Undoubtedly, starting a new job comes with excitement and anxiety. Often, people may move across the county, the state, or even the country for a new job. Recalling my first professional job, I moved several hundred miles away from friends and family. I trekked into the unknown, unsure if I would last a month, let alone a week! I survived and have thrived, and so can you.
With less than three weeks to give notice on my apartment, find a new home, pack, and research the train and bus routes to the office, I remained humbled, calm, and stoic throughout the planning process. That is not to say I was not nervous. Whether you are moving cross country or town for that next fantastic career opportunity, heed the following tips from a working blind professional.
Have a Plan, Make Connections
The first thing I did was list everything I needed to do to land successfully on the job on day one in under three weeks. My list of preparations was my sole guide and timeline on what needed to happen to stay on task. Initially, I needed to find out what friends, relatives, and groups I knew of in the city and county I was moving to. These individuals can be a connection for you regarding resources.
After identifying a few solid connections, I was able to locate adequate living arrangements and learn of safe bus and rail routes. With just a few days before my start date, I did a few dry runs on public transit. By gaining access to an Orientation and Mobility Specialist, even if just by a phone consult, you may be able to find out important information about your town. A friend or family member willing to accompany you initially on transit may also be an option.
Learn Your Work Environment
Once at the job site, find time to learn and navigate your work environment, including routes to restrooms, breakrooms, and emergency exits. Accessing other key areas of your place of employment is good, too. If you work in a shared space or the middle of a row of cubicles, find a way to quickly and quietly identify your area with minimal interruption. For me, this meant placing a chair to the right of the entrance to my office. I could reach my hand inside as a way to confirm my location.
Make the Office Setting More User-Friendly
Consider how you can improve accessibility to that which you’ll utilize during your work day. Some items to think about being able to access in the office setting may be a coffee machine, printer/copier, and personal office climate control, to name a few. A Vision Rehabilitation Therapist may be able to assist you in ways to adapt these items. A few braille or tactile labels may be all you need to ensure independent access.
Communicate with Tact and Grace
You’ll need to self-advocate and make adjustments as you go. Consider the following:
Advocate for your needs.
Communicating individual needs and accommodations to your new employer and colleagues is critical. Communication may involve requesting assistive technology, such as screen magnifiers or text-to-speech software, or changing your work environment, such as having large print signage or tactile markings on equipment. Be proactive. Don’t wait for your employer to come to you with accommodations. Ask about the company’s policies and procedures for people with disabilities, and take the initiative to request what you require to complete your job.
Flexibility is key.
Things may not be perfect on the job site, and adjustments may need to occur. For example, you may have to learn how to use your working technology with company software or find ways to work around obstacles in your work environment. It may also take time for your employer and colleagues to adjust to your accommodation requests and understand your needs. You should try to be patient and understanding and be willing to educate them about your vision.
Introduce yourself to your new colleagues.
Let them know your name and that you are blind or have low vision. Explain what accommodations you need and how they can best support you.
Ask for assistance when you need it.
Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues or supervisor for help if you need it. They are there to support you and help you succeed in your new job.
Many resources are available to people who are blind or have low vision. These resources can provide you with support, training, and assistive technology.
Remember, you are qualified for your new job, and you deserve to be successful. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask for the necessary accommodations. With these suggestions and tips in mind, acclimating to the new job and work environment will be easier than imagined, and you’ll be a pro in no time.