Photo of Peggy Chong

			Peggy Chong



   The New Job Opportunities for the Blind

                         by Peggy Chong

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 From the Editor: Peggy Chong is the Targeted Jobs Program

Manager for Job Opportunities for the Blind. This is what she

says about our new JOB Program:

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     By now readers of the Braille Monitor have heard that the

Job Opportunities for the Blind program has gone through some

major changes. At our National Convention last summer in Dallas,

Texas, we heard Dr. Maurer tell us at the JOB seminar that as of

July 1, 1998, Job Opportunities for the Blind will no longer

exist as it has for the past twenty years. The Department of

Labor changed its funding requirements, allowing us to take JOB

one step further, so we now focus on training and placement for

qualified legally blind individuals who have been out of work

from four months to five years. In addition, they must be job-

ready, in other words, able to function independently as blind

people on the job and eligible for Social Security Disability

Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
     This program is designed by blind people for blind people.

Eligible blind individuals are referred by the state

rehabilitation agency or other sponsoring party to the Targeted

Jobs Initiative. Once one is accepted for services, there is no

cost to the sponsor or trainee for the initial strategies-and

skills-training, lodging, or daily breakfast here at the National

Center. Sponsors underwrite transportation to and from Baltimore,

meals other than breakfast, and incidentals. To the extent the

grant allows financially, we also provide job referrals, follow-

up, and technical support at no cost.
     As we all know, there is no substitute for good blindness

training. Those who are interested in the JOB Targeted Jobs

Initiative Program but have not learned the strategies and skills

of blindness should seek adjustment-to-blindness training before

obtaining training at our National Center. Some skills can

certainly be learned or brushed up in the program orientation

training phase, but all participants must at a minimum have the

means to communicate effectively with themselves and their co-

workers and the ability to travel independently inside and

outside their work sites. They must also know the layout of the

computer keyboard as well as independent living skills that

demonstrate capability and confidence to prospective employers.
     Every day, all over this country, decisions are made around

the office coffeepot. Therefore, knowing how to contribute

socially at work often makes or breaks a promotion, and that

means adjustment-to-blindness training must address more than

physical skills. If trainees reveal a need for further work in

any of these skills of blindness or realistic and positive

attitudes about blindness, our training centers will offer it on

a fee-for-service basis paid for by the sponsor. These centers

are the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) in Denver; the

Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) in Ruston; or Blindness:

Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.) in Minneapolis.
     The first orientation class, held at the National Center for

the Blind from September 21 through October 2, 1998, was made up

of six eager students from five states. Curtis Chong, Director of

Technology at the National Center for the Blind; Richard Ring,

Supervisor of the International Braille and Technology Center

(IBTC); and others worked with the participants on a wide variety

of equipment in the National Center's IBTC. Nowhere else in the

world can one find such a complete collection of access

equipment. These students took full advantage of this

opportunity, working late into the evening to master the

techniques they had learned.
     Much of the class agenda centers on JAWS for Windows. In

most offices around our country, Windows 95 and similar products

are used to conduct daily business. Currently JAWS seems to be

the speech program most compatible with the applications run at

the work sites of our targeted employers. Having a good working

knowledge of the nonvisual access tools before the first day on

the job puts the new blind employee on equal footing with other

new workers so that he or she can concentrate on learning the

requirements of the job.
     Trainees also receive a thorough grounding in work

incentives provided by the Social Security Disability Insurance

(SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Even

after blind people get jobs, they often feel that the Social

Security rules tie them in knots. Many times blind recipients

even report that, when they have called the Social Security

Administration for work-incentive information, they have received

conflicting information from different SSA employees. By the time

the students leave training, they know how to determine when

their benefits will cease, what their rights and responsibilities

are under the programs, and how to get the assistance to which

they are entitled from SSA.
     When the graduates left for home on October 2, they took

with them many tools for a successful job search. Some found that

they had not allotted enough room in their luggage for the many

handouts they had acquired during the previous two weeks. They

had to scramble to get them mailed home before they left.
     Those successfully completing the orientation and

Information Access Technology Training will be referred to job

openings for which they are qualified with our targeted

employers. All trainees are strongly encouraged to continue doing

research and to follow-up on any job lead they discover. Job

announcements still come to the National Federation of the Blind

from all over the country, and staff members check these for

possible employment matches. When potential matches appear, the

employers receive copies of resumes that successful graduates

have left with us. This program therefore becomes one more

valuable tool in each trainee's job-seeking kit.
     If at the end of the two-week initial training participants

conclude that they need additional adjustment-to-blindness

training, they will be referred to one of our three training

centers. National Center staff may also recommend specific

training as a prerequisite to placement with our targeted

employers.
     The Gallup Organization, which conducts the famous opinion

polls, and ManTech, a high-tech engineering company, are in the

process of joining United Parcel Service as targeted employers,

raising the possibility of jobs for graduates of this program in

several more states. These are, however, only the first companies

seizing the opportunity to employ qualified blind people.

Arrangements are being made with several other large multi-state

businesses to come on board as Targeted Employers.
     Although the focus of JOB has changed, the goal is still the

same: meaningful employment for blind people. Our new JOB program

will now provide training and direct employment opportunities for

those who accept the challenge.
     If you would like more information about the JOB Targeted

Jobs Initiative Program or would like an application, call the

National Center for the Blind at (410) 659-9314. We will be glad

to help you get started on the road to success.

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