I think many of us make the mistake of leaning too heavily on vocational rehabilitation agencies while failing to take our own initiative. I am enjoying a degree of employment success. My career in the technology industry is now ten years long. At no time did a vocational rehabilitation agency place me in a job.
I am not saying that you should not use the services provided by VR agencies. Get the assistive technology you will need to perform the duties of a job. At a bare minimum, this would probably be a screen reader such as JAWS. Try to get this assistive technology and associated training before you start seeking employment. Assistive technology is obviously essential in order for us to be employed. If you need something that VR won’t provide, go ahead and escalate the matter within VR but also try to find other sources of funding. You should also use the services of VR agencies to obtain training in blindness skills and the skills required to obtain and retain employment. You’ll need to be able to write exceptional cover letters and resumes. You’ll also need to learn and practice the skills required to conduct a successful interview. Of course, you must also be otherwise qualified to perform the duties of the jobs you seek. This might mean you need to attend college or a technical school.
Once you are all set with your blindness skills, education, job skills and some basic technology to make your world accessible, get to it! Don’t wait for your VR counselor. Write your resume. Ask family and friends to proofread it for you. If you have professional colleagues whom you trust, ask them to proofread your resume. Once you are satisfied with your master resume, get started in the job search. Network, network, network! Let your friends, family and other associates know that you are looking for a job and always emphasize your abilities and the reasons why you’re the best candidate for any opportunity! Utilize online job search resources such as CareerBuilder.com. Respond to any openings that meet your qualifications. Write those convincing cover letters and get those resumes out the door. When you start getting interview offers, do NOT mention your blindness on the telephone! Dress professionally and Get yourself to those interviews. Until you have obtained paid employment, volunteer, volunteer, and volunteer some more! Community service activities are a recognizable way of showing that you’re active and are not just sitting at home waiting for that phone to ring. Keep going with this cycle until you have achieved success!
There are, indeed, serious issues that impact us when we attempt to obtain or retain our employment. They involve accessibility, transportation and negative social attitudes about blindness. But, there are also people who see our value and will give us that opportunity. I have talked with lots of blind people over the years about employment. My findings? Most blind people don’t have a job because they don’t take most of the necessary steps to achieve success. They are sitting at home on Social Security and other public assistance waiting for their VR counselor to do something! When you take the initiative and act for yourself, you show the world that you have what it takes to effectively perform the duties of that job you seek!