Braille Monitor July 1985
(Note: Mary Ellen Reihing serves as the Assistant Director of the JOB program. Her tasks are many and varied. Among other things, she prepares official reports for submission to the United States Department of Labor. Reprinted here is one such report.)
The first quarter of 1985 marked a milestone for the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program. We assisted our five hundredth blind applicant in finding full-time competitive employment since the beginning of the program. The jobs JOB applicants have found represent a broad spectrum of careers. Our applicants come from all across the country and have a diversity of backgrounds and talents. During our years of operation we have learned a good deal about the services that applicants need. The type of service we offer is a reflection of the needs of JOB applicants.
JOB produced three Recorded Bulletins during this period. They contained news of the JOB program, articles to help applicants explore career possibilities, and listings of specific vacancies. All JOB applicants receive the Recorded Bulletin each month. It is also sent to members of the volunteer field service network and to regional libraries for the blind. We know from the reactions we have received that applicants read and study the Bulletins.
Bulletins are a good opportunity for us to explore unusual occupations and to talk about methods blind people are using on the job. One of the Bulletins we produced this quarter contained an article about cryptography, the creation and solution of communication codes to prevent industrial espionage. There may be those who will be intrigued enough to pursue this career. But probably most applicants will not want to be cryptographers. However, they will have learned about a new occupation, one which they may never have known existed. That is how horizons are broadened. If there is one entirely unknown occupation, maybe there are others. Applicants tell us that their curiosity has been spurred by things they have read in the Bulletins. Many of them have sought additional information about areas that have intrigued them.
We are better able to inform and educate applicants about careers and job seeking techniques because we have developed and acquired such a substanial list of publications. Applicants and volunteers, as well as rehabilitation agencies and college placement offices, request publications from us on a daily basis. We distributed 2,554 copies of JOB publications this quarter.
On the weekend of February 8th and 9th, JOB conducted an applicant seminar for blind students in Louisiana. The Assistant Director of JOB traveled to Alexandria, Louisiana, to take part in the program. Participants were high school, community college, and university students. Though their career goals varied, they all wanted to know what they could expect when they left school. The seminar focused on helping students understand the importance of developing alternative techniques of blindness before entering the job market. It demonstrated that building a network and gaining volunteer experience can make the difference between an ordinary and an attractive potential employee. Students left the seminar with practical tips on job seeking and the realization that they could act as resources for one another. Fifty-five people participated in this unique seminar.
On Friday afternoon, March 22, 1985, a JOB seminar was held in Dallas, Texas. Participants heard from a panel of employed blind people. They also learned about their rights under the law and the limitations of statutes regarding employment of the blind. There also was a discussion of resources inside and outside of the rehabilitation agency for the blind. This was a lot of ground to cover in one afternoon. Even so, participants also found time to share informally with one another and with the members of the volunteer field service network who were present. In addition to the volunteers in the state of Texas, volunteers from Michigan and Kansas also took part.
The JOB volunteer field service network continues to increase in effectiveness and to change to meet new needs.
JOB staff trains and supports the network. The network members feed information into JOB headquarters and do valuable work which could not possibly be accomplished without their help. The following memorandum from a volunteer shows how deeply committed our volunteers have become:
I also contacted Dr. H., who is head of the horticulture training program at the State Commission for the Blind. You see, I taught a young man English at the university, and he is now manager of a very large greenhouse in town; therefore I thought that I might be able to place a blind person, who has been trained in horticulture, with him. Dr. H. has sent me the name of a deaf-blind graduate, Mr. S., and I plan to call the manager of the greenhouse today on his behalf. I will keep you posted if he should be placed in a job. If we can get him down here, I can help him get situated here since I can sign to the deaf. I will keep you posted.
Later we received another memorandum from the same volunteer:
We may have the deaf-blind client placed with a local greenhouse. The firm gave him a three-day tryout, and the deaf-blind specialist from the Commission for the Blind came down with him. While he was working in the greenhouse, the specialist and I looked for housing and other support services which might be available to him. He, Mr. S., did a fine job for them and all progressed smoothly; however, they will not let the Commission know if he has been placed yet. I will keep you posed.
We still do not know whether the deaf blind applicant got the job. The trial work period was successful and the company liked the applicant's work. Yet there is still some nervousness about hiring a deaf-blind person. It will be late spring before we know for certain. Word of the JOB program is spreading across the country and even around the world. JOB is designed to serve the blind of the United States. However, the trails we are blazing have caused comments around the world. We received the following letter from Japan:
My name is Miss T., and I am a student at Takada School for the blind. I am nineteen years old and I am weak sighted. I take acupuncture and massage course.
I have been worried about job. Though I take acupuncture and massage course, I don't want to become an acupuncturist. I take the course because my parents wanted me to get the license of acupuncturist. Acupuncture is most stable job for visually handicapped person in Japan. I told my feeling and asked advice of my American friend who lived in Japan. She sent me "Have You Considered...?" She told me to consult it and to get an idea.
