Where the Blind Work
Administrative and Office Careers 

Braille Proofreader

Mary Jeatran Donahue

What do you do on your job?

I proofread all Braille proof copies of Braille transcriptions against original print to detect grammatical, typographical, or compositional errors according to the rules of English grammar, spelling, composition, and Braille rules established by the Braille Authority of North America. I perform other Braille proofreading and production duties as designated. I generate a log of all errors found per project. I consult reference books or secure the aid of a reader to check references to rules of English grammar and composition. I convert Braille documents to print files by reading the Braille and typing text into a Word file.

I produce thermoform pages and proof them for quality. I collate thermoformed pages into Braille volumes. I proof Braille volume labels. I spot-check volumes that are ready for shipping. I assist in training temporary help in thermoforming. I bind Braille volumes as needed. I cross-train in other areas as assigned by a supervisor.

To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job?

The cause of my blindness was retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), or retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) as it was known in the 1950s.

The alternative methods I use are: JAWS with Microsoft Office 2007 (Word, e-mail, Internet, and Excel). Additionally, I use a sighted person who reads the print copy while I read the Braille.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

To enter this position, a high school diploma or GED is required. One also must have the Literary Braille Proofreader Certification from the Library of Congress or must be in the process of securing the certification.

What influences did you have along the way which aided you to be successful?

Those who influenced my success were some of my co-workers in the ESC 20 Braille Department.

Braille Specialist

Eric Clegg

What do you do on your job?

My primary assignment is Braille production specialist for the Department of Rehabiliation Services. Working under the supervision of the manager of the business services section, the position is responsible for producing materials in Braille on request for department employees, and for a fee for other public agencies. 

Essential job functions include several things. Forty percent of the job is proofreading Braille documents for readability and accuracy for the department's clients. On occasion, I utilize other department Braille-reading staff to review and validate the use of Braille so as to conform to the department's standards. Thirty percent is using Braille translation software to translate, edit, and format documents in Braille. Ten percent is printing documents on the Braille embosser, and tracking and logging Braille requests to note the time and materials required to complete requests. Ten percent of the job is meeting with appropriate staff from other state agencies to market the Braille services provided by the Department of Rehabilitation and produce invoices for the Braille services provided to other state agencies. Five percent is overseeing the maintenance of the Braille embosser, scanner, burster, and binder, including cleaning and ordering supplies as needed. Marginal job functions include 5 percent of time spent packaging and mailing Brailled documents.

To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job?

I was born in Lima Peru, South America, in 1947. My blindness was caused by RLF (now called ROP).

We use Duxbury Braille translation software in my agency. In addition, I also use JAWS screen reading software, a TSI Power Braille 80 Braille display, and Open Book scanning software.

We also use two Braillo 200 embossers to actually produce the Braille for my agency.

Additionally, I use a Perkins Braillewriter and a slate and stylus. I often take a Braille Sense Classic notetaker into the field.

I use a long carbon fiber cane for travel.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

I took a rigorous Braille test, given by the state of California, ten years ago when I was hired. I also have taken and passed the Braille literacy competency exam.

I am a lifelong Braille reader and have been reading and writing the code since I was six years old.

My college degrees are a BA in Spanish with a minor in French and psychology. I also have a master's degree in Spanish with a concentration in Latin American literature and a minor in education.

What influences did you have along the way which aided you to be successful?

Blind friends, particularly those in the Federation, spurred me on to be successful. I have done various jobs throughout my life but I've also spent lots of time job hunting. It was the NFB that urged me to never give up.

So far as I'm concerned, I have the perfect job!

Data Entry Specialist-Medical Biller

Cheryl Echevarria

What do you do on your job?

I am a certified insurance specialist, which includes being a medical insurance biller and coder. Primarily the job is to take all patient information: correct spelling of first name, middle initial, last name, date of birth, home address, phone number, if employed, name of employer, insurance card information, as well as the name of the doctor who saw the patient.

Then, the coding comes into place: choosing the correct code for the reason the patient is seeing the doctor, what was done in the office, and then the code for the outcome.

To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job?

I have reduced visual acuity from diabetes. I am legally blind.

I use ZoomText on my computer. I do not need to work with paper documents.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

To be a medical biller one does not require schooling. However, it is helpful to know the laws of insurance, how Medicare and the other insurances work, and to have a basic knowledge of what goes on in a doctor's office. I would highly recommend a nine-month course in office procedures. Much of the needed specialized knowledge is learned on the job and the more knowledgeable you become, the more jobs of this nature will become open to you.

To be a medical coder in a hospital is a different story altogether. This requires you to complete a series of classes that can take up to four years, and includes taking health information management coursework. You will need to take the national certification test from AHIMA, which is the American Health Information Management Association examination.

What influences did you have along the way which aided you to be successful?

I went into this field because of my frustrating experience dealing with the health system. In 2001, I became blind due to diabetes, lost kidney function, and had to go on dialysis. Then, in 2005, I had a kidney transplant. During this transition in life, dealing with doctors' offices, Medicare, and insurance companies, I realized I could do this work and do it better than those who performed the work for me.

Grants Clerk

Theresa Lynn Powers

What do you do on your job?

At the National Cancer Institute which is a part of the National Institute Of Health In Maryland, my position is secretarial in nature. My major duties are phones, Xeroxing, shredding, recycling, escorting, and some faxing.

To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job?

I have optic atrophy. When I was an infant I had a blood clot that damaged both optic nerves. I have tunnel vision which means my field of vision is very limited. My sight is rated at 20/400.

