How Can We Get Jobs When We Are Disabled?
My Experience on Finding a Job
Welcome to another article here on Vocal. I’m Jared Rimer, and I’ve done quite a bit of writing on this site. Today, I want to talk about the job market, especially when it comes to people with visual impairments.
I know that there are other people looking for jobs too, but this article is not covering that aspect of things. I do understand everyone is struggling, and I’m not trying to put this article out to complain about my own situation. I just think it is much more difficult for those with disabilities, especially when you have a visual impairment.
Let me take this opportunity and discuss how I got to this point.
At a very young age, I started with a computer, using Access Technology that was designed for DOS. See this first part of my screen reader usage series for more information on how it works. I also used other types of assistive technology which included various types of note takers, some of which are no longer being developed as a unit itself. For example, we had units such as the Braille Lite and the Braille Mate. The Braille Mate was made by a company no longer in existence called Telesensory. The Braille Lite has been incorporated in to the now Pack Mate by Freedom Scientific, if my memory serves me. The point now is that the units today are much better than they were back then. I ended up learning how to use the Braille Lite over the weekend, as the Braille Mate died on me, and it was no longer being repaired. My job was to learn it over the weekend, and teach it Monday. 5 volumes of braille later, I was knowledgable and ready to go.
As I grew up, I was the only one using a computer and I learned Windows, and even typed up a 28 page braille document into print for a friend. See part 2 and see part 3 of the reader series for more info on how the Windows side works.
In the early 2000s, after I graduated high school, I started my own technical support business under my dad’s company. I was successful for several years, and even got the attention of someone who asked me to help them with their project.
I even had an article published by the antivirus division as I sent them a file after blind individuals were getting bitten by a supposed upgrade to a very popular chat client for the blind. The issue there was that this was not an upgrade put out by the company, this was something that wiped their computer, and made the PC useless to the blind individual. This was the first to hit the community, and I only wanted to see what it was so I can tell people what this was.
At the same time I started my technical support business, I was involved in music and had help with a project which is now sold by Dancing Dots. While I was learning music theory, and playing music through a MIDI keyboard with Cakewalk and a developing product, I also started The Music Education Network for The Visually Impaired's website. It was not officially at this current location when I started it. I had thought that it was not going to be successful, only because the network was catered to braille readers, and sighted teachers and parents.
I was wrong. Within a couple of years, the online division grew significantly to where I could not keep the lists of web delivery and attachment delivery in an address book. I had to have a mailing list program so that I could deliver mail to the people who requested it.
Before buying MENVI’s domain, in 2005, I had their discussion list on a service called Topica. They recently discontinued their free service, and did not bother to notify any of their subscribers of this fact. I was on the list owner's discussion list, and I never saw anything saying this. I only found out because someone told me the subscription gave them an error. I really appreciate this, and I need to do something about it.
Back to the task at hand, I also contacted someone at Code Amber back in about 2005 I believe it was, and mentioned that I had donated to their project and to keep up the great work. They checked out my site at the time, and prompted an e-mail back talking about how they were partially blind at times, and they were amazed on what I was able to do. They asked about software, and other things that I used to be able to use the computer. It was a very nice discussion. Code Amber is no longer active, closed many years ago.
This phone call made me learn more technology such as XML and working within someone else's code and my work started with codeamber.org where I was editing the friend’s page for adding donations into different categories. The categories were for single donations like $1, $5, $10 etc., and also for subscriptions as well if I remember correctly.
I also then learned the aforementioned XML aspect of codeamber.org’s process, and I also ran a group of about 20 people who kept watch around the clock, calling me if there was an Amber Alert and I would either activate it, or console with the boss to determine what to do.
The volunteers used different types of technology from telephone systems to PCs to access the site I was given to look up the alerts which news agencies posted. After getting called, I would then verify it, and activate it on my own or with the supervision of the boss.
During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Code Amber was turned over to me, as my boss was needing to leave the state of Louisiana.
