Finding a Job
When applying for jobs, I conducted an extremely thorough search. However, this was one of the biggest hurdles for me; jobs are posted on so many different job sites across the web which makes searching difficult. I started by visiting university websites and looking through the jobs available in related departments. In order to keep track of everything, I created a detailed spreadsheet with all the jobs I was interested in along with application deadlines.


One of the big questions around applying to jobs is whether or not to reveal that you are blind or visually impaired. I believe that it's important to be honest from the beginning, whatever the risk, and let them take you (or leave you) for who you are. I did mention my blindness, but I didn't make it the focus of my applications.
I also think it's important to note that not all of the applications were accessible. I often needed help from an access assistant to fill them out. My access assistant also helped me in managing my spreadsheet and keeping track of deadlines, job site accounts, and relevant documents. Additionally, I had multiple people read through my application materials to ensure that they were no typos, grammar issues, etc. prior to submitting.


In my job search process, I experienced both virtual and in-person interviews. In both cases, I had to prepare my materials in advance and practice, as well as research the institution to come up with questions to ask. Although the interviews themselves were generally similar, I did have some differences in my approach to prepare for the different interview formats.
To prepare for a virtual interview, I needed to invest a lot of time with a sighted person to adjust all of the settings such as the background, how close or how far to sit, and lighting, to ensure that everything appeared flawless from a visual standpoint for the interviewers. I also made sure that both video and audio worked correctly using the conferencing software and that there was no lag. At the beginning of the interview, I would also remind my reviewers that I am blind, especially for visual content. In general, these interviews tended to be more structured than the in-person interviews.
I didn't have much guidance about how to handle the in-person interviews. I could either bring an access assistant with me or go by myself. I ended up doing it both ways. I went to the first few by myself. In order to do this, I had everything prepped and organized; sometimes I emailed my talk in advance, other times I brought multiple copies with me. However, I still needed help with the computer to project my talk. When I did take an access assistant with me, it alleviated a lot of the pressure and I was able to focus on the interview itself, rather than having to worry about compensating for eyesight. I did end up receiving job offers from in-person interviews both with and without an access assistant— an unintentional mini-experiment—and when I interviewed at Northeastern, where I now work, I did bring an access assistant with me.


Before beginning the negotiations, make sure that you think of all possible things that you have that you will need to be able to do your job. In hindsight, there were some things that I had at the University of Minnesota that I took for granted. It's important to be clear with a potential employer about what you need to succeed from the get-go, especially the accommodation piece. But don't just state what you need to do your job well, explain why it is that you need those things. You need to convince them to invest in you so that you can be successful. In my case, I did have an advantage because I had multiple job offers and could use this as leverage.