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The International Association of Visually Impaired Technologists, Inc. (IAVIT) promotes employment and career advancement in the field of Information Technology for people who are blind or visually impaired.

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Should You Tell A Prospective Employer That You Are Visually Impaired?

By Hettie Woehler

Should You Tell Your Prospective Employer That You Are Visually Impaired? This long-standing question is still asked today. As there is no legal grounds for disclosing the fact that you are visually impaired, let us look at the benefits of revealing the facts. The logical question here is ?Why do you want to ?surprise? the potential employer when you turn up for the important job interview?

A Positive Approach

A few decades ago there were no sending of CV?s to sell your skills to any employer. You applied and went for that important interview where you could sell yourself. As this is no longer the case, your CV must sell you to the employer before you even have the opportunity of meeting him/her in person. We are not going into CV writing in this article, but know that a to-the-point and honest CV is your first opportunity to impress the employer.

The official Application Form

Many companies send you their company application form to complete and send with your personal CV. This is an opportunity to explain in short that blindness or partially sighted is not a disease, it may be a draw-back but you are an able, healthy person.

Why The Employer Should Know That You Are Visually Impaired

The position you are applying for will determine to what extent your sight problem will influence your productivity. If special technology such as screen readers, magnifiers, or other special equipment will be necessary, the prospective employer is entitled to know about it. If you ?throw? these facts at him at the interview, that may be a perfect reason for being rejected. It may even imply dishonesty on your part, what else are you hiding? Gather the following information about acquiring adaptive equipment:

  1. Are you going to buy the screen reader or special magnifying equipment yourself?
  2. Will you be willing to pay for it yourself through a loan?
  3. Do you know of any person or business that will be willing to sponsor you if the employer is not willing or able to do so?
  4. Make sure of the location of the company to enable you to find public transport or would you need to rely on someone to transport you to and from work.
  5. Touch up your mobility skills if necessary.
  6. Enquire as to the availability of somewhere your guide dog can relieve itself.
  7. Enclose a recommendation letter from the Guide Dog Association as to the behaviour of guide dogs at the office.
  8. Find the company?s website and familiarise yourself with their policies, objectives, physical address. This will enable you to decide whether it will be practically accessible. For example if the Company is situated where there is no public transport, or no regular transport, will you be able to travel independently to and from work?

Interview Preparation

Whether you disclose the fact of your visually impairment in your CV or not, preparing for an interview is of the utmost importance. Let us have a look at the following:

Appearance And Body Language

If appearance is important for sighted people, it is twice as important for a visually impaired person. People have been turned down because of the wrong socks they were wearing or because of the way they sat in a chair. The following tips should help:

What To Wear

  1. Don?t go for an interview wearing jeans and a t-shirt. You don?t have to wear a suit and tie, or if you are a woman, don?t hang all your jewellery on your arms, ears and neck, I know this is over-emphasising but the idea is to wear clothes you would wear to a formal occasion.
  2. Make sure that the colour and style of what you are wearing suits you to the brim. Ask a trusted friend to assist in choosing your outfit if you are uncertain as what colours suit your face, personality and posture best.
  3. Ladies should not wear makeup if they don?t do so daily or need someone else to apply their makeup for them. Remember you want to appear as best you can and keep it up once employed.

Posture And Body Language

For a blind person there are certain very personal matters where posture and body language are concerned. <

  1. Some people may be unsure of the right head position, either looking down or turning the head too far backwards. Stand against a wall with your head against it. Place your hand against your chin and chest to feel the position. Because a blind person cannot look the prospective employer in the eye, this is more important than you think. Practise beforehand to turn your face to the speaker. Yes, this is very elementary but there are people amongst us for whom this is sensitive and important information.
  2. When a friend or family member accompanies you to the interview, make sure that they know how to tell you where the chair is and to place your hand on the back or on the arm of the chair ensuring that you can confidently sit down without fidgeting around for the seat.
  3. Once you are seated, your escort should leave you to it. This shows that you can talk for yourself and prevents the interviewer to talk to your escort rather than directly to you.
  4. If you have Braille notes with you, try not to look at your hands while reading.
  5. Ask the interviewer to what extent he/she is willing to meet your needs. For example if you use a Brailler, who is going to pay for the Braille Paper?
The above mentioned emphasises that if your employer does not know you have a disability, they cannot make any adjustments to help you succeed in your job. The interview is your opportunity to explain how your disability would affect you in a work environment - or say that it has no practical effect. Focus on your abilities and why you think you're the right person for the job.

In conclusion, you need to keep in mind that it is of the utmost importance to do your own home work regarding other questions regularly asked at an employment interview. This is an important part of being prepared for the interview. By following these few simple suggestions, you can have a relaxed and successful job interview. Skilled, trained and graduated visually impaired people all over the world who are unemployed will envy you for succeeding in being invited for an employment interview. . Sell your skills by applying for a job you can confidently do and show that you are knowledgeable about your chosen career.

About the Author

Hettie Woehler lives in Mokopane, a town in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Her family consists of her husband Dieter, her son Lothar, 3 dogs and a ringneck parrot. She currently writes for a countrywide magazine called The Vessel". Please visit her web site at http://www.leefvoluit.co.za.

© Copyright 2010 No copying in whatever format at all, is permitted without the written permission of the writer, Hettie Woehler.


Please send corrections and comments to john@iavit.org

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