In 2007, I moved on to work at a site with other people with disabilities, as a stepping stone as I’ve always worked alone. I was not happy at this location. I was promised after 6 months there I would be found a job. The most they did was to find me a job at the complaints department at Walmart, in a city called Pacoima, California. I didn’t know this until I turned it down with advice from people. The agency told me that it was only for 3 hours and it was $8 an hour. I said it wasn’t much and they also said I’d be continuing to work where I was. To be fair, I did learn how to work with others while I was there, as I worked alone for so many years, so all was not lost. I indicated I didn’t want to do that, I needed a full time job, and they told me that they’d find me something else, but it was part of the program. In a way, they weren’t truthful, and I’m glad I turned it down.
I left this agency, and moved to another one at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. During a 30 day process to see what I could do, they were concerned on how I traveled, talked about the fact I was using my cane wrong, and how I should use it. In 2015, I did two different things. First, I started at a hospital with doing distribution type work including packaging items. I later was promoted in helping out with their calls, taking orders and making sure the items that the people in the other departments were gotten with accuracy. The next thing I did was start my White Cane Travel site which then was expanded to include podcasts and a blog. The Hospital work was part of an internship to hire, but I was never hired.
I’ve moved on from that, doing odds and ends in a different division of the agency I’ve been going to. The last two agencies I’ve been at have divisions for looking for jobs, and this one has had me apply on my own to things I’m good at that match my experience.
Here are some of the things I’ve done within the last few years skill wise and to better myself to be fully employed in the workplace:
- I’ve taken accurate phone messages. I did this using one of the note takers and then putting it on a thumb drive to email to the supervisor I was assigned to.
- Delivered phone orders to various departments within a large hospital. I did this by learning techniques to learn where each department of the hospital was, and memorized landmarks and other aspects my vision could identify things to tell me where I was.
- Took 80 calls in the escort office for people to run errands as volunteers I logged each call, gave it to the volunteers in the escort office, and then sent the logs each time to the volunteer coordinator as directed.
- Took 35 calls in the distribution office making sure each call was handled with care and items processed correctly. I believe the most was 35 to 40 in the time I was managing the phones, but it is a fast-paced job which needed to be done with care. I took the calls and logged each one in turn. See above.
- Fixed any issues in orders, even though I didn’t take the call mentioned to the caller, saying I was not aware of the order, and to please advise me what they ordered. Some callers indicated that we should know, but I indicated that I may not have taken the call, and I don’t know what they ordered. They would eventually give me the order so I may check on it. I promptly wrote it down, passed it on to an employee, and if needed, passed it on to the supervisor on duty for followup.
- Took a course at Universal Class dealing with difficult people and passed
- Dealt with someone who has been difficult in a group I’m now with, and they were proud of the way I handled it
- Continue to promote and talk about White Cane Travel
- Started a small web hosting service where I host web sites, and provide technical support to various sites
- Took a course Internet Specialist 101 and passed it. Learned a bit from it, but new most of it. It was interesting to learn a bit from it. That was from Universal Class linked above.
- Workplace safety 101 was also taken, and I passed it too. It is on the aformentioned Universal Class site linked above.
- Taking an effective Email communication course which is still in progress through Universal Class.
- ABC’s of technical writing is in progress Through Universal Class.
- Legal Terminology 101 is in progress. That's a challenge. It's also through Universal Class.
I’ve got certificates on the classes I’ve completed and passed if people would like to see them. I definitely have learned a lot, and will get back to those courses still in progress. I’ll be happy to share it with anyone who would find this of interest.
I’ve also gotten into weather and hurricane knowledge thanks to a recent friend who got me interested in it. Sadly, this friend passed away, and I miss them very much. Maybe I could see myself taking calls to pass along data to the meteorologists or typing up the advisories with the data I’m provided. That could be very challenging. I understand this is part of government work.
In 2008, I started my own network, after one website I closed. My website has a lot about me including podcasts, projects, and even links to family sites as well. Go to the Jared Rimer Network home page right here.
Through the last 6 months while applying to jobs, I’ve only had two or three interviews. I notice that at the last one, while I was slow getting started, they really had an issue with how I’d be able to do the work because of HIPPA and the fact I couldn’t see. I said that the access technology that is used only reads the screen and it had no way to save data unless I did it. I also made it clear I do not want the data, I want to do the work. At the hospital, I had done 40 calls to 80 calls within 3-5 minutes each, and 4 and a half would be a challenge.
