Blind Abilities presents the TVI Toolbox. Where the collaboration between Teachers, Counselors, Parents, Agencies and the Students themselves help enhance the opportunities for success.
Transitioning from high school to college and the workplace is a major step and the beginning of lifetime goals and aspirations. As Devin , this month’s featured interview in the Success Stories portion of this podcast, experienced the workforce through an internship with the Business Enterprise Program (BEP). The BEP Director John Hulet talks about what to expect and how to get involved with BEP. Devin’s mom, Lisa Ferguson, takes us through her experience as a mom of a child with vision loss and working with State Services for the Blind (SSB). Her perspective along with Devin’s gives us a good idea of how Devin became a member of the workforce at age 15. Job experience, resume writing, learning the public transit system as a means of transportation and developing a relationship with a business owner and the Transition Team at SSB gives Devin and Lisa a wealth of experience moving forward.
Full Transcript Below
From the TVI’s to the Agency counselor’s and program specialist, working together along with parents as well, is creating more opportunities and successes for Transition age students.
Sharing experiences through Success Stories, sharing programs that make a positive impact, sharing ideas, findings, upcoming events and the Tools for Success all play a part in making the transition process a natural progression and better understood by all.
Here are the links to the information we bring to this episode.
Transit Tracker App on the App Store
Join.Me- Screen Sharing Service on the Web.
Getting everyone on the same page is easy – so long as join.me instant screen sharing is involved. When you start your join.me meeting, simply press the “Broadcast” button and you’re ready to go. It’s that simple.
Check out your State Services by searching the Services Directory on the AFB.org web site.
State Services for the Blind of Minnesota
We offer tools and training for employment and for helping seniors remain independent and active. As Minnesota’s accessible reading source we also transcribe books and other materials into alternative formats, including audio and braille. We assist Minnesotans who are blind, DeafBlind, losing vision, or who have another disability that makes it difficult to read print.
I hope you find what you need here. We’ve also created a Tips for Using Our New Website page.
If you’d like to apply for services, learn more, or have more questions, just give us a call. You’ll find contact information for all of our offices on our contact page, or you can call our main office at 651-539-2300.
You can submit to the On The Horizons segment by emailing jessica.Hodges
Narrator: TVI toolbox is a tool for teachers, for agencies, for clients, to enhance the opportunities and the understanding of transition services; professionals talking about the services they provide, teachers of the visually impaired talking about topics of transitioning from high school, to college, to the work place. Students talking about their journeys, their successes, and some of the barricades and brick walls that were in their way, and solutions, tips, and tricks, on how they got through it. On this episode of TVI toolbox, we have John Hulet, director of the Business Enterprise program from state services for the blind. We also have Devin and Lisa. Devin is a high school student who took part in the Business Enterprise program internship. And Lisa is Devin’s mom, and Lisa’s going to talk about Devin’s experience, and her experience with state services for the blind. And in tools for success, we have a demonstration of transit tracker, an application for busses, trains, timings, and routs, and it’s totally accessible. And for more podcasts with a blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on twitter @blindabilities, and download the free app from the app store. That’s two words, blind abilities. This podcast was produced in part by state services for the blind, live, learn, work, and play. And now, here’s John Hulet, director of the Business Enterprise Program at state services. So John Hulet, what qualities makes a great business Enterprise program operator?
John: some of the most important attributes would be an individual who’s motivated, who’s a selfstater, who’s willing to learn how to do things, who comes into the program wanting to work and is excited about the idea of operating their own business, but recognizing at the same time that there’s a lot of work in operating ones own business.
Narrator: That was John Hulet. They opened up an internship in the Business Enterprise program to a high school student, and we got the opportunity to talk to Devin, and his mother Lisa. She’s going to give us the perspective of a mom working with state services for the blind and the Business Enterprise program.
Lisa: My name is Lisa Ferguson, I’m Devin Westmiller’s mom who worked this summer for the BEP through SSB
Narrator: mhm, that’s great. How did you first get connected with state services for the blind?
Lisa: I was told about it by his vision teacher Sophie Chaven
Narrator: mm, so the school districts teacher
Narrator: And when you contacted them you found opportunities? It seems like he really enjoyed the vending program this summer.
Lisa: oh, for sure, I actually enquired to see if he could do the vending, like go to school and get the certificate for the vending, but as far as I know, or what I was told, he is the youngest one to actually utilize and work through the BEP program.
