The national unemployment rate is at more than 8 percent. Many more are underemployed. Imagine, though, if you were part of a population for which unemployment exceeded 70 percent.
That's the challenge faced by disabled Americans. Despite technology and adaptations that allow disabled employees to compete with other workers, many employers are hesitant to hire someone with a disability.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which spotlights disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities.
NewView Oklahoma is the state's largest employer of the blind and visually impaired. Our employees are engaged in a range of manufacturing and service jobs. We're the sole supplier of wooden airplane wheel chock blocks for the U.S. military, and the sole supplier of fire hoses for the U.S. Forest Service.
NewView employees pack military rations and first-aid kits. They convert rolls of vinyl into shower curtains. They work at telephone switchboards and in mailrooms. They're accountants, supervisors and administrators.
A few simple adaptations — proper lighting, a magnifier or tactile cues — are all that's needed for our employees to be successful. With adaptive computer software, there are few jobs or professions where a blind or visually impaired worker can't excel.
Despite this, workers who lose their sight in middle age often find themselves dismissed from jobs they've held for years and shut out from careers they've built over a lifetime. Those who are blind or visually impaired in childhood may navigate through high school and college, only to spend years going to job interviews without a single job offer.