Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

Resources for Employers and Employees

October 28, 2021 American Printing House Episode 40
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Resources for Employers and Employees
Show Notes Transcript

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. NDEAM commemorates the many contributions of people with disabilities to the workplace and the economy. We’re continuing the conversation about employment and the workplace by talking to a CareerConnect specialist and we’ll also learn about the importance of accessibility, diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We'll also hear from a job seeker.

Participants (In Order of Appearance)

  • Sara Brown, APH Public Relations Manager
  • Richard Reuda, APH Digital Content Manager for the CareerConnect Program
  • Tai Tomasi, APH Director of Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Paulina Vazquez , Currently seeking employment

Additional Links


Jeff Fox:

Welcome to change makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Sara Brown:

Hello, and welcome to Change Makers. I'm APH is public relations manager, Sara Brown . And today we're talking about National Disability Employment awareness month held during the month of October. The theme for this year is America's recovery powered by inclusion. NDEAM commemorates the many contributions of people with disabilities to the workplace in economy. And to continue that conversation about employment in the workplace, we're going to explore some of the resources offered through APH. We're going to talk to a CareerConnect specialist , and we're going to talk about the importance of accessibility, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. And we'll hear from a current job seeker. Up first, we have APH's Digital Content Manager for the Career Connect program, Richard Rueda . Hello, Richard, and welcome to Change Makers,

Richard Rueda:

Sara. Hello, and thank you for having me on today. I'm excited to be here.

Sara Brown:

First off. Congratulations on your new role at CareerConnect.

Richard Rueda:

Thank you .

Sara Brown:

And can you tell us a little bit about your role at CareerConnect?

Richard Rueda:

Yeah. And thank you, Sara. I , uh , I'm onboarding as the Digital Content Manager. I've, I've switched over , uh, I've been on contract for a year and a helping out just in portions of the ConnectCenter and CareerConnect. And in my role, I step into as Digital Content Manager, I am able to really , uh, I don't want to say resurrect, but really bring career connect to the modern day stage where we're helping job seekers young and old, and all of those in between , uh, looking for career advice, career guidance, and , uh, we do webinars. I'm going to be , uh , hosting a forums on mentoring on how to get a job, how to get a job when you're older , um , networking and bringing people together and have the other half of what we do in the connect center , uh, in CareerConnect, Sara is marketing and outreach. So doing presentations to the conferences, the consumer groups, ACB and NFB , uh, going to a head outside of the blindness organizations to disability in , and really letting people know how important and critical career connect is , uh , to our population, to our audiences, because there are so many resources. So managing that, managing our content, getting , um , all the experts together and getting it published through our forum , uh , with all the different media outlets that career connect has evolved to from, from blogs to, to our webinars.

Sara Brown:

Okay. And for those who don't know, tell us why is CareerConnect so important and vital asset?

Richard Rueda:

You know, I , I, I thought about this and because we get this asked a lot, Sara, and what I like to think of CareerConnect, because I I've used it as a user and as a rehabilitation professional going past 20 years now. And I see it, I seen it evolve and grown from the days when it was with AFB and it's done so much, and it's been so much to so many folks in our field. Uh , I call it from, from legacy to legendary because there are so many aspects and layers of career connect. Um, it's important because it is the single go-to for the curious , uh, job seeker for the curious person, wanting to explore a career, find people who are role models or mentors, we're doing things. And we have that information up there. It's , uh , it's the single place that where you can connect and find other people who are doing the things that you're curious or interested about. Uh, that's, that's the , the thing about CareerConnect, which is so critical and so exciting and awesome, and by modernizing and bringing out new content and new perspectives, including diversity and inclusion, we , we make sure we hear from voices from all walks of life and my networking. My , uh, 25 years plus in the field has given me the opportunity to know people in the blindness community and who are deaf blind, and, and from all walks of life who can come and contribute and who do it willingly.

Sara Brown:

Can you talk to us about what CareerConnect offers for those seeking employment? It's it's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and tell us what does CareerConnect offer for those looking for jobs?

