May 4, 2007 - Austin, Texas - Gila Corporation and the Texas Division for Blind Services have successfully completed the transition and hiring of Phillip Gross, a new blind employee.
“It took me more than a year to find a job,” says Gross. “Luckily, I was able to live on savings and money I earned riding bulls in the rodeo.”
That last paragraph explains to me one likely reason why Mr. Gross was hired--not because he is a blind man who has ridden bulls in the rodeo, but because he is a blind man who was daring enough to ride bulls in the rodeo, and this self-confidence comes through in his personality.
I am not totally blind, and I don't know if Mr. Gross is, either. But I do remember, when I was attending the Job Club program that my caseworker referred me for, we had a guest speaker one day named Jef Huntley (sp?). Jef had gone blind from an accident at work, and this was catastrophic for him. Fortunately, he began receiving DBS services and training within five months of going blind and went into intensive independent living skills training. When I met him, I think he had been blind for two years. He is a participant in the Business Enterprise of Texas (BET) program and is a self-employed food vendor.
Upon listening to Jef talk, I could see why he had a job and those of us in Job Club did not. Jef was outgoing, full of energy and drive. You would not realize, to listen to him, that he had an impairment. Those of us in Job Club were mostly introverts and a lot shyer than Jef was.
But you can't be shy, passive, or introverted if you are a blind person out job-hunting. Annoying as it is, you sometimes have to be able to fool the interviewers into forgetting for a time that you can't see either well or at all.
I once got turned down for a job at the Lighthouse, of all places, because I had a visual impairment, the job was extremely visually-oriented, and the person hiring didn't want to 'set me up for failure.' Only after she interviewed me and saw that I wasn't as impaired as she had thought I would be, did she warm to the idea of hiring me, but by then, of course, I no longer had any desire to work for her. It was a very sharp lesson in reality. You have to overcome people's preconceived notions of what blind people can't do, sometimes even among people supposedly in the rehabilitation field.
Well, let me tell you, until today, I'd have said there was no way in Hell that a blind man could ride a bull in the rodeo. Yet he does, and it impressed the heck out of me. This reminds me of the old saying, "A woman has to work twice as hard as a man to impress someone half as much." I don't think that's as true for women now as it used to be, but I do think you could substitute the phrase, 'disabled person,' and it would be pretty accurate.
And the job I got when I was finally hired? It was to be the receptionist in my office. But they weren't just looking for a receptionist; they wanted a visually-impaired one, as a way of motivating the consumers. "If the legally-blind receptionist can work and work well, so can you."
In other words, the job-hunt agenda thing goes both ways.