Last year, William Budding attended the Job Fair for Individuals with Visual Impairments as a newly minted college graduate hoping to land an entry-level position. This year, he attended as its featured speaker –and as a full-time staff assistant at the Harvard Divinity School.
“It’s been a really fun journey,” said Budding, who landed an internship at State Street Corp. before accepting the Harvard position this fall. “I wouldn’t have had these opportunities without this event – it gave me the chance to network and demonstrate that although I’m a person with a visual impairment, I’m also a qualified candidate.”
On Tuesday, Budding spoke to a packed gymnasium at the Radcliffe Institute, where recruiters and representatives from 30 organizations met with more than 70 adults who are blind or visually impaired and seeking employment.
The annual event, now in its fifth year, is hosted by Perkins School for the Blind in collaboration with The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, The Carroll Center for the Blind, National Braille Press and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.
Throughout the morning, candidates passed out resumes and learned about job opportunities at places like Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University and TD Bank. Many also participated in one-on-one interviews with HR representatives.
Stephen Theberge, a Perkins alumnus with a background in computer science, had three interviews scheduled. Theberge is currently an intern at Project SEARCH, a workplace training and placement program for people with disabilities, and does occasional accessibility testing for the MBTA. He attended the Job Fair to look for full-time opportunities.
“I don’t want to sit at home the rest of my life, I want to do something and be busy,” he said. “When you have a job you’re part of society, you’re helping people. It’s nice to speak with people interested in working with people who are visually impaired.”
For many job-seekers who are blind or visually impaired, finding employment requires navigating a system seemingly built for sighted people. The Job Fair allows candidates to network without wondering if their disability will hurt their chances for an interview.
“Events like this are so helpful,” said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, a graduate student interested in international economics. “I had five interviews and all of the employers were open and friendly and had actually looked at my resume beforehand, so they were able to ask me questions that were pertinent to my background and interests.”
Candidates weren’t the only ones benefiting from the fair. Michael Chung, a talent acquisition specialist at the Museum of Science, said he enjoyed the opportunity to meet qualified candidates face-to-face.
“I have a stack of resumes from individuals I’m excited about,” he said. “When you’re reviewing resumes through an applicant tracking system, you only see the resume. Here, I’m able to talk to a human being about what they’re interested in, their experiences and how the museum’s interests could play into that.”
Perkins School for the Blind works to improve employment opportunities for people who are blind with initiatives like the Job Fair, the Perkins Business Partnership and the Pre-Employment Program, a 10-week workshop for young adults to strengthen their job readiness skills.