Richard Rueda:

Yes, Sara, we are , um, knowing that it's October and National Disability Awareness Month, we , uh, we have blogs and we have articles on all our sites, even on FamilyConnect and a little bit on VisionAware. But we do , uh , put that up on , uh , CareerConnect as a blog and on our Facebook page. And we address what the theme is, how people can get involved, how employers can get involved , uh , some of the tools and , uh , curriculum that career connect hosts is, are one of the more popular items we have up. There is our job seekers toolkit and a little over a year ago, we revamped that toolkit. It's a curriculum for job seekers and for rehabilitation professionals to work with their participants or clients, if you will, on how to get a job, how do you disclose your visual impairment, your blindness, when you are interviewing for a job, the pros, the cons, how should you do it before, during or after the interview? And we give scenarios on that. The job seekers toolkit also addresses , uh , w what is the best way to interview for a job? And how do you interview online? If you're doing a Zoom interview, as many of us have been doing for the past year. If you were a job seeker or just your schooling, but also a how to do the handshake, what should you wear for the interview? Um, how to look for a job, how to search for a job, the job seeker tool kit addresses that, and that's up on career connect, or if you will, APH career connect.org. And I like to make that distinction, Sara, because when we inherited CareerConnect, we put APH in front of it. So people often will not find it unless you go to APHCareerConnect .org . Um, again, the other things that CareerConnect has our blogs and blogs are a way for you to get your ideas and opinions out. They're not just from the professionals who are teachers of the visually impaired and rehabilitation, counselors and educators, but also students , uh , part job seekers. Uh, we have one, a young lady who I know wrote an article, a blog for us back in June, and how to interview during the pandemic, and how do you really make those connections and distinct , uh, connections when you want to be that person to be hired. And that there's a blog up there on that. There's a blog up there on how do you have your guide dog in the workplace? There's articles on disability , uh, awareness on , uh, diversity and inclusion and Ann Wai-Yee Kwong and Giovanni Barbara and Daisy Soto here in California wrote a really good four piece blog article on diversity and how , uh , being blind, how being from other cultures and other , uh , walks of life really influences how they were able to advocate to go to college and get their first job and get out of the house. And that's speaks to a lot of young people who are coming in from other parts of the world, wanting to get this information. So CareerConnect addresses that through our blogs. Uh , one of the other things that we do with career connect our webinars. Uh, the big buzz right now in the rehabilitation field is Pre-ets or preemployment transition services. And working through our advisory committee with CareerConnect, u m, Shannon McVoy up in Michigan and other, u h, subject matter experts, Sue G lazer down in Florida, we've put together several webinars on preemployment transition services. What does that mean to the vocational rehabilitation counselor? What does that mean to the teacher of the visually impaired and to the job seeker, the student who's 16 wanting to get their first ever work experience? U h, those are some of the things among many other things that we are addressing, u m, timely and passionately through career connect.

Sara Brown:

What else can job-seekers find on CareerConnect?

Richard Rueda:

Yeah , uh, you know, our job seekers , uh, there there's , uh , uh, it's I talked about the job seekers toolkit. Uh, we are working on and updating the maintaining employment guide. So for people who are , uh , exchanging careers or transferring from one career to another , uh , we have information on that , uh, in the rehab field, we call it post-employment services or job retention. If you're looking from one job to another, or how to retain your job, there's information on that. Um, S success videos. We've a Russel Shaffer who some of us in APH know who's on a part of the APH board who works at Walmart, and he talks about his struggles and challenges and ultimate triumphs , uh , going to work for Walmart as a visually impaired , uh, individual. And that's a real powerful interview. That's up on our success videos or succeed at works , uh , site , uh, Dr. Mona Minkara, who's got a PhD in chemistry who works at Northeastern University in Boston. She is this a bright young lady who's just super empowering and talks about how blind people students can get into the field of chemistry and really break down those barriers and get in the field of STEM. Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. So we've got these videos up there. They're about an hour long, but we break them into 10, 15 minute segments. So students can go in there during class time and watch a segment that their teacher may have asked them to watch and get, feel empowered, feel motivated. Um, that th that's just some of the many things. Uh, there are resources for employers up there. There are resources for teachers , um, for the employers or for the job seekers, Sara , uh, we've got our virtual work sites. So if you're working in the retail environment or an office environment, or in a factory , uh, we've have , uh, these data sheets on what job seekers need to be able to work on their job site. So if they're low vision or blind, we have information on , uh , what you will need accommodations-wide, very similar to the job accommodation network. So we have , uh , the measuring tools that you'll need that are adapted. If you're working in like in a warehouse, versus if you're working in an office, you might just need something for your low vision, for something that reduces glare or a screen reader. And again, we're getting a lot of employers out there who are coming to career connect, who don't know much about blindness, and we want to make them as informed and as empowered as possible. So through those virtual work-site curriculums up there, it's another way to address how to work with people who are blind on the job.

