by Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner, Division for Blind Services
Abstract: this article discusses programmatic continuity between services for young consumers and successful employment outcomes for adult consumers
Key Words: blind, visually impaired, employment, Blind Children’s Program, Transition Program, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program, Division for Blind Services (DBS)
A successful outcome for an adult consumer in the Division for Blind Services Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program is generally defined in terms of matching each consumer’s individual skills and abilities with an employer’s need for those same skills and abilities. A successful match between a business need and a consumer who can meet that need results in a well-placed employee who can look forward to a long-term, satisfying career.
But how does that interaction happen and what does the process mean for young consumers in the Blind Children’s Program or young adults in the Transition Program?
All of these issues are being addressed as part of our current Employment ReFocus efforts. As we move forward with the development of an improved service delivery system that better meets the needs of our dual customers—the VR consumer and the business that is looking for a competent, qualified employee—we are also placing a renewed emphasis on creating a strong foundation for even our youngest consumers that will facilitate and strengthen the acquisition of workplace skills as they grow into adults.
The specialists in our Blind Children’s Program and the counselors in our Transition Program are integral partners in our Employment ReFocus efforts. They continually look for ways to incorporate the development of skills that are directly related to the qualities an employer looks for in a good employee into the scope of services for our children and youth.
Skills development begins at a very early age by working with parents to ensure they have the same high expectations for their child who is blind or visually impaired that they have for the child’s sighted siblings. Parents who have high expectations for their child encourage the development of new skills and, as the child acquires new skills, his or her achievements generate increased self-confidence.
To reinforce parental expectations, we structure our services to encourage our children and youth to be curious about their world and to take advantage of opportunities to grow and learn. We also stress independent living skills so our consumers acquire the confidence they need to explore new opportunities, identify and develop their personal interests, and benefit fully from their academic endeavors.
Group skills training in the form of workshops for children and interactive seminars for youth is an excellent example. Group activities allow young consumers the opportunity to practice existing skills while challenging them to explore new skills. And, as every parent of an inquisitive child or young teenager knows, the camaraderie of a group of their peers frequently acts as an extra incentive to try something new or different.
As the child matures, increased emphasis is placed on employment-related interests and options. Each year, Transition counselors offer as many teenagers as possible an opportunity to explore the workplace through local summer programs such as “World of Work.” These programs let youngsters explore vocational options by working at a paid position, gaining hands-on experience as a volunteer, or “shadowing” an established employee who serves as a mentor and role model while demonstrating the day-to-day job tasks associated with their chosen career.
Our goal is a seamless delivery system that ensures age-appropriate development of independent living and vocational skills, so that each child we serve is fully prepared to enter the work force as a competent adult with marketable skills and abilities.If you would like additional information about the Division for Blind Services programs available to Texas children and youth who are blind or visually impaired, please contact the DBS office that serves your local area.