Job Hunting as a Person with Vision and Hearing Loss

bakery items on shelves in bakery. Photo by Greta Punch on Unsplash

Editor’s note: This is the second of our posts about National Disability Employment Awareness month (NDEAM), held each October. Be sure to read our first post Attaining Vocational Trainer Certification as a Blind Person – VisionAware  by peer Maribel Steel.    

 
 
I had been looking for a secondary job for a year, mostly in the educational field—teaching English online or tutoring. I have a career background in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). But more recently, I have been authoring books on coping with sight loss such as Mobility Matters. 

Applying for a New Job 

Amy with her cane
Amy with Her White Cane

When the local grocery store chain sent out flyers looking for employees, I decided to apply. I didn’t know what I could do there, but I figured I could negotiate with the interviewers and together we could find a way for me to assist them. 

The first task was to fill out an online interview, a challenge with sight loss. I eventually found the link. Since my background centered on teaching, I typed a separate paper that listed my customer service experience on it—a couple of summer jobs and a short-term receptionist position–and uploaded my teaching resume to their employment form. It filled in most of the blanks. What a relief! I didn’t want to retype information that spanned my entire career! 

Five days later, the grocery chain held interviews with the public. My friend, Cindy, dropped me off in the café and completed her grocery shopping while I waited to be interviewed. I spoke to the Customer Service representative, and she asked me in which areas I was interested in working. I mentioned I could try being a cashier (though I was secretly concerned about seeing the words on the cash register keys). Perhaps I could work in the bakery or even Customer Service itself.  As a fallback plan, I was ready to say I could clean carts, stock shelves, or greet customers. The store seemed to have a good-sized task force and several positions available.  

Interview for My Preferred Department  

To my delight, the representative sent me to interview with the supervisor of the bakery. Yes! I followed her into an empty room, and we talked about the duties of the job, my skills and limitations. She asked me what being “a good neighbor meant to me,” and I said it was about assisting one another and looking out for their best interests. It was sharing smiles and laughter and being a positive link in a gate that includes as many families as we have neighbors. 

I didn’t know “being a good neighbor” was their go-to phrase. My answer was based on my own situation. I had spent four or five months getting to know my own new neighbors and was sharing at the interview how we cared for each other.  

She asked me what my passion was, and I said “Education. Culture. Learning about each other and bridging gaps.” It’s what I’ve been doing all my life overseas with my students, other nationalities in the expatriate community, and now encouraging those with sight loss and sharing the challenges with those who are sighted through my books.  

She seemed to like that answer too, and we continued on with questions about safety. I answered all of the questions confidently. At the end of the interview, she told me I would hear back from them on Friday, three days after the interview. 

A Good Feeling  

As the interview ended and the supervisor from the bakery walked me back to the café, Cindy was waiting for me. I thanked the supervisor and the Customer Service Representative and left. 

Later, I told my friend, Julio, “I did great! I think I’m going to get the job! I walked away without even a backward glance!” 

“Well, that’s the first time I ever heard someone say, ‘I’m going to get a job because I walked away without looking back,’” he teased. 

“You know what I mean, I wasn’t nervous. And Julio, this is the first interview where I’ve told them about and showed them my white cane. Isn’t that amazing?” 

“Amazing! And you have a master’s degree, don’t forget.” 

I laughed at his inside joke. How many times had I said that to him and myself to reassure me there was a job “out there” with my name on it. 

According to the job description, I didn’t even need a high school diploma. I simply needed to have a neighborly spirit.   I enjoyed people—and neighbors. 

Being fully sighted and having been employed by the same university for fifteen years, Julio didn’t quite understand how big of a deal this was for me—or for anyone who advocates for themselves with a disability. 

Full Disclosure 

I used my white cane in an interview for a job in the public sector. I Felt Confident. Yes, maybe it was because I had a master’s degree—and it didn’t require one. Maybe it was because I felt I could handle the challenges. Maybe it was because working in the bakery was my first choice. And certainly, all three reasons could have contributed to my positive self-image. 

But my sight impairment didn’t hold me back. 

That is a HUGE stride in my life! I was thrilled about it. 

A G.O.O.D. Neighbor –A New Acronym: B.L.I.N.D.

Let me give a shout-out to my friend and vision-impaired colleague, Stephanae McCoy, founder of Bold Blind Beauty . She serves as an advocate for those with sight loss and is a former VisionAware peer advisor. Steph has a couple of new products she’s developing. One is a slender water bottle / thermos-type container that has the positive acronym and affirmation of the word BLIND. Bold Leaders Illuminating New Directions. 

That acronym fit me. I didn’t let my fears about working in the grocery store frighten or intimidate me. I had become a BOLD LEADER who ILLUMINATED NEW DIRECTIONS in my life. 

In response to this job, I created my own acronym: “A GOOD Neighbor” can also mean “Greeting Others Optimistically and Daringly.”  It signifies being proud of what we can contribute to our communities and workforce exactly as we are, focusing on our talents and not our challenges. 

That acronym fit me. I didn’t let my fears about working in the grocery store frighten or intimidate me. I had become a BOLD LEADER who ILLUMINATED NEW DIRECTIONS in my life. 

A Note about My Past History 

But I had not always been one (bold leader). I lived in denial for two decades, fearing people’s responses if I told them about my vision loss and my secondary disability, hearing loss. I preferred to be thought of as “clumsy” or “an airhead,” to having people know the real truth. It seems crazy now but it’s all too real for many of us and something we live with for much of our lives. 

It took me until my sight loss was no longer manageable and, even then, the impetus in sharing about my disabilities came as a result of two new jobs. Wow. That was thirteen years ago.  

Life has come full circle and here I am again in great need of a job. But today I am fully cognizant of my abilities and strengths as well as my limitations, and challenges. I’m able to demonstrate and speak about them with confidence. You bet I’m excited! I’ll have to be assertive to train my colleagues at the bakery on how to best help me succeed as they train me to learn the tasks on the job. But I’m determined to do it. 

Together we will problem solve to succeed. 

I Get the Job! 

Guess what? I didn’t have to wait until Friday to hear the good news. The phone rang late Wednesday morning. The head of Human Resources said, “Welcome to the family. You’re part of our neighborhood now.” 

It feels great to move in! 


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