“I’m great! Thank you sir, I’ll be right in.” I said to my boss. Hanging up the phone, rising from my chair, reaching for my long white cane my thoughts were temporarily nudged off the issue I had been contemplating and tried to focus on the upcoming staff meeting. I gathered up my notetaker and a folder of printouts I’d be passing out to the other supervisors of the sales team. Folder under my arm, I reflexively reached into my jacket inside breast pocket and fingered the smooth surface of the business-sized envelope that held my resignation letter. I still didn’t have it figured out or, should I say, felt out, as to when it would be most proper to present it. Today’s meeting would provide an opportunity to announce it to the entire management staff, including Mr. Cribley, the owner of the company. But…in respect to Mr. Cribley…surprising him like this in front of all his upper level team…after all he’d done for me?
I remembered that first interview with Mr. Cribley, five years ago this month. I was fresh out of business college, hadn’t had a lot of work experience; not that I hadn’t tried, but being blind I hadn’t gotten the opportunities like most people my age to build a resume that could lead up to a good first professional job. As I presented my qualifications and desire to work for this man’s company, I think Mr. Cribley saw through my cockiness, saw my lack of real confidence, but recognized my true willingness and decided to give me a chance. And now, after earning three promotions, reaching supervisory status on the management staff, and personally having grown in self-confidence and in all my blindness skills to where I felt the equal of anyone in the world around me, I was getting the feeling I might owe Mr. Cribley the respect to tell him in private of my plans. I could give my thanks to him for the start he gave me, and for all that I had learned and become, along with my plans to go off and start up my own marketing firm. Of course, that’s the better way. For this meeting I will leave that envelope in my pocket. I will make an appointment with Mr. Cribley and tell him in private; the rest of the team can wait.
One problem solved, but as I walked out of my office on down the hall toward the boardroom, my thoughts went back to the other dilemma I had been trying to sort out. Rehabilitation services for the blind had assisted me throughout college, covering almost all my expenses, and had even helped me get into the few small jobs that I was able to find. And now that I was about to go off into the next phase in my career, all my blindness skills in place, my self-confidence pumped up, knowing what the basic process was that I needed to follow to enter self- employment, I wrestled with this thought; for this stage in my life, do I go back to the Commission for the Blind and ask for help?
e-mail responses to email@example.com
**1. My reaction is why? It made sense when he was in school or before he had mastered the skills he needed to be successful. Is there some training he will need say in new technology? Is there some funding he will need to make his company startup possible? Could he get it elsewhere? Going back to rehab doesn't make sense if he indeed has the skills and ability he professes confidence in having. It reminds me of the people who go back to school time and again because they lack the confidence to move out into the real world.
Dianna Quietwater USA
**2. If you aren't ready to go out on your own, the equal of your sighted competitors in business, you might want to hang onto that resignation letter a few years. When you are ready to fly without the agency safety net, you'll be ready to fly higher than the agency cantake you.
Jane Lansaw Omaha, NE USA
**3. I believe he should discuss this desire of self employment with Mr. Cribley It sounds like he has a good support system in place at this time so my advice would be go easy be grateful for what he has now maybe he needs to talk it over find out if his boss will help him decide on his future the old saying of don't cut off your nose to spite your face fits?
**4. In a message dated 5/1/05 4:05:35 PM Eastern Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
And now that I was about to go off into the next phase in my career, all my blindness skills in place, my self-confidence pumped up, knowing what the basic process was that I needed to follow to enter self- employment, I wrestled with this thought; for this stage in my life, do I go back to the Commission for the Blind and ask for help?
Short answer: No. Long answer: How efficient is the Commission for the Blind? Around here, that would guarantee failure.
Lori Stayer NFB writers (Stylist) listserv
**5. Even for sighted people it is difficult, for us it is even harder.
**6. This man has a chance to really make something of himself and I am not speaking of his business aspirations, but of his inner psyche. If he makes the decision to go it alone and does not go back to rehabilitation services again, then he will cut the tie to what too many of us will buy into and that is, that we are not capable of making it alone with out the assistance of rehabilitation services. Yes, first we may need to be educated to blindness skills, but once we have those, it then is possible to move out on our own. This character did sell himself into this first professional job and did prove his ability. And now we see that he has recognized his potential to do even better if he starts his own business and it appears he has figured out how to make that happen. Now he just has to be true to himself and do it alone. This is a good role model.
