Although many employers have been hiring more workers with disabilities since the passing of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, the blind and visually impaired communities are still shut out of the workforce in astonishing numbers. More blind and visually impaired individuals are earning their college degrees, taking vocational training and becoming as technically proficient as sighted counterparts, nevertheless, 70 to 75 percent of the working age blind and low-vision persons are either unemployed or under-employed. Despite advancement in technology within this past five to ten years, many employers still seem to be unfamiliar with this potential workforce and their capabilities and abilities. Blindness remains a relatively rare disability affecting less than 1 percent of the population. For an employer, it is still a rare day when they see blind or visually impaired person apply for a job opening at their organization. When this happens, most of the time, they are not sure what to do with that individual. Some surveys with hiring managers said that during job interviews, employers couldn’t seem to get past the question of how a blind person could do a particular job. They tend to project themselves in the position of that person and couldn’t see themselves capable.
The Hearts for Sight Foundation believes that we can keep working on getting our education, earning our degrees, and training for whatever professions we want to increase our chances in getting that dream job. However, if we do not educate the individuals who make the decision in hiring their next candidates upon the abilities of blind people rather than the disabilities, we will remain in that group of 70 to 75% of blind and low vision individuals unemployed or underemployed.
We at the Hearts for Sight Foundation believe that this perception could be changed. We can change this perception by bringing awareness and providing training, resources and information to potential employers. Hearts for Sight connects employers with qualified individuals who will add value to their organizations, as well as, help them achieve their missions and visions. We reach out to employers in government, public, and private sectors providing education in:
- The various resources and tools available in hiring the right candidate for their organization
- Inform employers of the benefits and incentives available in hiring a visually impaired individual
- Change employers misconception that hiring a blind individual can be costly (i.e. providing technology that the blind worker needs to use in order to perform job duties and responsibilities)
- Help employers understand the skills blind and low vision individuals possess
- Help employers discover that blind workers are capable, adaptable, and loyal employees.
- Provide job shadowing and remain in contact shall obstacles occur
Hearts for Sight designed programs like: job readiness, assessment tools to assess individual’s current abilities and capabilities and what areas he / she may need growth, goals setting, have various workshops scheduled like “how to dress up for an interview or how to keep yourself motivated”, and set up volunteer opportunities, paid internships and paid employment opportunities. Many other organizations are already focused on providing computer training and assistive technology and technical training. HFS focuses on helping individuals in developing their confidence beginning with our health and wellness program. When you are well and healthy in mind and body, you become more confident and sure of how to present yourself in public. When you know how to effectively communicate and interact with people in the work place, your other shortcomings will be over-shadowed and all that employers see is a very capable and confident individual, which in result, will elevate the perception that blind people are unable to perform meaningful employment opportunities. This is what The Hearts for Sight Occupational Development Services strives to accomplish throughout our community.
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