In the office, I have a desktop computer with JAWS and a Braille display. I also use an mPower notetaker and a Perkins Braille writer. My folders are in Braille for me and in print for the staff. I even did filing for five years by using jumbo print cover sheets, where employees could check off information, write a statement, or request as to what kind of document to be filed. I also make deliveries on and off campus. To get to campus, I use my cane and take a shuttle bus. Since I have a hearing problem, I have an amplifier on my phone and use a headset to connect my phone and computer into one. It has a microphone so I can type while being on the phone.

Another handy tool, which I personally created, was a handbook with reference material about all our employees. In it, I have phone numbers, degrees, titles, e-mail addresses, and more. This gives me the ability to answer simple calls like, "What is Dr. Smith's title?" So I can look it up, and the scientific staff does not have to be bothered with it.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

To be hired into a secretarial position you can have either relevant job experience or some kind of office technician degree from a two-year trade school. When I started 20 years ago, I came aboard as part of the federal Schedule A Program which was designed to bring in disabled people into government employment.

What influences did you have along the way which aided you to be successful?

When I first started working, an employee named Carlos took me under his wing and taught me how to use the computer system. With my ambition to work and his support, I slowly progressed. The branch chief observed my success and my willingness to work. After two years and a lot of hard work from the branch, a position was created for me. The National Federation of the Blind is my other big support and I am a promoter of Braille.

Office Assistant II

Charlene R. Smyth

What do you do on your job?

I file and work the switchboard.

I use the computer to type documents and forms, do electronic case management, look up things on the Internet, and correspond via E-mail. I create case files and labels, send faxes, shred papers, make copies. I maintain the equipment, such as loading paper, changing printer cartridges, etc. My other duties include: taking and delivering messages, scheduling appointments and following them up with appointment letters, and maintaining the calendar.

To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job?

I am totally blind from injuries due to a car accident that resulted in a severed optic nerve of the left eye and a detached retina of the right eye.

The screen reading program Window-Eyes allows me to access all aspects of the computer programs used on the job. A Braille Lite allows me to store notes, information, and a database. A light probe allows me to see what lines are lit up on the switchboard. A scanner with the software OpenBook, allows me to scan and read printed material. A Perkins Braille writer allows me to put Braille on case folders for filing as well as for note taking. A Romeo Braille printer allows me to print information out in Braille that I might want to refer to later. I also print out letters and other information in Braille for our blind consumers. The Language Master dictionary allows me to look up the correct spelling of words as well as their definitions to insure proper usage. A DYMO Tape labeler allows me to make Braille labels for the copy machine and other equipment so I can use them independently.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

A high school diploma and at least two years of training or experience are required. With increased experience and knowledge, an individual can apply for higher level jobs as they become available.

What influences did you have along the way which aided you to be successful?

I had an excellent instructor in business and medical typing and terminology classes in high school. I then went on to a business school where I got a medical secretary diploma. I also received computer training at the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services for the Blind. I did not have one specific mentor, but teachers who cared about me, my education, and my future went a long way toward me taking my education seriously and making appropriate plans. I also have a number of blind friends with whom I network and exchange information.

Project Manager 

Mark Chorna

What do you do on your job?

I have chosen one work assignment from the many I worked on during the past fifteen-year period.  I was project coordinator for the Macina Child Survival Project in Mali, for three years. My role was to coordinate their efforts, establish and evaluate the methods used, and evaluate and compare the program's progress in each of the one hundred villages for which my team was responsible. 

Macina was an isolated Fulani village near Timbuktu, just south of the Sahara, in the African Sahel.  The village of eight hundred people was over two hundred miles from the nearest paved road.  The project's objectives were to decrease child mortality (child death before the age of five years).  Before the project began, 36 percent of the children in the region of over one hundred villages died before that age. When I left the project three years later, child mortality was down to 15 percent.

To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job?

I was born with Stargardt's Disease.  It is also referred to as 'Juvenile Macular Degeneration.'  My vision slowly deteriorated.  At the age of 46 I was declared legally blind when my sight dipped below 1/10.  It is now at 1/30, corrected with eye-glasses.  I have some peripheral vision and can see well enough to navigate on foot.  I can't read, and obviously cannot drive.  I don't recognize people by sight, and can't do any manual work demanding precision.

Most of my reading is by audio books.  And for the computer, I use a speech synthesizer.

I travel on public transportation alone.  I ask people for help on trains, subways, and planes, and have rarely been refused this assistance.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

I have master's degrees in engineering and economics.  I was also fortunate to have had twenty years of professional experience before low vision required me to seek alternative methods to work professionally.  I have taken classes at the Paris Institute for the Blind to learn new specialized computer skills.  I am also helped by friends or professional technicians to update my computers as new products come onto the market or need modifications.  

What influences did you have along the way that aided you to be successful?

There is one person who has aided me beyond measure: my wife of almost fifty years.  Yes, she reads to me, and takes care of all the family and home tasks that I can't handle, but far more than that she has worked with me around the world.  In the program I described above we functioned as one person, and our program in Mali was cited in the U.S. Congress as a model for American-funded Child Survival programs in Africa. Thanks to that harmony the program had a coherent leadership and was a life experience for both of us.

Switchboard Operator/Receptionist

Mary Beth Moline

What do you do on your job?

At Bernick's Pepsi, I answer phones, transfer calls to the appropriate extensions, greet customers as they come in, and I also do collating and stapling projects.

To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job?

I have congenital blindness. I was told that after the first three months my mother was pregnant with me, my eyes stopped developing.

While on the job, I use a computer with JAWS and I also use a Braille directory, as well as Brailling up the buttons on the switchboard with DYMO Tape.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

I was told they needed someone with at least five years of experience, and I had more than that.

What influences did you have along the way which aided you to be successful?

I had someone from Complete Career Service and also my counselor from Services for the Blind.

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