Future Reflections          Convention Report 2007

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Jobs for the Future: A Panel Discussion


Editor’s Note: The following transcript is from a panel presentation given during the morning session of the parent’s seminar on Saturday, June 29. Although we have edited the transcript for clarification and made some changes and additions from text provided by the speakers, we have also tried to retain the dynamic flow of the original presentations as much as possible. The panel moderator is Dr. Fred Schroeder and the panel members are Ever Lee Hairston, Robert Newman, Beth Allred, and Mike Mello. The panel begins with a short introduction from Barbara Cheadle, president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children:

Barbara Cheadle: Fred Schroeder is the former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and he is an educator—a college professor—but he’s also been down and dirty in the public schools with blind children and administering teaching programs there, so he certainly knows all aspects of blindness from education to rehabilitation. So Fred, take it away; it is now your panel.

Fred Schroeder, panel moderator: Good morning to all of you. I am delighted to be here. Sister Meg said so many things that were just absolutely right on target in her speech. When she was talking to us about the unemployment rate of blind adults—the estimates vary from seventy to eighty percent—and whether children then can look forward to seven or eight out of ten of them being unemployed, one thing that occurred to me was the results of the tremendous research conducted by Dr. Ruby Ryles. One of the things Ryles found was that kids who grew up reading Braille—in other words, who developed real literacy skills—had about a four out of ten unemployment rate. Now that’s not terrific, but if you think about it, it means they’re twice as likely to be able to work as compared to other blind workers because they developed good literacy skills early on.

Now what else do we need to do in order to be able to help blind children work? Those of you who are sighted here in the room, I want you to think for a moment about this question: If you lost your job today—if your company went broke and you were laid off, and you lost your job today—how long would it be before you would work again? Well, you might think it depends on the nature of your job. You might be a teacher and you are saying to yourself, “Well, I’ve got to fill out applications and it could be several months.” Okay, it might be several months, and depending on the field you are in, it might even take a year or longer. But I didn’t say how long before you got the same type of job you’re doing today. The question is: How long before you could generate money—an income of any kind--to help support yourself and your family? It could take you only a couple of days, really, if you think about it. Now, it might not be a great job. You might have to go flip hamburgers at McDonald’s or something like that, but you could start generating income quickly.

But because of society’s low expectations for blind people, blind people don’t have that option as readily available. If you—a sighted person--are a teacher and lost your job, well the next school day you could go to work as a substitute. You could generate some income that quickly. But, as a blind person, it’s as hard for me to get a subbing job as it is to get a full teaching job. Why? Because society automatically assumes that blind people cannot do the work that others do.

I don’t say all this to be depressing, but to help you recognize that the barriers to employment are really two parts: skills and society’s attitude’s about blindness. Sister Meg talked a good bit about the development of skills, particularly literacy. To overcome these barriers, the first thing you need to do as parents is to believe that your child can work. The second thing that you and your child need to do is to expand your understanding and knowledge about the potential jobs that blind people can do. Obviously, your child is not going to be a taxi driver or fly an airplane--at least not with today’s technology. But what do you know about what is possible?

I went blind at sixteen. I had been low vision for nine years, but I lost all my sight when I was sixteen. I was in the hospital and I was thinking about jobs, and the only two jobs that I could think that a blind person might be able to do was to be a disc jockey (DJ) or a psychologist. That was based on my belief at age sixteen that DJ’s and psychologists got paid for talking, and that’s the only thing I knew I could do as a blind person—talk. And that was as expansive as my view was about the jobs blind people could do.

You are about to hear from a panel of people who will, I think, spark some thinking on your part about jobs and blindness. I am going to ask the panel to try to keep their remarks to five to seven minutes so we can have time for some questions. The point of this panel is to help you go beyond an intellectual understanding that blind people can do lots of jobs, and to bring you to a real gut-level belief that blind people can work in a wide range of jobs. This means that your child can develop his or her individual interests—be that something that society readily assumes blind people can do or not—be successful in that endeavor, and live a fulfilling life.

I’m going to have our panelists introduce themselves as they speak, so let’s start with Ever Lee Hairston.