Patrick McHann USA
**7. Andy, If one should use his/her own resources for a second career, why not for a first? Isn't the point of rehab that blind workers, or entrepreneurs, have needs that are different, and more expensive, than sighted workers have?
**8. Hi Abby, I'm not Andy, but that never stopped me from shooting off my mouth. Certainly there can be needs that are more expensive or different from those faced by the public at large. But before I would reopen you as a VR client, you would need to demonstrate just what those needs were. In a perfect world there would be enough money in the old VR pot to cover the rehabilitation needs of the newly blind, and those of folks previously served. But the pot is never more than part full. Every dollar I spend on assisting a person who has been through the rehab process is a dollar I'm unable to spend on someone just entering the world of the blind. When I left the Department of Services for the Blind and went into private rehab, my wife and I spent money from our own savings to purchase the equipment needed. That included rather expensive computer equipment for my use. It certainly did strain our pitiful budget to get started but I could not bring myself to ask to be opened as a client in order to get the state to offset some of those costs.
**9. This gentleman is about to hand in his resignation without apparently having planned through what he will do. It seems to me he is no where near ready for such a step! It sounds like he is dreaming about what he wants to do. I think he needs a dose of real life! (One doesn't give up a good job without having something definite in the works and plans firmly made.)
I'm not sure that people should keep going back for vocational services. When do we stand on our own 2 feet like everyone else?
**10. I had the same problem when I left a good, positive job in x-ray film developing in Lincoln to go off to Ill. for schooling to be a medical transcriber. That training eventually landed me in an almost 15 year job, which sadly ended up on having to deal with the EEOC because of equipment changes and after 35 job searches later no prospect, here for anything further. I think the SVI and voc-rehab people should join forces in outlying towns to do job placement for the visually impaired.. Just my thought.
Sally Baird Nebraska USA
**11. I am a rehabilitation supervisor who was a counselor for many years. My advice to someone in this situation would be for them to call a VR counselor and discuss there plans. That way the counselor could give the consumer an idea of if or how the agency might be of service.
Mary Ellen Ottman USA
**12. I think the blind guy in this story has the chance to show by his actions, by his “not choosing” to go back to rehab, that he is truly seeing himself as a fully intergraded person of society. First, he sees himself as a fully functioning person, a guy who can handle all the aspects of the employment type that he has chosen to pursue; the print he has mastered, the travel he has mastered, the other logistics too and his fellow employees and his customers have also accepted him as an equal. And secondly, now that this blind guy is feeling ready to push the envelop of his career by making plans to go out on his own and start his own business, he is at least saying to himself that maybe he could do this all on his own (the business planning, the figuring out of blindness alternatives and the like), just as any other person would choose to approach it (not saying he didn’t consult someone in the mainstream of business development, like a bank, a small business counselor or whatever). and he’s not thinking that he needs or really wants to involve that support system who earlier in his life was so needed to assist him to get his life going (earlier he had needed them, but now, maybe not so). Now he may be all that the rehab program had been written to achieve, an independent person who is capable of functioning in a sighted world.
I think more blind people need to do what this guy is doing. We need to show the world that we can reach full independence. And I know he may need some extra equipment as a blind guy, but if he knows how to get the funding to start a business, those extra costs will just be one more item he will ask to have funding for and if he has a good plan, he’ll get the dough, just like anyone else. Yes, this type of success story will go further to show the world that a blind person can achieve an equal status. (This non-rehab support path of getting to his goal is one notch higher than if he had used rehab to achieve it.)
Charles Stukee USA
**13. Carl, I was referring to the voc. rehab. system. Regardless of the person has just recently lost their sight or for someone who has been blind for a long period of time, I think there is going to be needs for both parties either for the newly blind person or for the person trying to advance in their current job situation.