Narrator: That’s great
Lisa: Yeah, so he’s a very young fifteen year old, he just turned fifteen
Narrator: So with that experience maybe next summer he can do a little more, and have something lined up for him right upon graduation?
Lisa: Oh, definitely, actually one sooner than that now we can actually make him a resume. We actually did make him a resume and he applied for another job at SSB.
Narrator: And did you use the online Minnesota online job application process?
Lisa: Yes, we did
Narrator: How’d that go?
Lisa: It went good. It was definitely a good learning experience.
Narrator: So what’s it like for you to experience state services for the blind?
Lisa: It’s been really positive and my, I guess our counselor, Tou Yang has just been on top of this and got a new position, and learning himself on the way, ends up being kind of like a mediator, person who can kind of make it easier for the main counselor Ashlyn to make everything successful for us. Without him I’m not sure what or how I would have done it, so that was extremely important.
Narrator: The middle man
Lisa: yeah, the middle man is very important. And I”am not saying maybe Ashlyn could have done the same thing, I just dealt with Tou
Narrator: Well, in his position, that exactly, what he’s there to do. Ashlyn has other clients, so when someone’s in the position that Devin was in, he moves in and segways them into companies or other people where the opportunities are. He’s kind of that bridge. So he’s a tool of Ashlyn’s.
Lisa: Yeah, definitely, I mean he’s the one that came to the school like every week, for a while, or a couple times a month, and did those intense assessments, so Devin was able to get to know him, and wen Devin first told me about it, he kind of brought it up, and a few weeks went by, and summer was coming, and he said “I really want to do that vending thing.That was really difficult fro me because we’re in the suburbs, and had to go to saintpaul every morning, but we made it work, and he learned how to use the bus, so it was a big learning experience as well using mass transit.
Narrator: Experience is one of the best teachers, so this is something that’s going to stick with him for quite a while.
Lisa: Yes, definitely.
Narrator: Yeah, the BEP program in Minnesota is a really good, and you learn a lot from it and see just how business is done, all from a machine, or from the store, which ever you experience, so that’s great
Lisa: And eh really liked, what did they call it, Eric Farms was his mentor,
Narrator: Oh, Eric
Lisa: Since he had the stores and the vending machines and he really enjoyed working with Eric, Eric was a great mentor, so that was another big part of the connection experience that we had through SSb meeting Eric and having Eric be completely blind. Devin is legally blind, and doesn’t need a lot of the adaptations, but Eric just was incredible with my son, so. And he’s very open to let other people come in, you know, there was other people that Eric has working for him through these programs, it’s pretty special.
Narrator: So it’s worked out pretty good?
Lisa: Yeah, it’s worked out great
Narrator: That’s good, and now he’s going out and resume building, and filling out a job application, and hopefully a job interview coming up, and that experience, and lots of good stuff. That’s great. So what advice would you have for other parents who are experiencing a child that is loosing vision or has vision loss?
Lisa: Take advantage of the services that are out there. Take advantage of SSB, and the Bep program, and put your fingers to the keyboard. Ask questions at the IEP meeting, ask questions to follow it all through. I mean, that’s really what it is. You have to really be engaged, and partake in helping find the resources that around as early as possible, and once that’s done, you get it in earlier, and they kind of have a path to start from.
Narrator: You mentioned the IEP, the individual education plan?
Narrator: Can you explain that to some parents that may not know what that is?
Lisa: It’s a plan that’s kind of to, it’s through the school that has these special education program, and you need, it’s an independent education plan that a group of people or support group at the school get together, and it becomes regulated in the school. If your child needs adaptation needs or specific needs, like my son can wear a baseball hat at school if it’s too bright in the room. Just certain little tweaks and things like that that can really help your kid. I mean the latest example is Devin is in tenth grade and taking statistics, and he has to get a calculator, and the calculator, even though he can see, he is limited on his certain vision, looking on a very small screen is difficult, and strain. so I said that’s not going to work, we need to find a solution, and so the people that were in the group of the IEP helped me to get an application that he can use on his computer. So he can actually look at the graphing app on his computer instead of a tiny little screen. It just makes the people behind him in the special education program on top of it.
Narrator: Keeps everyone on the same page.
Lisa: Yeah, as long as everyone’s engaged, that’s the best thing for your child.
Narrator: Now I myself am visually impaired, I wouldn’t know what it’s like to have a child that lost his eye sight, did you know you would be his best advocate?
