Employment Initiatives at The Hadley School for the Blind Article
The mission of the Hadley School for the Blind is to promote independent living through lifelong, distance education programs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, their families and blindness service providers. Although statistics vary somewhat, the most reliable data sources suggest that the under- or unemployment rate of persons who are blind or visually impaired is 70%-80%. To that end, the school has implemented several initiatives aimed at enabling its students to find and excel in employment, which is a crucial component of independent living.
In September 2011, Hadley launched the Forsythe Center for Entrepreneurship. The goal of this new business, entrepreneurship and technology program is to provide individuals who are visually impaired with the knowledge, resources and networking opportunities enabling them to advance in their careers or to successfully launch and grow their own businesses. The program is designed to be practical, relevant and interactive. Courses are open to anyone who is blind or visually impaired, over age 14 and is serious about starting or growing a business. Coursework is offered free of charge and is mostly online. Two courses that are part of the Center’s curriculum include “Finding Employment” and “Self-Employment with a Minimal Investment.”“Finding Employment” examines the job-search process. Unlike traditional courses about finding employment, this course covers both the basics of the job hunt and topics specific to individuals who are visually impaired. “Self-Employment with a Minimal Investment” guides students through the exploratory processes of starting a small business. It presents the basics of discovering a business idea, preparing a budget, and developing business and marketing plans, as well as information about disability programs and benefits.
In November 2011, Hadley announced the launch of a Blinded Veterans Initiative. This initiative will educate and inspire blind or visually impaired veterans to pursue their professional and personal goals and help support their families. While veterans may enroll in any of the school’s 100+ distance education courses, core subject matters to be emphasized include business and entrepreneurship, technology, independent living skills/adjustment to blindness and braille literacy. This program is tuition free for all visually impaired veterans and their family members, thanks to the generous support of Goldman Sachs Gives, a donor-advised fund.