One shouldn't have to do with the other because voc. rehab. is there to assist people with obtaining, maintaining or advancing in employment so for me I have this understood that if equipment or additional training is necessary so be it, of course this includes people who are in need of orientation and mobility as well as learning Braille.
Sometimes or to many times voc. rehab. counselors think the monies are actually coming out of pocket and therefore discourage the person from seeking out assistance from voc. rehab.
If you and your wife are choosing to do certain things it's by choice and nothing else, however, when it comes to the voc. rehab. system there is a duty and an obligation to all people with disabilities.
Luis ACB-L listserv
**14. Don't give up the current job until you have a new one under your belt. You can always take night or internet classes while you are holding down your current job. You might be able to take a 2 week vacation and fit in a helpful class. Only you have to know. Good luck!
Terry Powers who has worked for the Federal Government for 19 years
**15. Hi Abby,
The issue isn't his right to change careers, the issue is whether rehab should help him again. I know that the conventional wisdom when I was studying to be a rehab counselor, was that once one went to work and worked successfully for many years, that he or she was basically at the place that anyone else would be, and that if he or she wanted to change careers, start a business, etc., that he or she should use the resources that anyone else would use, I. e. savings, selling assets, SBA and other loans, etc.
Andy ACB-l list
**16. First of all, I think there is way too little detail to make an informed assessment of this persons VR needs, or lack of. He appears to be very well in charge of his world, but what will change in his new undertaking? O&M, for instance, is a constant issue when one is relocating to a new environment. If he is going to work strictly out of his home, then this may not be an issue. As for him getting assistance with a self employment plan while still employed, if other states operate like Texas VR does, he would not be eligible for VR services, if he was still employed unless, he was either in imminent danger of losing his job, or he was under-employed. Neither of which seem to be the case. Now, once he leaves his current job, there may be services which he would benefit from and be eligible for. So it really depends on the individual and his circumstances as to whether VR would be of any use to him or not. I don't know if there ever comes a point when we can say that VR is no longer needed for a person simply because they become successful in their current circumstances, because they change, and since changes are unpredictable, there can be no blanket answer for this question. In my humble opinion.
**17. I’d say this guy is having a good battle going on in his head. He is thinking and debating about his actions. I bet a lot of people wouldn’t even think twice about this matter of “should I go back to rehab or shouldn’t I?” I find that too many of us are conditioned to not have the confidence to “go it alone.”
Mamie Littleton UK
**18. I don’t care what all those strong blind individuals say, those who say we are equal with the sighted. The fact of real life is, that there are two sides to that issue of the blind being accepted or not. Even though you feel you are equal, the sighted person you are dealing with most likely will not feel you are equal. This is the factor, the wild card in this story. So this together blind person is going to go it alone because he feels strong and knows what he has to do to set up the new business. So if he has to go out there and get a loan, will the bank see him as a good risk? Will they accept his experience and not get freaked out by his blindness? Or, will the next new set of customers that he will try and entice into his new service see him as capable, where before they were coming to an established, sighted-person run service?
Sorry, I just get hot when I think about what any of us face who are different. We can build ourselves up to be what we can be and then we step out and find that so many of the others around us, the sighted in this case, that they are still seeing us as freaks and not to be taken seriously. Guess the world has always been like this. Think we as humans will grow up and get smarter?
Some One you know here on Earth
**19. At what point are blind people self reliant, independent and responsible? The story here is one of a man who has proven to be successful in his job. But he is ambitious and decides to step out on his own. He has a letter all set to hand to his boss, a man who has held him in high regard, but he is not sure just when to "spring" the news. He must have some idea of what he plans to do in his new career. Yet he is just now thinking about whether or not he should turn to the Rehab agency for further services. If I were a Vocational Rehabilitation Councilor and this fellow came to me with a request for funding for his self employment, we would have a great deal to talk about. After getting acquainted I would be interested in seeing his self employment plan. What is it he plans to do? Where is the market for his services or products? What does his competition look like? What personal resources does he have? What services or funding does he think I should provide that he cannot provide for himself? Why did he decide to leave a secure job when he did not have all his resources lined up? Why did he wait until this late date to explore partnering with me? And so it goes. From the sketchy outline in the story I would be inclined to refuse further rehab assistance. Or, perhaps I would arrange self employment counseling for him. There is no problem in exploring whether or not Rehab can provide additional services. A little help may make all the difference in the world as to whether a person succeeds or fails. But to believe that it is our right to expect such services is an indication that the Rehab system is not doing its job.