Lisa: It came as a bit of a peculiar circumstance, because I am deaf. I wear two hearing aids. Without my hearing aids I’d be eighty percent deaf. I have to do ASL, but luckily I have some really good hearing aids, and so I knew also had special education. Back then they didn’t call it special education, they didn’t call it IEPs, but we had support, and additional person, at least I was given speech therapy and things like that that I had requested through elementary school, and junior high, and high school. So I know some of the difficulties, having a different kind of disability, and I kind of became my own advocate really young. I didn’t really have somebody else to speak for me, so I had to speak for myself, I can’t hear, I need to sit in the front, I don’t know what’s going on. And the special education tutor outside of the classroom was very helpful! So it was the same type of thing that we go through we need to lift a helping hand.
Narrator: so you’ve almost become a roll model too, I mean your achievements, he sees as successful, and now he’s getting some success, last summer was a big success, it seems like you guys are on the right path.
Lisa: he wants to…I can’t get him a job fast enough.
Narrator: There you go. Now, back in the day people looked at state services for the blind as kind of a last resort if you can’t do it yourself, like a safety net, and I’d like to think that we’re blowing some good, fresh wind into the place, and they’re doing a good job. Like Tou is there, and the whole transition department there has really grown and expanded and put some good focus on getting the job experience that is needed, and it becomes a vehicle for your future.
Lisa: I agree. I guess I, when you were first saying that it was a last resort, absolutely not, it’s a first resort
Narrator: That’s a great way of putting it because it used to be, back in the day like, you can’t pull your bootstraps up, then you go there, and the image is really changed, and that’s part of why we’re doing some of these podcasts to cast, let people see that by going to state services for the blind you have opportunities that are created and experience, and you set a foot forward on the right path to succeed
Lisa: yeah, definitely, without a doubt
Narrator: If you actually break down that “Can I do it?” and actually say yes I can.
Lisa: Well I think one of the things is I’m here for Devin, so I can help him . I mean obviously I’m getting the resources to him because he wouldn’t know how to ask for them, so I’m guessing there’s plenty of people who don’t have that extra person do you know what I mean, that can’t be reached the way that Devin… you know, luckily we have an IEP, we have a vision teacher, we have somebody to connect us. So I can see it being difficult for people who don’t have that person to help them out. And if they don’t have a parent or guardian or somebody, whoever they’re working with needs to really, I guess, share the information.
Narrator: I’ve got to hand it to you for being effectively involved in his journey. It’s really great that you’ve had the experience kind of knew the ropes a little bit.
Lisa: Yeah, for sure.
Narrator: You’ve got to get out there and find them too.
Lisa: Yeah, and I keep searching. I mean, it doesn’t end with SSB, but SSB is huge and we’re going to continue to use them in the future for connections, job opportunities, living opportunities, training,
Narrator: Training, life skills, orientation and mobility, how to use the transit systems, from all levels, to legally blind to totally blind there’s something there, a division there that can help anybody, all the way to seniors, and all the way to, I think Devin’s one of the younger ones, I think 14 is the start, or fifteen, and he’s already done some work in the summer, so he’s got a great start, good job to both of you.
Lisa: Thank you. Yeah, he is
Narrator: It’s a team over at SSB.
Narrator: Lisa thank you for taking the time and coming onto the podcast, and you’re doing a great job, you and Devin, and congratulations to all the success you guys have had so far.
Lisa: And thank you for what you’re doing for my son, and thanks SSB
Narrator: It’s always good to get a perspective of a mom of a child going through state services for the blind, especially the business enterprise program. And now, here’s Devin, talking about his experience on the job. And today we’re talking to Devin Wesmeller, how are you doing?
Narrator: Good, could you tell our listeners at blind abilities about who you are, what you do, and what you did last summer?
Devin: I’m a tenth grader, sophomore in high school. I just started the school year. I’m trying to focus.
Narrator: What was it like starting school again, fun?
Devin: Yeah, it’s actually pretty good so far
Narrator: That’s good. What kind of classes are you taking?
Devin: World history, statistics, history, English.
Narrator: While you’re in high school do you use any alternative techniques or any devices to help you for accomplishing accommodations?
