Job Insights Extra: Adjustment to Blindness – Meet Rob Hobson: College Prep and Success All in One. Transcript Provided
Job Insights Extra brings you Rob Hobson, Cordinator for Professional Development and College prep at Blindness Learning In New Dimensions, Inc. Best known as Blind, Inc. located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Rob tells his story how he overcame the challenges that nearly defeated him when entering his Masters program. He made a decision to improve his Blindness skills and this led him on the journey he continues today.
From nearly bailing out to exceeding his own expectations by finishing his Masters degree ahead of time and landing a job in the career he wanted.
Rob talks about his job details when he started as an Orientation and Mobility instructor to his duties today as Cordinator of Professional Development and the College Prep program. Join Rob Hobson and Jeff Thompson on this brief look into Rob’s Adjustment to Blindness and how he is helping others adjust to their Blindness today.
You can find out more about Blind,Inc and Adjustment to Blindness on the web at www.BlindInc.org
You can also contact Rob and Blind, Inc. via email
You can find out more about State Services for the Blind on the web at www.MN.Gov/Deed/SSB
And to find Services in your state check out the American Foundation for the Blind web site and enter your State’s name in the, “Find Local Services” section.
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Job Insights Extra: Adjustment to Blindness – Meet Rob Hobson: College Prep and Success All in One. Transcript Provided
Rob: When I started that semester, I soon realized that the skills I used in college from my undergrad weren’t gonna work in grad school.
Jeff: That’s the voice of Rob Hobson, Coordinator of Professional Development and College Prep at Blindness Learning in New Dimensions.
Rob: Set up an interview and came up here in early December of 2008 and I was offered a position and I accepted.
Jeff: Rob talks about the challenges that he faced when transitioning from college to his master’s degree program, and how adjustment to blindness training gave him the skills and confidence to succeed.
Rob: We use structure discovery which utilizes the environment as a teaching tool and if you only just know one specific route, that can be really debilitating because that’s all you know.
Jeff: And you can find the Job Insights podcast on blindabilities.com, part of the Blind Abilities Network with host Serina Gilbert and myself Jeff Thompson, and you can contact us by email at JobInsights@blindabilities.com, and join us on the job insight support group on Facebook, on Twitter at Job Insights VIP.
Rob: Get that adjustment to blindness training because it is vital for you to be able to compete out there with your sighted peers.
Keep an open mind because there is a lot of life after blindness.
Jeff: I went down to South Minneapolis to the historic Pillsbury mansion, the home of Blind Incorporated and that’s where we met up with Rob Hobson, we hope you enjoy!
Welcome to Blind Abilities I’m Jeff Thompson and today we’re down at Blind Incorporated in Minneapolis we’re talking to Rob Hobson and he’s the Coordinator for Professional Development and College Prep.
How are you doing Rob?
Rob: I’m doing well on yourself Jeff?
Jeff: Doing good thanks, Rob thanks for taking the time to coming on the Blind Abilities and sharing a little bit about your journey through blindness and your job that you have.
Rob: Oh thank you I’m happy to be here.
Jeff: Well Rob, can you tell a little bit about what your job is like here?
Rob: Well working here at Blind Incorporated, it’s a lot of fun, we have a great team and we work together as a team to provide adjustment to blindness training to college-age students, to adults, to seniors, and we have transition programming, and we even have a buddy program which covers 9 to 13 year olds.
Jeff: You cover the whole gauntlet?
Rob: Yeah we do, it’s, it’s great, it’s, it’s a lot of fun.
[Bass guitar sound effect]
Jeff: Now you did not start out as a Program Coordinator?
Rob: Well when I started at Blind Incorporated, I started in 2009, but I should go further back, actually, it’s actually a little journey.
In 2006 I started grad school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale to get a master’s degree in public administration, on paper that sounds great, when I started that semester I soon realized that the skills I used in college from my undergrad weren’t gonna work in grad school.
The bar was a lot higher, note takers were hard to get, because I utilized their services through disability services through the campus and I realized that my skills weren’t up to par because I just couldn’t keep up.
Every time I thought I did great, I was still further behind.