Carl Jarvis ACB-L
**20. Again or Not
I agree, but my question is: couldn't the agency be used as a resource of technical and contact information and not as a funding source? I believe if the guy wants to use their services to help get in touch with access tech vendors, or else get phone numbers of where to get audio books or live readers and the like, then that is great. But if he is looking for dollars I don't think it is appropriate. After all, if he needs new adaptive equipment that he didn't have before, such as a talking credit card scanner or something along those lines, shouldn't he treat that as any other business expense? The fact that there is one that talks doesn't make it a justifiable expense that can be vouchered to an agency. After all, it also scans credit cards... (Note that this is just an example. I don't know if such an adaptive device exists, although I thought I heard there was such a thing.) Maybe I sound callused, but every last device that could conceivably be considered adaptive probably shouldn't be vouchered to an agency. I am fortunate enough to have had enough to purchase my CCTV in college, and I didn't voucher it for a couple of reasons: I wanted to be able to leave the state with it without reporting that to my rehab counselor; I wanted to have my own equipment so I could take it with me should I leave one job and go to another. And I had a consulting job in school so had cash to cover it. This was before the ADA. But even since then I have purchased most my own stuff which I thankfully had saved enough to afford, and I think that the money should be kept available for people who really are destitute and in need of assistance and training. If everyone vouchered everything that they use as an adaptive device, then the system would go bankrupt in a hurry. I suppose I'll get flames, but that is what a job is for, to help make enough money for the gadgets and gizmos you always wanted. Oh and one other thing: There are numerous places on the federal tax schedules where you can deduct without subtracting a percentage any expense that is used more than half the time for employment purposes. So at least the taxes are in favor of people buying their own equipment. The only restriction is that an employer can't have reimbursed you for the expense -- but that goes without saying. If anyone wants details email me and I'll point you to the relevant lines. Ok, my fireproof suit is on -- fee free to flame away! *smile* --le
Laura NFBtalk listserv
**21. Hi Laura,
If one is making only minimum wage--this person is not obviously--most of the tech firms I know about won't let you buy things on time, and, if one has that low an income, one can't qualify for better interest rates on credit cards.
Of course, what you say about owning your equipment is true; I relied on VR, initially, but I now purchase what I need.
VR/commissions for the blind aren't to be the only funding source for a business plan; in Florida, for example, tech expenses, within reason, weren't counted against the money a consumer could garner to start a business.
If you want to talk about waste, I submit to you, Laura, that it isn't people asking for everything under the sun, but that does happen. I know a person, in a state, who had two masters degrees paid for and then told the agency he didn't know what kind of a job a blind person could hold. Now, that's an expensive lesson, especially if he got maintenance, books and supplies and technology.
Why do we always have to should each other to death anyway. We are individuals; that's why VR counselors write Individualized Plans for Employment; your situation isn't mine; ours isn't the man's on the AC Home Makeover show.
Darla J. Rogers Albany, Georgia U.S.A.
**22. Almost no one gets a job out of high school or college and keeps it the rest of his/-+her life. We all change jobs, or even careers several times during our lives. So why should people who are blind be any different? The person in the scenario wants to start his own business, after proving himself by working for someone else. If there are needs he wouldn't have as an able-bodied worker, why shouldn't rehab help him?
Abby ACB-L listserv
**23. In the belief that sometimes less is more, my answer is "no". Sincerely,
Ray NFBtalk listserv
**24. Why? It appears obvious, to me, anyway, he does not need the help unless he should find he needs technology the new company can't provide or he can afford on his own or needs something else he can't afford or get a loan for--relocation expenses.