Devin: I use a web sight called join.me
Devin: Yeah, it’s a web sight. All my teachers have it. They sign into it, and They give me a code, and it’s a screen share app, so I can see whatever’s on their screen through my computer
Narrator: Oh, really! Well that’s interesting. join.me, I’ll look that up. All your teachers have that, so it’s just something that you’ve come to accept as part of going to school?
Devin: Yeah, and it definitely helps a lot, so I actually like it.
Narrator: That’s great. When you’re in your school district you have a teacher for the visually impaired?
Devin: Yeah, I most of the time will work with my DHH teacher, but it’s mostly about my vision.
Narrator: Ah, and what’s a DHH teacher?
Devin: Deaf and hard of hearing teacher, because I have a slight hearing loss.
Narrator: Ok, so last summer, you worked with state services for the blind in Minnesota, and it created an opportunity for you to do some work. Can you tell our listeners a little about that?
Devin: Yeah, it was a vending company, and I worked there for like two months during the summer, and learned all about what it would be like to be a vender.
Narrator: For the business Enterprise program?
Narrator: That’s probably pretty interesting isn’t it? How’d you like it?
Devin: It was really fun.
Narrator: Does that open up again for you next year maybe?
Devin: I hope so.
Narrator: Per sue it, maybe it could happen. Being intense and looking towards the future, have you thought about college at all?
Devin: Kind of, not that much so far.
Narrator: Any interests?
Devin: I’ll be starting to think out of it my junior year.
Narrator: mhm, growing up with vision loss, how did that affect your childhood?
Devin: It was hard when I was younger because I didn’t I wore special glasses, really dark to help with light sensitivity, and I had to wear big sunglass goggles, and I couldn’t see very well through them. Other than that, I was fine in class, I did pretty ok.
Narrator: How do you access your computer today?
Devin: As long as I’m close, or I zoom in a little bit I can see it.
Narrator: Is there any devices such as an iPhone, or a computer…what’s your favorite a PC or a Mac?
Devin: I just use a chromebook from my school
Narrator: Ah. So do you like the iPhone?
Devin: Yeah, I like the iPhone 5S
Narrator: Do you use the accessibility feature of the zoom?
Devin: Yeah, sometimes, I need it if I can’t zoom in on something.
Narrator: That’s pretty nice to have that central zoom from the apple products.
Narrator: So Devin, what kind of hobbies do you do? what kind of stuff do you do for leisure, entertainment, and all that stuff?
Devin: I like to hang out with friends, and study hard, because I’m starting the year really good.
Narrator: In the business Enterprise program when you got introduced to that, what was your day like? When you started, when you showed up for work, until you got done?
Devin: I just started on the vending machines, started the store, made sure they were nice and stocked for the day. Because they were the best sellers.
Narrator: So you’d have to open them up and pull up the trays, and make sure all of them are full, and…
Devin: Yeah, because e they were all bought from a lot.
Narrator: There was opportunity to make some money there.
Narrator: Did you get into some of the soda machines and the coffee machines that type of thing?
Devin: Yeah, yeah I learned how to go in the back, and stack the right way, and soda machine, and clean the coffee vending machine.
Narrator: It’s not all fun and games, is it?
Devin: No, it takes a lot.
Narrator: Mhm, so do you think this will be something that other people might be get interested in?
Devin: Yeah, I think so, I thought it was really fun.
Narrator: What’s the suggestions you have for other people who are looking for summer work and are visually impaired.
Devin: I think they should use state services for the blind because of the opportunities they gave me.
Narrator: And how would someone get a hold of state services for the blind?
Narrator: My mom told me she wanted to sign me up for this thing that would help me in the future and it was state services for the blind. I thought it was a good idea, because I hadn’t had any work experience so I wanted to get some. We asked if their were any opportunities in the summer.
Narrator: Great. Well, Devin,thank you very much, thanks for coming on to Blind Abilities.
Devin: Thanks , thank you
Narrator: It’s really great to know that Devin’s got a little bit of job experience now and wants to go back. And if you’re interested in getting job experience, contact your state services for the blind and see what they can do for you. Now, here’s John Hulet. He’s going to tell you a little bit about if you’re interested in the Business Enterprise Program.
John: Well first of all, I think it’s important that anybody that’s listening to this is interested in the program they should contact me to talk about it. One of the things I like to talk about with folks when we’re first starting out is to let them know how the program operates. Because their’s a list of available vending investment opportunities in the state, and our BEP venders typically stay in the program for twenty, sometimes forty plus years, it can be challenging to know when an opportunity will become available. though this type of challenge exists, we are always excited about meeting potential participants, discussing the program in greater detail with them, and looking at potential vending business opportunities that may exist. The training is a compilation of interviews, assessments, job shadowing, online training, in house equipment training, and on the job training. This business can take six to nine months to complete.
