As blind people, our physical lack of eye sight can often result in perceived weaknesses wehn it comes to our ability to perform in the workplace. Realistically, our inherent inabilities to drive and to independently read print text and graphics do present challenges not encountered by our sighted peers. We can choose to emphasize these factors to the world as the weaknesses they can certainly represent, or we can turn the techniques we use to deal with them in to assets that can benefit a potential employer. I will explain how Karen and I turn our supposed weaknesses in to assets.
Karen and I both ride our local paratransit service, East Valley Dial-A-Ride, to and from work. Since we are unable to drive an automobile due to our lack of eye sight and since other injuries severely curtail our ability to use the public city bus system, our transportation options tend to be quite limited. Our lack of independent transportation is clearly perceived as a serious weakness. But, this is not entirely the end of the story. Dial-A-Ride tends to work quite well when you set up your trips several days in advance. For our rides to and from work, we have established standing reservations to be picked up at home and returned at specific predetermined times. This arrangement works out quite reliably. It is probably just about as dependable as a sighted person’s automobile. Sighted coworkers are sometimes late to work due to their automobiles breaking down. Our strength in this situation lies in our highly developed skills of organization, planning and scheduling.
We are also both unable to read print or see graphics of any kind. Again, this is simply due to our physical lack of eye sight. It is another clearly perceived weakness. There are ways to turn this one in to a strength as well. Sometimes, the need to gain access to otherwise unreadable information involves our ability to work with our sighted peers. We agree to exchange favors with them or swap portions of the duties of our jobs so that the job gets done and everyone is satisfied with the result. We are thus encouraged to forge working relationships with our peers, fostering a team spirit that is welcome in the vast majority of companies. In other cases, we must work with other companies, such as content creators and publishers, to secure information in accessible formats. This requirement often serves to exercise our assertiveness, diplomacy and negotiating skills.
We are also a member of a subsection of society that endures a 75 percent unemployment rate! Even when employers with positive attitudes about us understand the value we can bring to their organization, we may remain unable to take on the job due to the ongoing inaccessibility of a significant amount of mainstream technology. We are thus often very happy to be able to locate a job where we are able to perform the required duties. We tend to take pride in our jobs, always striving to do better. We are highly dedicated, often possessing the strongest work ethic. We are thus most likely to embody all the right characteristics any employer could ever want in an employee: accountability, attendance, attention to detail, dedication, precision and an overall sense of ethical and moral values that are most compatible to continued employment.
Let’s count up some of the strengths and weaknesses and see how we rate!
- Unable to drive an automobile – lack of independent transportation.
- Inability to read print or interpret graphics or pictures – some issues of inaccessibility to print and information technology.
- Exceptional planning and scheduling abilities.
- Strong organizational skills.
- Exceptional work ethics.
- Team oriented.
- Strong emphasis on precision and attention to details.
- Assertive, taking the initiative to serve the customer.
- Highly skilled at diplomacy and negotiation.
We thus have two inherent weaknesses of blindness matched against seven strengths! I happen to know blind people who are even more capable than either Karen or myself. I also know that I haven’t counted all the strengths we bring to our employers and others. As always, your comments are quite welcome!