Are You Aware?

Joe StrechayAs October draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to commemorate this month’s importance as National Disability Employment Awareness Month and to ask you, as parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends of children who are visually impaired, to get your youngsters thinking about and aware of career options as soon as possible.

In 1945, Congress designated the first week of October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped week, which was an effort to educate the public about hiring people with disabilities. In 1962, the word “physically” was dropped from the title to include people with all disabilities. In 1988, Congress made the decision to expand the week to a month and renamed it “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.” This meant the entire month of October was dedicated to expanding awareness and employment opportunities for all people with disabilities.

Every parent wants his or her child to grow up and find fulfilling employment. It is important for parents and families to work as a team with their child’s teachers and school administrators. This includes advocating, educating, motivating, and encouraging. Don’t sit on the sidelines because this is the most important game you and your child will play in. It may be up to you to get your child thinking about employment and the skills necessary to be successful on the job. I believe children should learn and think about employment options from birth. We should talk with them about employment options and the skills that are necessary for careers, and we should explore the path that leads to that career.

I work in the APH CareerConnect Program and my job is all about creating content that will help teens and adults who are blind or visually impaired explore and think about careers. I also get to work with parents, families, and professionals. I have worked in education from grades K-12, as well as in rehabilitation or habilitation with clients 18 to 80 years old.

I have met with teenagers from all over the country, and I keep hearing unrealistic career goals from high school students. While it would be nice to live in a world where anything is possible, it simply is not the case. All individuals need to have realistic career goals. Your educational path and skill set have to sync with what is required for a particular career. If not, this differential will lead to disaster.

APH CareerConnect has a new, self-paced online employment training course called the “Job Seeker’s Toolkit.” This innovation allows users, who could be teens or young adults, to navigate through four modules aimed specifically at preparation for employment. There are short, easy-to-read lessons that connect to assignments with examples. The assignments are useful tools that can be saved in a user’s APH CareerConnect Portfolio. These tools can be printed out as well. The neat thing is that a parent or teacher can sign up and their account will be linked with their child or student. The parent or professional can generate a code and a student can add that to their profile. Then, when the student submits his or her assignment, the student can check off that they want the parent or professional to receive the assignment as well.

The Job Seeker’s Toolkit could be an amazing resource for you and your child. It has advice and tips that guide users through the employment process from becoming more self aware to starting on the job. This is a FREE resource that is worth checking out. The course also has an associated message board that allows users to ask questions, share advice and tips, and more.

Nothing beats real-world experience, so get your children prepared and out there, exploring all types of jobs and careers. Utilize APH CareerConnect and the Job Seeker’s Toolkit. Encourage your children or students to use their skills and get some experience as early as possible. How many of you had part-time jobs while in high school? Don’t you believe that your children should have those same experiences?

Some resources to check out:

  • The AFB Press CareerConnect book combination.
  • APH CareerConnect, where users can send messages to mentors who are employed in many fields. The safe message system will allow users to explore careers, interests, accommodations, and more. APH CareerConnect offers many other resources and teen-appropriate material. Check out “Aaron’s Adventures in Employment” and experience some entertaining educational multimedia materials.
  • AccessWorld has a few articles specific to employment that would be great to check out. There are two in the October 2010 issue. But, you should also check out the July 2010 “Back to School” issue. AccessWorld always offers great evaluations of today’s technology with respect to persons who are blind and visually impaired. Check it out today!