Written by Robert Branco:
For those of us who are out of work, finding a job is a job in itself. We’re taught by guidance counselors, career counselors, or workshop leaders that we need to fill our days with résumé writing, phone calls, networking, and all other aspects of finding work if we’re going to succeed. I learned many years ago that despite what these professionals expect us to do in order to find a job, blind people must work twice as hard as sighted people. After decades of experience, I’ve found that there aren’t enough hours in a day for a blind person to keep up with the sighted when it comes to job searching. Many employers lack information about what a blind person can do in a particular job setting. This lack of understanding results in the blind being rejected more often than the sighted, even though the blind do exactly what’s required when looking for work.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this: What does a blind job seeker have to do in order to be as successful as a sighted job seeker? If you take into account that a blind person does everything he has to do, with little or no results, then someone has to show employers how the blind can function on the job. Because it’s usually difficult for blind individuals to convince employers of their skills, they must turn to agencies that support the blind. Someone has to sell the skills of a blind worker. I’m not speaking about all employers. There are some whom I’ll speak about later in the chapter who are quite receptive to hiring the blind.
I’ve been unemployed several times in my life and have been on many job interviews. I believe I have a lot of confidence when being interviewed, and I’m sure I can answer the prospective boss’s questions well. However, with blind employees comes adaptive technology, which helps them be as productive as their sighted co–workers. I’ve used such equipment while working at some of my jobs, but I don’t know how it’s manufactured or programmed. I’m a consumer, not the computer engineer who invented it. Many times I’m asked how the adaptive technology works, but I can only answer the question to a point. Therefore, I can safely say that not only does a blind person have to work twice as hard as a sighted person to find a job, but he also has to be able to talk like a computer engineer in order to satisfy the employer’s curiosity about this equipment. At this point, the agencies have to step in and help out. Many computer companies that produce adaptive technology are contracted with agencies serving the blind, so agency reps know more about this equipment than either the employer or the employee.
Let me explain some of what I know about adaptive equipment and the main ways in which I use it.
Years ago, I worked in the customer service field, and my computer had a speech program that helped me navigate through all the customer screens so that I could check the status of orders to find out how much the customer owed. With this same technology, I’m also able to write letters and articles, using the same word-processing programs that sighted people use. On another occasion, I worked as a switchboard operator for a very busy medical center. I obviously couldn’t see which buttons were lit up on the board, so I used a light probe with a sensor. When you point the sensor toward the light, the small radio–like device gives off a buzzing sound to let a blind person know where the light is.
When I talk about how a lot of employers don’t understand what the blind can do, I speak with a lot of experience. It’s true that several of my interviews were productive and full of quality, but I’ve met some very interesting employers who didn’t use common sense when speaking to me. Prior to meeting me, they had never had to deal with a potential blind employee.
A year after I graduated from college, I interviewed for a job at a local newspaper as a telemarketer. Obviously, one of the most important things you need to know as a telemarketer is how to dial a telephone. If you can’t dial a telephone, how can you consider being a telemarketer? Well, I guess the head of this company didn’t see it that way. I went into his office and sat down for the interview. At the time, I was a 26–year–old college graduate, so I’d like to think that I had already proven that I had some degree of intelligence. I came to him in all sincerity to apply for the telemarketing job. I wasn’t looking for laughs. I take life seriously when it needs to be taken seriously, and I save my laughs for pleasure times.
During the interview, the employer asked me how I could dial a telephone. At this point, I didn’t care how much of a risk I’d be taking if I gave the man a sarcastic answer. It was obvious at this point that I didn’t want this job. So I pointed out to the employer that I had called him in order to schedule the interview, and how could I have done that without dialing the phone? Was he next going to imply that I would need a helper to dial the numbers? Keep in mind that he was the president of a small business. Is it possible that he believed he would have to hire two people to do the job I wanted? Let me say what you probably already know. If I were sighted, the boss would not have asked me about the telephone. He would have skipped that question and gone on to other questions, the ones he should have asked.
Perhaps I should listen to a friend of mine who’s also blind. He keeps telling me that there’s a big difference between common sense and intelligence. He believes that many people with a lot of intelligence have very little common sense, and vice versa. So maybe I shouldn’t talk about this guy’s intellect—or mine, for that matter.
When it comes to dialing a phone, many sighted people take light for granted. My mother, God rest her soul, needed light every time she had to dial a telephone, and when there was little or no light, she would ask me to dial the phone for her, because she couldn’t see. I’m the one who can’t see, but my mother couldn’t dial the phone unless she had a fairly strong light on.
As of this writing, I’ve been out of college for close to 30 years. So far, I’ve explained how tough it is for the blind to find work, so I’m probably giving the impression that I’ve been unemployed for most of my life after college. However, I have such a passion for work that I taught myself at a young age how to be very creative when it came to job–hunting because the traditional methods weren’t working for me.
Since graduation, I’ve had a total of eight jobs. In all eight cases, I was laid off for one reason or another. I was never fired from a job, nor did I ever quit a job. However, in only one case out of eight did I get the job the traditional way. The other jobs came as a result of whom I knew, the intervention of employment specialists, and advertising my skills in the newspaper and on the radio. My very first full–time job was as a customer service representative for a local office supply company. The only reason I got the job was because I asked my local newspaper to do a complete story about my job search in relation to my disability. The owner of the office supply company read the newspaper article and proceeded to call me in for an interview, and I was hired. So you see, when nothing else works, we blind folk have to be more resourceful in order to achieve our goals.
While it’s hard for most blind people to find a job, there are certainly many successful blind people in the world. I point that out to encourage those employers with little or no knowledge about this subject, to help them understand how feasible it is to have blind people in the workforce. The following is a list of jobs that several of my blind friends have or had.
- I have a blind friend who works as a supervisor of a Braille program at an agency that supports visually impaired people in Massachusetts. He instructs his workers on a daily basis.
- Another blind friend spent two decades as a grant writer for a local school department.
- Someone else is a sports writer for a local newspaper. With adaptive technology on his computer, he’s able to write and then email his work to his sports editor.
- I also know a blind attorney, a blind college professor, a blind entrepreneur who sells adaptive technology, blind high school teachers, a blind veterans’ counselor, a blind store greeter, etc.
So, given all the success that some blind people are fortunate enough to have, should the rest of us have to waste our time explaining how we dial a phone? We are the consumers; there are agencies getting paid with our tax dollars to support us. Let these agencies step in and work to promote the blind with all their energies.
Robert Branco is a podcast host, “In Perspective”, and a sports talk show host. As well as a writer and editor of an online monthly magazine, “Consumer Vision”.
He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Amy.
This article was taken from his self-published book, “As I See It, from a Blind Man’s Perspective”, Revised and Expanded Edition. For further information about this book, and any of his other self-published work, go to
His website is: www.brancoevents.com