A career planning and employment resource for people who are blind or partially sighted

About Learning and Education

Learning about careers

Much of what the average child knows about jobs and careers is learned incidentally. Therefore, it is important that children who are blind or partially sighted be exposed to career education and learning from birth. As babies and young children, individuals who find it difficult to see or cannot see what is happening or who is performing a task and with what tools, must be told or shown tactually. Attributed to world-renown educator, Berthold Lowenfeld is the following comment, “The blind child’s world ends at his fingertips.”

This simple statement exemplifies the limitations of learning without good vision – such a person cannot easily learn about anything or anyone out-of-reach. Therefore, we must make a concentrated effort to teach children who are blind or partially sighted from birth about the roles people play and the jobs they are doing that they cannot see; whether it be their parents, other family members, neighbors or people in the larger community.

We must also make sure they understand the responsibilities these different workers have and how they do the work they do – what tools they use, whether they wear uniforms, what schedules they follow, the environment they work in, etc.

Learning to accomplish tasks

When people accept employment offers, they are expected to arrive at their jobs with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform work tasks with a minimum of assistance. They are expected to arrive at their worksites with basic literacy skills (reading, writing, calculating, speaking, and listening) to complete job requirements adequately. They are also expected to have mastered any specific educational content or skills training (skills learned on-the-job or in a vocational training course, such as, operating a machine or mixing ingredients to make something) necessary to accomplish the jobs they have accepted.

This section describes the educational and experiential learning necessary for children, youth, and adults who are blind or partially sighted to accomplish the work tasks they’ll be assigned at home, in school, and, ultimately, in employment. Much of the learning that individuals need to undertake will be accomplished years before they go to those first jobs. The following sections describe the learning that needs to occur.

Early learnings

Employers don’t expect you to recount every learning experience in which you’ve participated since birth, but they do expect you to have the foundation skills that most children learn when they are mere toddlers. What you learn early-on from your parents and significant others sets the stage for who you become as an adult. Parents are typically your first teachers – they teach you how to take care of yourself, to help out around the house (by picking up your toys and clothes) and they are usually the people who teach you the basic social graces.

Unfortunately, the parents of children with severe disabilities often think they should have different rules and expectations of their children with disabilities than for their children without disabilities. Such thinking can be detrimental because these parents tend to do things for their children rather than teaching them to do things for themselves.

Ideally, adults should let children do for themselves anything and everything that they are capable of so that they experience a full range of learning activities.

While many of the early lessons in life—for example the importance of social skills, organizational techniques, problem solving—occur in kindergarten and preschool, primary and secondary education offers a chance to reinforce those skills and gain knowledge or information about the world outside of your own home.

In school, you learn basic literacy skills: reading, writing, listening, calculation and conversation. However, you also learn the nuances of language, including languages other than your own. And you learn mathematics, science, history, geography, health, and many other core subjects. What’s more, you have opportunities to apply what you learn by performing in class, doing homework, and engaging in learning projects with others.

Children who are blind or partially sighted need to be taught how to manage in a sighted world so they can succeed in general education classes, prepare to live independently and eventually work as adults. The structured learning they need to undertake is referred to by professionals (teachers and related service providers such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, counselors, and others) as career education.

What employers look for

In many cases employers are not interested in grades per se, but they want to know that you persevered and made it through the programs in which you enrolled. If you made exceptionally good grades (mostly As and a few Bs), it can’t hurt to mention that you were a good student. However, often completion is what they care about more than a grade point average.

They also care about whether you studied in a subject area that fits with the jobs for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for an accounting job, it will be important to point to training courses that you’ve completed in bookkeeping, business math, auditing, and accounting – not music, art history, or physical education. More important than grades and attending courses is experiential learning – related work experience is valued by most employers above all other things. Likewise, hearing from a former employer that you can do the job well speaks volumes.

Disability-specific skills

Finally, people who are blind or partially sighted must be able to do their work using nonvisual techniques. Therefore, you will want to review your disability-specific skills​, such as, reading and writing with braille, using optical devices, orientation and mobility, use of assistive technology etc. You need to be sure your skills will enable you to integrate into the workplace successfully. An employer is unlikely to be familiar with how someone who is blind or partially sighted can perform in an essentially visual world. It will, therefore, be up to you to explain how you do things differently, albeit competently.


Co​ntinue your education online

Find information about the Hadley School for the Blind and other online learning resources in the Learning and Education Resources section

​Learning and Education Resources