I know that there is a law in place that states that companies need to hire people with disabilities. In recent discussions with a job developer, I found out that even people with an issue that is treated with medication can be counted as disabled. People see someone with a cane, they might be impressed, but yet, they just tell someone like me that they either found someone else, or they don’t even call to schedule an interview. To be fair, I know that many different people apply, and this particular issue is not disability specific, and that particular issue is common whether you have a disability or not. I understand that people can’t call everyone and tell the individual that they selected someone. I appreciate one company that e-mailed me and indicated that they appreciated my application, but they had selected someone. I told them that if I could be of assistance, please let me know. That was nice to see. I understand most companies can’t do that. It would be a lot of time.
Recent jobs I’ve applied to include everything from customer service, dispatcher, and technical support positions. I even found one at a music company which fit my music background, even if I wasn’t going to do music-specific things. I felt that it would be perfect because I do have perfect pitch, and a customer may want to call and ask if something sounded in tune after being bought. I could help them tune it by perfect pitch, or if it needed to be sent back for tuning, I would advise on that. I was really looking forward to that interview, I’m sure I would ace that. The Musical Evolution of a Webmaster should be read for more about my music background, what I like, and how braille music works. It includes images of braille music as a facsimile.
Magnatune had its web site updated in 2013. This blog post from Magnatune's blog in 2013 goes into detail on how I gave them a friendly nudge when their web site broke, and there were aspects I had issues with.
Also, I helped Freshbooks with their product as I was their first blind user of the product. They even asked about how to make the new site working, and I gave them some tips. Now, we’ve got multiple blind people using Freshbooks.
I think I’m very capable of doing this type of work, if the company in question would pay for the time to do the testing so things can work. You never know who will use your product, and now, I’m hearing that the ADA may cover websites if they aren’t accessible, at least the websites that are made for the general public. Maybe that could be a potential market for sites as you never know what will happen, and if someone is qualified, see if they can’t be hired to help you make sure your product, service, or web site is accessible.
I also can’t forget the most important thing. I was followed on Twitter by the Vocal account Geeks. I enquired on what this was, and found myself trying to talk about my White Cane Travel project. My first article completely failed. The site is accessible, and I’m sure that I can help with even further accessibility improvements. I’m sure if my other blind friends apply to write, they could help them too. My profile has a lot of the articles I’ve written, but I have a page on my website that lists every article I’ve published. I also post the list once a month to my blogs where appropriate.
How can we get companies to see the bigger picture of what someone like me has done? It's not just about a piece of paper with words saying that I’ve done all these things, and have all of these skills. The agency I’m with is trying to see about getting companies to see them as a job agency like so many others out there that help able bodied people find jobs. I know and completely understand the fact that a lot of people are out of work. The number I think is not true, some 11 percent of people who could be employed, but I think the issue is bigger when you have a disability, including a visual impairment.
I know I recently learned how to use the Macintosh, and I know I’m not qualified to teach it. See the 4th part of my screen reader series where I discuss how the commands are completely different than Windows. I haven’t used a Mac in a long time, but if I picked it up and relearned it, I’m sure I can teach it. I’ve also done iOS via the phone for years, and I’m sure I can teach that as well.
I’ve also taught blind and sighted people computers too, and even in school, had to teach the teachers the technology so they could teach the kids. You think that teachers who teach the visually impaired would know about the technology, but at the time, they had no idea how it was used. They were given the tech, and asked to teach us. I’m glad I had that gift of learning it quickly and being able to teach them. I discuss this aspect of that work when I talked about what I had to learn and teach while in school.
As you can see, I have a vast knowledge that a résumé can’t cover. According to the college course I took on résumé writing and being better prepared in the workplace, we are only supposed to go so far in our résumé. The course was called “Workplace Success” which had two components. At the end, we submitted our résumé to the instructor for criticism and thoughts on how we can make it better.
There was also an article I read through Vocal that talked about pictures in our résumé. While I like the idea, it really depends on the field of work you’re going in to, and it may not be for everyone to do. Even those of us are disabled, blind or not, need to be aware of how résumés should be written, so we can stand out.
I hope this article finds some interest on how someone like me has found it difficult to find stable work. I completely understand many people are out of work, but remember the challenges we have to face that you do not have to face.
I have contact information in my biography. Please feel free to utilize it and leave me your thoughts on this or any other article I have that catches your attention. Thanks so much for reading, and make it a great day!