Where the Blind Work
Human Services

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Coordinator

Dr. Donald H. Shepherd

What do you do on your job?

I coordinate the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for the state of Iowa. The BRFSS is a joint venture between the Iowa State Department of Public Health and the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC). I ensure data is properly collected, analyze the data, report the data to constituents, produce an annual report, help formulate the next year's survey, publicize the findings and potential of the survey, and prepare necessary budgets and contracts.

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

I have 20/400 vision in the left eye and none in the right as a result of congenital cataracts.

I use the computer a lot with speech and magnification. I travel to national meetings about twice a year and to the data collection contractor about once a year. I use public transportation or a driver for these. I use a white cane in large airports.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

It is necessary to have a background in statistics. I have an advanced degree in experimental psychology, though it is more common for people in the job to have a degree in epidemiology or statistics.

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

Parental support stressing the value of education and a lot of persistence. My career path took several twists and turns with a few interruptions, but I finally got to where I wanted to be.

Civil Rights Specialist/Mediator

Diane Graves

What do you do on your job?

My job involves contacting individuals who have filed discrimination complaints and respondents in an effort to determine whether they might be interested in exploring settlement possibilities in their cases as opposed to going through the lengthy and often frustrating investigative and/or legal processes.

Assuming all parties are willing, we then establish a date that will work for all, and I conduct the mediation conference. This involves presenting an opening statement to put everyone at ease; letting them know that I am not on either party's side but am a neutral third-party. We then allot time for both positions to be expressed, and I attempt to facilitate discussion as to how the matter might be resolved. If we are successful, we will take a break, long enough for me to put together an agreement which all parties will sign, thus resolving the complaint. If we are unsuccessful, I will forward the case back to the respective investigator and the case will go forward from there.

There are many variations. Sometimes these mediations are conducted via telephone conference, sometimes I negotiate back and forth through a series of calls, and the parties never actually meet. All of these involve varying plans of action. However, this, in a nutshell, is what I do.

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

I am totally blind due to retinoblastoma.

I cannot stress enough how helpful and important that good Braille skills are in helping with my success in the professional arena. I use Braille DYMO Tape labels to organize my forms and case files into individual file folders so that I can access them quickly and on demand. I use Braille for taking notes in mediations and other meetings that I can refer to expeditiously as needed.

I also have a Braille embosser in place so that I can print out any computer files and office related manuals or documentation that I may need to access away from my workstation.

I use the JAWS screen reading software, and also have an ALVA Braille Terminal which aids with computer access. I also utilize a text scanner and the Kurzweil scanning software enabling me to access the printed material necessary to my job and other interoffice communications.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

I work for the state of Indiana, Civil Rights Commission, and all of our Civil Rights Specialists come from varying educational backgrounds. Most do have B.A. degrees, although I do not. I began my employment here 17 years ago as the frontline receptionist and have sort of migrated to this position over time. Many of our Civil Rights Specialists have degrees in English, (good writing and communication skills are a plus). Others have degrees in education, history, psychology, and varying other fields.

I am fairly certain that most states do have Civil Rights Agencies, although the agency titles may vary. Similar employment opportunities could also be found at the department(s) of Justice, or on a federal level, at the EEOC.

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

I didn't have any real notable mentors growing up, although I have always had an intense passion for Civil Rights. So, you might say that one of my mentors was Dr. Martin Luther King. After I had worked at the agency for about five years, I joined the National Federation of the Blind, and that is where the true mentorship came in. My only regret is that I didn't join the ranks years ago. It is as an active part of the NFB network that you will truly learn that your blindness does not have to define your life or stop you from being all that you can and want to be.

Coordinator of Disability Support Services at The Catholic University of America

Timothy J. Paulding

What do you do on your job?

I schedule and maintain a roster of sign language interpreters for special events and regular university classes. I supervise several student workers in e-text conversion and am primarily responsible for seeing that text conversion gets done efficiently and accurately. I advise the university's IT department on purchasing and upgrading assistive technology. I meet with students who have varying disabilities to discuss alternative techniques for studying and the assistive technology that is available to them. I usually screen a large variety of phone calls, mostly from concerned parents, and answer general questions about the disability services offered at our institution. I also implement, three times per year, program evaluation and assessment measures.

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

I am blind. I do have some usable vision in one eye, although very limited.

