A partnership with the Cleveland Sight Center enabled InfoCision to take advantage of 21st-century technology and gain a new set of highly qualified employees—the blind and visually impaired. But more importantly, the partnership provides an opportunity to positively impact the lives of individuals who are blind or visually impaired by helping them to achieve successful employment and highlight their capabilities.
“We are very aware that there is a pool of talented and hard-working individuals who are eager to work but having difficulty finding quality jobs,” says InfoCision President and CEO Carl Albright. “This partnership is a win-win for both organizations. We couldn’t be happier.”
Since the beginning of the year, the partnership has led to training and jobs for clients of the Cleveland Sight Center, a nonprofit organization serving the community since 1906.
Gary Convertino, director of human resources and volunteer services at the Cleveland Sight Center, met InfoCision’s senior employee development specialist, Jennifer Opphile, during a human resources class. He says they talked and learned about each other’s profession. Both thought a partnership between the two organizations would be beneficial, and the partnership was born. Interested Cleveland Sight Center clients are interviewed and go through a four-week training program to learn how to use a special voice-output screen reader called JAWS (Job Access With Speech) to “read” their calling scripts. The software includes a speech synthesizer and sound card that vocalizes what the screen shows. A dual headset allows the employee to listen to the caller in one ear and the screen reader in the other. Function keys are used to navigate through the script. The software is seamless, and callers are unaware the employees are visually impaired, Convertino says.
“The employees learn keystrokes that allow them to open and copy files and do anything you can do with a mouse,” says Jassen Tawil, director of the Storer Center, the Cleveland Sight Center’s assistive technology arm that provides specialized training, rehabilitation and electronic resources. “They can also use a software magnifier that makes everything on the screen appear larger or in a different color combination, depending on what the employee needs. Part of making the partnership work is having these accommodations in place for employees.”
The employees receive training at the Cleveland Sight Center’s temporary location in the former Coventry Elementary School in Cleveland Heights. The Cleveland Sight Center is completing a $9.8-million renovation to its permanent Cleveland location. InfoCision made a significant investment to provide furniture, dialing equipment and technology at the temporary location, which has 19 call center workstations, a training room and a breakroom.
“InfoCision made a great donation of equipment and furniture, ensuring our call center is up to the standards of their other call centers,” Tawil says. Cleveland Sight Center clients also have the option to work from home. All employees work for InfoCision and make calls on behalf of InfoCision’s Volunteer Recruitment Division, which helps national nonprofit organizations recruit volunteers for fundraising events such as walks and bike rides.
The partnership provides work for the Cleveland Sight Center’s clients, many who have been unemployed for decades, and gives them the opportunity to earn money and experience work-related fulfillment, Tawil says. “Our clients make great employees and appreciate the opportunity InfoCision has provided them,” he says. “InfoCision recognizes the value of these employees and the importance of diversity. The
partnership and accommodations are giving them a chance to do their job well, which they do.”
Convertino agrees, adding the environment creates a working community for the Cleveland Sight Center’s clients and provides them with a greater sense of value and contribution as a part of everyday society. The work-from-home option is excellent for Cleveland Sight Center clients because it eliminates the need to depend on family, friends or public transportation to take them work, Convertino says. The partnership has also brought awareness to the community that people with disabilities can successfully work, Convertino says. InfoCision and the Cleveland Sight Center, with the help of the Cleveland Society for Human Resource Management, are looking to expand the program to other nonprofit organizations in the Cleveland area to help their clients work with InfoCision.
“We’d like to expand our call center to accommodate 75 or even 100 workstations,” Convertino says. “We thought this was a great opportunity to help other people with disabilities in the community as well. The idea is to get the word out that just because a person has a disability, that is not a reason to overlook them as a potential job candidate.”
In addition to the partnership that allows Cleveland Sight Center clients to work for InfoCision, the duo also partnered on another endeavor, providing training for InfoCision’s corporate employees. The center brought in a certified orientation and mobility (O&M) instructor who taught employees what it’s like to be blind or visually impaired so they can better help their coworkers and others who may be blind or visually impaired. Employees were shown a video of how the average person works with someone who is blind or visually impaired at everyday locations such as in a restaurant or on the street. Employees were also blindfolded, given white canes and provided a guide to experience what it’s like to maneuver around as a person who is visually impaired.
“It was a great experience,” says Gary Convertino, director of human resources and volunteer services. “We plan to make it an ongoing event twice a year. They want us to come back for specialized training and to focus on the technology side of how the blind and visually impaired work on the computer.”
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