Ever Lee HairstonGood morning. I am Ever Lee Hairston. I currently live in Los Angeles, California. I relocated last year from New Jersey to California. And again, good morning to all of you. I just want to share with you that 1987 was the first time that I heard the NFB pledge. I pledged to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security. And those words just rang in my ears, because I had already begun to work for the Department of Health and Human Services located in Camden County, New Jersey. I was at the bottom level. I began as a counselor trainee. I had already given up my job as a teacher long before that, and had worked as a court stenographer and as an administrative assistant. As a matter of fact, I had gone from job to job. But finally I had landed this job with the Department of Health and Human Services. I did not feel confident in what I was doing. I did not believe that I could move up the ladder, or be equal with my colleagues. Those words rang in my ears: equality, opportunity, and security. I was still feeling ashamed in many ways, fearful that I might lose my job if I didn’t do something correctly. I had very little blindness skills, and so those words continued to ring in my ears.

And so, I knew it was time for me to do something different. I continued to get involved with the Federation of the Blind. I continued to attend conventions, and I recall one in particular. I was going through the registration line and I was asked, “Would you like a Braille or print agenda?” I could no longer read print and I certainly couldn’t read Braille, so a light bulb went off in my head, “Gee, I must do something about my problem.” Later I decided that I must attend the NFB Louisiana Center for the Blind where I could get some training, some blindness skills, and return to New Jersey to compete with my colleagues. That was the beginning of change for me as a blind person. The process of life is change. And so that was a beginning for me. I was tired of feeling ashamed, fearful, and stagnant because I did not have the skills necessary in order to move up the ladder.

So what was the change? What was that all about for me? The “c” in change also stands for communicate, and Fred just talked about that. I needed to learn Braille so I could communicate on the job and wherever else I needed it, and also I needed to find the courage necessary to do the things that were required of me. Take a risk; that’s what I needed to do. Also, the “c” in change meant building confidence in myself, and using that confidence to commit to my goals.

The “h” in change stood for getting honest with myself. Teach your children to be honest. Being in denial of your eye condition, or your child’s eye condition, is a hindrance to your child and to you as parents. Are you are afraid to say, “Oh, my child is blind,” to the acquaintance walking down the street who hasn’t seen your child yet? My mother used to whisper, “She can’t see,” when explaining to friends or acquaintances about my eyesight. Even when I went to work, I will never forget that my boss would point to my eyes [points] and say, “She can’t see.” Even as an adult, when I’d go home to visit my mother, she’d put new light bulbs in every lamp and all the overhead lights. By that time, I couldn’t see them. But, in her mind, if she put brighter lights up, I could see. Years later, and she’s still in denial. Are you able to say, “my daughter is blind?” Get honest with yourself and your children. It’s extremely important.

The “a” in change is about being able to advocate for yourself. You must teach your children to advocate for themselves. It’s important for you to advocate for them now, but you can’t be going in for them to their boss when they get a job. They, your kids, must be able to speak up for themselves and say what they need and what’s important to them. They must have aspiration, too. That’s another “a.”

The “n” in change means you must be able to network. Your child needs to know how to find out, when looking for employment, about other blind people doing that same type of work. What is it that they are doing to be able to do this job or work in that profession? We have so many blind people working in so many different professions today, and your child can benefit from their experiences if he or she knows how to network.

The “g” in change means greatness. Teach your child greatness. You know, when you go to a football game, you can see all the parents out there jumping up and down and yelling at the coaches, “Let my son play. Give him a chance.” You—the parents of blind students—need to be your children’s cheerleaders, too. You need to expect greatness from them. Cheer them on, no matter what they’re doing. They may not be out on the football field, but whatever they are involved in, cheer them on, because it is greatness that you want from your blind child.

And the “e” in change stands for enthusiastic. In order to do anything and to be great at it, we must be enthusiastic and enjoy what we do. That’s the formula, c-h-a-n-g-e: communication, confidence, honesty, advocacy, aspiration, networking, greatness, and enthusiasm.

What did I do? How did that formula work for me? I retired in 2006 from the Department of Health and Human Services after twenty-six years. But when I first began, I had no skills. What was necessary for me to do was to get proper training, learn some blindness skills, and to be determined to move up the ladder. I started at the bottom as a counselor trainee and in 2006 when I retired I was director of the program of the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. I was responsible for the intoxicated drivers’ resource center, where all drunk drivers had to come in for two days of education and referral. I was also responsible for the drunk court program. Some clients were referred to a drunk court program rather than being incarcerated. Our job was to send counselors, and many times I had to go myself, to represent those clients in the courtroom. I also had to represent the agency at the state level by attending meetings, conferences, and so forth. How did I do it? I traveled independently using my cane and I used Braille and my BrailleNote to write the names of clients and other information I needed to take to court or to meetings with me.

