Basics Behind Maintaining Employment As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Woman crossing out 'un' in word 'unemployed' to read 'employed.'Change word of unemployed to employed

In today’s economic climate, it’s not only be difficult to find gainful employment, it can also be a struggle maintaining a job once hired. This becomes an even bigger issue for people who are blind or visually impaired. There are many individuals (with and without disabilities) who might be recycling into unemployment and the job hunt. There are many reasons for this, but it’s my belief that it comes down to three main issues: compensatory skills, interpersonal skills, or proper training.

There are other factors of course, but I’d like to address these specific issues. Below, you will find some tips and advice that can be the difference between staying on the job and re-initiating the job search.

Compensatory Skills

Compensatory skills are those basic skills that allow you to be successful and operate somewhat independently. You have to understand time management—a large category for employment. Under this topic, you would find punctuality, managing your schedule, completing tasks efficiently, and even multitasking. It seems quite basic that a person should show up on time and stay for their full shift. If transportation issues are affecting your ability to make it to the job during the specific hours, it may be possible to work with your supervisors to flex your time or adopt a schedule that relates to the transportation. This is not possible for all jobs, and it only should be explored after other avenues have been exhausted.

Tips for honing your compensatory skills:

  • Use a calendar or scheduling system and live by it!
  • Find a method to keep track of your tasks and evaluate the importance, and adjust this daily.
  • Don’t push the large, complicated task(s) to the end.
  • Be punctual: know your transportation well, and always have a plan B (as a person who is blind or visually impaired, access to transportation can be the key to maintaining employment!). Punctuality maintains employment and recurring tardiness gets you unemployed.
  • Arrive early or on time, and leave as scheduled or as directed by your superior. Sometimes, it may be necessary to put in extra time, as approved.
  • Stay organized: keep your work organized and easily accessible. Use techniques to make your organizational method accessible, whether you use electronic files, braille or large print labeling. The method has to work for you. Your computer files should be organized in appropriate files, just as print documents should be.
  • Information access is key to success. Know the time—literally. This could be through a cell phone, computer, or braille or large print watch.
  • Your keyboarding or tech skills could fall under compensatory skills. Stay up to date and keep your skills up. Use of technology could be the difference between keeping a job and having to look for one. The most expensive technology is not always necessary, but newer technology tends to have more features that might offer efficiency.

Interpersonal or Social Skills

Interpersonal communication deals with the interactions between persons whether in a verbal, non-verbal, or written communication. Interpersonal skills can be a difficult topic, but I would venture to guess that most persons who have issues maintaining employment may need help in this area. It has been shown that employers are more willing to keep a person on the job, even when performing poorly, if they like them and their office enjoys their presence. Being able interact with your coworkers in an appropriate manner makes a difference. As a person who is blind or has low vision, it can be difficult tell when someone is addressing you; don’t always assume it is meant for you.

That said:

  • Sometimes it is good idea just to listen and let your coworkers express themselves.
  • Knowing about current events can provide talking points to interact with colleagues.
  • However, don’t “overchat” with your coworkers̬remember, you’re “on the clock.”
  • Dating your coworkers can be a bad idea because you might intend on working there for a long time. Most people don’t enjoy spending long periods of time with (future) exes. If you really are into dating a coworker, while typically not advised, it’s a good idea to disclose a serious relationship to your human resources department.
  • Some information is best left unsaid. (“Keep your drama at home with your Mama!”)
  • Remember, conversations are meant to be reciprocal—give and take. Don’t dominate the conversation, and don’t stand there not saying anything. Think balance.
  • If your coworkers go out to lunch together, you might want to participate on occasion.
  • Don’t engage in gossip. You never know where that will end up. Your coworkers, at least most of the time and for most people, are not your best friends.
  • Be polite and gracious on the job. Remember to say please and thank you.
  • If you are blind or visually impaired, and are getting rides from a colleague, offer gas money or buy him or her lunch once in a while. (Coffee never hurts either. Know how he or she takes it.

Training

Training is such a broad term and could include some of the aforementioned basic compensatory skills as well. Training could be related to specific job tasks, technology, or asking the appropriate questions during the start of a job. Not all persons are willing to ask the necessary questions to allow them to be successful, and not all persons are willing to take notes and put in the necessary effort to learning a new job or task. There are organizations who don’t put enough effort into training their employees, but there also individuals who make their employers think they don’t need further training. Either way, this can be a recipe for joining the not-so-great employment statistics in the not-too-distant future.

Therefore:

  • Make sure you are up to par or better on your blindness compensatory skills.
  • Gets the necessary technology training to make you efficient or better with whatever tech aspects you have to perform on the job. I know this sounds broad and simple, but so many overlook this.
  • Pay attention and listen!
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions and take notes during training. Hidden bonus: if your employer sees you doing this, he or she will likely take note and appreciate the effort.
  • Take the time to review your notes and practice—such effort is important.
  • Make sure you get the necessary training to allow you to succeed. There are a wide range of training materials (manuals, tutorials, etc.) that can be found online covering all kinds of skills and topics.

Remember, we’re here to help. AFB CareerConnect provides resources on the necessary skills for maintain and succeeding on the job within the Succeed at Work section’s subsection, Succeeding on the Job. There are a number of articles resources related to communication, problem solving on the job, and what it takes to be successful.

“Unemployment” to “employment” photo courtesy of Shutterstock.