I am the Training Coordinator for the Perkins Training Center and each semester I have a student worker assigned to me. I try to teach them what it is like to work in an office environment. I not only focus on the tasks assigned, but also the protocol for appropriate behavior in an office, such as arriving on time, calling if unable to come to work, no use of cell phone during working hours, dressing appropriately and demonstrating general conduct acceptable working in the office environment.
My current student worker is a 20-year-old young man named Omar. He is a full-time residential student at Perkins School for the Blind and has been totally blind since birth (no light perception). He currently works two mornings a week for me in the Perkins Training Center.
In the Fall when he started working for me, he was new to doing office tasks. He would arrive for work with his job coach ready to learn and work. It was the job coach’s responsibility to ensure that he arrived on time prepared to tackle whatever work was given to him.
At first each new task required some adjustments; a comfortable work area, quiet surroundings, and a jig to make the steps easy. The jigs, made here on campus enable tasks to be completed in an easier efficient way. The process of learning new skills is slow at first. The tasks start simple and are repetitive. Each time a task is mastered, a new task is introduced. Some take a little more practice then others.
His tasks now include collating, folding, labeling, preparing folders, stuffing envelopes, stapling, as well as producing copies on the large and small copy machines.
In the photograph (see right) you see him grouping a stack of 5 envelopes and placing an elastic around them. This task began after he had collated the content, stapled them, folded them and put them in the envelope. These are skills he has acquired over the past few months and now mastered all of them.
Omar has acquired and mastered many new skills from the first time he began working in the office. His confidence level has grown. The most impressive change is that he no longer requires a job coach!
I, on the other hand, have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge from working with him. He has taught me that being blind doesn’t mean you can’t succeed at anything, just the opposite. His determination and self-confidence have shown me that having a disability just requires a different way of doing things. Patience, focus and a positive attitude help overcome any of hurdles of daily living.
It is a pleasure to have him come to work every week and see how much he has grown.