I use JAWS when accessing the computers on campus and in my office. I also use a BrailleNote PK to take notes during meetings and on phone calls, maintain a database of contacts, and perform other general computer/note-taker functions. I use our high powered scanners to scan reading materials from time to time. I also use a CCTV when needing to sign a document or fill out a form that must be in print.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

I have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Although a Master's degree is preferred for the position I currently hold, I have had a good deal of relevant experience that helped my qualifications. A great deal of that experience came to me after I joined the National Federation of the Blind. I sat on a committee that influenced policy for our state's department for the blind. I have mentored youth as president of the Michigan Association of Blind Students as well. I was also very involved with extra-curricular research activities at the University of Michigan during my college years and also headed up a community awareness campaign for certain initiatives that appeared on voting ballots in 2004. I also developed and implemented an educational research project at Camp Tuhsmeheta, a camp for blind children and youth in Michigan.

From here, I will pursue a Master's degree in social work, Ed psych, or something along those lines.

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

I have gained a great deal from my membership in the National Federation of the Blind. I have met dozens of blind, successful professionals of whom I could ask just about anything. They taught me a lot about how to be successful in my life as a blind person. I also attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind where I was challenged to think differently about my blindness and given specific skills and techniques to travel, read, cook, and use a computer completely independently. The NFB and the Louisiana Center for the Blind were really my steppingstones to becoming fully aware of what my blindness is and what it is not. I now hold a very respectable job and know I will go far in my life.

Counselor for the Senior Blind

Shannon Cook, MSW

What do you do on your job?

My job involves doing in-home training with seniors who are losing their vision to the point that it interferes with daily activities. I work with them to aid in communication, kitchen skills, personal hygiene, housekeeping, sewing, and medication management.

For low vision needs, I refer my consumers to our low vision clinic and a low vision specialist as well. Additionally, if mobility training and/or instruction in computers is required, I cannot provide these services myself because in my state it requires special certifications that I do not hold.

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

I was born with congenital cataracts and developed glaucoma at the age of three. I now have acuity of counting fingers.

For independent travel, I use a long white cane. For my job, the agency provides a driver and a car.

For my paperwork, I use a laptop with speech output: JAWS. I have made all of my forms into an accessible format on the computer so I can complete them in the consumer's home.

The only other time that I need sighted assistance is when I require the consumer to sign hardcopy forms, and when I need to mark a consumer's appliance (stove, washing machine, etc.) with raised dots.

A lot of what I do is to talk with clients to ease their minds about what blindness is and is not. Then, part of the program is that I give the consumers aids to help them regain their independence at home.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

A bachelor's degree was required. I have a master of social work degree that I obtained ten years ago. There were no other special requirements. The master's degree accounted for the requisite years of experience, but it was not a requirement in itself.

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

The Commission for the Blind was able to provide me with the adaptive software and some other technology needed.

Family Support Specialist

Nicole Robinson, LBSW

What do you do on your job?

As a family support specialist at the Arc, I advocate for children with disabilities. My clients are children beginning at birth and including all ages until they are twenty-two years old and graduate from high school.

I attend special education IEP (Individual Education Plan) meetings for my clients, making sure they are getting all of the support and services available so that they can be successful in school.

I work as a team member with my clients' parents as well as with various other professionals (teachers, therapists, school psychologists, diagnosticians, and counselors).

I also assist in creating IEPs and BIPs (Behavior Intervention Plans), which are legal documents.

I am an expert in the legal aspects of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

I am the mediator when problems arise.

I lead educational training seminars and facilitate a support group for parents who have children with various types of disabilities.

I work very closely with the parents of my clients by providing emotional support, referrals to other needed resources, and crisis intervention assistance.

Once my clients reach the age of fourteen, I assist them with creating a transitional plan. This transitional plan can assist with furthering their education and/or with job training skills that can promote independent living into adulthood.

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

I began losing my eyesight slowly at the age of seven. I have a juvenile form of macular degeneration.

I use JAWS on my desktop computer at the office and also on my laptop computer in meetings at my clients' schools, as well as at home visits.

I use a guide dog as well as a white cane for mobility purposes. I use our local transportation service here in Austin, called Capital Metro, to get to and from all of my appointments.

I use Kurzweil software and a scanner to convert hardcopy paperwork and forms into an electronic copy that is accessible for me. If there is a form or program that is not accessible, my agency is comfortable with allowing me to make any needed changes.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

One must have a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field, two years of working with people with disabilities, and knowledge in IDEA and special education is preferred.

