Braille Monitor April-May 1985
Jon Deden is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. He is also successfully employed as a stock broker. The employment might never have happened if it had not been for JOB (Job Opportunities for the Blind), the program the Federation operates in conjunction with the United States Department of Labor. It certainly would never have happened if Jon had not been capable and energetic. In a news release issued January 31, 1985, Blinder, Robinson (the company which employs Jon) tells the story:
January 31, 1985
For Immediate Release
Blind Stock Broker Beats the Odds
With the Help of Blinder, Robinson, & Co., Inc.
(Englewood, Colorado)-The odds were definitely against stock broker Jon R. Deden of Littleton, Colorado, when in December and twice in January he qualified for the Champagne Award of his firm, Blinder, Robinson & Co., Inc. (the largest broker-underwriter of low priced stocks in America), by personally accounting for more than $1,000 in gross commissions in a single day. When he accomplished that feat, the 23-year-old Deden had been a licensed broker for just one month. And, what's more, he is blind!
The very fact that Deden had managed to become a broker was, in itself, a personal triumph against heavy odds. When he was licensed in early November, he became the first blind person to earn the right to be a broker in the state of Colorado.
From the time of his birth, Deden's life has been dramatically affected by heavy odds. His older sister, Julie, was born with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that causes increasing blindness as time goes on. According to medical statistics, it was a one-in-a- million shot that a second child in Deden's family would be similarly stricken-yet he was.
Blessed with a bright mind and an energetic spirit, Deden persevered, excelled at his schooling, and ultimately, in the spring of 1984, earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley.
For a blind person, finding a place in the job market is the ultimate challenge. With the help of the Colorado chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and the Federation's Job Opportunities for the Blind program Deden filled out many applications and had numerous job interviews, all to no avail.
Commenting on general employer attitudes toward the blind, Deden notes: "I wouldn't say that employers want to discriminate against the blind. It's more a matter of their fear of dealing with the unknown. They just don't realize how much blind people are capable of doing."
Last August George Lippman, resident manager of the Blinder, Robinson Englewood office, was very impressed by the abilities of another blind young man, Brian Johnson, who made a solicitation phone call to him on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind. Lippman suggested to Johnson that he could be a successful broker, something Johnson was not interested in at that time.
With his new awareness of what blind people were capable of doing, Lippman conferred with Meyer Blinder, president of Blinder, Robinson & Co. and got the go-ahead to contact the local office of the National Federation of the Blind to see if they could recommend another talented blind person who might want to become a Blinder, Robinson broker. The Federation had an excellent prospect- Jon R. Deden.
"It was wonderful experience for us," notes Diane McGeorge, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. "We usually have to work hard to convince companies of the contributions blind people can make. It's rare when an employer-like Blinder, Robinson-will come to us requesting a qualified applicant."
Deden was on his way, but he still had a big hurdle to overcome-the broker licensing examination administered by the National Association of Securities Dealers. This Series 7 test consists of 250 written questions and usually takes six hours to complete.
With the help of a volunteer reader, Deden took the test in October and missed passing it by a few points, a not uncommon occurrence the first time around. There was a delay in arranging for a second test, but with the help of the National Federation and the timely intervention of Blinder, Robinson with the National Association of Securities Dealers, Deden got his second chance and passed.
Deden had one more hurdle to overcome - a three-week broker training program. Blinder, Robinson is the only underwriter and brokerage of low priced stocks that requires new employees to attend an intensive in-house training program which teaches brokers about the financial industry and the regulatory requirements to function within it. It's a difficult course that also includes extensive study of all the financial services that the firm offers. Ultimately many candidates are weeded out by the company during this period. But once again Deden overcame his handicap, and because of his dedication and intelligence scored high and earned a broker's position in the company's Englewood office.
"I knew what I could do if someone gave me the chance," Deden says. "Unfortunately, until Blinder, Robinson, nobody was willing to give me that chance. People like Meyer Blinder and George Lippman are rare and wonderful human beings, and it's a real pleasure working for them."
Deden's motto, in relation to sighted people, is: "I can do everything you can do, but I might have to do some things differently."
So, on the job he uses a Braille typewriter and a special pocket calculator that announces the time and calls out the numbers he pushes and the total of any calculation. He also has the services of a reader to help him prepare material for his business calls. A fellow employee provides him with rides to and from work.
"We were just as thrilled as was Jon when he won the Champagne Award," says Blinder. "We were convinced of his capabilities when we hired him but could hardly have expected such dramatic evidence of his ability after just one short month on the job. Jon is a splendid person and a dedicated worker from whom we expect much bigger things in the future."
Now firmly dedicated to the cause of providing opportunity for blind people of demonstrable ability, Blinder is working closely with the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association of Securities Dealers to place capable blind people in the company's other 24 offices located throughout the United States.
"What we're doing is not altogether altruistic," says Blinder. "To succeed, we need dedicated people. Blind people really want to work. If we help them, they'll help us."