[bct] Blindness and employment

  • From: "Joni Colver" <joni.colver@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "BCT" <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 28 Jan 2006 11:43:47 -0600

I agree with much of what Mary said about employment in her post last week. 
I have a very strong work ethic.  I think that the satisfaction a person 
receives from a job well done is as valuable as the paycheck.  However, my 
adamant views on this have been somewhat tempered by the realities I have 
encountered over the last thirty years.  I considered retiring and filing 
for SSDI last spring when my job was outsourced.  But, at 49 I am not quite 
ready to retire.  My husband, who is 9 years older than me, has recently 
opted for an early retirement through SSDI.  This has allowed him to pursue 
some interests he had no time for while working.

I think sometimes the success a blind person has in a job hinges to some 
extent on the support and open-mindedness of an employer.  No matter how 
well prepared or experienced we are in a particular field, we can't prove 
anything about our ability to do a job unless someone is willing to hire us 
and accommodate any special needs we may have.  I have been very fortunate 
in this regard, while my husband has met multiple roadblocks.  I was offered 
my first job without even going through an interview.  The lady who hired me 
was the director of a small medical records department and we met in a 
transcription class while I was training and she was going for an Accredited 
Records Technician degree.  I appreciate what this lady did for me more now, 
30 years after the fact, than I did at the time.  I wish she was still 
living so I could tell her how grateful I am for the opportunity she gave 

My husband has had some bad experiences in various jobs.  Once when applying 
for a job with an insurance company he was expected to fill out the 
application on a computer screen which was so small he could not read the 
print even with a magnifying glass.  When he asked about an alternate way of 
filling out the application he was informed that this is how their computers 
were set up and if he couldn't fill out the application he couldn't do the 
job.  He is a high partial, but, ironically he seems to have run into more 
difficulties in the work world than I have.  He had a job at a brokerage 
firm and they totally refused to allow any third-party software onto their 
network, which meant he could not have ZoomText installed.  As more and more 
things were added to their network he was locked out of more and more access 
to things he needed to do his job.  His multiple verbal and written requests 
for an exception to this policy were rejected.  I consider both of these 
instances to be violations of the ADA.  But, I also consider challenging 
large companies or corporations with ADA violations to be quite a daunting 
task.  These companies can afford more legal representation than we can. 
Some people may disagree, but, I would not want to work for a company I had 
to file suit against.  The truth of the matter in a case like that is that 
they would find any excuse they could to make you miserable enough to quit. 
Some people can deal with this kind of stressful environment but neither of 
us can.

There is one experience I have had regarding blindness and employment that 
still haunts me.  A blind lady applied for a job at one of the hospitals I 
worked for.  For some unfathomable reason my boss mentioned to me that the 
human resources person who interviewed this lady apologized to my boss for 
sending in a blind applicant for her to interview.  This lady was very 
experienced and even took the typing test without a screen reader and did 
very well.  I feel this was blatant and despicable discrimination and the 
person who did not deserve a job was the human resources person, not the 
blind transcriptionist.  Since I did not hear this comment directly and I 
valued my relationship with my boss I felt unable to pursue the issue.  It 
probably would have gotten my boss into trouble and I knew of no way to 
approach the issue without involving her since she was the one who made the 
comment to me.  I know that if I had interviewed with this HR person she 
would have said the same thing about me.  I feel guilty and uncomfortable to 
this day about doing nothing about this incident.

I do believe there are more obstacles for a blind person to overcome in 
gaining employment than the average job seeker faces.  I feel fortunate that 
I have a skill which has allowed me to remain employed for the past 30 
years.  This has been possible both through my own determination and the 
fact that I have been lucky enough to encounter some very special people 
along the way who have given me a chance to prove that I can do the job.


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