What really hit it for me was when I took this budgeting class and I thought I got all the points possible, and in that class it was zero to five, five was like the max of points you can get, so I thought hey, I might have gotten a four or five, and I got my grade and it was a 1.5, and the words that really changed my view was, well I felt bad, so I just gave you a 1.5.
And that really hurt, it really set, threw me back a loop, you know, it’s like wow, I’ve never had that happen to me before.
I called some friends who are in the NFB and I talked to them about, you know, maybe it’s time for me to get some adjustment to blindness training.
I knew it would be a process because getting Illinois, because that’s where I lived at the time, to pay for it was a process.
I’ve heard horror stories that sometimes it could take two years but I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t take that long.
So in August of 2006 I met with a counselor, I convinced her to start the process and I had an O&M evaluation.
I wrote a letter stating why I needed this training and what it was going to do for me, so I had an O&M evaluation, through the letter I was able to convince them to provide me the opportunity to go to the Louisiana Center for the blind in Ruston Louisiana.
I started my program at the end of March of 2007, and that’s when I started my journey in blindness training.
Now to be fair, my goal was to get through the program, go back to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and complete my Master’s in Public Administration Degree.
Well while I was in the program, it was suggested to me that I should consider the Louisiana Tech O&M program and I considered it for about 1/2 a second and I thought no that’s not me.
As they say it, it put the seed there and throughout the summer of 2007 I realized that hey, you know I might actually like this.
I started the process in the fall to go into Louisiana Tech, in the end of November I started my first classes as a Louisiana Tech student in grad school.
Jeff: Now Rob, could it be that winter was coming and….
Rob: I’m not gonna lie, that was true, I thought that was a good benefit but really I was excited to start this program because I knew that, you know at the end of this program I would be able to get a job, and believe it or not, throughout that year it took me a year, end of November of 2007, and by November 19th of 2008 I walked away with a college degree, a graduate degree, from Louisiana Tech.
It was a rough year, they say that a master’s degree generally is a year and a half to two years, I did it in a year, it was probably the hardest year of my whole life at that time.
Rob: Thank you.
I soon talked to Sean Mayo who was the Executive Director of Blind Incorporated, set up an interview and came up here in early December of 2008 and I was offered the position and I accepted.
In January of 2009 I started as a Blind Incorporated employee, and to be fair, I only planned to be here year after about a month of working here because it was so cold, but I soon liked it, teaching cane travel was a lot of fun, it took me a while to get into my zone, you know because when you come to a new city you have to learn how to navigate the streets and learn the grid, the outline, you know all of the names of the roads, and I knew I had the skills to teach, it was a matter of learning the environment so I could teach and understand how to relate that information to my students.
Jeff: So did you do a lot of exploring in your off time and just try and navigate the city and learn it?
Rob: I did, I spent a lot of time learning south Minneapolis, I spent some time with Zach Ellingson who was the full-time cane travel instructor at the time, and we talked a lot, he really helped me gain the information necessary to teach.
I spent some time observing him just to see how he taught because you know, when you’re still a new teacher, you still like to get other teaching styles and I knew Zach was really successful at what he was doing and it was a good resource to work with.
I spent a lot of time on weekends going out to other places in the city but at the time I really focused on south Minneapolis because I knew majority of my instruction was gonna be during that time.
I later throughout the years, I gained knowledge in Northeast Minneapolis, Southeast Minneapolis, St. Paul, I know some of St. Paul, I don’t know a lot of it but I know enough to to be able to teach it.
Jeff: Now learning the areas that you did, it’s pretty much transferable skills the way you teach here right?
Rob: It is, the skills are transferable but you know it’s like anything else, when you want to teach someone you have to still know what you’re teaching, does that make sense?
Because we also teach how to navigate the area via some of the names, so I needed to know those names so I can you know pass that information along, learn bus routes, I learned a lot of the bus routes, but yes, the skills I learned in Ruston Louisiana were transferable once I figured out the grid system and for an example, Hennepin Avenue is your divider between north and south Minneapolis, and the river, the Mississippi River divides southeast Minneapolis and northeast Minneapolis from north and south Minneapolis, and anything more than that you get a little complicated because it depends on where you are further south in the city, you actually have the river divider between St. Paul and Minneapolis.