The book made me take much interests in American visually handicapped persons' job and life. I was greatly surprised to know that American blind persons are engaged in various kinds of jobs. In Japan most blind persons have jobs. It is important for us to get stable job. And I also think that it is important that we can choose a job among various kinds of jobs. Since we don't have same personality. I would like you to send me some information. And I have some questions so please answer the questions. Is JOB an organization only for the blind or for both the blind and the weak sighted? Can blind person take job training at a school for the blind? Does blind person study with sighted person? What is IWRP? I can't understand well. I believe that I can get an idea through the information. Please send me print information because I don't know English Braille. And I won't be able to catch the speech on tape for my poor English ability. If JOB is an organization only for the blind, would you be kind enough to let me know name and address of the organization for weak sighted persons. I hope all visually handicapped persons get fine jobs and live happily.
It is ironic that blind people from Japan are stereotyped as acupuncturists. Acupuncture is regarded as a medical profession. Blind people have had trouble entering the medical professions in the United States. This is futher dramatic proof, if any is needed, that it is attitudes which limit our employability. One nation's stereotyped occupation is another nation's new frontier.
Another new frontier for blind people is the complex world of technology. It is almost impossible to keep track of the new high technology devices on the market. JOB staff and volunteers spend a considerable amount of time reading about and examining new devices. We can help applicants learn about ways to make technology work for them. We can also help applicants avoid taking a costly plunge into technological waters when simpler methods will do the job efficiently and well.
Developers of new technology have come to recognize the importance of JOB as a means to communicate information about their products to the blind community. In March the developers of a British product used to provide Braille displays for computers visited JOB headquarters. They demonstrated their product and answered questions about employment applications. They asked for our input about the needs of America's blind workers.
They were not the first producers of high technology to visit JOB headquarters. Earlier this quarter a representative from a Japanese company brought a Braille electronic typewriter for us to examine. All of this is part of an emerging pattern. JOB is becoming known as a place where blind people can go for pertinent information about new technology.
Other groups of the disabled have observed the Job Opportunities for the Blind program with increasing interest. A representative from the National Information Center on Deafness visited JOB headquarters during this period to learn more about us. She went away convinced that our methods work and determined to find a way to apply our principles to the unique needs of deaf people.
All of the activities of seminars, bulletins, and technology evaluation have only one purpose. JOB exists to help blind people find meaningful competitive employment. We must learn about vacancies and rush the information to applicants in time for it to be of use. Our computerized job matching program makes it possible for us to do this with more speed and accuracy than we could achieve working by hand. Our matching system helped us to send thousands of vacancy announcements to blind individuals during this quarter. The vacancy announcements on JOB Recorded Bulletins increased our ability to tell applicants about openings. Our mail indicates that applicants very carefully study the job listings we send and report back to us on the results of applications they have filed.
Our Employer's Bulletins have also had very positive results. We receive numerous telephone calls from employers with questions about our applicants and the JOB program. One state personnel system wrote and asked us to publicize their Jobs Hot-Line. Another employer contacted us to suggest specific ways in which one applicant could broaden his experience in order to qualify for vacancies within the firm. One applicant wrote us to say that an employer had written her as a result of receiving her resume in our Employer's Bulletin. Two of the applicants who were featured in the December Employer's Bulletin have found full-time competitive employment.
They are two of twenty-eight people who have begun working during this quarter. Some of the jobs our applicants obtain are truly unique. One applicant is employed as a roofer for a construction company. Another found work helping to resolve disputes before they come to trial.
JOB has helped these employed applicants in many ways. The following letter gives eloquent testimony to the assistance we gave one applicant:
I am pleased to tell you that on March 4, I will start work at the Defense Department as an Editor-Writer. I wish to thank you and everyone associated with the JOB program for your encouragement, support and assistance. One unique feature of the JOB program is its emphasis on education on blindness for employers. I am a beneficiary of this education. Although the agency which is employing me has an excellent record of hiring blind people, there was a tendency to categorize the type of jobs blind people could do. Thanks to education which JOB field service workers did several years ago, the Defense Department is beginning to recognize that stereotyping is also a barrier. I will be the first blind person in this particular position. I hope this incident encourages field service workers to continue employer education. Sometimes we think we have not accomplished anything when there are no immediate results. This case shows that we never know when we are reaching someone and improving attitudes about blindness.
I am grateful to the National Federation of the Blind and the United States Department of Labor for providing the opportunities to acquire skills, experience and confidence. Before I was interviewed for this position, I had to submit a writing sample. I submitted some testimony that I wrote for the NFB of New Jersey. I never thought of myself as a writer. I wrote testimony because it was needed. The National Federation of the Blind expands my horizons.
Thank you again for your assistance. I look forward to even greater success for the JOB program.
Every employed applicant has a story to tell. There are now more than five hundred stories, and each one means that the door of opportunity is inching open a little further for blind people. But blind applicants continue to tell of rejection based on outmoded ideas about blindness. Some tell of inadequate training which has not prepared them for competitive employment:
Today I spoke with blank, a new applicant with the JOB program. He has finished a course from a broadcasting school and is seeking employment. I asked him what he thought was his main difficulty, and he said that it was being unable to "work the board." He said stations were reluctant to hire a blind broadcaster simply for a voice when they would also need to hire someone else to work the equipment.
