Saturday, August 3, 2013

Albinism in the Workplace Series -part 1

I know this is long overdue, but I wanted to make sure we had a good line up for the Albinism in the Workplace Series that was full of several different career paths, and from people of all ages—and let me tell you, I got them. I have to admit though, that I did not expect some of the TRUTH in the submission answers (don’t worry; you will soon see what I mean). So after weeks of collecting more information back from the participants, and then some sick days, some website issues and such, I want to finally introduce our first interviewer!
Erica Evans is a new friend of mine that I recently had the pleasure of meeting at the NOAH Bowl-a-thon in Arkansas.  Since we live in Arkansas, I thought I would start off the series with Erica’s answers as she is the leader of NOAH’s Arkansas Chapter. I gave her a list of questions that I thought I would just list out for everyone to read her answers to. So I guess instead of an interview it’s more of a Q and A. (*Note-On a few I have added my comments that are in italics.) Enjoy!

Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I am a special education teacher at elementary level. *I should add that Erica also speaks on behalf of the visually impaired/blind at several events and conferences around Arkansas quite often, and that is just one of the volunteer things that she does around our community.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job as it pertains to your vision if any? Does your sight make anything more difficult in your line of work?
A: The hardest part of my job is grading papers and having to look over shoulders of students to read their computer screen.

Q: Was there ever a career you wanted to do as a child that you felt you wouldn't be able to do because of your sight?
A: I kind of wanted to be a nurse but my dad said I was too soft hearted to do that job. After that I never really thought about a career until high school and then I wanted to work with persons with disabilities and their families. *I think it’s important to point out that her parents did not discourage her from the nursing career because of her sight but because of other normal concerns that every child faces.

Q: Is there a career you tried but had difficulty with because of your vision?
A: No, I just fell over into the field of teaching after grad school.

Q: Do you consider yourself successful and what is your favorite part of your job?
A: I feel most successful and the most rewarding part is when I see kids make connections with the materials being taught and when I can see a child go from not being able to read to being able to read on a 4th grade reading level.

Q: Was there someone or something that helped motivate/encourage you to pursue your career?
A: I had a Disabled Student Services undergrad school tell me point blank that I worked better with people over computers. I had failed a computer information systems class and was feeling down. My first and only F in college—now that’s motivation!

Q: Do you use any assisted technology / devices in your workplace?
A: I use a hand held magnifier, I use my kindle to enlarge books so I can read them to my class, and I use screen magnification software, called Magic, which reads things out loud.  I also use a document camera to enlarge pages on a smart board in my classroom.

Q: What are your future career goals?
A: I love what I do and when/if I ever reach the point that I no longer love teaching it will be time for me to retire. I have been teaching for 18 years.

Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career like yours with a visual impairment?
A: It can be done. You have to find your way. You have to select books carefully that are large enough to read. Get along with coworkers and find people you can trust to assist you when needed.

Thanks Erica for your willingness to participate and answering all my questions; I am so thankful for teachers like you!