The Gift of Independence

Our mission at Society for the Blind is to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. A major step for our clients and students in realizing their full potential is finding a job or returning to work: Employment is Independence.

About 31% of working-age people with visual impairments live below the poverty line, roughly double the overall national rate, according to Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute. This is due in large part to the high unemployment rate – nearly 70% – for people with vision loss. But here at Society for the Blind, we are taking significant steps to change that. The support of Sacramento area workplace giving campaigns plays an important role in helping our clients receive the gift of independence.

In this month’s newsletter you will read about one of Society’s newest employees, Nick Westerman. Nick’s story reflects the transformation that takes place and the potential that is unlocked through blindness skills education and the use of adaptive technology.

One of our newest programs, CareersPLUS, provides employment readiness training so our students are confident and competitive when they pursue employment. This is important because many employers aren’t aware of the many adaptive devices and technology that make most jobs accessible for someone with vision loss. A recent report by Prevent Blindness noted that people who are blind or have low vision bring a strong work ethic plus deeper-than-average loyalty to their employers. That’s in addition to whatever talents and training they bring, just like any other applicant.

CareersPLUS is supported in part by donations from workplace giving campaigns like United Way and the California State “Our Promise” campaign. Every contribution is a gift of independence for someone with vision loss. I would like to introduce you to a few of our students currently enrolled in CareersPLUS:

Georgette, 58, is a social worker at a large health care provider. She is losing her vision as a result of diabetes. Georgette is taking classes at Society to learn how to use adaptive technology to access the computer applications she uses at work. She will return to work and intends to continue working until she retires.

Vicky, 43, was a respiratory care therapist before she began losing her vision because of diabetes. She is currently taking classes in adaptive technology, independent living skills, and orientation and mobility. Vicky is intent on acquiring the skills so she can return to work in the health care field.

Paul, 47, was a practicing attorney before becoming totally blind as a result of an accident. He recently has completed courses in adaptive technology and orientation and mobility, and he is currently applying for jobs with the State of California.

This month, as we celebrate our country’s independence, we also can celebrate the newfound independence of the women and men living with vision loss who are returning to work or starting a new career path. Your contributions matter. Thank YOU for the gift of independence!

We are proud to be a certified nonprofit partner with United Way California Capital Region. If your workplace supports local charities through United Way employee payroll deduction, you can designate Society for the Blind to receive your support. Our agency number is 3233.