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

Using this Website to Help Children or Youth

As a service provider working with school-aged children or youth, you realize that the young people you serve are not all alike. They have different levels of need based on many factors: innate intelligence, level of vision, presence of additional disabilities, stability of home environment, etc. For the purposes of this article, students have been categorized based on their need for intervention, as follows:

  • Informational: These students need a minimum amount of assistance to learn and apply what they have learned in their lives.
  • Instructional: These students require an average amount of assistance and rely on parents, teachers and other service providers to give them verbal or signed and written direction, show what needs doing, and to assist in doing what they’ve learned.
  • Advocacy: These students require extensive intervention and need ongoing life-long support from others to survive. These students tend to have multiple disabilities with severe cognitive impairment in addition to being blind or partially sighted.

It’s usually possible to determine the level of intervention a young person needs by the time they enter primary school. This is determined through assessment –formal testing and observation – in the various school settings (classroom, cafeteria, playground, gymnasium, etc.).

However, it’s always better to err in the direction of expecting more from a child rather than less – if you’re unsure of the level of assistance a child needs, step back and let the child attempt the task independently. Only intervene when necessary for instruction or support.

Many children with vision loss are limited as a result of adults and other children who tend to over-help them – doing things for them that they can do for themselves. This sends a negative message to the children that others don’t think they can do things without sighted assistance.

If you’re not sure what to expect of a new student, find and review materials on "typical" child development  in addition to information on child development specifically related to children with vision loss. Also review the Learning and Education section to help you understand the knowledge and skills (competencies) that are expected of children and youth.

Evaluate your new student using this Career Education Competencies Checklist document​ (click here for text only version) to see whether they have mastered the knowledge and skills listed there. Be sure to ask the child to demonstrate his or her knowledge and skills through application in functional activities.

Challenges for children and youth with vision loss

 Children and youth who are blind or partially sighted face many challenges throughout the career development process. It may be difficult for them to determine their interests, strengthen their abilities, and refine their values when they can’t easily observe others or see what’s happening outside of their immediate environment. They may have to rely on the observations of others to learn how their abilities compare to other children their age and those observations may or may not always be accurate.

Likewise, learning about jobs being performed in the community and by people they don’t know intimately can be complicated without access to the incidental ("casual") learning that occurs for most children through vision.

Knowing what uniforms employees wear, what tools workers use, and what tasks they are performing is learned by young people who are blind or partially sighted through first-hand experiences – literally through touch and doing or performing the tasks. This means that the building of knowledge, skills, and abilities may be negatively impacted by lack of sight if young people don’t have adequate access to information delivered in alternative ways (e.g. through hearing and touch) and experiential learning opportunities.

Fortunately, this website can help you help these young people learn about the careers that are available to them and develop the skills they’ll need to successfully search for and secure employment. The following are suggestions on how to use this website, however, only you know what will work best for the children you work with.

Getting started

  • Review the Living Independently section. Although this section is written with adults in mind, the competencies discussed are the same competencies your students will need to master in order to move successfully into work and other adult roles. You’ll want to share these competencies with your students and their families. Some may be areas that you’ll want to address in your students’ instructional plans.
     
    The sections that are particularly relevant to preschool and primary students are the sections dealing with personal management (taking care of yourself), home management (taking care of your possessions), orientation and mobility (getting around), communication skills, and self-advocacy (speaking up for yourself). While the expectation is that secondary students will have mastered this content, this isn't the case for young people who lose vision while in primary or secondary school settings.

    These content areas will be critical to review with any of your students who are adventitiously blind or partially sighted (i.e. who were not born with their vision loss).
  • Regardless of the age group you’re working with, you’ll want to review the Learning and Education section. If you’re working with secondary students, you’ll also want to review the post-secondary section in preparation for the transition from secondary to post-secondary settings. Pay close attention to the competencies outlined at each grade level and decide whether your students have the knowledge and skills described. If so, continue to reinforce the skills so that they can apply what’s been learned in different environments.
     
    For example, if a student is able to use his or her orientation and mobility skills to come from the school entrance to the classroom unassisted then work on  those same skills to go from the classroom to the cafeteria or school library. It’s important to ensure that your students can transfer skills learned in one setting to other settings. If your students haven’t mastered the competencies listed, consider which of the competencies you and your student believe are most important and target them for improvement.
     
    Make consistent efforts to stay in touch with your students’ primary caregivers and encourage them to work on the same or similar skills at home. To help you track your students’ progress, use this age-specific Career Education Competencies Checklist document (click here for text only version).
  • In terms of career/life preparation, the section that focuses on secondary school competencies includes a link to a self-assessment instrument for students called the Transition Competencies Checklist. Here you can download the teacher’s version (a text only version is available here) also appropriate for other service providers, and the Transition Competencies Checklist for Parents (text only version is also available).  
  • Regardless of your students’ ages, review the section on disability-specific skills training to ensure they’re learning the skills they’ll need to integrate into school, work, and the community. You understand that the world is designed for sighted people and your students must develop skills such as reading with braille, optical devices, or technology.
  • They will also need to be able to travel comfortably in the community and get around at home, school, or work using strategies that don’t rely solely on vision. There are many other areas that must be addressed – social skills, career education, etc. However, once these disability-specific skills are mastered, your students should be able to integrate into the larger community with a minimum of difficulty.  
  • When your students reach adolescence they will likely want to work. Hopefully, with your support and encouragement, they have been actively engaged in doing chores at home while in primary school. When your students are ready to consider work outside of their homes, you’ll want to read through the Preparing for Work section of this site. That section outlines how you can offer to help these students, including: 
    • Teaching them how to complete job-related paperwork (applications, résumés, or letters of interest) both online and in-person. The latter will require a discussion of negotiating assistance to complete print-only applications.
    • Discussing alternatives for transportation to and from worksites. A technique for helping students evaluate their transportation options is to have them chart what they perceive to be their options (asking parents for a ride, using public transportation, walking, hiring a taxi, etc.) and scoring them (1 = an advantage, 2 = neither an advantage or disadvantage,  3 = disadvantage) on the following factors: cost, time, independence.
    • Practicing with your students: Rehearsing what they will tell a prospective employer about themselves and their disabilities, how they will establish a friendly rapport and demonstrate competence at an initial meeting, and how they will successfully interview. Most students need lots of practice in these areas before successfully interviewing for a job. Review the interviewing tips page, as you work with your students on these skills.
    • Providing feedback on their performances during practice interviews. This feedback should be shared both orally and in writing. If you have access to video equipment, you  can record their practice interviews so that the entire class or group can give each other feedback on their performances.
  • You may want to visit the Working Life section simply to get a sense of what to anticipate with regard to your students’ futures in the world of work.
  • Don’t forget to visit the Success Stories section – these audio and video interviews with successfully employed adults and their employers are a wonderful source of information and can give you, your students and their families insights into what the future may hold. Meet these engaging adults and learn about what they do and how they’ve managed their lives and responsibilities.

Finally, visit the Service Providers Resources section for links to other useful websites and related information to help you assist your students as they prepare for a life that includes work and career roles. 

Important Documents on this Page
 

 
 

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Assistive technology

Links to organizations and programs that provide information and training with assistive technology can be found in the Resource section.

Service Provider Resources
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Success Stories

Check out these interviews with people who are blind or partially sighted enjoying meaningful careers.

Visit Success Stories
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