The lesson we learn in business is that sometimes you need to think differently, take some risks and look at things from a different angle…and in this case, when you can’t even look. When listening is most important skill in your business, the best people who can do that are the ones that can only do that. What we will learn in this article is the process of adding to your staff with very capable visual impaired team members…the concept, the how to, the resources and the benefits.
BPA first started recruiting visually impaired staff members in 2006 after an internal brainstorming session on how to recruit candidates with greater listening skills. The initial conjecture was that a person who had lost one of their senses would heighten their remaining ones in order to help them during their daily lives. With this perspective in mind, it was our hope that someone with a visual impairment may have stronger listening skills, thus giving us candidates that could evaluate calls more accurately. The other side of recruiting someone with limited to no sight was helping members of the community that may have been overlooked due to their disability. For BPA, these folks could perform equally if not better than full-sighted individuals.
Upon deciding to recruit persons with visual impairments, we then engaged groups that could help guide us through the next steps. Organizations such as the Helen Keller Services for the Blind, Lighthouse International, and the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired were instrumental in helping BPA with recruitment, placement, technology acquisitions and office culture at large.
At the start, we leveraged the Commission for the Blind to educate existing staff in better understanding the visually impaired and the potential challenges they may face in and out of the workplace. Some of these included clearing obstacles in the office, contacting local government to install audible cross walks in front of the building, how to walk safely and use proper techniques navigating the office, and building staircases and the surrounding areas.
Along with staff development, they also worked closely with our IT team to better link our internal software with voice and screen magnification programs. As BPA’s technology evolved, we took some of the lessons learned from our experiences with our visually impaired group and incorporated them into our software releases, benefiting both internal staff as well as our clients at large.
The keys to our success were to understand the roles we wanted to fill, engage the proper resources, and educate our entire company about the process and benefits. In doing so, we have been privy to a truly enriching work experience. These team members continue to be an integral part of the staff and key parts in BPA’s successes. With this work, we have also been recognized by our local government and by the State of New York for our continued work and involvement within the visually impaired community. The benefits are tremendous, true business vision.