Darla Blind-X listserv
**25. No reason not to contact them. They may have something that can help, although I've never found much help from them.
Chris Hill Blind-X listserv
**26. I think that whether a person goes back to rehab upon leaving a current job to start a new career or business really depends on the individual. People have their reasons as to why they feel they need to go back to rehab, and those reasons should be respected. It doesn't mean that he/she is a loser becaus ehe has to go back. Perhaps he/she feels he/she needs further training. Maybe the man in this narrative doesn't really know whether he needs to return to rehab or not to be able to start his business, and that's okay too. What's wrong with trying to build the foundation to your new business only to find that you feel like you need more training? I don't see anything wrong with that. We cannot predict everything. Life, and employment are not always predictable. I worked for Wendy's for four years. I would've stayed longer, but they switched to new equipment that I felt was more dangerous to work with without sight. I asked about the possibility of some of the new equipment being replaced by the old ones to no avail. Wendy's restaurant was determined that they were going to keep with the new equipment because they felt that the new equipment was more efficient. Where many blind people probably would've pushed the issue, I decided that it wasn't worth it. For one thing, anybody who was being paid minimum wage and hadn't gotten a raise in the time they worked there was their slave with a strong back and a weak mind. I was such a case in which their attitude was applied to. For me to fight them would not only have been seen as me being pushy, but while they might have made the accommodations, the treatment of me would've been with less respect than I would've expected to have been treated. They would've tried to find other ways to get rid of me--"found another person who's better qualified", "we're too overstaffed", etc. I knew that I would be unemployed for some time and that I needed further computer training in such other jobs as customer service or secretarial work when I left Wendy's. However, I had to leave as soon as possible before they made me leave or fired me because I couldn't do as much as I used to be able to do with the old equipment. In my case, it was better to leave on my own terms than on Wendy's restaurant's terms. Like in my situation, the character was weighing what was best for him. Even though he was in good standing with his boss, he felt it was time for him to move on. The other thing to consider is the fact that some pieces may have been left out of the narrative. What if he was in good standing with his boss in general, but that there were other things not mentioned that's making the character feel that it's better that he leave on his own terms than be fired? He may be in good standing, but people may be saying that he's too slow. He may be in good standing, but people coming in don't feel comfortable with blind people helping them. Perhaps the business he wants to start up will be catering to blind people exclusively. We aren't told whather or not that's the case.
**27. Someone needs to take the lead on this “we are as good, we are equal to sighted people” thing. The inner debate this guy is giving is a good one. As he is having these thoughts of going back to rehab, he should also be thinking he’d have the strength to bear the risks to make this career move like other people do it. His years of success, his skill and confidence built up resulting from his experience as a manager should not be over looked or discounted. So now as he has the temptation to break the programming of years past and defaulting back to what he too felt about h himself as a blind person, which in part was the thinking he needs the support of rehab, so he should be thinking that he may not need to go back on that rehab crutch. So I say “Hang in there Bud!” Don’t slip back into that lesser view of yourself. Some will say that you as a blind person will need extra support but that will not be new and you know how to manage that. And some will say that because you are blind it will cost you more money to purchase the equipment you will need, but that too is more than likely not true because I bet you will be using the same stuff you use now and so you have it and/or if you don’t have it, so what, starting a business can cost and it already looks like you’ve figure that out and are ready to withstand that circumstance, so press ahead, Dude. And so I say again, all the more power to you, we need new heroes.
Charles Harris Iowa USA
**28. I agree with those of you who say this guy should submit his resignation to the VR agency and just go it alone. This coming from someone who has for the most part been screwed by state VR services. If he really does want to use VR services again, and if the services provided by his state are effective, then I say stick with VR. I just got off the phone with my new VR counselor, who is a very nice guy and who appears to really be trying hard, and he asked me whether or not they should close my case since I have not yet been placed in a job. I am discussing this with my folks.
