Job Fair for People with Visual Impairments Jump Starts Matchups with Employers

6th Annual Job Fair to Connect Local Businesses to Untapped Talent Pool

In the foreground, a woman interviews a man across a table. Other interviews can be seen proceeding in the background.

Job seekers who have no or low vision meet with employers at the annual Job Fair for Individuals with Visual Impairments

October 18, 2016

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. –  Thirty Boston-area employers and scores of qualified job candidates will meet at the 6th Annual Job Fair for Individuals with Visual Impairments on Tuesday, October 18, from 10:00 a.m. until noon at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, in Cambridge. The City of Boston, Museum of Fine Arts/Boston, Oxfam America, Spaulding Rehab Network, State Street Financial, and many more organizations seeking to strengthen and diversify their workforces will consider the skills and experience of job seekers who are blind.

The Carroll Center for the Blind, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) and Perkins School for the Blind have jointly hosted the event since 2011, with support from National Braille Press. This free event is held each year during October which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM #InclusionWorks).

The most recent figures from Cornell University’s Disability Statistics report show that less than half of American adults with a visual impairment participate in the workforce. Of that group, 15 percent are unemployed — roughly twice the rate of the rest of working-age Americans. Most job seekers who are blind or have low vision do not even get to the interview stage, despite having the education and experience to succeed in a wide range of jobs.

“To address disparities between the national unemployment rate and unemployment rates among Americans with a visual impairment, we must dispel misperceptions about blindness,” said MCB Commissioner Paul Saner. “The one-on-one interactions that happen every year at the Job Fair between job seekers and employers provide those kinds of breakthroughs.”

Employers at the fair will have a chance to speak with experts and see technology solutions that allow employees with no or low vision to work productively alongside sighted co-workers.

The day will begin with remarks from Lizabeth Cohen, Dean of Radcliffe Institute and Commissioner Saner followed by job seeker success stories from Richard O’Driscoll, a customer service professional who was recently hired by the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office, and Debbie Civil, who now works at Dunkin’ Brands and is a published novelist.

“People who are blind excel as architects, teachers, business managers, lawyers, you name it, and the job fair is a chance for employers and job seekers to make important connections,” says Perkins School for the Blind President and CEO Dave Power. “Giving employers opportunities to meet and interview qualified job candidates and to learn how easy it is to create an accessible workplace are critical steps in reducing the unemployment rate for individuals who have no or low vision.”

In addition to partnering on the job fair, Perkins has co-developed a free on-line course with Harvard Extension School, Introduction to Inclusive Talent Acquisition, to give hiring managers and recruiters the tools they need to attract, interview and on-board qualified candidates with disabilities.

Carroll Center President Gregory J. Donnelly sums up saying, “Creating a path to inclusion and financial independence not only benefits job seekers who are blind, but also their families, their employers and their communities. Working together to turn around the employment picture for people with visual impairments ensures that we all win. The job fair,” says Donnelly, “is a great place to start.”

For more about creating an inclusive workplace, download the e-book Working Together, Every Day.

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Sydney Fiorentino
InkHouse for Perkins School for the Blind

Marilyn Rea Beyer
Media & PR Director
Perkins School for the Blind
617-972-7478 or 617-513-5569

Wayne Levy
Director of Communications
Massachusetts Commission for the Blind