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7 steps to make your Careers Service more accessible to blind and visually impaired students – guest post

Jessica Luke from Blind in Business recently provided us with the following guest blog post aimed at careers professionals.

Blind in Business is a charity that runs a free careers service for blind and visually impaired students. Many of the students we support have never used their university careers service. Some say they lacked the confidence to get in touch, others did not think that their university careers service could help them.blind-in-business-logo

You may do all of this already, but just in case here are 7 easy steps to encourage your blind and visually impaired students to get in touch:

  1. Communications

Some students use specialist software to read the computer screen. Please make sure that your communications are sent in a format supported by this software: swap your PDFs for Word documents or plain text and avoid GIFs, infographics and pictures. Check that your careers portal, events diary and job board are accessible with screen reader and magnification software.

[Note: some students may not wish to receive adapted communications.]

  1. Careers Fairs

Blind and visually impaired students may avoid careers fairs because they are too crowded. Here are some adjustments that could make a fair accessible:

  • Reserve the first hour of the fair for students with a disability.
  • Offer to provide a guide or issue an extra ticket so that they can bring a friend.
  • Allow students to meet with their chosen employers at a pre-arranged time.
  • Ask employers to provide electronic versions of their leaflets and business cards.
  1. Training courses

Consider offering the following adjustments:

  • Ask the student for their preferred format and font size and adapt materials in advance.
  • Provide or allow students to bring a note taker.
  • Provide electronic or large print copies of PowerPoint presentations.
  • Offer to help the student find the right room.
  1. CV checks and proofreading

Proofreading and formatting can be tricky for blind and visually impaired students so please do provide feedback on visual layout.

[Note: some students will not be able to access the ‘comments’ function in Word. If you are providing feedback, please ask the student for their preferred format.]

  1. Interview practice

There are some considerations that may be useful for your blind and visually impaired students when preparing for a job interview.

[Note: not all of these adjustments will be relevant to every student.]

  • Orientation: students can ask to be met at reception and shown to their seat.
  • Eye contact: if making eye contact is difficult, advise students to face the direction of the employer’s voice as much as possible.
  • Handshake: if a student is nervous about not seeing the employer’s hand, suggest that they offer their hand first upon meeting the employer.
  • Tests: please mention that visually impaired students can ask for extra time, or other ‘reasonable adjustments’.
  1. Workshops and Presentations
  • Reserve a seat where the student can best see the presentation (or has space for a guide dog).
  • Send an electronic copy of the PowerPoint before the session.

[Note: when you can’t see well, it can be difficult to take part in a Q&A session. See if the student would like you to ask a question on their behalf or invite them to ask their question by name.]

  1. Careers Guidance

One student was told by her careers adviser that teaching is impossible if you have sight loss. We supported her and she now works as an early years’ teacher in Camden. Please be aware that visual impairment is a spectrum and that, with new technology, there are relatively few careers that are closed to visually impaired students.

We have supported graduates into a range of sectors. Some of the more surprising careers include a paramedic, a photographer, a television producer and a trader.

If you are unsure about whether a profession is suitable, please do get in touch.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach because students with tunnel vision, poor acuity or total blindness have very different needs. If in doubt, please don’t assume: it’s daunting to be given hand outs in braille, if you have no idea how to read it! Ask the student what they need. Finally, if you do offer any of the adaptations mentioned above, please promote this to your visually impaired students.

Contact

Jessica Luke , Graduate Coordinator, Blind in Business, 1 London Wall Buildings, London, EC2M 5PG 0207 588 1885

Sourced by Viki Chinn,  AGCAS Disability Task Group,  LSE

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