October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). A time to take a closer look at the diversity and inclusion of your workforce, as well as the level of accommodation found within your workplace, as it relates to individuals with disabilities. One such disability – blindness and vision impairment – affects over 20 million Americans alone. With a 70% unemployment rate for these individuals, it’s easy to see why NDEAM is so important. In this episode, we sit down with Jeff Mittman and Brandon Wells of Bosma Enterprises and its Visionary Opportunities Foundation to discuss the barriers to employment these individuals face and the common myths and misconceptions that prevent them from being hired. Let’s take a look at this timely conversation!
One thing I just want to touch on just real quick, and this is something that I know a lot of employers have struggled with and are really trying to invest resources in right now, and that’s really career site accessibility. We’ve heard not only from employers but from job seekers who suffer from lots of different, to give you an example, I mean, I’m colorblind or color resistant or however you’d like to call it. My eye doctor likes to call it color resistant, but anyway, I have trouble seeing color – but the accessibility with some of these career sites is not really where it should be. Is that something that you’re hearing from the individuals you’re working with right now or has that not really been a huge issue?
No, it is something we’re very aware of. It’s something we work with organizations on making sure their systems, their websites… Even websites are not accessible in a lot of cases for screen readers. So, working with organizations to ensure that that initial… if I’m putting in a job application on a site that’s not accessible to somebody who’s blind or visually impaired, I’m not going to be very successful, myself. So that is a barrier and there’s been a significant improvement I’d say over the years. But I think a lot of times when it comes to accessibility, it’s a secondary thought or an add-on afterwards. And what we find is when you have an organization who takes that into account at the inception of the system or a website, it’s much, much easier to break that barrier down. And then quite frankly, somebody who’s not visually impaired wouldn’t know the difference, anyway.
Do you think that sometimes an individual who goes out and recognizes that that site isn’t accessible, do you think that deters them from wanting to work for that employer because they haven’t taken the steps to make sure that their site’s accessible?
No, absolutely. I believe I think it is a deterrent for somebody if they go to a website and it’s not accessible, so what exactly do you do? Unless you have the wherewithal to contact the organization and highlight that? Because in a lot of cases they just simply don’t know, especially when you’re talking about a smaller organization or a small business, they may just not even be aware that it’s not accessible. So, I think it is a barrier. As I said, if I can’t find information on your website, what good is that website to me? So, it can be a barrier, absolutely.
And Shannon, I think that’s why outreach is so important, as well. Just today, a couple of hours ago I was speaking to a group that joined us for lunch at Enterprises and it was a really simple request. They wanted to send a thank you card to their tour guide who is blind, and it just dawned on them that, wait a second, how do I send a thank you to them if they’re blind? So, it really is just having the conversations sometimes and that came at the tail end of us speaking about how sometimes the accommodations necessary at the workplace aren’t moving mountains. It’s just consideration and thought has to go into the process, and then things tend to start falling into place once you put yourself in a position to be successful that way.
Awesome. Thank you. So, there’s obviously a lot of myths out there circling around people who are blind or have visual impairments. I’m going to speak or I’m going to actually mention a few of those. And like I said, these are myths. So, if you can dispel and talk about these as we go through this, that would be awesome. So, one of the myths out there is that people who are blind can’t live independently. I mean, I know that’s not correct and most of us know that’s not correct, but can you just talk a little bit about that and ways that BOSMA works to make sure that individuals who are blind can in fact live independently?
Listen to the full episode as Jeff and Brandon dispel common myths surrounding individuals who are blind or have vision impairments, accommodations that may be requested in the workplace by these individuals, and ways employers can attract and retain these fully capable employees. Stay tuned for more great conversations in the coming months and subscribe to receive email notifications when new episodes are available!
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