Job Searches, Applications and Interviews: Firsthand Experiences of People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Gone are the days in which a person held the same job for forty years or more. People are likely to have many jobs throughout their working life. To keep up with your interests, acquired skills and lifestyle desires, you will likely search for a job many times throughout your career.

Did You Know? The Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the average worker will hold 12-15 jobs over a lifetime.

According to the American Community Survey, about 40% of the adult U.S. population living with vision loss is employed. This compares to about 79% of the adult population without disabilities.

In 2019, the Council received a grant from Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IBVI) to discover barriers and aids to employment. A Council volunteer with experience in higher education and career counseling interviewed nine scholarship recipients. Interviews gathered information about experiences when preparing for and seeking work. Common barriers to employment included transportation availability, inaccessibility of online job applications and employer bias. This article goes into detail about each of these, and what interviewees did to overcome these challenges.

Seeking Transportation Solutions:

Most interviewees decided where to look for a job based on transportation options available in a specific region or city. Finding affordable, convenient transportation to and from work was especially difficult for interviewees who lived in smaller towns or lived and interviewed on opposite sides of an urban area. If public transportation was unavailable, some relied on family and friends to assist with transportation. In many cases, they were willing to relocate. They reviewed transportation options prior to interviewing in certain locations.

Hear from Some of the Interviewees:

  • “It quickly became clear that there were a lot of places I could not live or work or where I would not want to just because finding transportation would be difficult.”
  • “I had transportation costs covered through a service. Midway through the year the service that was paying for it could not do so any longer so then I had to leave them.”
  • “Transportation issues were there. I made the adjustments in choosing a town with public transit… I have to be very careful about picking my neighborhood to make sure I’m on the bus route. It does make the idea of changing jobs a little more difficult.”

After transportation options are taken into consideration, it is necessary to apply for jobs. Job applications are often online.

Access to Online Applications and Job Interview Materials:

According to interviewees, access to online applications and interview materials were a barrier to finding work. Some online sites were completely inaccessible. Others were somewhat accessible but required a sighted friend to check if all was complete and find the submit button. Needing to ask for sighted assistance became very frustrating and one interviewee reported that “I got to a point where if it’s an actual online application, I’m just not filling it out… I’m just not even going to apply for this job.” Written material given to interviewees during the job interview could pose a challenge as well.

One former Council scholarship recipient who knew there would likely be printed materials used in the interview disclosed necessary accommodations ahead of time. Another shared this interview experience:

“They had 5 printed questions that they gave me to look at before the interview, which was an issue,” the interviewee says. “When I got in there, they then read them, which was great. That did not give me that pre-interview time to think about the questions.”

Handling Employer Bias:

Employer bias during job interviews was noted by several of the former Council scholarship recipients. These behaviors may not have been overt, but sensed by the interviewee. The most apparent result when this happened was that the job was not offered. Interviewees also said that these job interviews took a less obvious emotional toll in the form of lower self-esteem and a necessity to redefine success.

“People seemed fair in most of the interviews,” says one former Council scholarship recipient. “During some, I could tell by the way they were talking that they weren’t comfortable with my vision loss. They were just trying to get through the interview.”

After an interview is over, it may be helpful to reframe what success means for you, as one interviewee did when friends asked how a job interview went.

“I had to redefine what ‘well’ meant,” says the interviewee. “It came to mean that I went in, I represented myself the best that I could, and I left the employer with a good impression. That was what ‘well’ came to mean, because ‘well’ did not always mean I got the job.”

Tips to Remember During Job Interviews:

These tips and ideas are what former scholarship recipients said helped them bring their best selves to job interviews.

  • Be yourself and show confidence during an interview. An interviewee suggested, “[Interview success comes from] just being yourself, being confident and comfortable in who you are. Remember that there is more to you than being a person who is visually impaired or blind.” Keep in mind why you believe you are the best fit for the job.
  • It is more important to be able to discuss what you bring to a job than any limitations related to vision loss.
  • Former Council scholarship recipients said they had anywhere from three to 15 job interviews before a job offer was extended. Expect to submit many job applications resulting in a few interviews.
  • Remember that every interview provides an opportunity to practice talking about yourself and your accomplishments.

Resources That Can Help:

Consider using some of the following resources specific to job seekers with vision impairments:

  • CareerConnect® for Job Seekers who are Visually Impaired from the American Printing House for the Blind hosts a “Conducting a Successful Job Search” webpage. Learn how to describe yourself in an interview and find answers for common interview questions for job-seekers with vision loss.
  • The National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University has a “Career Advantage: Online Employment Preparation Program. Using eight instructional modules, learn skills essential for entering the workforce as a person who is blind or visually impaired.
  • Perkins School for the Blind Workplace Hub offers résumé writing suggestions and tips for bringing your best self to a job interview.
  • The Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired offers one-on-one assistive technology training and vision rehabilitation therapy at your home or workplace. Training to use assistive technology and common programs such as Microsoft Office products to prepare for workplace readiness is available from the Council, and you can schedule an in-home vision rehabilitation visit to learn how to label and identify outfits for interviews. If you have questions about any of these services, call (608) 255-1166. In-person sessions will resume at a date yet to be announced. Some training can be done remotely upon request.
  • At the Council’s Sharper Vision Store, you will find adaptive office supplies such as the Large Print Wall Calendar ($5), the 20/20 Bold Pen ($1.50), labeling supplies (large print, braille, tactile and audio options available), and magnifiers (from portable units to CCTVS). Order online or call (608) 255-1166 and your order will be shipped to you.

The views expressed in this article are those of a select group of people. Share your own employment story by emailing KCorbett@WCBlind.org.

Watch for future News You Can use articles discussing how to disclose vision loss and request accommodations during the job search process.

 

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