Sara Brown:

The employment statistics for individuals who are blind or visually impaired are low. What can CareerConnect provide to employers who are hesitant? You touched on it just a minute ago with your previous answer, but is there anything else employers... CareerConnect can provide to employers who are just unsure?

Richard Rueda:

Yeah. A couple of things. I , I want to , um , kind of acknowledge our I&R line. The Information and Referral line through the ConnectCenter, because we often think of CareerConnect as just a part of a its own site, but we are a family of sites, CareerConnect, FamilyConnect, and VisionAware in our I&R line. Often we hear through our I&R line, which is Allen and Sharon who hear from employers or job seekers about the struggles they have on hiring a blind person or the blind person getting a job. So often those get funneled to the, to myself and or to Olaya and we kind of troubleshoot on how to best address that. So everything doesn't just come through the site, but it comes through an I&R line. And that's an important element to know, because it's a team effort around here. It's not just Richard saying what Richard knows, we share our knowledge. And then I also have established and , uh , November of last year, our APH CareerConnect Advisory Committee. That is a body of rehabilitation, counselors and teachers , uh , employers , uh, college professionals, who also can be kind of our go-to body to help address , uh, employment matters. And so employers can go to CareerConnect or call us and on CareerConnect with , there are , uh, information on how to hire a blind person , uh, best practices on onboarding a blind person, how to interact with a blind person, as well as communicating with us. So there's, there's multiple ways to understand and learn on , uh , what's out there for employers to address the high unemployment rate, which, you know, we're , we're not happy to hear, but CareerConnect tries to bridge that gap by being one more resource. And we do a lot of outreach and we're going to be doing so much more in my position in the next year to get out there to employers, to educate them, to engage them and to make them feel cool about hiring blind people. And the other thing I will say, Sara, I just looked at my notes here is , uh, we, we realize that a lot of employers don't know about rehabilitation like we do in the field. So we'll make the appropriate referral to the, their local rehabilitation agency who is , uh , tasked with helping employers as well as job seekers work with each other better and bridging those gaps by providing technologies on the job assessments and those things that are relevant to making it , uh, you know, seamless , um, on the boarding experience and a cool experience for the employer.

Sara Brown:

One last question. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Richard Rueda:

Well, I , I think , uh, and thank you , uh , again for the opportunity I, as you can tell our hope, I, I'm very passionate about CareerConnect and where it has gone from being a legacy to legendary. And I really want people to think about that. Um, we have plans for the future. Uh , we're not static, we're alive and well, our , our Advisory Committee is really , uh , helping us put together a lot of events , uh, both in-person and on zoom hybrid, if you will, for the coming year. And we're excited to be out there , uh , networking with folks from all walks of life. Um , one of the things that we will be launching in , uh , early next year and 2022 is something I'm calling , uh, it might not be the final name , uh , Career Conversations, and it will be a webinar where I will be interviewing , uh , similar to what we have been doing with Succeed at Work, in our Success Stories, interviewing blind professionals who are doing really cool and interesting jobs from, from just anything you can think of doctors, lawyers , uh , people working , uh , you know , at call centers, everything under the sun, the boring and not so boring jobs. I will be interviewing those folks, getting to know them, but also in the live setting, we will be able to allow our, our , uh, attendees who are watching on zoom , uh, to ask a question. So maybe for 20 minutes, I will interview you. And then after that, we will invite our audience to send in questions, to give , be able to ask that person things that are interesting about their job or how they got their job questions that are specific to them. And I think that'll invite more people into the career space and through our Career Conversations and it'll open up doors and then we can publish these webinars like we do with our other , uh, media. And it'll , again, one more opportunity for folks to engage in , learn from blind professionals from all walks of life. I think the last thing that we want to do through CareerConnect in the ConnectCenter, as we build our team, since we're growing, we'll have a series of open houses over the next couple of months, where we are talking about VisionAware, FamilyConnect and career connect to the entire community , uh, where they come in on zoom, they get to ask our entire team what's going on and also provide information and feedback on what we're , um, what what's missing and how we can make our sites even more interactive and more engaging to everyone out there. So be on the lookout for that, Sara and , um , I thank you and APH for Change Makers podcast. I'm a fan I listened every time it's published. So thank you for having me. And I'm super thrilled. And over the moon to be a part of the APH family,

Sara Brown:

We're happy to have you on board. And you know, this is your first time on the podcast, but I'm sure it won't be your last. So thank you so much, Richard, for joining me today on Change Makers.

