Podcast Transcript: Hiring Blind Part 1

About This Podcast

Hiring Blind was produced by the Minnesota Radio Talking Book Network, part of State Services for the Blind. And it is recorded for people who are blind or have reading disabilities.

You can find complete programming of the Radio Talking Book at www.mnssb.org/rtb. And the password is R T B.

The following podcast is part one. 

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Introduction

Hiring Blind: The Misconceptions Facing America's Visually Impaired Workforce. Part One. This was written by Belo Cipriani, for his blog. And you can reach Belo Cipriani at belocipriani.com.

Your reader is Stuart Holland.

Column Begins

As a recruiting manager staffing for clients such as Google and Apple, I was concerned about three things: experience, unemployment gaps, and the probability of the person becoming a long-term employee. 

I interviewed few disabled candidates and rarely considered their job prospects. As a recruiter, I rarely debated if and how they would be able to perform the duties of a position. I soon found a new perspective — one that changed the way I viewed both the role of the recruiter and the place of people with disabilities in the job market. 

A Shift in Thinking 

I was attacked more than six years — a beating that caused severe retinal trauma, which left me blind. A year after the attack, I found myself at California’s Orientation Center for the Blind, learning new ways to complete necessary daily tasks. Most significantly, I learned that while I had helped place hundreds of people into positions at top companies, my opportunities and chances of finding a job were slim. 

Members of the blind community warned me that I would need a lot of patience when I began my job search. I now belonged to a group of people erroneously viewed by recruiters as unskilled, unproductive, and more difficult. I didn’t need my guide dog, Madge, to sniff out the irony of my new situation. 

According to University of Illinois at Chicago professor and disabilities studies scholar Dr. Lennard Davis, these stereotypes exist in part because people’s misconceptions of the blind are split between thinking they’re completely helpless or brimming with superpowers. These misconceptions carry over into the business world and can seriously confuse potential employers. 

The Misconceptions of Managers 

According to a recent study done by the nonprofit National Industries for the Blind (NIB), out of 3.5 million blind Americans of working age, a walloping 70 percent are not employed. And of the 30 percent working, the majority work for blind organizations. 

One major reason blind people struggle to find employment is that public misconceptions of the blind affect hiring managers’ perceptions of potential candidates who are visually impaired. I’d like to break down a few of these — put out by the NIB study — and discuss why these misconceptions are fallacies. 

“Among hiring managers, most respondents (54 percent) felt there were few jobs at their company that blind employees could perform, and 45 percent said accommodating such workers would require ‘considerable expense.’” 

The reality is that a blind person can do any job that involves a computer, and there are a slew of adaptive tech toys that make most jobs accessible, such as a portable scanner to read printed material. As for the purported expense, according to The American Foundation for the Blind, most accommodations cost less than $1,000, a negligible amount for a serious business. 

“Forty-two percent of hiring managers believe blind employees need someone to assist them on the job; 34 percent said blind workers are more likely to have work-related accidents.” 

This fear can be attributed to some of our common idioms, e.g., “It’s like the blind leading the blind.” This phrase implies poor navigation skills, when the reality is that blind people often have superb orientation skills due to hours of training by mobility experts. Far from being clumsy, the visually impaired have an attention to detail that most sighted people lack. Insurance statistics back this up: Blind people actually have better safety records than their sighted colleagues. 

“Nineteen percent of hiring managers believe blind employees have a higher absentee rate.” 

In reality, blind people don’t actually miss more time from work. A DuPont study, completed during a 25-year span, found that disabled people, in general, have better attendance than 90 percent of their non-disabled colleagues.

Go to Hiring Blind Part 2.

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