A different kind of job fair

Job seekers put aside their disability at annual Job Fair for Individuals with Visual Impairment

A man holding a white cane shakes hands with a woman behind a table

Job seeker and Perkins alumnus Mark Cadigan shakes hands with Rebecca Libitz of USI Insurance Services.

November 3, 2017

One year ago, Mary Brown found herself in an unfamiliar situation. After 40 years of steady employment in the financial sector, her position was terminated. Suddenly she was unemployed.    

Brown, who is visually impaired, is now an adolescent outreach coordinator at the state Department of Children and Families, but she remembers how isolating it felt to be out of work.   

“Of all the jobs I’ve had over the years, job seeking is definitely the loneliest,” she said.

Brown was speaking to a crowd of recruiters and human resources professionals at the seventh annual Job Fair for Individuals with Visual Impairments. The event, held October 25, was sponsored by Perkins School for the Blind, The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), The Carroll Center for the BlindRadcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and National Braille Press.

This year’s job fair attracted more than 60 job seekers with visual impairment looking to make connections with organizations like the Museum of Science, State Street and Tufts Health Plan. The Radcliffe gymnasium hummed with energy as participants went from table to table passing out resumes and engaging in face-to-face conversations with hiring managers.  

Christian Thaxton, a senior at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, spoke with several employers about jobs related to information technology. He also had a private informational interview with a representative from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Since all job seekers at the fair were visually impaired, Thaxton didn’t have to worry about how or when to disclose his disability.

“You always kind of go in with a question of, ‘How do I break this news? How will they take it?” he said. “With that off the table, it’s nice to just go sell yourself, tell them why you’re a good candidate for the position.”

Meridith Jones spoke with recruiters at Partners Health Care and the Internal Revenue Service about her background in customer service. She walked away with a list of contacts and job openings to pursue.

“I’m keeping my options open,” she said. “You never know what could happen, who you might meet.”

Job seekers weren’t the only ones to benefit from the fair. Many employers said the experience helped them become more comfortable with the idea of hiring someone who is blind.

Karen McDermott, a human resources officer at Boston College, enjoyed learning about the types of accommodations and assistive technology that many people with visual impairment use in the workplace.  

“I think knowledge is key,” she said. “There’s a huge pool of untapped talent out there, so we need to look at how to do things differently.”