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

I am the only blind employee at the Arc. I am not treated any differently than any other employee. However, management is always open and willing to accommodate me if and/or when I may need to do something a little differently due to my disability. I have been an employee at the Arc for over five years.

Family Therapist

Ann Chiappetta

What do you do on your job?

My responsibilities vary depending on whom I am helping, but generally I am responsible for evaluating and treating individuals, couples, and families experiencing life's difficulties. I make observations based on a complex system of evaluative tools which include interviewing/counseling, questionnaires, and video taping. I also use other assessment tools, like books and role-playing.

As a therapist I must excel at both verbal and written communication. Additionally, I have developed my ability to observe others without relying on my vision. In order to evaluate and treat my clients, I need to keep accurate records and session notes as well as present cases to my supervisor on a weekly basis. I must be able to address groups and present myself in a confident, professional manner.

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

I live with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. I was originally diagnosed when I was 28 (I am 42) and have been learning to live with the progression as it comes.

I use many alternatives in my life, including a cane, sunglasses, and Braille, just to name the top three aids. As far as my job goes, I use adaptive software, (Zoom text) and a CCTV, the latter of which I use only for filling out forms that cannot be done via a computer. I also use Openbook and a scanner and sometimes ask someone to read if text is handwritten.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

In order to obtain my master's degree in marital & family therapy, I first had to obtain an undergraduate degree and then go on to attend graduate school. The two degrees equal seven years of college, full-time. I also had to intern and accrue more than 500 client contact hours to complete my degree. I am currently studying for my licensure exam; once I pass the exam, I will be fully licensed to practice independently anywhere in the United States.

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

Thanks to organizations like the National Federation of the Blind, I now know I am capable and just as good as anyone else when it comes to using my brain. I also have a drive to know and understand people and how they think. This intense desire for knowledge propels me to go on and attain my dreams and aspirations. Of course, I would not have been able to commit to seven years of college without the patience and support of my husband, children, and family. They did the driving, cooking, and childcare while I was in school. I also had a wonderful team of rehabilitation counselors and mental health guidance. In college, I found another person who became my writing mentor, and because of her help, I attained a BA with honors. All of these people are still a presence in my life, and I am blessed to have them.

I also write poems and fiction and participate in online writers' groups and submit my writing regularly to a handful of small press publications, including the NFB Writers' Division's newsletter, Slate & Style. As far as my future plans, although I am not currently employed, I am looking for a job in my field. Until I find employment, I will keep writing and learning about people and the world around me.

Field Service Supervisor

Mary Jo Partyka

What do you do on your job?

In my job, I analyze initial fair hearing decisions prepared by administrative law judges concerning the welfare, Emergency Assistance and Food Stamp programs, and either adopt the decision, amend it if the decision does not conform to federal or state regulations, or remand it if more information is needed. As part of my job, I must read through information submitted by the county welfare agencies and look up information on our computerized databases. I also have good writing ability, which is necessary in the preparation of final decisions.

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

I am totally blind.

On the job, I use Braille to label decisions and to take notes. I use the Optacon and a character-recognition scanner to read and review decisions, which come on paper (hard copy). I keep important phone numbers and addresses in my VoiceNote, and all of my decisions are prepared on the computer.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

I got this job through a civil service promotional opportunity. I had to pass a supervisory test called the Battery in order to qualify and had to rank high enough on the list to get interviewed. I also had to have at least 5 years of experience working in assistance programs.

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

Some of my co-workers in the division were instrumental in helping me to get where I am today; and I am a good test-taker, which helped me get promotions. I supervised our division's hotline for almost ten years, and this gave me a good background in policy and budgeting, which is needed to know how to write the decisions correctly. The Commission for the Blind helped me to obtain the equipment I needed to get my job.

Lector (Lay Reader)

Pat Gormley

What do you do on your job?

I've been a lector (lay reader) for nearly forty years in both the archdioceses of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. While standing before the congregation, I read religious materials aloud to all present. This is every week and can be more then once during the week. I will am also available to read for special holiday and personal events such as weddings.

The choice of materials to be read can either be set by the institution or chosen by the lector. For example, normally, scriptures for Sundays and holy days are preselected in accordance with a three-year cycle. However, if readings are required for special occasions such as weddings or funerals, be familiar with your Bible so you can assist the parties in selecting the scripture passages.

It's also a good idea to look at the readings ahead of time so you don't get tripped up by some obscure Hebrew or Greek term. 

It is a good idea to get to church fifteen minutes ahead to check the microphone and go through the readings.

