Bosma Enterprises, based out of Indianapolis, IN, is a leading provider of rehabilitation and training services for people with blindness or visual impairment and is recognized as Indiana’s largest employer of Hoosiers who have lost their sight. Through their Employment Services Program, Bosma places 25-30 individuals who are blind or visually impaired into employment every year.
A key factor in the career success of a person who is blind is the ability to acquire job specific and independent living skills. At Bosma, a good number of their clients have lost vision as adults. As such, these individuals have to learn new ways of managing their work and home life with their current level of vision. If a person loses their vision and cannot match their clothing or travel independently, they are not ready for work.
Through funding from Indiana’s Vocational Rehabilitation and generous donors, Bosma is able to provide the necessary training needed to ensure persons who are blind can find and retain employment. Highlighting one of their featured training solutions, Bosma created the Center for Visionary Solutions, a 3-5 month training program that provides a client with a comprehensive array of vision rehabilitation training to aid them in being ready for the world of work.
Among other more recently developed programs, Bosma has started a Salesforce Administrator training program, where they have hired two Certified Salesforce Administrators to teach a 16-18 week training class for one of the hottest jobs in the country.
After Bosma successfully prepares jobseekers who are blind through their training programs, the next step is to identify employers willing to focus on the abilities of these individuals by offering new career opportunities to Bosma highly-trained candidates.
“The biggest struggle is perhaps finding those employers out there that are willing and open-minded enough to give people a chance. Specifically related to blindness, we do all we can to educate employers and the community, but there are simply not enough people out there that have been exposed to someone who is blind or visually impaired and therefore are not educated enough to realize the potential and abilities of these job seekers,” says James Michaels, the VP of Program Services at Bosma Enterprises.
Bosma has worked with employers such as JW Marriott, Eli Lily, Hartford Insurance Company, Anthem, Goodwill, State of Indiana, Conner Prairie, Kroger and White Lodging Corporation, all of who excel in hiring people with disabilities.
“These are all larger companies that are first of all, open-minded,” adds James. “These companies also all seem to have an initiative to include people with disabilities. But what we love to find are smaller companies that do not have people with disabilities on staff, but are willing to give someone a chance, specifically people who are blind or visually impaired. A few of these companies that we have worked with locally include Citizens Action Coalition, Fresh Thyme, Here To There Moving Company and the Cunningham Restaurant Group. When we have attended the interviews at these companies along with jobseekers, they were all open-minded enough to take us seriously and believe in the ability of our clients.”
Believe it or not, Disability Solutions and organizations such as Bosma are still hearing from employers that they “don’t hire people with disabilities.” According to the CDC, one of four of Americans have some type of disability, therefore, these companies are excluding the largest talent pool in the United States. What are employers that do hire talent with disabilities doing different than others? In James words, “They are open to having the conversation. They are taking the time to learn how a person with a disability performs tasks, focusing on the person’s ability and not the disability.”
James continues, “Regarding blindness, there are many ways to accomplish a task. Five plus five equals 10, but so does 9 plus 1, 7 plus 3 and 6 plus 4. Point being, we may do things a little bit differently, but a person who is blind can accomplish the same task as successfully as someone who is not blind, given the right accommodations. I encourage employers to visit our company to learn more about how people who are blind or visually impaired accomplish tasks and perform duties in a real-life work setting.”
James, who himself is visually impaired, has been playing and enjoying the guitar most of his life and plays a modified version of softball called beep baseball, a challenging, physically-demanding and enjoyable competitive sport for athletes who are blind or visually impaired. When he’s not at work, his favorite past time is going to his 16-year-old son’s baseball games.
“Even though I cannot see him play due to my visual impairment, I love listening to my wife and friends give me the play-by-play. The great thing about going to his baseball games is I can hear the crack of the bat and listen to the sounds of the ball hitting the mitt. I get so involved in the game I have been known to offer the umpire my white cane," says James.
Thanks to organizations like Bosma Enterprises and people like James Michaels, we continue to see a rise in employment for people with disabilities.
James sums it all up, “I believe it starts with the leadership of a company. If they encourage their teams to be open to hiring people with disabilities – then we are finding a much higher level of success.”
As the talent with disabilities continues to swing the bat in search of employment, organizations like Bosma Enterprises will be there to prepare both the talent and the employers for a home run.
To learn more about Bosma Enterprises please visit:
Website - https://www.bosma.org/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/Bosmaenterprise
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/company/bosma-enterprises/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/bosmaenterprises
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/user/BosmaEnterprises