[Bass Guitar Sound Effect]
Jeff: There’s always been a debate about people sometimes teaching route travel compared to teaching skills that will allow you to explore other areas and use the same set of skills.
Rob: That is true, in our format we use structure discovery which utilizes the environment as a teaching tool.
We do start off with students in the beginning giving them simple route assignments so that they learn to gain that confidence and gain those problem-solving skills so that they’re able to change those routes, make a diversion if need be, I mean because, well if you’ve walked in Minneapolis in the summer, you know that, maybe every, about every few blocks there’s construction, or they tear up a sidewalk to put in a new one, or whatnot, you have to be able to problem solve in that and if you only just know one specific route, that can be really debilitating because that’s all you know, and how are you gonna be able to get through that situation.
Jeff: Yep I graduated from Blind Incorporated and I remember the whole thing, the only thing Zack always got upset was, I grew up here so, when he was trying to fool me or something, I’d hear a church bell.
Rob: Oh, and that gave it away didn’t it?
Jeff: I could identify the church, so he would be more creative next time you know, just knowing that I had a few cues that other people didn’t have so it was always interesting.
Now in your new position, what do you do for Blind Incorporated?
Rob: Currently I set up all of our activities, I coordinate from beginning to end.
For an example last year we went camping for the first time in I don’t know how many years, at least since I’ve been here we’ve never gone camping up to that point, and we actually went camping, we stayed in tents and that was a long process to put that together because there’s a lot of details involved.
It’s not like we all just got in a van and drove up to Duluth area and pick the camping site and just went camping.
There’s a lot of details involved when you take 30 people, 30 of your closest friends and students up to, up to go camping.
So there’s logistics because you have to work on you know the amount of food, how many tents, how many people per tents, just a lot of logistics.
I coordinate all of the logistics to make sure everything falls in line, all of our activities from camping to just going rock climbing at vertical endeavors.
Starting last year we started putting together professional development for the staff and students, some of the highlights, we had Kevin O’Connor come in, who is a renowned professional speaker who came in and talked to our staff and students on basically just professional development, working with each other, and what does it mean to be professional, and covered all of those components.
We also had somebody come in and do a multicultural training, we had somebody come in and talk about cognitive disabilities, we’ve done some first aid CPR, so we’ve done a lot of different programming, but we’ve done it before but not to this caliber, so we really have a professional development piece about every three months or so for the staff and we started incorporating the students in that as well because it’s important I think for our students to be able to have that information, they can put it on their resume, and I think it makes them even more employable.
Jeff: You also had a program called Blind and Socially Savvy, can you tell us a little bit about what that is?
Rob: So Blind and Socially Savvy really covers the soft skills, starting in conversation with somebody, proper way to introduce somebody, etiquette, so they have an etiquette meal where they actually sit down, a full meal and they learn how to conduct themselves in a professional environment because I’m sure you know Jeff that there are always interviews, sometimes those interviews are sitting down with a meal with your future employer, so it’s a great opportunity to be able to conduct yourself professionally, it makes it even more likely for you to get that job.
Also it’s good to be professional and to have that proper etiquette because you’re going to be amongst peers, whether they’re your fellow co-workers, or friends, family, maybe you volunteer in an organization, it’s great to have that etiquette because it puts you even higher up on the bar of success.
Jeff: I attended something very similar to that and I remember they said, your bread is not a mop and turn your phone off, and pay all your attention to the person, it’s not about the food mostly, it’s about the interview so to say, or the person that you’re attending with.
Rob: That is correct.
Jeff: And then they went through, start from the, just like on the Titanic, start with the outside silver and wake work your way in, so there’s a lot of information there that people are kind of expected to know, but if you haven’t had the opportunity to learn it, Blind and Socially Savvy that you guys provide here, is awesome!
Rob: Yeah and we didn’t do it ourselves, we did it along with State Services for the Blind, we worked well with them and Sheila Koenig who’s the coordinator for transition for SSB, she worked really well with Dan Wenzel the executive director here, and Michelle Get, who coordinates our transition programs.
Jeff: And you do have a lot of programs here and opportunities that you mentioned early and it’s really neat to see all the stuff that’s happening from the summer to prep to like I said you cover the whole gauntlet here.