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

My blindness is from birth, a condition called RLF, or retrolental fibroplasia, now known as retinopathy of prematurity.

I use Braille to do my readings. I learned it as a child. I will use either a slate and stylist or a Perkins Braillewriter.

For most of my work I consult Braille materials to find what I need. Then I Braille it myself, or for longer materials, the church will use their Braille embosser.

In some cases I use a sighted reader to read material aloud so that I can put it into Braille.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

This is a volunteer position. The main requirements are being able to read at an appropriate rate and for a length of time in a good manner in order to present the material of the day.

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

First it would be my early involvement in the Church, listening to lectors and realizing that it was what I wanted to do, and realizing it was something I could do. This is an important service and I do not need payment for it.

Being a member of the NFB has also helped me along the way to be assertive and a confident blind person.


Stefan Slucki, Rev.

What do you do on your job?

I pastor a church congregation. I prepare sermons (one-way communication talks from me to the group). I conduct Bible studies (interactive communication for group discussion). I also have to visit with members in their homes and in mine, visit sick parishioners in hospitals, and conduct baptisms, weddings and funerals.

In addition, I have to provide written reports to my leadership team, participate in the wider work of my denomination via its ruling bodies (courts), and pray.

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

I am totally blind resulting from congenital glaucoma and detached retinas.

I am married to a fully-sighted wife and rely on her help for much transport, reading hand-written communications, and much insight concerning people.

I read a Braille Bible and use a Perkins Brailler to keep notes plus a BrailleNote notetaker and a desktop PC using the JAWS screen reader.

I have a Greek New and Hebrew Old Testament Bible in addition to my English translation.

I use the phone a lot to visit with people and a white cane plus taxi/cab vouchers to help with mobility.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

Various branches of the church require various qualifications. For my graduation, I needed to pass 4 years' worth of subjects equivalent to a Bachelor of Theology degree'I formally also completed that degree.

Certainly, some familiarity with New Testament (Koine) Greek and Hebrew is expected in my denomination.

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

I was encouraged by reading a publication entitled "The Gospel Messenger" put out by the late Dr. Ralph Montanus. This first alerted me to the possibility of becoming a blind minister. When being interviewed for acceptance as a probationary candidate for the Ministry, a member of the panel spoke of the effectiveness of two blind Ministers he had known in Scotland.

I had no mentor as such.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Jan Bailey

What do you do on your job?

I provide rehabilitation counseling to blind or visually impaired and deaf-blind individuals who want to obtain or retain employment, and I help them find jobs. I keep written records on all cases. There are plans to be developed, various types of paperwork to be completed at each stage of the case, forms or applications to be filled out, bills to be paid, and more. At times I must travel to meet with clients, employers, and to attend meetings and workshops.

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

I am totally blind. My blindness is from retrolental fibroplasia (RLF/ROP), too much oxygen in the incubator.

I use a computer with JAWS to fill out all my paperwork on our Web site. This would include: the individualized plan for employment, status change form, closure form, case dictation; I fill out talking book applications on the computer and e-mail them; and I research things on the Internet.

I use the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader to read things when I'm away from the office, such as eye reports people have for me to look at in their homes during the application process, reports at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, print information when I stay in hotels, things in the file so I don't have to take the file apart, and menus at restaurants. When I am in the office, I also use Kurzweil software in my desktop computer with a flatbed scanner to scan some other things at work.

I use a notetaker called the Braille 'n Speak to keep client records that I can access when I'm away from my office, such as information like phone numbers, my calendar, and the clock and calendar functions.

I also use a Perkins Braille writer, a slate and stylus, a Braille DYMO labeler for labeling files, and I have a Braille embosser for embossing things like notes for a speech or other things I want to have in Braille. I have a driver to drive me to my appointments. Sometimes I use a reader to pay authorizations and to read a few things that can't be scanned, such as skimming materials or something that is handwritten. My reader also helps me fill out some printed forms.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

A person could work in this field and eventually, with some experience, apply for supervisory jobs.

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

I had good blindness skills training, which I think is essential. I also did an internship at my present job when I was in college in my undergraduate program; but I first worked as a social worker in a nursing home for five years, because I wanted to have worked in a regular job before I became a rehabilitation counselor. I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind, which has helped me a lot during the time I've had my job.


Jennifer Bose

What do you do on your job?