Narrator: There you have it. If you’re interested in owning your own business, want to work hard, and be your own boss, contact your state services and enquire about the Business Enterprise program. And now, tools for success. And today, we’re going to be looking at an app that helps with bus routs, train routs, something you can pull out, turn it on, and it will tell you when the next bus is coming, or train, in real time. So I’ve opened up my iPhone, hit the icon
VoiceOver: Transit Tracker
Narrator: And here I am. It starts out, in default, I open it up, and I’m at the left hand corner, so I’m going to swipe to the right with one finger.
VoiceOver: Transit tracker, MSP, heading.
Narrator: So it’s set for Minneapolis and Saintpaul.
VoiceOver: Refresh, button
Narrator: Hitting this button will refresh all the routs populated on your screen.
VoiceOver: N features visible.
Narrator: There is a map provided, which takes up about a two inch square on the screen, and since we’re using VoiceOver, it’s not going to give us much information, so I will keep swiping, single finger left to right. It comes up to my location that I’m at right now
VoiceOver: East River road and 69th way.
Narrator: So now we’ll continue swiping left to right, single finger,, and it starts telling me the routs that the GPS has located for me at my destination.
VoiceOver: 852, north bound 852 A Express/North town Oka tech, next scheduled departure, 1:53 PM
Narrator: So, if I swipe again,
VoiceOver: 852, south bound, 852 south bound 7nnMPLS, next scheduled departure, 1:56 PM
Narrator: So that’s pretty nice. River road runs north to south, and it’s telling me what’s coming, and the time. So, what if I wanted to find other routs? Up in the upper left hand corner, there’s a button, four finger single tap near the top will put my VoiceOver cursor right on the top.
VoiceOver: Top of screen.
Narrator: Swipe to the left,
Narrator: Now this is not labeled, but I know it’s the menu, and you could label this button by doing a two finger single tap and hold and then typing in, menu. So here goes, two finger double tap and hold?
VoiceOver: Alert, text field, is editing, label, insertion point at start. M, E, N, U, save, button.
Narrator: Ok, I’ll try a four finger single tap near the top
VoiceOver: Transit tracker
Narrator: and a single finger swipe to the left,
VoiceOver: Menu, button.
Narrator: There it is, it’s now labeled. In this method of labeling a button or something that you would like to have labeled works across the board. So remember, a two finger double tap and hold brings up the dialogue box that will label that button. So, let’s go check out the menu. Single finger double tap
VoiceOver: Transit Tracker, MSP. Trip planner
Narrator: Trip planner is where you can type in a destination. You have two criteria’s, the time you want to leave, and the time that you arrive the destination. So say I wanted to get there by five o’clock, it would then calculate what time I would need to leave on what route to arrive there at five o’clock. Or, if I wanted to leave here at three, it would then let me know when I’d arrive at my destination. Trip planner’s a great option if you’re not so sure what time it’s going to take to get there, and to make sure you’re on time.
Narrator: If I was to click on this, I could then search for any bus number that I would like. That’s called a rout. If I was to choose from a stop, I could type in the stop number, and it would tell me the busses and times, and typically I’d just look for the bus number. Moving down the menu list, It will show me the forms of transportation that I have to choose from.
VoiceOver: Transit type. Selected, bus, train, northstar, amtrack
Narrator: So there you go, those are your four choices. So when you find a rout that you take frequently, or a series of routs that you take frequently, you then have the option to save it, right here in the menu.
Narrator: That’s really nice, because typically, with GPS, always looking for the busses that are in your vicinity, wherever you are. So say you’re two blocks away at a restaurant or coffee shop, anticipating a bus arrival. you could then go to your saved stops, and see what’s happening there. So that’s a little overview of Transit Tracker. Download it to your phone, check it out, and I believe for 4.99 you can upgrade to a no advertisement, the ability to save your routs, a little more, robust it makes it. I did it, and it’s real worth it, but you can use the free version as well. So thanks for checking out tools for success. And remember, for more podcasts with a blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on twitter @blindabilities, and download the free blind abilities app from the app store, that’s two words, blind abilities.