As K-12 educators, we tend to focus on accommodations for school and possibly for college. However, the ultimate goal of education is to prepare students for a job. In K-12 and in college, there are established resources who should be familiar with facilitating accommodations. In K-12, the school typically provides technology and the training to use that technology. IEPs dictate other accommodations such as environmental accommodations, extended time/flexible schedules, etc.) Typically, Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) along with the Assistive Technology team evaluate, purchase, and set up the technology that is compatible with the school's systems. Before graduation, students are knowledgable about their equipment; they have taken over responsibility for their equipment and are working with classroom teachers on how to implement other accommodations. During the college years, often parents and/or state agencies are involved in funding personal devices that the student will use in college. If needed, the university's Disabilities Office will help facilitate compatibility between the student's devices and the university's systems and can facilitate various other accommodations.
However, what happens when a 'student' enters the work force? Some students with visual impairments will begin working in high school or college, while other students may not enter the work force until after college. There are also people who lose their vision later in life or who have a progressive vision loss and need tech and other accommodations later in life. No longer are teams of resources/educators available who are familiar with facilitating assistive technology accommodations. In the work force, the 'student'/worker will need to work with his/her boss in order to implement accommodations. The goal is to create a work environment where the worker can maximize his/her productivity!
The American Foundation for the Blind is a wonderful resource for workers who are visually impaired. In their blog post, Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodations, Steve Cardenas shares his tips on how to work with managers to request reasonable accommodations. The tips include:
- Familiarize Yourself with Job Accommodations
- Educate Your Manager
- Be patient
- Communicate Problems
- Kindness & Gratitude
As TVIs, it is important that we prepare our students not only for college but also for the workforce. This is especially important for students who go straight from high school graduation to working! During middle school and high school, begin by involving your student in his/her accommodations plan (IEP) and the implementation of this plan. Encourage the student to have direct contact with his/her classroom teachers instead of having the VI staff run interference. Implement the 5 steps above - with an emphasis on patiently educating others about visual impairments and specific accommodations. Assign your student to read about successful people who are visually impaired. Find mentors. Research job accommodations (start with AFB website!), and if appropriate, join social media groups - special interest groups for the blind.
Teacher Hint: The way you interact with classroom teachers and handle accommodation challenges will significantly impact how your student will handle job accommodations. YOU are your student's first accommodations role model - please carefully consider implementing the 5 steps listed above when you are interacting with classroom teachers about your student's accommodations!