I work on every stage of the research process from looking for grant proposals and other research opportunities, to brainstorming research projects and study designs with teams of coworkers, to collecting and analyzing data and writing and presenting findings. More specifically, I do many different research tasks such as look up articles, design and conduct in-person and phone interviews, administer surveys, and write and edit papers. This job requires the ability to work alone and as a team member.

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

I have no usable vision due to an underdeveloped optic nerve.

With my supervisor's help, I adapted this job so that I do not have to work with too much paper, although I do so much reading and writing. I use a computer with JAWS, a screen-reading program that works well with commonly-used programs such as the Microsoft Office Suite and programs that work with qualitative and quantitative research data. I tend to keep things in roughly the same places in my office so I can easily find them. Since my job involves working alone for part of each day and attending interviews and meetings frequently, I organize my day using Microsoft Outlook's calendar program and a paper to-do list (I feel so satisfied working my way down it and checking things off). I also use a Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader I carry with me so I can read handouts, mail I pick up in the copier room, and printouts I need to give to coworkers. I do work with a human reader from time to time who is also a general office assistant.

I work with my black Labrador guide dog, Willow, most of the time, but I always carry a cane and sometimes use it instead for shorter errands.

If I run into something I cannot do, such as drive, or can only do with difficulty, such as work with very visual research software, I do as much as I can of the challenging task and then work with my team so that a colleague can do parts of the job that are just not accessible while I might take on more of the parts I can do. Sharing responsibilities is just part of teamwork, anyway.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

An undergraduate degree in the social sciences is required for this position. A Master's degree, which I have, is also worth getting but is not required. Someone in this position should have strong interpersonal and writing skills and have good, strong computer skills, too. Knowledge of statistics is very helpful, although statistical programs can be tough to learn how to use with screen-reading software. Researchers should generally be interested in always learning new things, whether that means information being researched or research methods and software.

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

My parents encouraged me and made sure I worked and studied hard. I did not have a formal research mentor but was just drawn to research as I got to know professors and other people who worked in the field. After I had begun working as a researcher, I joined the National Federation of the Blind because I wanted to network with other blind people who were successful in similar jobs.

Social Workers

Jan Bailey

What do you do on your job?

I interviewed new patients in the nursing home, did a social history for the chart, charted on them every three months, helped with discharge planning, provided support and encouragement to the residents, did some shopping for the patients, and I provided information and support to the residents' families.

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

I am totally blind from retrolental fibroplasia (RLF/ROP), too much oxygen in the incubator after birth.

I used a Braille writer and typewriter; this was a long time ago. I also used a slate and stylus, Braille labeling slate to make Braille file labels, and some perforated paper to put in the chart so I would know where to begin typing. Today, I would do the notes on the computer. I used a driver to do the shopping, and a reader to do some of my paperwork.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

When I started, I had a bachelor's degree, but now you need a master's degree.

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

I had a good guidance counselor in high school who encouraged me to get some work experience. I worked summers and Christmas vacations in a darkroom splicing film; I will not write about this job, because it is obsolete; but it was definitely good experience for me to have. I have since moved on to another professional position as a rehabilitation counselor working with the blind and deaf-blind.

David R. Stayer

What do you do on your job?

I assess the medical and psychosocial needs of patients, implement a professional plan of intervention and resolution, and supervise social workers and student interns. I did not travel out of the hospital, but went to most of the 19 floors to see patients.

I wrote policy and procedures for clinic patients and those with disabilities.

I conducted training seminars for the eye doctors and other hospital staff on blindness and sensitivity to other disabilities.

I ran two groups, one for diabetics and facilitated a group for patients and families with ALS.

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

I am totally blind from birth.

For taking notes and keeping records, I used Braille.

Also, to utilize the hospital computer system, I used a computer with Window-Eyes.

I used volunteers which I screened to read handwritten notes and charts.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

One requires a Master's Degree and a professional license from your specific licensing agency. If you are a recent graduate, you must acquire the license within a specific time period and take a promotional exam.

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

I did not have a specific blind mentor, but being active in the National Federation of the Blind certainly helped in my attitude, which has led me to fight for my rights and that of others while I was working.

Veterans Benefits Counselor (Retired)

Richard Gaffney

What did you do on your job?

I advised veterans of the benefits available from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. I answered phone calls as well as interviewed clients at my desk. I also filled out forms on the computer.

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

I was born with congenital cataracts. I have minimal vision in one eye and none in the other.