Richard Rueda:

My pleasure.

Sara Brown:

Up next, we have APH's Director Accessibility, Diversity and Inclusion Tai Tomasi. Hello, Tai and welcome to Change Makers.

Tai Tomasi:

Hi, thanks so much for having me on the podcast.

Sara Brown:

Talk to us about accessibility, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace and why it's so important. This is something we talk about frequently, and we really want to drive home the importance of having that in the workplace.

Tai Tomasi:

I think it's important for people to recognize the stigma and the challenges that the blind and visually impaired and disabled communities face, but also other communities like the LGBTQIA plus community, all communities of color , um , we all experienced different issues and employment, different challenges because of implicit biases of the people in charge. Every one of us has implicit biases and that's just something we all have to constantly counter within ourselves. But what makes a difference is the extent to which people are willing to do that, how much we're willing to question our own, move beyond those biases and change our whole employment. Uh, the makeup of our, of our employers. We're all more comfortable with people and experiences that we, that mirror our own experiences and it's important to continually counter those biases. So every day we counter the predominant cultural experiences and we raised empathy for other experiences. We can't have inclusion without universal accessibility, and we can't have belonging without inclusion, accessibility and diversity and equity in all of our workplaces. So all of these are intertwined. And so many of us have these intersectional, multiple identities, whether we're blind with a psychiatric disability or we're black, and we're visually impaired or we're blind and lesbian, just to name a few, few different intersectional identities. Studies show that the more intersectional identities that are represented in a workplace, the more creative, innovative, and successful the teams are all different teams with people with disabilities and other minority statuses. So openly acknowledging the barriers and the challenges for blind and visually impaired people, obtaining employment really can't be overstated. There are a lot of barriers, a lot of challenges. And the only way we can deal with that is through continued advocacy. We have to develop resilience. Um , even some systems that are designed to help our communities , um, often do harm through ableism and some microaggressions like some agencies like Social Security , um, Vocational Rehabilitation. These agencies want us to become employed, but even employees of those agencies sometimes are unfamiliar with our challenges because they're may not be disabled. So the resilience and the problem solving strategies that the blind and disabled communities and communities of color and LGBTQIA plus communities bring to our organizations educates and improves entire teams and companies. So this is why all of the things that we're doing with accessibility, inclusion, diversity and equity are so important in the workplace. They're not just buzzwords. They truly eliminate the path to success for all companies and companies that address all these areas are consistently rated some of the best places to work because employee satisfaction is higher and people feel included and they feel like they belong. So for employees who are blind or visually impaired , um, that's really important to feel like we can belong and that we're accepted and people are listening to what our needs are.

Sara Brown:

And what do you want to see in the workplace for individuals who are blind or visually impaired?

Tai Tomasi:

For people who are blind and visually impaired , uh , employees who are blind or visually impaired. I want to see employers truly observe and listen to what blind employees are saying, where are the experts on our own needs? Um, and the disability community has adopted the mantra, which I may have said on here before on other episodes, "nothing about us without us." I want to see employers take that to heart and defer to us rather than looking to academic academics or research about our needs. Academic scholarship and research is certainly important, but it really can't replace the lived experiences of blind and visually impaired people. I also want , um , employers to make workplaces safe spaces, to discuss challenges and needs. And one way to help make safe spaces is to establish employee resource groups, which is something we're going to do at APH. And in these groups, people with different identities have a safe space to discuss issues with each other. And preferably these groups don't include executives , um , and are they're led by someone who shares the identities being discussed. Um, also employers should not assume anything about what blind and visually impaired people can do or people with disabilities can do. And , um , realizing one , one important thing that employers can do is realize that everyone does things differently and that's okay. People with disabilities are often scrutinized for that fact. And it's really important to understand that we might do things differently, but we're all working to accomplish the same things. The focus should be on, you know, whether this person is doing their job functions, are they completing the essential job functions? And , um, instead of criticizing what technique they might be using to do that,

Sara Brown:

What are some easy ways employers can determine if they are accessible and inclusive?

