“Employment on the Horizon”
Summer Employment Program for Blind and Visually Impaired Youth
Research Summary: Prof. Ruth Beyth-Marom
Ofek Liyladenu is an Israeli non-profit nationwide organization of parents of the blind and visually impaired. One of the many programs Ofek Liyladenu operates is “Employment on the Horizon”, a summer work and work preparation program for blind and visually impaired youth ages 14 – 18.
Research in Israel shows employment difficulties of the blind and visually impaired with only 28% employed and only 16% of those surveyed seeking employment. For visually impaired between the ages of 19-49, forty percent were employed, a number considerably lower than the general population. (Sumit and Sumit 1996).
“Employment on the Horizon” was developed by Ofek Liyladenu in 2002 in order to break the barriers of employment of blind and visually impaired youth. The objectives of the project are to: strengthen the self confidence and self esteem of the participants; help participants acquire work skills; raise the esteem of the participants in the eyes of their parents and peers; expose employers to the world of the blind and visually impaired; and raise awareness in the work place to the abilities of the blind and visually impaired.
In 2008 Professor Ruth Bet-Merom conducted a qualitative study of the “Employment on the Horizon” program looking at its affect on the youth, employers, and parents who participated in the project.
Central findings of the research showed
Between the years of 2002 to 2007 the numbers of participants in the project increased from 11 to 33 youth, including 3 totally blind individuals.
- Participants in the program believed that they greatly benefited from the project. They learned new skills, their self confidence increased and the work experience contributed to their employers.
- Most of the participants reported that as the project progressed their employers saw them as more competent and increasingly valued their contribution. Most of the participants reported only a few difficulties and generally there was not a need for special interventions.
- In questioning participants four years after being in the project they looked back at the experience as being significant in every aspect of their life. They emphasized the programs contribution towards: increasing their self confidence; more assurance in their own ability and willingness to try new things; better self perception and greater feeling of independence.
- The parents of the participants rated the benefits of the work experience higher than their children. They believed it improved their children’s ability to address difficulties, without frustrating them.
- Parents emphasized that through the project they experienced increased independence in their children and learned new things about their children’s abilities.
- Employers, after they participated in the project were more opened to the idea of employing individuals with special needs.
- All employers said they would be willing to continue the project the following year and 90% said they personally benefited from the project.
Conclusion: We found that the participants in the project saw it as a very positive experience. They emphasized the importance of the experience they gained, the social aspect of the experience, the feeling of independence and self confidence they developed, and the skills they obtained. Participants also felt that the project had a significant contribution to the employers: a very important aspect. Participants also felt that the project not only contributed to them personally but to the general community: another important piece of the program.