The Thread: Pre-employment Exams and People Who are Blind

Lyla Mae Crawford, counselor/coordinator

In our on-line community, DO-IT Mentors share useful advice with DO-IT Scholars, Ambassadors and Pals, who are high school and college students with disabilities. Below, we share an edited version of two discussions where Mentors (most of them blind) share advice with an Ambassador who is blind about taking pre-employment exams.

Question One:

Picture of DO-IT Phase II Scholar Israel on a bike with DO-IT staff member James holding the handlebars.
DO-IT staff member James O' Connor helps Phase II Scholar Israel ride a bike.

Ambassador: Hi all. I am currently trying to get a job for a large technical support company. This job requires taking an examination on Internet Service Providers, which I have gained some knowledge about over the years. The problem is that the company doesn't have the staff to read the examination to me and I don't know of anyone else who can do it. I do have relatives on the side of town where the business is located, but all of them work during the week. Does anyone have any recommendations for completing the examination? Thanks.

Mentor 1: It's possible (especially since this is a high-tech company) that they have it on disk. Is there reason why you can't use a computer to fill it out?

Ambassador: Yes, I could use a computer to fill it out if I could just acquire the equipment I need to get speech access. Do you think the human resources director would allow me to install speech-access equipment on a workstation, if she doesn't have enough staff?

Mentor 1: Who knows? They might even allow you to take it home. Also consider leveraging off your state department for the blind. They may have volunteers.

Mentor 2: How about downloading and using a copy of [speech and software product] on their machine?

Ambassador: I never thought of that! That's a really good idea! This option would require a couple things:

  • The director is willing to allow that.
  • The workstation has a sound card to function as the speech system. If not, she might allow the installation of a portable speech synthesizer. I am willing to bring headphones with me to keep the background audio away if necessary.
Picture of Jacob on a bike.
Jacob yells "Look mom, no hands!" as he tries out an adapted bicycle at Summer Study 2001.

Mentor 1: Hi. I think you should present the situation in a positive manner. The employer may not have seen anyone use the kinds of adaptive technology you use. Your using it for the test may give them the opportunity to not only test your skills, as they would other applicants, but also see what strategies you may use to perform the requirements of the position.

Mentor 2: Also, I think that you can view going through a testing situation like this as an opportunity for you to find out how flexible and accommodating the company is, and for the company to see how to handle situations like that. It might be worthwhile to approach the human resources person directly and make the various suggestions that have come up in this discussion, and ask which would work for them as well as indicate the method you would prefer. Often, employers don't have many ideas of how to accommodate a person with a disability, and it is up to you to make suggestions and work out a solution. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate your ability to ask for accommodations you need, to show that you can perform the required tasks when accommodated, and to demonstrate your problem-solving skills.

Postscript: The Ambassador worked out a solution with the employer with the help of his state's Commission for the Blind.