I was also responsible for a rehabilitation program for adults and for teenagers and their parents. I was responsible for all of these programs. None of my counselors or staff members was blind. All twenty-six members of my staff were sighted with a blind director. And many times they tried to test me to see if I was truly blind; they did silly things like pulling out a chair and leaving it out to see if I was going to run over it, or holding things up in front of my eyes to test my vision without saying anything to me. They tried little tricks like that to try and get something over on me. You know how some employees are. They do this to sighted supervisors or directors, too. Oftentimes I would be sitting at my desk with my head down doing my work and one of my staff members would walk in and I’d raise my head up and I’d say something like, “Sandy, what would you like?” The person would be flabbergasted: “How did you know it was me?” We blind people must be in tune to things around us and about us. Of course, I could tell it was Sandy by her walk or something else, but I didn’t always tell her that.

All of the training and skills that I learned at the Louisiana Center for the Blind when I lost the rest of my vision was wonderful, and necessary. So was the education that I had received, when I was still partially sighted, by going to college. It took a lot of determination to get through at that time. I didn’t have the technology that the students have today. I would go and sit in a classroom, tape the lecture, then go home at night and listen to that tape and use a board with little rubber bands across it horizontally to write out the notes that I could turn in to the professor the next day. You see, I earned my education the old-fashioned way, but nevertheless, I did it.

And after working for twenty-six years with the Department of Health and Human Services, I say to you I haven’t stopped giving even in the state of California. I have joined the board of directors there of the NFB in that state, and I am still mentoring blind students. I serve on the national NFB scholarship committee. And prior to leaving New Jersey, I was involved in the LEAD program and mentored blind students—teaching them leadership, education, advocacy, and determination. My last word to you is this: Parents, don’t stop giving your children the opportunity to be independent. Thank you.

Fred Schroeder: Well I think that speaks to the point: skills, attitude, and confidence. Certainly Ever Lee has all of that, and you can see what the outcome is. The next individual on our panel is Robert Newman. I’ve known Robert nearly thirty years. I still had hair when I first met Robert, so it’s been a long time ago. I’ll let Robert introduce himself. Here he is:

Robert Leslie Newman enjoys helping Victoria Parsons and other blind youth.Robert Newman: Thank you very much. My name is Robert Leslie Newman. The name might ring a bell to you because I am the guy who writes and puts out the “Thought Provoker.” You know, the little short stories on blindness issues that I post, solicit discussion and comments about, and place on the NFB listserv for parents, and on other NFB mailing lists as well. So, I am the guy who puts those things out. Professionally I am a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In December I will have completed my 34th year of employment with the commission, and I still like Monday's. Fred and I started out in rehabilitation together and we’re both still doing it. I am a member of the Omaha, Nebraska, Chapter of the NFB; the NFB Writers Division; and the NFB Rehabilitation Professionals. I was born with normal sight, but at age 15 I was in a car accident and became totally blind.

My part on this panel is to talk about the importance of employment while you are a student and how that has consequences for the future. Those of us who are in the business of finding jobs for blind individuals—doing job placement, helping blind guys find employment—are aware of a pattern of low employment rates for young blind adults when they get out of high school. We feel that if you are aware of this pattern and take it in hand, that you can change it. Together, we can increase the number of blind folks who get jobs right out of school. Our experience shows that success in achieving post education employment is dependent upon having had employment while attending school. Unfortunately, young blind youth are not getting this type of job experience. Getting good grades, yes, you bet—a lot of blind kids do get good grades in high school and college. And that’s important, but other students are also getting good grades and at the same time they are also getting valuable job experience for the future.

In 1989, the results of the National Longitudinal Transition Study conducted by the Office of Special Education Programs, U. S. Department of Education, was published. That study looked at eight thousand disabled youth, ages fifteen to twenty-six, from eleven disabilities groups over a period of years. I want to discuss with you some statistics from a portion of that study called, “A Comparison of Visually Impaired Youths and Youths with Other Disabilities.” Let me illustrate the reality of these statistics or figures about students, education, and employment for you in this way.

