I am inspired by writers like Francisco Jimenez who wrote The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child, Reaching Out, Breaking Through, and Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University and Haven Kimmel who wrote A Girl Called Zippy and She Got up Off the Couch. Both Jimenez and Kimmel’s mother struggle to earn their college degrees and then were hired to work in their chosen fields. The memoirs that are written by people who live with blindness and visual impairments often have different endings that required career changes, self-employment, part-time jobs that pay a minimum wage, or no job at all as they can be counted among the 70% of the sight impaired who are unemployed. Getting over their disappointment and getting on with their lives is a display of their courage, self-discipline, and ingenuity.
While being unemployed or underemployed, many people learn new skills such as blogging and serve on a variety of boards, committees, and groups. These activities are rewarding and valued but may lead to burn-out when training for a different career and starting a business require a new schedule and a new plan. I am over-committed now that writing has become my business instead of my hobby, and I’ve learned while reading Laughing Matters, a book about writing by Larry Gelbart, that retooling is no laughing matter. I am learning how to run a business, how to write a business plan, how to perform in public as a poet and songwriter, and how to manage a home office. There don’t seem to be enough hours in a day as I not only work at writing and selling manuscripts but also look for employment or funds for writers to supplement my income.
Some things have to go starting with volunteer activities and blogging. I’ve shared all of the information I have with the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Xavier Society for the Blind. So many other people are joining their advisory groups that my services will not be missed. I have also said all that I have to say about blindness and visual impairment issues during the five years that I have been writing this blog. The list of people who are writing memoirs about their lives and vision loss is growing every day. Two interesting books are Compass Points and In the Country of the Blind by the prolific writer, Edward Hoagland who shares his experience of losing his sight and then regaining it after surgical procedures. His books give hope too many who live with eye diseases that were once considered inoperable.
One of the obstacles I had to get over during my job search was the human resources administrator in higher education who told me that a part-time lawyer from another country said it is a violation of a student’s right to privacy for a blind or visually impaired teacher to use a reader or a grader. Not only was this proven to be incorrect information, but computer technology that allows courses to be taught online have almost eliminated the need for paperwork in a classroom. When such tools were not available, teachers could also ensure their students’ privacy by assigning them numbers to put on their work rather than their names.
A greater source of frustration for blind and visually impaired job seekers is the lack of accessibility of online application forms and job search websites. The diagnosis of a potentially blinding disease, treatment, and training can take many years. Today’s employers are looking for either new graduates or people who have recent experience. Applicants with vision loss might also have needed to change careers and have more education than the online application software is looking for. Candidates who are considered “overqualified” or lacking recent experience will not be contacted. If an employee contract and wages are based upon level of education, a candidate who is considered “overqualified” will cost the institutions more than they want to pay. As an educator who attended a high school where most of the teachers had their master’s degree because the high school was shared by a community college at that time, I do not understand how any teacher would ever be disqualified for a job because he or she was “overqualified.” Recently a segment appeared on the NBC Nightly News that said schools were looking for minority candidates to teach and serve as role models in the public schools. Teachers who are living with disabilities were not mentioned or being recruited.
I wish you the very best as you get on with your life and loving what is left.