Where the Blind Work
Customer Service

Customer Service Representative I

Cody Dolinsek

What do you do on your job?

My duties consist primarily of answering questions of insurance agents and policy holders for property-casualty, otherwise known as auto and property insurance.  Every worker in this position is required to be licensed by the state of Iowa to discuss insurance with agents and policy holders.  Also, each of us is required to have rudimentary computer skills and a good work ethic.

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

My blindness is the result of being born prematurely.  The oxygen provided for me deteriorated my retinas and left me totally blind.

This of course has made it necessary for me to master alternative techniques that will enable me to perform my tasks in the workplace with the efficiency required to compete at the same level as my sighted peers.

These alternative techniques include the use of Braille, JAWS for Windows, and help from peers.  Help from peers is needed to read occasional faxes that policy holders send in to cancel their policies or to make changes to existing policies.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

My position does not require specific degrees or special training other than the license required to discuss insurance mentioned above.  On the other hand, Nationwide Insurance places a high premium on college degrees, mine being in philosophy from Drake University.  Nationwide views college education as an asset to success in the workplace because of the discipline fostered by such an education and the social skills one naturally acquires while in college.

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

A couple of things have contributed to my success.  First on the list would be my willingness to persevere through difficulties.  Sometimes things are not always easily done on the job and part of my success lies in coming up with solutions for the better performance of my responsibilities.  Secondly, my wife and other friends contribute to my success by their continual support and encouragement.

Randolph-Sheppard Vendor

Pamela J. Schnurr

What do you do on your job?

My job duties include cleaning, filling and repairing vending machines. Although I personally have a location with all vending machines, there are several other types of Randolph-Sheppard locations. The range of locations can vary from snack bar, gift shop cafeteria and some military dining facilities. There are also locations that may combine snack bar with vending machines. Randolph-Sheppard facilities may be on federal or state property. Some examples include: post offices; prisons; state, county, and federal office buildings and highway rest areas. Some managers run routes consisting of several small locations.

I am the manager of P. J. Snackery at the Indianapolis Post Office. I am very much a hands-on manager, providing great customer service. Customer satisfaction is our number one goal. A clean and safe environment is a must for all employees. I supervise three employees at the present time. Good communication skills are a necessity to perform this job. I am responsible for all state reports, taxes, payroll (collecting, counting, and depositing money are all a part of vending), inventory control, placing and receiving orders, and maintaining accurate bank records. My responsibilities include those normally associated with running a small business. Such duties include maintaining all insurance policies for product liability, workman's compensation, and tracking all financial transactions.

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

I have Hallermann Streiff Syndrome (HSS), which caused my blindness. I have some usable vision. I can get around with the use of the long white cane. I can read some large print but prefer to use my computer.

To assist me with many of my job duties, I use a computer which is equipped with JAWS; and to read, I use a scanner and the Kurzweil reading software. We use a talking coin sorter, bill counter, and calculator. I use several specific computer programs designed for a small business. Excel, MS Word, and Dome. I also use the Internet Web sites to place orders and e-mail state reports.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

This is a federal program specifically designed for blind people. Each state has a Randolph-Sheppard program run by either a state licensing agency or a nominee agency. You must be legally blind and a vocational rehabilitation client to be considered for this program.

In Indiana, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Each state has its own training requirements. Most state programs require some on-the-job training, also. This is a great job opportunity for blind persons interested in running their own small business. For further information contact the National Association of Blind Merchants at www.blindmerchants.org, or 1-866-543-6808.

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

One of the biggest influences in my life has been the National Federation of the Blind. Although I was in college at the time studying to be a social worker, I needed a job. I started working part time for a few of the blind vendors and realized that I loved the work. In the mid-eighties, I met our state president Ron Brown, who is also a Randolph-Sheppard Vendor. He encouraged me to go to Chicago to receive my vending training. This was a big step for me. I had been a stay-at-home mom and had never worked outside of my home. Although I consider myself to be a strong person, I don't think I could have made it with out the support of my family and the Federation.

Senior Travel Consultant

Marsha R Wallen

What do you do on your job?

My job is to provide travel services to those who have earned credit card miles in various programs. These travel services include air, car, and hotel accommodations as well as travel insurance. I use my company's special in-house software called GDS airline Global Distribution Systems to book travel for clients using both Sabre and Worldspan (also custom-made software for the travel industry). We use Avaya phone software to handle the volume of calls coming in. It is an inbound call center, so all of our clients call us.

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

I am legally blind, having about 20/400 in one eye and 20/200 in the other. My blindness is caused by congenital cataracts and secondary glaucoma.

I use ZoomText and a large monitor; however, I know that there are agents who use refreshable Braille displays.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

You can start out in travel with a high school education if the company provides training; however, to become a Certified Travel Counselor (CTC), there are certification tests you must take through The Travel Institute. You do not have to have the CTC certification, but it helps in getting jobs. I have been in this position for almost six years.

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

I was very lucky to be a good self advocate and have trainers who were willing to listen to my needs. My training came from working as a reservations agent at TWA and from programs through my company, Carlson Hospitality.

Teleservice Representative for the Social Security Administration

Susan Jones

What do you do on your job?

I answer callers' general and specific questions regarding Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare entitlement and give referral information to other agencies. I also process actions on behalf of callers who need to report changes to their personal information that may affect their benefits, such as changes of address, direct deposit changes, non-receipt of benefit payments, changes in work status, death, marriage, divorce, etc.

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

I am almost totally blind due to gestational rubella (German measles).

I use Braille, a talking calculator, a computer adapted with JAWS, and a Braille display.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

Applicants must have at least two years of college, good interviewing skills, and know how to use a computer to access and input information. Comprehensive training is provided, but the applicant is expected to have good learning skills, as the training moves quickly and the expectations are high.

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

I could not have obtained or persevered in doing this job without the encouragement and information I received from the National Federation of the Blind and my other blind friends. In addition, for ongoing support, there is an employees with disability listserv especially devoted to staff who use adaptive software for the blind and visually impaired. There is also a regional group which meets annually or every two years. I learn and practice new techniques to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of Social Security's computer network.

Where the Blind Work main