Let’s say we had a hundred high school students from the regular population off to my right, and we had a hundred blind high school students right here in front of me, and then a third group of a hundred other students with disabilities off to my left. Then, I say to these three groups of students, “Those of you who are going to graduate from high school with a diploma, please step forward.” Seventy of the students from the general population of students step forward, sixty-four of the blind student group step forward, and from the group of students with other disabilities, forty-six students step forward. Now, let’s look at how many from the regular population and the blind population of students goes on for additional education. I ask the students who are going on to a four-year college to step forward, and twenty-eight from the general population step forward, and twenty-seven step forward from the blind population. As you can see, and it may surprise you, there isn’t much difference in educational attainments of our regular population and our blind population.

But now let’s look at employment rates of students still in high school and college. How many are working? Let’s look again at the general population and the blind population. I ask the high school and college students who are between the ages of about fifteen to twenty-six to step forward if they have a job, if they are working. There is a big sound—thump, thump, thump—from the general population group as sixty-two students step forward. And from the blind population there is barely a sound as ten—that’s right, only ten out of a hundred—students step forward. Now, let’s look at the three groups again: general population to the right, blind population in the front, other disabilities on the left, and it’s a year of so after graduation. How many are employed and now have a job? I ask the students who have jobs to step forward, and there is this huge surge as eighty-seven from the general population on our right come forward. About half that number—forty-six—step forward from the disabled group on the left, and in front of us are twenty-four blind folks who have stepped forward. That’s right—this is the statistic—around seventy percent of the blind are unemployed.

I like my job. I really like helping young people get started in their careers. But it is really, really disheartening when I help a bright young person fill out applications and put together his or her resume and I find out that under the area of job experience he or she has very little to offer. Do you know how much time a human resources person spends looking at resumes and applications and what part they look at first? Well, they spend about fifteen seconds on each application and the section they look at first is—the job history.

Knock, knock. This is the wake-up call. Employment, employment, employment. The working game starts early and is played often. If you wish to have it to build your life on after the completion of your education, then you must engage in it during your years as a student. So, yes, getting that diploma is important, and so is getting high marks in your subjects, but don’t lose sight of the importance of that other subject area, the one outside the classroom: employment. Getting A’s in school is great, being an honor student is admirable, but being the most educated person in the unemployment line is not much consolation.

So, what do we do about it? Parents, educators, and rehab professionals, you need to help the student get blindness skills, you need to give them responsibilities, and you need to expose them to a variety of employment activities. Use the resources of the school district and the state rehabilitation system to help find appropriate part-time employment during the year or summer jobs. Look to other networking possibilities, such as places where family and friends work, and don’t overlook your state NFB affiliate.

The difficulties for the blind in finding employment is not a new challenge at any stage of life, but employment during the school years will increase opportunities for employment upon graduation, the time of life when all of us wish to be out on our own.

Fred Schroeder: Next we’re going to hear from Beth Allred, and Beth, I’m going to let you introduce yourself.

Beth Allred: Good morning, everybody. My name is Beth Allred and I’m here to talk about the student perspective on employment. I am a senior and a vocal performance major at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I’m about to receive my bachelor degree, and then I’ll be off to get my master’s degree. My goal is to become a professional singer and a voice teacher.

I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and I went to public high school there. My parents are very supportive and they have a philosophy that I can do anything I intend or want to do, and they are there to help me in any way possible to achieve that goal. As Sister Meg was saying earlier, they do a lot and they are learning how to do less. But they are having this problem with me going to graduate school next year, and I think we may have to go into therapy. [laughter]

Now, about my job experiences as a student. In high school I thought I was really great. I had all these extracurricular activities and homework to do. I was busy, but my mom thought it would be good for me to have some job experience, so she got me a job as a paper shredder at the doctor’s office where she worked, and I worked at that for two years. I believe that every experience that we have, every job that we do, provides us with new skills to help us in whatever we choose to do for the rest of our lives. I learned several things from my time as a paper shredder. First, I gained a profound appreciation for science fiction and fantasy literature as I spent many of those paper-shredding hours listening to audio books. Second, I learned to appreciate that even a paper-shredding job could be lucrative as it provided me with more pocket money than I had ever had. Third, I decided that paper shredding was not a career to which I aspired. Last but certainly not least, I learned to disapprove greatly of the overuse and wasting of paper. After two years of shredding paper, I decided to quit when I almost shredded my pinkie, and when I found a discarded needle hidden among the papers to be shredded. Besides, I was getting bored. So, that job had to go.

