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Getting Beyond The Platitudes: Hiring Blind Workers Is a Matter of Attitude

She is capable, willing to work hard, and blind. She is also unemployed. Why? What makes it so difficult for qualified blind people to find work? It is tempting to minimize her situation by saying the National unemployment rate hovers around ten per cent. Even highly-qualified sighted people are finding it hard to get employment. The operative word in that statement is "even." The not very subtle assumption behind that "even" is the belief that sighted people and blind people are equal in most things, but that blindness imposes a disability which makes it logical to hire the sighted first. As long as a small proportion of highly-qualified sighted individuals are out of work, a large proportion of highly-qualified blind people have no reason to complain. In other words, blindness is a characteristic which automatically moves people to the end of the hiring line. When there is no competent sighted person available to take the job, the blind will have their day. There is a flaw in this logic. No two individuals are alike. Each of us is a complex mixture of assets and liabilities, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. The same characteristic which is a strength in one situation may be a weakness in another. Blindness is only one among these characteristics usually not the most important one. In other words, blind people do not compete against identical individuals who happen to be sighted. Employers have the difficult task of evaluating a whole range of job applicants' characteristics. Which applicant has the greatest sum of assets for this job? It is a little like comparing apples and oranges. For example, is it more desirable to have an employee with good skills who must maintain a precise schedule in order to meet family commitments, or someone with slightly inferior skills who can work longer hours on a more flexible schedule? The answer will depend on the employer's needs. It will also depend on other factors--including intangibles such as rapport. In other words, hiring is not a precise science. When an applicant is blind or severely vision impaired, the decision process is often skewed. Because blindness is an uncommon characteristic, employers tend to give it much more weight than it deserves. They wonder how they would do a particular job without sight. They assume that the lack of vision always creates problems, reduces efficiency, and tips the balance of the scales in a negative direction. This occurs even though the potential blind employee may have a thorough grasp of alternative techniques to do the job, the skills to perform it adequately, and the personal characteristics the employer is seeking. It is not reasonable to expect employers to become expert on alternative techniques used by the blind. It is reasonable, however, to expect them not to make negative assumptions. If blindness is "no big deal" for the applicant, it should be "no big deal" for the employer. It is the applicant's responsibility to develop any necessary alternative techniques for doing the job. Certainly the employer will want to have a say if those alternatives involve any change in procedure or extra expense. The ultimate test is whether those techniques work. An employer who is too scared or lazy to find out denies opportunity to a blind applicant and misses out on a potentially good employee. Several years ago, a blind woman was applying for a job as a prosecuting attorney. Prosecutors need to be tough-minded individuals.Putting criminals in jail is not for the tentative or the timid. At one interview this blind woman was confronted with a whole panel of lawyers. The first one started to describe the job, "First you read the complaint and when you have read it, based on your reading, you take what you have read and ...". It was very clear that the qualifications of this blind lawyer would never be truly considered.All the interviewers could see was someone who could not read print.It really did not matter to them that she had graduated with honours from university and obtained a law degree--certainly pursuits which required intensive reading. They did not even reach the stage of evaluating her knowledge of the law or her ability to reason or to compose arguments. For them, the fact that she could not read print, was an obstacle which overwhelmed all of her other characteristics and made her an unsuitable employee. She explained all of the techniques she would use on the job, but she knew it was a waste of everyone's time to do so. Her next interview went differently. The interviewer began by asking her how she would do the reading. "Quite frankly," she said, "it is none of your business." She permitted the stunned silence to continue for two seconds and then proceeded politely to explain the methods she intended to use on the job. She finished by saying, "You want a prosecutor who will be tough on criminals. You want someone who will stand up for law and order and community standards without being apologetic. I believe I am tough enough for this job." The employer laughed. She had certainly been tough enough for him. She got the job because she understood how to use these questions about her blindness to demonstrate personal characteristics which would be an asset. If she had been applying for a different kind of job, her response would have been totally inappropriate. What she did worked because she kept her blindness in its proper perspective and helped her future boss to do the same. The task for all of us who care about employment for the blind is to help put blindness in its proper perspective. Blind job applicants need skills to compete on truly equal terms. Employers need to understand that "equal" is not necessarily "identical". Techniques developed for a blind person may be more efficient for the whole organization. For example, a blind secretary might need to take dictation from a dictaphone or face-to-face using a lap-top computer. If people in the office had been used to writing draft documents in longhand for later typing, the change in procedure necessitated by the secretary's blindness would probably result in increased overall efficiency. Drafting documents with pencil and paper is quite time consuming. However, if the employer is not flexible enough to improve office procedure, everyone loses. Hiring blind people requires employers to do what good personnel practice suggests for all employers. It is almost a truism that organizations run best when managers evaluate the individual strengths and weaknesses of employees and, as much as possible, tailor the work-load to suit those strengths. One very successful employer commented that no two people occupying a particular position in the organization had ever had precisely the same job description. Each employee had different strengths. Although the core duties of the job remain the same, some of the peripheral assignments were shifted to take fullest possible advantage of an individual's talents. Effectively dealing with blindness really requires nothing more.

Comments

I think there is sometime big problem to hire blind workers and it really need big gratitude and positive attitude. I am pleased to read that you are struggling for the empowerment of blind people. Now students can ask online writers to write my essay students to get excellent grades. Many professionals follow this tactics in their student age and achieve their targets.