Avoid a Rough Transition to Work As a Job Seeker Who Is Visually Impaired

AFB CareerConnect’s Resources Pave the Way

Well, here we are in the graduation season. Congratulations to you if you are celebrating at this time of the year.

Many of you are transitioning from high school or college to work this summer. For those of you who have not landed a job yet, hang in there, be sure to use CareerConnect resources for conducting your job search.

I have a personal story to share about my first career endeavor. It is a cautionary tale. But, learn from my experience and plan accordingly.

Older man and young man shaking hands while sitting at a desk

The Story of My First Job

My first job was with a Fortune 500 company right out of college. I was determined to become a stock broker. This first job put my career on the track I desired.

Only five years or so had passed since I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. There was some peripheral vision loss, but my acuity was still good, or so I thought. Using a long white cane or a dog guide had not yet entered my mind.

The perceptions of others added to the stumbling block. My manager and my coworkers found it hard to believe I was visually impaired in the slightest. Generally speaking, without the white cane or the dog guide, I did not fit the traditional profile of a blind or visually impaired person.

Two more internal factors were at work. My struggle to make peace with retinitis pigmentosa, and my unwillingness to swallow my pride and discuss my disability and my needs.

My first week of work began with high expectations. Once I began using the company’s computer system, I knew things would get tough. By the end of the week, it became apparent I was going to have difficulty seeing some of the letters and numbers on the computer screen. Although I completed the training class, it was an ominous beginning.

Little did I know the stage had been set for an employment disaster. What followed was an unfortunate series of miscommunications and misunderstandings. No one, not me, not my manager, nor the human resources department could figure out how to improve the situation.

The real culprits were my eyesight and the company’s electronic trading system. Nothing could forestall the vision loss. Sadly, assistive technology was incompatible with the computer trading system in use at the time.

Fortunately, I learned the duties and responsibilities well enough to be reassigned as a trainer. But, less than a year after starting my career, I resigned from the position.

Heartbroken and feelings hurt, I forged ahead. In less than two weeks, I accepted a position with a different company in a related field of work. This time, I worked harder to communicate my visual impairment and my needs.

Navigating the Workforce Today

That all happened nearly 20 years ago. Today, assistive technology has improved. Employers are making progress towards understanding the abilities and contributions blind and visually impaired people bring to the workforce.

The American Foundation for the Blind, specifically through CareerConnect, has brought forth invaluable resources for career-minded blind and visually impaired people. In hindsight, a bountiful resource, like CareerConnect, could have prepared me for my first career endeavor all those years ago.

You have worked hard to graduate from high school or college. You have overcome numerous challenges to achieve your educational goals. Now, take the time to use CareerConnect’s resources. Educate yourself about career matters specifically targeted at helping you.

Give yourself an advantage by arming yourself with this knowledge as your career begins its lift off!

Resources for Students Transitioning from School to Work

Transition to Work: Program Activity Guide

Journey to a Successful Work Experience

Assertiveness Training: Introduction

Your Employment Story