In college I wanted to go work for the university’s telephone program to raise money from alums. The job required that you call up alums and nicely ask them for contributions to our higher education. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that job. I interviewed and I was really confident when I left the interview that I had given a good accounting of myself. The woman called me up and she said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t have you work here because the technology that you use will not be compatible with our computer program.” And I thought to myself, “Gee, that sounds like an excuse. I bet it’s because you don’t want to deal with my being blind.” So I went to her supervisor and I bugged him for weeks to work with me to figure out a way that we could get the technology to work together, but I finally just gave up. They were obviously not disposed to have me work there, and I decided in the end that I didn’t really want to work in that kind of environment.

I have learned that when you apply for a job, you should play to your strengths. I have good communication skills, I enjoy working with others, and as a musician I am very skilled in the use of my instrument—my voice. That’s how I got my job as a student voice teacher in our school’s student teaching division. I have four students ranging in age from twenty-one to thirty-six. They were all beginners and needed to learn how to use their voices correctly. I started by teaching them how to breathe and how to stand, and I worked with them on different vocal exercises. From working with them, I in turn learned how to individualize my approach for each student. Teaching has also helped me to become a better musician as I strive to be a good example for my students. I think the most important thing I teach my students is something they can use in all aspects of life. And that is this: not everything will come to us easily or right away; instead, we must build on what we learn. Concepts that may not be natural to us in the beginning will come to us more easily in time.

I am really excited about my second job which I just got about a month and a half ago. That’s right, I have two part-time jobs. It started when I got an e-mail notice that said there was a restaurant that needed strolling opera singers. And I thought to myself, now wouldn’t that be cool. I always wanted to stroll around a restaurant and sing opera. So, when I called the manager about the job I also him I am blind, but he said, “Oh, that’s no big deal.”

That attitude made me feel very hopeful that this could be a really good experience for me. Besides, the job is something I can put on my resume, and it will give me money I need to cover the cost of auditioning at six different graduate schools this year. As I said, I’ve been working at this job for about a month and a half, and I love it. I don’t just sing, but I greet and seat customers, too. The restaurant management is really supportive. They helped me to make a tactile representation or map of the restaurant. I have also memorized which servers seat their customers where so that I can go around and see and talk to customers.

There’s a stereotype out there about blind people being musicians, a notion that blind people have a strange affinity for music. I believe that I can do anything I want to. I could have gone into psychology or I could have decided to become a teacher. Instead, I chose to become a musician. But I did not choose this because I’m blind and that it seemed the easiest profession for me to do. I choose it because I’m good at it, because it is a very powerful way to express myself, and because it is truly what I want to do.

When I sing I have many things to think about: I have to think about keeping my posture straight, what are the words I’m singing, and what do they mean? I think about keeping the airflow even, and most of all, I think about the emotions I need to portray to my audience with my music. It is not simply opening my mouth and releasing pleasant sound. It is an art that takes years to perfect. I’ve been studying music for ten years and I still have things to learn. So, it is a learning process.

Before I conclude my talk, I’d like to share a few antidotes from my job. I sang for a couple at their table one evening and afterwards the gentleman came up to me and he said, “You know, we just got engaged and I want you to know how much your singing to us this evening touched us, and how much it meant to us.” Then he gave me a twenty-buck tip. The money was great, but more important to me than the tip was the fact that it had touched him. That meant more to me than anything else. One night I sang an aria from an Italian opera for a table of four. This is an Italian restaurant I work at, so they frown on French and German, but Italian is good. My customers asked me about the song so I told them the story of the opera. I went back to the front of the restaurant to seat more customers, and about a half hour later they asked me to come back and sing again. So, I came back and sing another aria from a different opera, and again, they wanted to know the story behind it, so I told them all about that opera. Anyway, they were impressed that I knew the opera stories and not just the songs, and I got another twenty-dollar tip.

Last, but not least, I’d like to give a little plug for the NFB Performing Arts Division. I’m on the board of this division, and we are a group of artists, performers, and entertainers who work together to promote our craft. For this convention we put out our first album of performances from blind artists. The album/CD is called “The Sound and Sight Project,” and we are selling it for $15 in the exhibit hall. We have some wonderful artists and some wonderful talent on this album, so I encourage you to stop by and buy one. I’m on it, too--but you know, I had to say that.

