Peer support and mentoring
If you are a blind or partially sighted person looking for work, or hoping to retain your job, it can be helpful to talk to someone who has been through the challenges you face.
CareerConnect is a service run by the American Foundation of the Blind. One of the resources they offer is a free mentoring service, which puts you directly in touch with a mentor in your field of interest. Mentors are professionals who are blind or partially sighted, who have volunteered their time and expertise to the blind community and are available to answer questions and provide advice to job seekers like yourself about employer expectations; job requirements, education, and training; salaries; and the future prospects of their field.
Since the mentors all have some level of sight loss, they are fantastic sources of firsthand information about workplace adjustments, assistive technologies, the disclosure process, the pitfalls and triumphs associated with the social aspects of working, and any other questions you might have about entering the workforce or changing careers as a person with sight loss. You'll need to register on the AFB CareerConnect website. Once registered, you will also have access to other benefits.
Become a CareerConnect mentor
Are you willing to share your skills and knowledge of the workplace? To be a mentor, you must be blind or partially sighted, successfully employed, and willing to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to email queries about your chosen profession and the technology that you use. Your participation is the true key to the success of this program.
By volunteering as a mentor you will be:
- serving as a role model
- helping to break down barriers to employment for those exploring new careers
- teaching new ways of accomplishing career requirements
- passing on your hard-earned knowledge and experience
- motivating and inspiring people who are blind or partially sighted to higher goals and greater ambitions as they explore career possibilities
Aside from these benefits, you will enjoy the fulfilment that comes with knowing you helped another person who is blind or partially sighted as he or she explores the world of work.
For further information please visit the CareerConnect website.
Other sources of peer support and mentoring
UKVIJOBS email groups
UKVIJOBS provides a free source of useful employment related information and discussion. This is done through a series of email lists which are set up either as discussion groups or as notice boards. There are currently three groups, which are:
- employment and vision impairment discussion group
- small enterprise and vision impairment discussion group
- job vacancy advertising noticeboard
Society of Visually Impaired Lawyers (SoVIL)
SoVIL is a self-help group that aims to promote the interests of blind and partially sighted lawyers, and those wishing to work in the legal profession. SoVIL members are willing to act as mentors to young lawyers or law students, and information about this service can be obtained from SoVIL's website and a request for mentoring assistance can be submitted via the contact us link on the SoVILwebsite.
British Computer Association of the Blind
The British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB) is a lively community of blind and partially sighted computer users. They offer training, discussion, networking and help to all its members. Established in 1969, it is the oldest computer association for blind and partially sighted people in the world. Membership includes people of all skill levels, interests and abilities. While not employment specific, blind and partially sighted job seekers or those wishing to retain employment may find relevant peer advice here on access technology. Visit the BCAB website.
ABAPSTAS (The Association of Blind and Partially Sighted Teachers and Students)
ABAPSTAS was founded in 1970 by a small number of visually impaired people with the primary aim of supporting VI students, teachers and lecturers. Since then, ABAPSTAS has grown into a national self-help and campaigning organisation with a strong voice. Their main focus is still on education and employment but members now include people who have moved into careers other than teaching. Visit the ABAPSTAS website.
Association of Disabled Professionals
ADP is a membership organisation that provides advice, information and peer support to disabled people interested in working in professional fields. ADP also provides a quarterly newsletter and a series of employment guides for disabled people. Visit the Association of Disabled Professionals website.
Blind System Admins
Self help group for blind system administrators (eg tech support helpdesk professionals). Visit the Blind System Admins website.
'Living with more vision and less sight' A collection of observations from a lemonade maker.
Ten years ago Steph Cutler heard the news she was going to experience sight loss and threw an 'I'm going to go blind' party!' She has written an eBook to celebrate her tenth anniversary of being visually impaired. 'Living with more vision and less sight' is a collection of memories and musings noted over ten years.
Download your copy from the Making lemonade website.
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