By Holly Bonner, Guest Blogger
Originally posted on Holly’s blog, Blind Motherhood
For those of you who don’t know, Blind Motherhood is not my full time gig. Let’s face it, adulting is hard, and every girl needs to earn a reasonable living. In the real world, I am an administrator for a non-profit organization. I also serve as the agency’s grant writer, an entirely different style of writing compared to the world of blogging – yet equally time consuming. OrCam
has been a lifeline in my professional life and Part II of my OrCam trilogy
is going to explain why.
Visual Impairments & Unemployment:
Historically, the blind or visually impaired have had far lower employment rates than the overall general population. In 2013, the the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB November—December 2013, volume 107, number 6)
dedicated an entire issue to employment issues relating to the vision loss.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
, is responsible for calculating the overall unemployment rate, the percentage of the total labor force that is unemployed but actively seeking employment. The BLS defines the labor force as “the subset of Americans who have jobs or are seeking a job, are at least 16 years old, are not serving in the military and are not institutionalized.”
According to the National Federation for the Blind (NFB)
, the number of non-institutionalized, individuals employed with a visual disability in 2014 was 1,492,700. Of those employed, 988,200 had full-time/full year employment. Those individuals who were unemployed, but identified as actively looking for work, were 212,300 (Erickson & Schrader, 2016
So what the hell do all these numbers mean?
Simply put, 40.4% of adults living with vision loss are working in the United States. That means, close to a staggering 60% are unemployed. These people are our mothers, fathers, friends and neighbors.
It should also be noted, the report did not specifically account for those visually impaired individuals, who are “under-employed.” Under-employment is a term used for highly skilled workers forced to accept low paying, part time work because no opportunities are available to them.
Sadly, I know far too many blind/ visually impaired adults who posses graduate degrees and cannot find gainful, meaningful employment. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants with disabilities – many of us have seen it happen.
OrCam & Grant Writing 101:
What’s this got to do with OrCam
? Stay with me.
Lots of people ask me, “Holly, how do you actually write a grant?”
The first step is identifying a Request for Proposals (RFP). An RFP is basically an application put into cyber space by a potential funder who’s looking to issue a contract to a qualified agency that’s capable of running a specific program. Thrilling, I know.
But when you’re working in the world of non-profits, more often than not, you live and die by your ability to secure these kinds of funding opportunities.
RFP’s can be hundreds of pages long. Literally.
The details presented in these documents needs to be reviewed multiple times; missing something can potentially make or break your agency’s chances of be awarded this money.
Being a grant writer with a visual impairment is both a blessing and a curse. If you’re good at what you do, you can absolutely utilize that skill to help provide for your family. However, you will have no choice but to spend hours reviewing the minute details of every application – and your eyes with hate you for it.
Before using OrCam
, reviewing a new RFP most often began by using Zoom Text on my laptop. Depending on the length of the application, this magnification software would allow me to read (in extremely large print) the basics of what I needed to know. However, looking at my computer screen for long periods of time often dried out my eyes, causing extreme headaches, and giving me extremely painful ocular discomfort.
Often times, I would be forced to print the entire application, spending hundreds of dollars on ink and killing several innocent trees in the process.
Once printed, I would either scan the entire packet into my printer and create an audio file “or” utilize my closed circuit television (CCTV) to once again magnify the information.
Whew! I’m exhausted just writing about it.
On average, the entire review process using these methods could take anywhere from 12-16 hours per grant. By the way, that doesn’t include the time it takes me to actually prepare the written response to the application or gather my supporting documentation.
Not cool when you’re on a deadline, raising two toddlers, have husband who wants attention, and a blog you’re trying to run.
Quite honestly, there were just not enough hours in the day – that was until OrCam
Over the past three months, OrCam
has helped me read through over a dozen of my organization’s RFP’s. With a point of my finger either directly towards my computer screen or from a printed page, I am able to listen to every application. OrCam’s
clear, precise audio recognition and accurate dictation has cut my RFP review time down to less than half! Yes, half! Moving from a previous 16-hour review time to approximately 6 hours per application. Overall, OrCam
has made me a more productive employee, providing me with job security and giving me far greater earning potential.
The Gift of Time:
So what am I doing with all that extra time? Well, let me tell you, A LOT!
For those of you who are working mothers, especially “at-home” working mothers like myself, you know exactly how difficult it is to find balance in your life. Too often, we over extend ourselves.
Thanks to OrCam
, I have been able to complete my work more efficiently, leaving me extra time for more snuggles, stories, and crafting with my kiddos. Oh yeah, and all that other fun stuff that comes with motherhood like cooking, dinner, laundry and – okay, okay, and the husband.
I am convinced, if utilized on a wider scale, devices like OrCam
could absolutely create a shift in the paradigm of visually impaired individuals seeking to become more equal, active participants, in the workforce. We must continue to advocate to our local state commissions, and within the blind community as a whole, to further study the technology of artificial vision. OrCam
has given us the power – we simply need to harness it.