Again, I’d like to thank you for allowing me to speak on this panel. It was a lot of fun and I will now hand it over to the next person. Thank you.

Fred Schroeder: Thank you Beth. You know, people in society so often get bogged-down in worrying about the details of how a blind person is going to do this or that on a job. I think what Beth demonstrated is that with some imagination and confidence, a blind person can solve those problems and than go on to focus on the heart of the job itself.

Last, but not least, we have Mike Mello. And Mike, I will let you introduce yourself.

Mike MelloMike Mello: My name is Mike Mello and I graduated from college about a year ago. I went to the University of Idaho and then I moved to Seattle to take a position with the EPA—Environmental Protection Agency. As someone who is in human resources, I would just like to say that I do spend a little bit more than fifteen seconds on an application, because I have to scan it into the computer to read it.

As I’ve been sitting here listening to the panelists, and prior to that, Sister Meg, I was thinking, “Gosh, what really caused me to be where I am today?” I have one simple answer: my parents. When I was growing up there weren’t many options for real employment. I grew up in a mostly rural community and I even lived on the edge of that, so transportation wasn’t an option. It wasn’t like I could just grab the city bus to go to work. I remember telling my parents that my friends had jobs, and I wanted one, but I didn’t see how I could do it. My dad said, “Well you better figure it out, because if you would like to continue to live here, you need to learn how to get a job.” So I thought, well, okay, what can I do?

I ended up talking with my high school guidance counselor and found out that there was a program in our area that provided tutoring in computer usage to non-traditional college students. With my skills in computers, that looked like a good opportunity for me. So, my first paying job as a high school sophomore was for $20 an hour tutoring college students in computers. That might be atypical, I know, but it was a good job. When I moved on to college, my computer skills helped me get other part-time jobs. I worked off-and-on all throughout my college years. At the University of Idaho, I implemented and was in charge of the assistive technology program for the university. I told the university what equipment was needed, saw that it was purchased, and maintained it. I set the equipment up in four or five labs all over campus for the use of students with disabilities.

At the end of my freshman year on campus, I was walking by the career services office and I thought, “Gosh, I’ve got to find something to do for the summer.” And I went in and asked somebody to tell me what was on the bulletin board. Now, if I had had my K--NFB Reader at the time, I could have read the board with it myself, but it was okay. I still got the information. Anyway, there was a posting from the environmental protection agency and they were actually interviewing the next day. I thought, “EPA. I’m from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and we have this lead problem. That might be interesting.” By the way, I don’t tell people that I work for the EPA when I go home to visit in Coeur d’Alene, but that’s another story.

The next day, I put my suit on and I went to interview with the EPA. I didn’t know what to expect--honestly, I just put myself out there. A week later I got a call. They wanted me to come and work for the summer as a co-op student, which meant that if everything worked out, and they liked me, then I could go back every summer and after I graduated from college they would hire me as a full-time employee.

That’s what I did for the rest of my college career. Every summer I went to Seattle and worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. Every summer I found new housing and commuted to work from a different area of the city. I worked in many different units, but mostly the information resource unit, which was information technology. When I graduated, the EPA did not have any openings in the IT unit, so I had to be flexible. The EPA did have a job in human resources, an opening as an HR specialist, and they offered it to me. I had no idea at the time what that job would be like, but I decided to take it. It did require more training, and I am taking four classes through the USDA graduate school online to get proficient in my job. I am expected to be proficient in my job even though experience-wise, I am not there with the rest of my colleagues in the department. But I am learning.

I am a year and a half out of college and I am making close to $45,000 a year. Because of my parents’ attitudes and expectations for me, I always assumed that I would have a job and work. It all comes down to attitudes. I am very confident in my position. I am very confident in my skills as a blind person and I am very confident I know what I am talking about when it comes to HR--sometimes. My cell phone has been ringing all day because my co-workers are closing nineteen jobs for which I did all the interviews. It was my first independent job announcement and I did it all with adaptive technology from reading the resumes that came in electronically or in print, calling, interviewing, and scheduling folks to work. I just want to say that it is you—the parents—who can make the difference. Thank you so much for the time and if you have further questions, please feel free to ask.

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