Monday, December 23, 2019

How To Communicate Your Vision Impairment In a Professional Setting

How to communicate your vision impairment in a professional setting with Blind Ambition

Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed last week’s post and that it was helpful to you or your students! Today I want to continue that topic but take it one step further. Now that you have a framework of explaining your vision to someone who might not fully understand that is comfortable for you, how do you carry that over to a professional setting?

Whether it’s your first day at a new job or meeting a new professor, professional interactions are difficult for EVERYONE to navigate. So don’t worry friends, you’re really not alone on this one! This encounters can trigger so much anxiety, anticipation, and uncertainty. It’s a fine line of presenting the best you and maintaining a professional demeanor... and that can be really hard to balance! Over the years, I’ve gained a lot of experience and had a lot of opportunities (some successful, some not so much) to test the waters in this area. Here’s a list of tips and some of my own stories to hopefully help you in your professional interactions moving forward!

  1. Put it in writing. I have found especially during my college years that this was really helpful for my professors and other administrators i encountered. What i ended up doing with the help of my VRT (hi Robbin) was look at my current vision statement and think about the aspects of my vision impairment that would actually impact my ability to take the course or do the job. From there, we came up with a billeted list of accommodations that I would need, and ended it with a basic summary and thanks! The basic format of the letter is: Intro paragraph introducing yourself (my name is and i am a student in your writing class this semester) and your disability.  Bullet Pointed list of necessary, clear accommodations you require (keep the language simple and concise!). Closing paragraph sharing your openness to questions and thanking them for working with you! This letter is important as it will serve as your professor/employer’s reference on how to help you succeed. If they cannot connect with you in order to ask you personally, they now have something they can look at on their own!
  2. Hand deliver it, and introduce yourself in person.Now that you have it all written down, it’s important that YOU ARE THE ONE who gives it to your professor/employer. Your VR counselors are there to help you and support you, but the work all comes down to you! I like to think of it as just meeting someone new. Typically i wait until the first class or day is done because then I have a better idea of what to expect, how the class is run, what will be applicable, etc. i then wait until the professor/supervisor is available and ask them if they have a moment to talk. I then introduce myself and share that I have a disability and hand them my statement. I take a moment to go over a few highlights of it, emphasize things i CAN do “I can read print, it’s easier though...” and then end with a positive statement.”I’m really excited to be taking your class/working with you! Is there anything i can clarify for you?” From there it’s smooth sailing! If they have questions, they’ll ask! 
  3. Be open to their questions. I have found that the best professional interactions are ones where my supervisor or professor asked questions and we created plans/solutions to potential problems together! If they don’t have questions right away, that’s okay. But they may come up. Be open to this. Showing them that you don’t mind answering their questions creates a trusting relationship. And this will help your employer/professor to feel more comfortable talking and working with you to do the best that you can!
  4. Team work makes the dream work! As important as it is to take pride in the things you can do and be independent, it is equally as important to accept the help you may need, and balance interdependence. Trust your professional colleagues and superiors in this way. They are not your enemy. They do not want you to fail. Once in a blue moon I’ve come across a professor who didn’t try to understand and work with me. So what did i do? I turned to those who did, and used them to help me. And in the end it all worked out. I passed the class and though the professor and i may not have totally seen eye to eye (pun definitely intended), i showed him just what i was capable of with the help of those who knew it too. With the support and collaboration of your professional colleagues and supervisors, you will rise to the challenge and achieve success!

This is a topic that I can write about forever. There’s so much to it and so much to cover, but for now I hope you found these basic tips helpful! I will definitely be writing more posts about specific areas related to this subject, like the job interview process. Next week though, I’m going to shake things up. As we get ready to say goodbye to 2019 and a whole decade, I’ll be sharing “Ten Tips for Advocacy and Self Love to Carry With You Over the Next Ten Years”! Until then, please feel free to share any stories, thoughts, or questions in the comments and be sure to follow @blindambitionblog on Instagram for a Twelve Days Til Christmas countdown! Happy Holidays, and remember....

Stay Ambitious,
Frankie Ann

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