I used JAWS software for the computer, a close circuit TV for reading, and a talking calculator.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

This was a general service level 5-9 position. Therefore, you must be at level 3 to qualify or have a BA degree. My hiring was through what is called a Schedule A appointment. I was a Vocational Rehabilitation client, and if you meet the minimal qualifications and have a letter of recommendation from your VR counselor, you can be considered for a short-term trial which later is rolled over into a permanent position. I worked 6 months under this program with the understanding that I would be considered for a position when one came available. After six months I was hired. There also is the regular competitive route to getting hired. Advancement is possible with the right qualification.

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

A friend told me about Schedule A appointments with the federal government.

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Robert Leslie Newman

What do you do on your job?

I assist consumers in successfully completing their Individualized Plan for Employment. Toward that end, I either directly provide or arrange for the following services: adjustment counseling, peer counseling from other blind people, vocational counseling and refer them to a rehab teacher to learn needed blindness skills.

If education is needed to reach their goal, I assist them in the choice of a school and then make sure they know the alternatives for functioning in the educational setting. Job development and placement-meeting with employers is a large part of the job; educating them, developing a working relationship, etc. Also finding job openings, assisting in filling out applications and/or writing resumes, etc. Public speaking'giving talks about blindness and/or the agency's services to such places as schools, in-services to businesses, etc. Record keeping'setting up and maintaining consumer files, writing letters, etc; good writing skills are a must. Community involvement'serving on various community based boards and/or committees is common. Travel'some consumers come to you, mostly you go to them. Some travel can be out of town or state and can be overnight. Team work'you work with other counselors and teachers. On a more personal level, be a good listener, communicate well, have good problem solving skills, being able to multi-task, know your communities services and more. You have to be a self-starter.

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

I am totally blind as a result of a car accident at age fifteen.

I use a long white cane for travel. For personal reading and writing, I use Braille. For the computer, I use JAWS and a 40-cell Power Braille. For notetaking, I use a PAC Mate with Braille display. For reading print materials, I use Openbook or a reader. For travel, I use the bus or a state car and driver.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

The educational requirement for a vocational rehabilitation counselor in the average state or private rehabilitation service agency for the blind is a Master's degree. The graduate degree can vary, from rehabilitation of the blind, to some type of human services degree. It is also possible, in some instances, to meet the employment criteria with just an undergraduate degree. Finally, the largest contributing positive to your employment potential is any prior experience you may have in working with the blind and knowing something of the special adaptive alternatives used by the blind. Lastly, continued employment may require updating of skills through the periodic taking of specialized workshops and/or classes.

As for advancement, you can become a supervisor or some type of program administrator, then move on to higher level administration jobs within the rehab setting'assistant director or executive director.

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

As I believe will be seen in many of these employment descriptions, it was the influence of other blind people that was the most value to me. Seeing that others were being successful sparked not only my interest, but also my competitiveness. As they say, and it's true for blind folks too, "Seeing is believing." In addition, joining a consumer group of the blind, the National Federation of the Blind in my case, was one of the best moves I have ever made. There I found numerous well adjusted, employed and successful blind people. The NFB has a vast library of material to be read and many services to be tapped into when needed.

Volunteer Services Coordinator

Racquel Decipeda

What do you do on your job?

I refer and recruit volunteers for other nonprofit organizations, as well as some government offices, schools and hospitals. I also maintain and update the database of agencies we work with. In addition, I maintain and update our listings of special events, of agencies needing ongoing volunteers and those having short-term volunteer opportunities that we need to recruit for. I also assist our membership department, to maintain and update the information for agencies approved to receive court referred community service volunteers.

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

I have retinitis pigmentosa (RP). I only have light perception left.

The adaptive technologies I used for work are JAWS, OpenBook, PAC Mate, and a Braille embosser.

What are the qualifications to enter this job position?

Different organizations have different qualifications for this type of position. Some require a degree, some only a high school diploma. It really depends on how the agency has designed their job description.

There are many different types of agencies or services found within a community that have a volunteer services coordinator on staff. They range from nonprofit agencies providing after-school programs, schools, senior centers or agencies providing services to seniors, hospitals, animal care services, nonprofit theaters, social services, etc.

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

I actually started as a volunteer receptionist. I got hired as a paid employee after a year and a half. I was a volunteer receptionist for five to six years. While I was a receptionist, I kept asking to be given more responsibilities, not just answering phones, and they did. I became the volunteer coordinator for both the youths and the adults in 2003.

Where the Blind Work main