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Employment Bureau

Creator: Charles W. Holmes (author)
Date: April 1908
Publication: The Outlook for the Blind
Source: American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., M. C. Migel Library

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Deputy Superintendent Industrial Department Massachusetts Commission for the Blind


Mr. CAMPBELL has spoken particularly of some of the varied and unique occupations which some blind persons have followed successfully. These cases are extremely interesting, suggestive, and inspiring. I firmly believe that the blind man who can take his place side by side with his seeing brother, in a profession or in an office, at a desk or bench, as his individual capacity may dictate, is fulfilling the greatest possibility that is conceivable for him in the way of occupation. The doing of the ordinary thing in the ordinary tray, in spite of blindness, is the pride of every blind person, and the nearer and the oftener we can approximate it, the better. Speaking from the standpoint of one who has been attempting to do Employment Bureau work among the blind, I am unwillingly forced to admit, however, that such results as have been cited are, under present conditions of life, not yet attainable in a great many cases. If we are to keep the blind occupied, we shall in most cases have to pursue special methods, select suitable trades, furnish necessary training, discover practical adaptations of methods or implements, and in many ways provide so that the elements in their blindness which they have not yet been able to rise above may be removed from the list of vital obstacles to their success. The Employment Bureau agent's work, therefore, is not so simple as that of the agent of an ordinary bureau, where it is mainly a case of fitting supply to demand. Here the agent has to a large extent to create the demand, while he selects and cultivates the supply. From the seeing employer he meets incredulity where he needs faith, mournful sympathy where he wants practical cooperation, offers of charity or pension when he asks for a chance to fill a position. Perhaps hardest of all to bear, he is met with makeshift excuses by those who have neither the willingness to let him prove his point nor the moral courage to give hint a fiat refusal. Among the blind themselves he has various problems. Some are anxious to work, but their minds are an utter blank as to what can be done, and he has to think for them; sonic believe that they could do things which the agent finds himself utterly helpless to deal with, and will listen to nothing else; many, particularly among those recently blind, need training in every conceivable way before they are fit to take up any line, for they do not even know how to be blind -- how to use their hands and ears instead of eyes, how to navigate or even care for themselves. Finally (and, thank heaven, this comes more from the seeing friends than from the blind themselves) he has to contend with the unwillingness to do anything, to even stir about, and the conviction that everything is over for the poor, afflicted soul but the funeral services. It is evident, therefore, that the agent's problems are many and strenuous, and his efforts must be correspondingly vigorous and wisely adapted. Verily, he is one of those who is called upon to "be all things to all men."


But now let us follow him through a few of his practical experiences.


The possibilities of employment for the blind seem to divide themselves into three general classes, as already indicated by the last speaker. First, work among the seeing under conditions which are as nearly as possible those of his brethren. Second, work in groups of other blind persons, where the difficulties which stand in the way of his following the first line are understood and provided for in a helpful way, instead of becoming the inevitable cause of early dismissal. Third, home industry, which I would not limit to the practice of a trade which can be carried on under the man's own roof, but would interpret broadly enough to cover anything which he is able to carry on in a modest fashion, with no other direct assistance than that furnished by members of the family. There is a chance to consider some individual undertakings as belonging to a fourth division, but by liberal interpretation of the first and third, perhaps we need not go further for the present.


When a new application for employment is received, the agent should always consider first the chance there may be of fitting the applicant under the first group. The qualifications which make him feel there is good prospect of success are: that the man should have confidence in himself, not horn of conceit, ignorance, or bravado, but of conviction and determination; that he should be able to get about, after reasonable opportunity is given for familiarizing himself with his surroundings, with ease and certainty, and, if possible, with some grace -- not so much for his own sake (for the blind man may be willing to take chances and put up with hard knocks) as to make it possible to advance convincing arguments to the prospective employer; some previous training or natural aptitude for the specific occupation under consideration; some special ray of hope for success in placing the candidate, as a result of the interest of a former employer or personal effort on the part of an interested and influential friend, etc.

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