Rob: Yep we also are starting a new program, it’s our College Programming or I like to call it College Prep and what it is is students come in maybe they don’t want to do a full six to nine month program but they want to come in and get some of those non-visual adjustment to blindness skills.
So they’ll come in for a summer, get that training, and if they’re new to going to college we actually have a college class component that would start in the fall where they could take a class and still continue to get some adjustment to blindness skills, we would work with them on navigating a campus, and specifically that campus, and we would also work with them on study skills, note-taking skills, all of the the skills necessary to be successful in college.
I know when I first started college I was absolutely terrified and I think even now with, with the technology being the way it is, back then you know if you had a computer you were lucky, but nowadays there’s phones, there’s Braille displays, there’s lots of different technology out there that we would be able to work with students on so that they are fully competent and capable to be successful in college so that they can be employable in the future.
Jeff: And being able to use that equipment on day one!
Rob: Exactly, I mean that’s, I think that’s a really good point Jeff, you don’t want to start, get your technology September first when you start at the class in late August and then have to learn how to use it while taking classes at the same time.
We like to work with students early so that they have those skills when they start the college class, that they are able to know how to use their technology, take the best notes possible so that they can be self-sufficient.
Jeff: Rob Hobson thank you very much for what Blind Incorporated does here in Minneapolis and across the nation because other students come from other states and you guys give them an opportunity to succeed, give them skills and the confidence to do so.
What advice would you give to someone who has recently become blind visually impaired or has trouble reading the printed word, and what advice would you give them as they start that journey?
Rob: I would say keep an open mind, blindness is probably the one of the most terrifying disabilities out there, and really it’s because of the unknown, it’s a sighted world out there, people perceive through what they see, but keep an open mind because there is a lot of life after blindness.
I lost my vision I, I wasn’t fully sighted but when I did have some vision I lost it pretty quickly due to a retinal detachment and, and that’s a long journey itself, but I know what it’s like, it’s tough, but what I can tell you is working with State Services for the Blind, figure out your options, whether it’s Blind Incorporated, VLR, or Duluth Lighthouse, get that adjustment to blindness training because it is vital for you to be able to compete out there with your sighted peers and really that adjustment to blindness training is what’s going to put you on that same platform for success.
Learn those skills, know how to cook, clean, learn to read Braille, technology, cane travel, because you got to be able to get there on your own.
You can always use Uber and Lyft but I can tell you that stuff’s expensive, I know I look at my bank account every month, not that I use it every day but I use it just for quick things, it’s expensive, so you’re not going to be able to do that all the time, so you’ve got to pick up those, you know learn those non-visual skills that you can travel independently.
Remember that blindness is not a tragedy.
I like to say blindness is what you make of it, you can look at it as a tragedy, or you can look at it as, you know what, this is a new challenge, and I’m here to overcome it.
Jeff: So Rob, if someone want to get a hold of you or Blind Incorporated, do you have any contact information?
Rob: Sure do, you can call our main number 612-872-0100, and ask for Jennifer Wenzels, she handles our intake.
You can also ask for me, I’m happy to talk to you if you have any questions, my extension is 220, and Jennifer’s extension is 251.
We also if you like email, you can send an email to email@example.com.
Jeff: firstname.lastname@example.org, well Rob thank you once again for taking the time, sharing your story, sharing your experience with the listeners and, really appreciate it.
Rob: Oh you’re welcome Jeff, it was a pleasure.
Jeff: Yes it was a real pleasure talking to Rob Hobson, and if you want a contact Blind Incorporated, send them an email at email@example.com, on the web at blindinc.org, and to find out more about State Services for the Blind check us out on the web at www.mn.gov/deed/ssb, and to find services in your state check out American Foundation for the Blind’s website at AFB.org.
And Thank You Chee Chau for the beautiful music and you can follow Chee Chau on Twitter at lcheechau.
Once again, thank you for listening, we hope you enjoyed, and until next time bye-bye
When we share what we see through each other’s eyes, We can then begin to bridge the Gap between the limited expectations and the realities of Blind Abilities.
Jeff: For more podcast with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on twitter at BlindAbilities, download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities, that’s two words, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, thanks for listening.