What if I told you there’s a place you can listen to individuals who are blind or low vision share about their current employment and how they prepared for it? There, you can ask your pressing questions—how did they know the career field is what they wanted to pursue; how did they navigate disclosing blindness/ low vision; how did they find employment; and how do they make the job accessible to them, an individual who is blind or low vision?
There certainly is a place—and that place is conveniently virtual: Career Conversations. You’re invited to look back at the past year of recorded Career Conversations and join us for future live Career Conversations.
Throughout winter, spring, and fall, APH ConnectCenter staff and guest cohosts welcome, introduce, and engage with working blind and low-vision professionals from all backgrounds. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, musicians, scientists, and many others step onto the APH CareerConnect stage on zoom. Each interview begins with a discussion on how our featured working professional started out and ended up in their career, including how advocacy, determination, and confidence played a role throughout their successful journey.
The remainder of the hour-long session provides an opportunity for Transition age students and curious job seekers to follow up with choice career-related questions. Registered attendees, including young adults, job seekers, teachers, and rehabilitation professionals, can engage with our guests through real-time Q&A networking by practicing informational interviewing.
Why Career Conversations is a Terrific Tool
Sharing concrete, raw examples of failure, success, confidence-building experiences, grit, and determination are the insights that we read, learn, and listen to from featured blind and low-vision professionals.
Transition-age youth, curious adult job seekers, and practitioners can learn via live zoom conversations or reference the Career Conversations archives at their convenience on personal devices. Career Conversations can be used for career exploration and self-growth. Whether as a class or job search assignment, these interactive interviews provide a growing catalog of blogs and videos of successful working blind and low-vision professionals.
In celebration of one year of Career Conversations, let’s look back at the individuals we’ve engaged with thus far…
This past year we interviewed, both by blog and live on zoom, ten working adults who are blind or low vision. Entrepreneurs, career advocates, voice actors, attorneys, financial managers, and more joined the Career Conversations ranks. Their stories at the time of the recording now live both in a brief blog bio on APH CareerConnect and through Career Conversations zoom webinars, now uploaded on our YouTube page.
Let’s take a look!
Web Accessibility Evangelist: Lucy Greco
Ever the athlete, chef, and risk-taker, and determined to make opportunities accessible for those with disabilities, Lucy’s career progression included coaching goal-ball, cooking instruction for those who are blind or low vision, assistive technology instruction, and later helping college students with course accessibility at the University of California, Berkeley. In time, the university gave Lucy a full-time position leading a team devoted to systemic accessibility on campus. In other words, Lucy and her team help ensure accessibility is “born” or “baked” into campus technology from the beginning.
Lucy’s Career Conversation:
Manager of Integrated Behavioral Health: Dr. Heidi Joshi
Dr. Heidi Joshi didn’t heed the poor advice she received to avoid a career in education as a person who is blind. She is a Clinical Psychologist who, in her words, “builds and leads educational programs for medical and graduate students, fellows, and residents while overseeing clinical activities and personally treating patients of all ages across multiple areas of mental health.”
Dr. Joshi’s Career Conversation:
Voice Actor and Small Business Owner: Satauna Howery
Satauna began her career in tech support with programs such as Windows 95. She later decided to pursue coaching in voice acting and opted also to acquire a professional demo. She then boldly joined casting sites where she shared her biography and presented her demos, and where she could comb through audition opportunities.
Little by little, Satauna’s experience grew, as did her development of skills through continued education by researching trends and continued pursuit of coaching. Satauna has now been in the field for ten years.
Satauna’s Career Conversation:
Disabilities Program Manager at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Lead for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility: Denna Lambert
Denna Lambert started her career at NASA right after college – and has continued evolving into new and exciting roles with the agency, including becoming the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) lead for NASA’s Early Stage Innovations & Partnerships (ESIP), which is part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) initiative.
Denna’s Career Conversation:
Director of Accessibility, Diversity, and Inclusion: Tai Tomasi
Tai grew up as one of 27 children adopted from all over the world. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, then a master’s degree in Public Administration, followed by a law degree from the University of Iowa. Her employment background is in disability rights.
Tai’s Career Conversation:
Senior Vice President-Wealth Management and Senior Investment Management Consultant: Gena Harper
Gena understands that blindness doesn’t have to hold one back from a life of adventure, competition, independence, or career success. After gaining self-confidence—understanding for the first time that people aren’t “less than” because they are blind or low vision—and after spending time learning blindness-specific skills at a living skills center, Gena chose to pursue a career in finance. She persevered through training and learned through a mentor. Gena eventually began working at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management as the Senior Vice President of Wealth Management and the Senior Investment Management Consultant.
Gena’s Career Conversation:
Accessibility Lead for Instagram: Kiran Kaja
Kiran’s career interest was kindled from the years of first operating a computer and scanner and voraciously listening to audiobooks as a “ravenous-for-information” teen. Kiran understood that the experience of acquiring independence and access to information made possible by technology is something that should be available for everyone. “Technology has changed my life, and I want to ensure others with disabilities have the technology they need to be independent and successful. It’s my passion,” he says.
Kiran’s Career Conversation:
Career Placement Expert: Khadija Bari
After obtaining a degree in Economics, Khadija utilized VISIONS/Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired for assistance with her job placement. She proceeded to meet with the agency which was so impressed with Khadija’s skills that they asked if she wanted to apply for a job opening. She said yes – and interviewed for the position the next day. She was promptly hired as the Student Career Coordinator.
“In the beginning, I thought I’d still go back to working in finance and data analysis, but six years later I’m still here,” Khadija says.
She moved up through the organization, serving as College Program Manager and, in April 2022, she was named the Director of Placement Services.
Khadija’s biography blog: Meet Khadija Bari: A Career Placement Expert
Khadija’s Career Conversation:
Embalmer: Cassandra McNabb-McKinney
Being an embalmer and funeral director isn’t on the list of many people’s career choices. In fact, it’s often a trade handed down through generations of a family. But for Cassandra McNabb-McKinney, it’s work she felt called to do, both by her own experience and her faith. Cassandra started her career as an apprentice, which is standard for the trade. But she’s since gained so much skill that she has been the teacher to six apprentices so far.
Cassandra’s biography blog: Cassandra McNabb-McKinney: Working as an Embalmer – CareerConnect (aphcareerconnect.org)
Cassandra’s Career Conversation:
Production and Actor Consultant on Portraying Blindness: Joe Strechay
“I watched all these films about disability and blindness, and I never felt like it represented me,” Joe says. “Because I was writing about entertainment, both critiquing it and giving input, I started interviewing some prominent people.” This part-time hobby became a career.
From Netflix’s Daredevil to See on Apple TV+, Joe Strechay now ensures that blindness is represented accurately, especially by sighted actors. We talked with Joe about his exciting career in the entertainment business!
Joe’s Career Conversation:
A Look Ahead
We work diligently on identifying working professionals from all walks of life who will appeal to the greatest number of APH CareerConnect visitors. In 2023, APH CareerConnect staff plan to interview individuals who are blind or low vision working as a braille transcriber, a librarian, an owner of an audio production company, business owners, and many more.