Jake Joehl, Evanston Illinois,
**29. This is an amazing thought provoker. God works in mysterious ways. I am totally lost. For the past 5 years I have had the dream job teaching at my old High School, Bishop Neumann in Wahoo. The administration, staff, and students have all treated me just like anyone else. They have allowed me to cover classes on my own and have never questioned my decisions. Granted, this year has been a little bumpy because of what I consider some poor administrative decisions, but they are ones that deal with the whole school, and not me personally.
Last July 15, Heather got a job as a speech/pathologist with the Millard Public Schools. She commuted every day from Wahoo. Early in the school year, it became apparent that our elementary school where my daughter Alexa attended wasn't functioning on the same level as the high school where I worked. The teachers were petty, there was a lot of making fun of students by other kids, a principal who would not listen, and my daughter continued to suffer from anxiety and learning difficulties. Shortly, after Labor Day we made the choice to option my daughter into Millard where my wife works. It has been a great decision. However, the driving is too much on both of them, and my daughter needs to get a circle of friends and become involved in activities. Therefore, I resigned my position here at Neumann. Now I am interviewing for jobs.
There are times when I am very excited about the opportunities. I will be in a larger community, make more money, be able to be more independent and attend Federation meetings, etc. However, I am also fearful. There are times when I regret leaving here. Recognizing this fact, I contacted the Commission for the Blind early in February. It appears that I am going back for some refresher training this summer. I think that when a blind person makes a move like this, his/her confidence needs a boost. Just because we have been successful doesn't automatically transfer. I am glad to have there services available to me.
Darrell Walla Nebraska USA
**30. My response may appear to be a little off track to start out with, so please bear with me.
Changing jobs, careers, starting small businesses or even getting married and/or deciding to start a family – any kind of change in general – can be scary to anybody much less blind people. And as someone pointed out, you have an additional factor that others who are non-disabled, can see, whatever you choose to call them, don’t face – the fact that blind, deaf or otherwise disabled people in general have to face the attitudes of others who don’t see us as somehow fully functional. Sometimes I think this is even so for a lot of rehab counselors who are overly paternalistic or who would otherwise discourage us from seeking careers in those areas which they feel are reserved for "normal" people. (Note: I use the word "normal" in quotes for those who weren’t paying attention or who, like me, don’t have their screen readers set to read all punctuations.)
Anyway, my wife and I are starting a business with two other friends. Three out of the four of us are blind, and right now we’re all of us in three different states, with me being in New York, my wife in Minnesota and our friends in Oregon. I’m trying to leave my job which hasn’t been rewarding for me for some time now, and believe me, I have people around me who want to put me in the laugh house!
So when I read this, I realized that none of us really ever thought of using rehab services to start over. Don’t know how they are in Oregon, but I know Sue didn’t find them all that helpful at times in Minnesota. And I was under the opinion for years now that since I’m working for so many years, I just have to bite the bullet and buy whatever equipment I might need. Fortunately though, between the four of us we already have the equipment we need, and the startup cost is going to be relatively low. So I guess I fall into the camp of why waste time with rehab services if you don’t have to?
On the other hand, if rehab counselors could be taught more positive attitudes about blindness, which admittedly some counselors do have, the system could be formulated in such a manner that would allow a person to use rehabilitation counseling when he or she is starting over again, with the counselor and the consumer acting on equal footing. The questions would go thus: What is the business/career track in which you are now interested? Have you any idea how much it would cost to start it up? What type of equipment can you envision yourself and those around you needing? What are the skills you possess now, and what could use some work? Can we find loan programs or grant monies that are specifically designed to assist blind, deaf, whatever, people who are doing what you’re doing? In other words, I think that if we’re going to use rehab throughout our lives, it seems to me we have to help rehab counselors, commissions for the blind or whatever, to have a more positive attitude about us to begin with. Otherwise, we might just be better off on going it alone and using the people and financial resources we’ve developed over the years, or can develop, as we transfer out of whatever field we’re in. But I have to repeat: it’s a scary prospect for everybody to change careers, especially if you already have a good job (arguably) and are firmly established.
John Coveleski New York, NY (