Tai Tomasi:

Yeah. So there are a lot of ways you can audit your organization to see , uh , whether you're accessible. Um, you know, whether you need to work on diversity and inclusion, there are a lot of different audits out there to check on those practices. Um, you want to make sure that your practices and policies don't have any disparate impact on people with disabilities. And that means that nothing in the workplace should cause an inequitable experience for employees or customers that have disabilities. I encourage people to contact me for specific resources on that. Um, there's quite a few out there. Um, if employers need ideas about how to accommodate people with disabilities, first, have a conversation with the person with a disability. Um, that's not off the table, you know, if someone needs accommodations, it's okay. If we can talk to them about that. Um, if the disability has already been disclosed , um, talk to the person about what they might need and if the employee doesn't know what they need , um, the job, the Job Accommodation Network is a good resource for ideas on that. Uh, finally the APH career connect program that we run has a lot of valuable resources for blind and visually impaired employees and employers who want to learn more about , um , what it is to be blind and visually impaired.

Sara Brown:

Is there anything else you'd like to add regarding accessibility, diversity and inclusion?

Tai Tomasi:

Yeah. If you have any questions about accessibility , um, belonging, inclusion, diversity, and equity , uh, feel free to contact me. I can be contacted at [email protected], that's as my first, the first letter of my first name and then my last name. Um , you can also call me at (502) 899-2340. I'm happy to provide more resources.

Sara Brown:

Thank you so much, Tai, for joining us today on Change Makers.

Tai Tomasi:

I'm so glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Sara Brown:

Now, we're talking to a current job seeker who's out there right now, looking for employment. We have Paulina Vasquez here. Hello, Paulina, and welcome to change makers.

Paulina Vasquez:

Hello. Thank you so much for having me. I am very happy to be here.

Sara Brown:

So can you tell me about your job search right now?

Paulina Vasquez:

My job search has been very dynamic and a lot of it has just been a lot of research and really being sure as to what I'm looking for and even in some cases what I'm not looking for, and that takes a lot of trial and error.

Sara Brown:

And have you used CareerCnnect for your current job search?

Paulina Vasquez:

Yes, I have. I have found the plethora of resources on CareerConnect to be very invaluable. I've used , uh , the blogs as , uh , resources, especially getting the job seeker perspective, in addition to the perspective of employers in terms of what they might be looking for and especially hearing it from other job seekers, like how they go through the interview process and what that was like for them. And of course, considering accessibility in mind. Additionally, I used the search options for exploring for jobs, for people who are blind and visually impaired in addition to exploring the Job Seekers Toolkit.

Sara Brown:

Have you been on any interviews?

Paulina Vasquez:

Yes, I have.

Sara Brown:

Have you felt any hesitancy from potential employers due to your visual impairment?

Paulina Vasquez:

Some it really depended on the job I was looking for. So currently I'm looking at a lot of customer service jobs, so some of them were a little concerned about how I would do certain aspects of the job. You would think that that would be too much of an issue given that a lot of it is mainly talking to people, but in particular, when it came to software that they utilized and I did my best to dissuade their fears by explaining the software that I utilized. And I proposed a lot of various solutions for those scenarios that they proposed to me as they were interviewing me.

Sara Brown:

When you're using CareerConnect. And you're looking at all the resources available to you, are there any that stand out or that, you know, really hit home for you to help you improve? Maybe whether it was how to prepare for an interview or how to conduct yourself during an interview? Was there anything that you learned from career connect that sort of stands out for you that you think is really good and beneficial?

Paulina Vasquez:

I think both of those resources were honestly truly beneficial. I also found the topic on disclosure to be beneficial as well. Because I think that's quite a large topic and many people will have a lot to say about it, both good and bad. And I think it's important to get that perspective, especially if you are looking for a job and you want to know how to tackle that question. And if that question comes up for one reason or another, I had that happen to me recently , um , where I did end up disclosing. And I will tell you that actually it was a very positive experience and I was able to propose a lot of solutions. So I think getting that perspective in addition to learning how to prepare for an interview, especially with your first or second interview can be very helpful.

Sara Brown:

Okay. And one final question for you. Is there anything else you'd like to add, whether it's about CareerConnect or job hunting in general or doing interviews? Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Paulina Vasquez:

Um, I would say that I want to thank those accurate connect for the multitude of resources that they provide for job seekers. And I also just want to say for anybody who is job seeking out there, keep going, you know, it will take some time, but you're going to get there and don't give up. Even when it seems difficult, use all those resources, keep connecting with networks and continue with those interview preps and reading blogs and doing what you've been doing and trying new job leads as well.

Sara Brown:

Thank you so much Paulina for joining me on Change Makers.

Paulina Vasquez:

Thank you so much for having me. It's been an absolute pleasure

Sara Brown:

And thank you so much for listening to this episode of Change Makers. We'll put any links or websites mentioned in this podcast, in the show notes, and as always be sure to look for ways you can be a Change Maker this week.