/her for having not found a job yet. In addition to all that good support and the counselor's assistance in
advocating for their clients, a client's self-confidence grows even more when they achieve landing that job. When one has a goal, their confidence level
and positive outlook is based on whether or not they can reach that goal. Yes, they can have it in their head that they will reach that goal. However,
if the goal is not being met in the time expected, then, that's when the self-confidence and positive outlook begin to fade.
I think that solutions to these problems goes much further beyond training under blindfolds or minimizing counselors' case-loads. You can have all
the blindfold training in the world, but you have to know what is or can be accessible to blind people on the kinds of jobs their clients are looking for.
You also have to know what places are accessible by bus and when. You can also minimize counselors' case-loads all you want, but the counselor has to
be willing to help advocate for their clients, even if it involves talking in person or by phone to those prospective employers. You have to be willing
to listen to your clients' frustrations with an open mind rather than automatically assume that the client is being lazy or uncooperative. You have to
be understanding of the fact that there are still many employers out here who are reluctant to give hiring a disabled person a try. In short all these
things beyond blindfold training or minimizing case-loads are the essentials for having positive counselor/client relationships.
When I read the thought provoker narrative, I saw myself in the client's shoes. Sure, the client may have been lazy. However, assuming the fact that
he was never lazy, he was in the same position I was in; thus my response."
Linda Minnesota USA
**74. I think what that VR counselor said, and how he said it, were sort of rude. Yes, positive attitudes are a big plus when looking for a job. However, if VR counselors say they're going to help when necessary, that means they need to do it. I am in a similar situation as the third respondent to this Thought Provoker. I have been looking for a job now for a very long time, and I have been more or less discouraged by VR. I had been working with a job coach, who happened to have never worked with a blind or visually-impaired person before. This he openly admitted at the beginning. He worked with me, and we went out only one time and to this date I have heard nothing from the court we checked out. This job coach was very friendly and very effective. However, my VR counselor told the job coach to stop working with me because I could job-hunt on my own. This is to a certain extent true, but I feel it is not the right of the VR counselors to flat out tell job coaches they're not doing their job. I do have two job leads that I am looking into, and I'm also looking into dropping VR. Sounds like that VR counselor was very blunt to his client, and did not give the client a chance to speak her mind. That is how I feel about VR, and I'm
glad I have the chance here to speak my mind about it. I also think VR counselors need to be responsible for their actions. At one volunteer job I had, my VR counselor at the time kept on calling up the place of employment and asking them to please start paying me. This got to the point of harassment. My boss attempted to tell this child of a counselor to stop, but the counselor refused to stop. So then I called the Client Assistance Program. I was told they couldn't really help me with the matter. Then, the counselor's supervisor phoned our office, and he told us that if I ever reported anybody, the police were being summoned and I'd be thrown in jail. As you all can probably well imagine, I did not want to get arrested and the staff at my job did not want that. So the whole situation was closed. I strongly feel that the VR system in this country needs to change. Indeed I
am not perfect, I do have my faulty points as I'm sure many VR clients do. However, why is it that VR people can get away with murder, so to speak. I think that there needs to be some way for clients to be able to evaluate the services which we receive from VR. It is unacceptable for us to be expected to just automatically know everything there is to know, and to not have the counselor help us in some way. After all, that is the very reason for signing up to receive VR services, and I don't doubt that for a minute. I've also experienced not being told where my VR counselors are. My first VR counselor retired without it being known. Nobody in the system bothered to notify any of us. I'm also experiencing a similar problem now. My
current counselor was transferred to an office in a different county than me, and nobody notified me or my mother or my job coach until the staffing. I'm not trying to imply that we shouldn't take the responsibility to call VR and tell them what we need, but rather I think the limit is being pushed when we as clients have to repeatedly call and bug the heck out of people, only to find out the simple fact that our counselor has retired and no longer will be our counselor. I believe this kind of thing is common sense and common courtesy. So while I do think that the clients need to take responsibility for communicating their needs and experiences to the counselors, I think we in turn deserve to know about any changes that take
place. We also deserve to know our rights, and that doesn't just mean having them given to us in some inaccessible format with no further discussion on the matter. That means sitting us down, telling us what we can and cannot do as VR clients, and then giving us accessible material. I think I've said enough, but to sum it up I think definitely VR in this country needs to have a totally different tone. I often wonder why the term rehabilitation is even used when discussing this type of thing. I know that there are many circumstances, such as a stroke victim, where the term
rehabilitation applies. But I really don't think it applies when talking
about helping clients find the resources for gaining successful employment.
Jacob Joehl Chicago USA