Career education is a multifaceted segment of the Expanded Core Curriculum and involves targeted hands-on instruction. One of the best ways for students to learn about work is through work experience—we learn about work by working. However, students with vision impairments also need to develop a concept of what work is and how work powers our society. For students with vision impairments, it can be especially difficult to develop career awareness, an understanding of what jobs exist in the community and what they involve. Individuals who are sighted typically develop this awareness through visual observation. It is important that parents and teachers of students with vision impairments dedicate time for conversations and activities that promote an understanding of jobs and careers. This activity uses a trip to a business in the student’s community to learn about jobs.
Choose a place to go with a student that is in her own community. This can be any business or office where there are two or more types of jobs. This trip can be intentionally for instruction, or can be worked into a family’s errands or routine. Examples include:
- Grocery or retail store
- Post office
- Movie theater
- Bus or train station
- Sports field
Town or city hall
- Before going to the place you and the student chose, ask her what kinds of jobs she thinks exist there. For example, “Who works at a supermarket? What are some of the jobs that people do?” The student may be able to identify people like the cashier, the bagger, or the person taking orders at the deli counter. In other words, it is common for students to identify jobs of people at the store who they encounter regularly.
Take a trip to the store or other place you chose. While there, walk around with the student and talk about jobs that are both visible and non-visible. For students who are able, encourage them to consider some questions that will help them to become more aware of the jobs around them. At a grocery store, you can ask:
- How did these boxes of pasta get on the shelves?
- How did the milk get to the store? How did it stay cold?
- Who decided how much these bananas would cost? Who put the price stickers on?
- Who cleans up the store at the end of the day or if someone breaks some eggs or drops a jar of salsa on the ground?
- What happens to the money that customers pay? Who keeps track of it? Where does the money in the cash register go at the end of the day?
- The student may only be familiar with parts of the store that she and her family go frequently, especially if the student has little to no functional vision. For example, a student may be completely unaware that the store has a fish counter or a bakery if her parents never buy fish or fresh bread. Similarly, if a student often goes to local baseball games with her family but never buys a snack or drink, she may be unaware that there are people working at concession stands. Make sure to talk about these jobs, as well.
- Creating a book or board describing some of the different kinds of jobs in a particular setting can be helpful for students with multiple disabilities. Picture or tactile symbols accompanied by short descriptions can be a way to help students build and retain these concepts. For example, “The stocker helps put groceries on the shelves. The cashier helps people to pay for their groceries.” This could be a helpful tool to use for review after the community activity. Alternatively, a book or board can be made ahead of time for the student to take with her, which can help her keep track and follow along.
- Ask the student to interview one or more workers at a specific location to find out what the worker’s role is and what the job entails. This is also a great way for a student to build social skills.