Job Training for the Blind


While unemployment is a persistent problem throughout the region, it is even more so for the blind and visually impaired. The combination of dependency fostered by public assistance programs for the disabled and the weak institutional capacity of organizations representing the blind, have made it difficult for them to develop as individuals and contribute economically to society. To improve the employability of the visually impaired in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, this project provided specialized training to prepare them to enter the job market, ultimately looking to improve their quality of life and independence.
This project is rooted on the idea that true social integration is achieved through employment, a goal calling for a change in attitude among both the blind themselves and potential employers.
The specialized training provided through this project took into account both employer demand and the market niches where blind people have a competitive advantage, including: teleservices, telemarketing, food and drink tasting, perfume testing, and radio services, among others. Technical training was also given to people who teach computer and other skills to the blind. All in all, 261 courses were completed, with 2013 participants, the majority of whom were blind and between the ages of 18 and 45.
The Argentine arm of this project, executed by the Argentine Federation of Institutions for the Blind and Visually Impaired (FAICA), published the book, “Training and Job Placement for the Visually Impaired: Best Practices and Lessons Learned from Argentina”, which systematized the training methodologies used throughout the program. This original publication was also shared with various other organizations working with the visually impaired.
Through this project, FAICA and its affiliated organizations have strengthened their management, strategic planning and accounting capacities, as well as their ability to negotiate with the government and businesses. They have become capable guides on issues for the visually impaired and have expanded the array of services offered to the blind.
The other co-executing agencies of this project were the National Union of Typhlology Institutions of Chile (UNITCH) and the Braille Foundation of Uruguay (FBU).
Lessons Learned
• Flexibility as a key to success. Apart from the training areas pinpointed in the project’s design phase, the team was open to adding new job areas as they came along, including perfume, food and drink testing. After just three months of training, 30 blind trainees began working for a multinational company on an expert panel, using their heightened senses of smell to test different perfumes and cleaning products. After six months, they achieved the same results as an internal panel with ten years of product testing experience.
• Match training to employer demands. More so than for other disabilities, training for the blind requires greater specialization, more sophisticated technology and longer timeframes, as attention is individualized. Therefore, the skills training courses provided through this project focused on specific job positions and the related necessities of potential employers, giving trainees one-on-one guidance to meet the actual demands of the labor market.  
• Pivotal role of job placement coordinators. In addition to sharing success stories with possible employers about the work potential of the blind, the job placement coordinators also played a pivotal role in identifying possible positions, networking with employers and managing contracts for program participants.
• Form public sector alliances for sustainability.  The involvement and support of public sector agencies during the project’s execution has paved the way for their continued backing of organizations for the blind after MIF financing came to an end, helping to sustain the gains made my the project. To continue training and placing the blind in jobs, an agreement was signed with the Labor Ministry in Argentina.
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