A Positive Philosophy for Hiring Blind Employees

JOB Employer's Bulletin / 1994

Here are some of the jobs blind employees are doing right now around the United States:

* Yardhand in a large lumberyard. He cuts wood, loads and unloads trucks, and performs other jobs as needed. This is his first job since becoming blind in his middle years. He used to drive a truck and knew he did not want any kind of office job. He obtained training in good alternative techniques of blindness, learned how to talk about his abilities, and is very satisfied with his new job. His boss is so satisfied with his new employee that he called the job placement person (a JOB volunteer) to thank him for helping to make the match.

* Accountant for a state agency in Louisiana. While still a high school student, she obtained advanced training in blindness skills through attending a work-study summer program for blind teens. After her recent graduation from a state college, she worked at job hunting. In a few months and with no outside assistance, she was hired for her first job as an adult.

* General kitchen worker at a Wendy's. He makes hamburgers and french fries and cleans tables. He has a high school education, but until he attended a training center to increase his skills of blindness he was unable to get a job.

* Fast food counter worker at a Price Club, New York State. He prepares frozen pizza dough for fillings, heats frozen large pretzels, and boils and serves hot dogs to customers. In between he refills condiment containers and keeps the area clean. He said he convinced the boss to hire him by telling him about the meal for forty people that he planned, bought goods for, cooked, and served. The meal was a graduation exercise at an innovative training program he attended after years of frustration with state-sponsored training centers for orientation to blindness. This job pays the most money that he has ever earned, and he treats his job as a precious gift.

* Teacher of second, third, and fourth grades. Totally blind, she has a wonderfully active method by which she teaches handwriting to her students. They love her teaching style because it gets them involved in learning. Their parents love to see their children enjoy being students.

* Legislative page in the South Carolina legislature. For several years Senator Warren K. Giese observed Mr. D. coming to the state house and effectively educating members of the General Assembly on issues important to a well-known statewide consumer group. Then he observed Mr. D. participating as a fellow speaker on a panel concerning a new Braille literacy law. At that time, Senator Giese extended the invitation and honor of becoming a legislative page. After fulfilling his duties as a page, Mr. D. intends to work toward a law degree.

* Salesman of electronic goods for a Sears store in Missouri. He had formerly worked for another retailer in their electronic department but prefers the rules under which Sears compensates their top salesmen. His customers appreciate his thorough knowledge of electronic devices and his ability to speak in terms that laymen understand.

* Head of a new department in a free-lance company that provides medical transcription (MT) to a large number of clients. She is in her forties, has been blind all her life, is married and the mother of one pre-teen boy. She is so very competent in office skills that the company recruited her away from her former job as a teacher of independent living skills for that state's agency for the blind. They know her abilities because she took the state job after having worked two years for them as a medical transcriptionist. In her new job she will recruit other blind medical transcriptionists, train them in company procedures, when necessary upgrade their skills in medical vocabulary, and move them on to the company's general MT corps once their work is up to company standards. For the first part of her job, she is ordering adaptive computer equipment that she knows will work well.

STATING YOUR NEW PHILOSOPHY:

In lives such as these, we see demonstrated the truth in these words from America's foremost philosopher on blindness:
The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance.
-- Dr. Kenneth Jernigan

A TIP TO INTERVIEWERS USING THIS POSITIVE PHILOSOPHY:

The phrase, "If a blind person has proper training" means modern, effective training in the skills of blindness, in practical alternatives to using sight. Unfortunately for blind Americans, this training is not available everywhere. You may not have met a competent blind person before. Therefore, before an interview we suggest you remind yourself:

All women are not good cooks.
All men do not know how to repair cars.
All Hungarians are not like Zsa Zsa Gabor.
And, all blind persons are not alike either.

Generally, the first problem a blind or visually impaired job applicant runs into is that he or she is assumed to share all the negative traits of all blind persons the interviewer has ever heard about, seen in movies, read about in books, observed on the streets, or personally known. The Hollywood version of blindness is rampant. Meanwhile JOB knows that quietly going about their business, there are thousands of competent employees like those above. They are working at all kinds of jobs throughout the United States.

The interviewer needs to see the real applicant in front of the desk, not society's image of a blind person. In fairness, and in compliance with state and federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act, the interviewer needs to learn how to modify print-oriented company procedures to assess whether "with reasonable accommodation" a particular blind or visually impaired applicant is the best candidate applying.

WE OFFER OUR HELP:

JOB offers employers free consultation on specific problems and issues. Would you like to take advantage of our extensive research capability to provide resources right now? What is the question or issue?

Shall we call or write in reply? To whom shall we direct our research?

Do you have job openings that you would like to list with Job Opportunities for the Blind? We invite you to send copies of your listings to our address. We'll help you advertise.