I asked him if learning to work station equipment was part of the school's course. He said that it was, but the school told him they did not know how to teach him how to do it. They told him they did not think a blind person could manage a radio board and that station managers would understand. Now blank is learning that he is inadequately prepared to work in commercial radio. The broadcasting school accepted his money and gave him a nearly worthless diploma. I put him in touch with Mr. C. and Mr. D., JOB volunteers with radio experience. Perhaps they can help him learn the technical skills he needs. Blank's life would have been much simpler if the school had not made such a devastating assumption about his blindness.
This is a situation in which JOB can help. Volunteers can give blank encouragement and help him to learn some of the skills he needs. In fact, our support may be the thing which will make the most difference for him.
The following is a list of some of the types of positions in which blind persons who have received assistance from JOB are now working. Of course, this does not represent all of the types of jobs blind people can do or are doing. It is merely a sampling. We have listed positions, and in many cases several persons have found work in positions that are somewhat similar. The variation of skills and backgrounds required of persons to work in these positons is abundant. Thousands of blind persons who are equally well-qualified in as many diverse fields are still looking for work: Administrator; Advocacy Coordinator; Airline Reservationist; Assembly, Electronics; Assembly, General; Assistant Director, College Alumni Association; Banker, Senior Vice President; Chaplain; Child Care Assistant; Collections Officer; Computer Programmer; Cosmotologist, managing three shops; Counselor, Adolescent; Counselor/Coordinator, Business Enterprise Program; Counselor, College; Counselor, Housing Complaints; Counselor, Rehabilitation; Counselor, Others; Dispatcher; Dog Groomer; Employment Development Specialist; Engineer, Electrical; Engineer, Safety; Equal Employment Officer; Estate Analyst; File Clerk; Fundraiser; Handicapped Service Coordinator; Hotline for 504 Coordinator; Information Clerk/Specialist; Internal Revenue Service, Financial Assistance; Internal Revenue Service, Teleservice Representative; Janitor; Job Development Specialist; Labor Relations Specialist; Lawyer; Legislative Aid; Masseur; Micrographic Technician; Mobility Instructor; Nutrition Education Coordinator; Occupational Health and Safety Specialist; PBX Operator; Personnel Interviewer; Pharmacist; Photo Finish work; Placement Aid for the Blind; Professor of Psychology; Quality Control Specialist; Radio Announcer; Radio Reading Services, Assistant Manager; Research Analyst; Roofer; Router at bank; Sales, Executive; Sales, Retail; Sales, Telephone; Social Worker; Systems Planning, Hospital; Supervisor; Teachers Aid; Teacher, Elementary Music; Teacher, Rehabilitation; Teacher, Resource/ Itinerant of blind children; Teacher, Spanish; Teacher, Social Studies; Telephone Operator; Travel Agent; Typist, Dictaphone; Typist, Mag Card II; Typist, Receptionist; Typist, Word Processor; Volunteer Services Coordinator.
Job Opportunities for the Blind Fact Sheet
The Job Opportunities for the Blind program (JOB) is operated by the National Federation of the Blind in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor. JOB is a listing and referral service for blind job applicants. JOB: produces and distributes the JOB RECORDED BULLETIN to blind job applicants. JOB: provides special materials to deaf-blind applicants in Braille. JOB: produces and distributes a SPECIAL BULLETIN for employers to help prospective employers and hiring personnel learn about blindness and blind people at work.
JOB: also produces and distributes public service radio announcements on blindness, and the ability and desire of the blind to work, and about laws and regulations pertaining to the employment of the blind.
JOB: selects and reproduces in recorded form materials (including some publications of the Department of Labor) and distributes these to blind job applicants.
JOB: receives from employers listings of vacant positions throughout the country and refers them to applicants who are qualified to fill the positions. JOB: conducts seminars for blind and deaf-blind applicants to help them learn about their rights, improve job search skills, become knowledgeable about laws and regulations pertaining to employment of the blind and to encourage them in their search for work.
JOB: holds workshops for employers and prospective employers of the blind to help them to understand the reasonableness of hiring the blind in a wide variety of positions.
It is time for America to recognize the blind as a competent and energetic minority in our midst.
Hiring the blind is REASONABLE, PROPER, and NECESSARY.
GOOD LAWS ENCOURAGE IT!
GOOD SENSE RECOMMENDS IT!
GOOD BUSINESS DEMANDS IT!
Duane Gerstenberger, Director
Job Opportunities for the Blind
1800 Johnson Street Baltimore, Maryland 21230
In Wats 1-800-638-7518
Dial Direct 301-659-9314
The employment picture for the blind is changing. Though far too many blind people are still being denied real opportunity, an increasing number are becoming gainfully employed and contributing to their communities. The Job Opportunities for the Blind program is helping to make the difference because it is built on a philosophy of hope and belief in blind people. The National Federation of the Blind provides the philosophy and the people who can make it come alive. The United States Department of Labor works in partnership with the Federation by providing the resources to turn a good idea into a living reality. The prospects for the future are bright. It will take hard work and continuing dedication, but there is no doubt that the direction is set and the blind have the will and the ability to succeed.