Post Title: Sight & Hearing Loss | 5 Key Attitudes that Helped me Stay Employed

Frustrating Challenge to Secure Work

There is no doubt those who have any kind of disability struggle to secure and maintain work. It’s challenging to even get one’s foot in the door. Or, if you do have a job and your sight worsens, individuals fear reporting changes in their vision to superiors. More and more, those with disabilities seeks ways to start their own businesses to get past their frustrations. This interview with an entrepreneur who owns and operates White Cane Coffee is an example located only a few hours from where I live in Pennsylvania.

I know I’m fortunate to have found employment in an unlikely place—right in my own community. But there are some attitudes we can use to heighten our chances for success. Positive thinking and action. Good work ethics.  Seeking friendships among our colleagues. The old adage—to make friends, you have to be a friend still holds. Most of the time anyway. We can’t always be selective about where we work. But if we have a spirit of gratitude and interest in a company, they may work with us to place us in a better-fitting work environment if one doesn’t work out.

Celebrating 6 Months of Employment!

This week I will celebrate six months as a cashier at the local grocery chain. It’s definitely a milestone! Trying to do my job with sight and hearing loss has been a challenge. But I tapped into 5 key attitudes that helped me succeed.

When I transferred from the bakery to the front end as a cashier, I had my doubts. If my low vision caused problems in packaging and labeling breads and desserts, wouldn’t it present even more in trying to see small print on a cash register? I feared failure in dealing with the public—but I faked my way into confidence.

5 Attitudes of my Success

Faith Sustains

First, I tapped into my purpose:  living out my faith. I had prayed for an online teaching position because of the pandemic and, of course, I’d always been an educator. But God surprised me with a hands-on job in my community. When my experience in the bakery came to an end, I could have railed at Him. See!  How could you set me up to fail?  Instead, accepting the cashier’s position kept me employed. I looked at it as an adventure in faith, and trusted God would reveal His purpose. Over time, I’ve learned working as a cashier is much more suited to my personality than the job I held in the bakery.

Seek Out Strengths

Secondly, to activate my confidence, I looked at my strengths. Working directly with customers demanded warmth, perseverance and patience. My strengths went unnoticed in the bakery because I had solitary tasks to complete. Also, our communication broke down. I failed to break through the barriers erected toward my blindness.

In contrast, my strengths at the front end as a cashier stood out like a blue sky on a clear day against a mountainous backdrop. The mountains represented my challenges, but my skills in dealing with people provided a consistent and stable backdrop in spite of the gaps in learning what to look for and how to find information in my new job. In the beginning, I rang up erroneous produce because I didn’t know the names and couldn’t identify the pictures. That resulted in irate customers shouting for my coordinator to right my wrongs To my relief, I found I had a strong support system. They encouraged me.

The head of the coordinators pointed out how well I dealt with these circumstances, and how I never became flustered. (Ha! This is where the ‘faking it till you feel it’ came in handy). Little by little, grew more confident in handling customers. In time, I received both verbal and written compliments from shoppers as I cashed them out.

Develop True Teamwork

Thirdly, I leaned into the atmosphere of teamwork in my new position. The front end consists of those who work with carts, the cashiers and coordinators. We complement and aid each other to better serve our customers. Coordinators and cart employees serve a number of jobs, including helping customers carry out their groceries. A coordinator also assists cashiers. Respect and cooperation flow between the three parties. Teamwork is the basis of success at the front end.

Look for Tools in Technology

Fourthly, embracing technology turned out to be a constant and cornerstone for my success. From the start, the front end recognized the importance of magnification for me and took a pro-active role in securing it. When one form didn’t work, we tried another. By liaising with the Bureau of Blindness to test my vision for the proper magnification strength, we learned X4 worked the best. Also, the drawer at each register has a mini calculator, in which cashiers can use when necessary. Obviously, this won’t work for me. Because we have strong communication, I’m unafraid to bring this to their attention. I know their response in advance. “We want you to succeed.”

Strive to Educate

Finally, I recognize the ongoing need to educate others. Early on, my completely blind mobility instructor wisely told me the degree of my success would be determined by how open I was to educating others. He said, “That’s our reality.”  As I grow more accepting of myself, I’ve become more welcoming to that task. What a wonderful opportunity God has provided to share on a one-on-one basis each day!

t’s not always comfortable but the more approachable I am, the more customers will understand about the spectrum of blindness and hearing loss.

For example, when customers tell me their reward card is “here,” they’re surprised by my confusion.  I have to ask for specifics, which forces them to be more exact. Also, as they see me reaching for my magnifier to provide their total, or find a specific produce, they tell me how they use their own “cheaters” (drug store glasses with various strengths of close-up lenses). They confide in me about their own sight and hearing issues. In my town, we have many elderly customers so they can relate.

The Checkered Eye

Earlier, I had a Checkered Eye (Low Vision) pin to signify I can see some things but not others. (To hear a fun song by the creator of the Checkered Eye, which educates about the spectrum of sight loss, click on this link). Then I misplaced it. I’m now looking to create a Vision Impaired / Legally Blind pin to explain the problem at a glance. I believe it will also open the door to more dialogue.

In addition, some customers recognize me from previous speaking engagements. “I have your book,” they say, “You spoke at our church dinner” or “at my club meeting.” They champion me for working and that makes me feel good. We all want to feel we make a difference in our immediate environment, don’t we?

I value the new friendships I’ve made at work. Once an employee I didn’t even know came into the breakroom to tell me he hung up my winter coat that had fallen. “I know you hang it up in the same place to make it easier to find. So, I didn’t want you to miss it.” I was touched by his awareness and kindness.

Another time, I arrived at work with a different (run down) white cane because I misplaced the one I always used. A cart colleague said, “You lost the ball on the end of your cane, Amy!” You don’t know who’s watching you and what they notice.

A few days ago, I was standing in line at another register after work waiting to make a purchase. A customer came behind me and said, “You’re on the wrong side of the register, Amy!” I was amazed she recognized me. “Oh, I come through your line regularly,” she confided.

Gratitude for my Opportunities

As I near the six-month benchmark of employment, I feel fortunate indeed. Without faith, I wouldn’t have gotten very far. Recognizing and tapping into my strengths took me through the early months of doubt. Teamwork, technology and trusting my customers to better understand my challenges has taken me the rest of the way. I’m grateful to the store for placing me in a department that recognizes my capabilities and puts my challenges in perspective.

We all have different experiences in the work force. Culling out the positives and offering encouragement is always my focus. I invite you to share a corner you’ve turned, a milestone you’ve reached or a success you’ve had at work. Alternatively, I’d love to hear about a goal you’re working on. I’d be thrilled to cheer you on! Share your thoughts in the Comments below.

You have just read: “Sight & Hearing Loss | 5 Key Attitudes that Helped me Stay Employed” by Amy Bovaird © April 19, 2022. All rights reserved.