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I AM: Monday, November 15, 2021

Special Guest Kristin Patterson of the Maryland Department of Labor provides an update on the operation status of the American Job Centers across the state as we emerge from pandemic closings, flow of services that an individual will have access to at the job center, and finally how she can be a resource to navigating services at the job center. 

Kristen Patterson serves as the Disability and Youth Services Coordinator at Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning. She holds a Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Maryland. She has been working in the field of workforce development for over 10 years. Her primary responsibilities at the Department are to provide training and technical assistance to the 13 local workforce areas across the state. 

Recording of the Independence Amplified Maryland event from November 15, 2021.

Don’t forget to visit our registration website to donate to support these events or register for upcoming calls!

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Bridges Blog Series: Next Steps November 2021

Next Steps November: Networking

It’s November, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. We settled into the school routine, and the holiday season is gearing up. November is a great time to create bridges between our current realities and the futures we seek, so these are the topics we will explore this month:

  • November 2: Navigating (Your Future)
  • November 9: Networking
  • November 16: Niche (Finding Yours)
  • November 23: Note-taking
  • November 30: Nurturing (Yourself)

In this second installment of our “Next Steps November” series, we discuss how to engage in “Networking” to build your system of supports as you move forward on your journey.

What is Networking?

While there are many definitions of networking, this article focuses on networking as a means of gathering information and people to help you make decisions in your life.

Networking involves intentional communications with others as you build relationships with individuals in areas of mutual interest. These areas might be career-oriented (law, education, business, etc.), disability-specific (blindness/low vision, other areas of disability), recreation-oriented (sports, gaming, crafts, etc.), or lifestyle-oriented (living alone or with a non-family roommate, cooking in versus eating out, big-city versus small-town or rural living, etc.).

Why is Networking Important?

Networking gives you access. People in your network can help you discover information you didn’t know existed. Or they can help you connect your needs to seemingly unrelated resources. You can also collaborate with individuals in your network to develop ideas that no one individual has; in doing so, you can make real the saying, “All of us are smarter than any of us.”

What is the Key to Networking?

The most important, and sometimes hardest, facet of networking is building mutually-beneficial relationships. While it’s fine to get information once and move on, networking involves much more than that. Networking often results in mentor-mentee relationships, and these relationships can last for years. Also, even if you are a young person networking with professionals in a certain field, know that you can, and should, be contributing to the relationship.

How Can I Start Networking?

Free Bridges Helpdesk

Reaching out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk is a great step in networking. We can help you find the information you need immediately, and we can also show you how we found these resources. Put another way, we will “give you a fish” AND “teach you how to fish.”

We also have great connections with blind/low vision individuals in many professions, with varied interests, and of different ages. We are also eager to connect you with networking resources related to your interests (both career and personal) that are not directly related to blindness/low vision.

Blindness/low vision-related resources

APH CareerConnect

APH CareerConnect is “an employment information resource offered by the American Printing House for the Blind for job seekers who are blind or visually impaired. CareerConnect provides employment information, career exploration tools, and job seeking guidance for individuals with vision loss and the professionals who work with them.”

Blog: CareerConnect Blog

Explore Careers for Job Seekers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Find a Job As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Succeed at Work

National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) “is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940 and currently headquartered in Baltimore, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in all fifty states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.” “Through our network of blind members, we coordinate many programs, services, and resources to defend the rights of blind Americans, provide information and support to blind children and adults, and build a community that creates a future full of opportunities.”

“We are the only organization that believes in the full capacity of blind people and has the power to transform our dreams into reality. We believe in blind people because we are blind people—from our democratically elected leaders to our diverse nationwide membership.”

NFB’s headquarters are located in Baltimore, Maryland.

NFB Career Mentoring

NFB Divisions

NFB Committees

NFB Groups

NFB State Affiliates

American Council of the Blind

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) “was founded in 1961 but many of its state affiliates and local chapters have a history that can be traced back to the 1880s.” and “is comprised of approximately 70 state chapters and special-interest affiliates representing a diverse range of groups within the blind community, including students, families, teachers, attorneys, governmental employees, entrepreneurs, vending stand operators and the LGBTQ community.” “During its nearly 60-year history, ACB has become a leader in national, state, local and even international advocacy efforts.”

ACB’s mission is “To increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people.”

ACB headquarters are in Alexandria, Virginia.

ACB Special Interest Affiliates

ACB Professional Employment Associations

ACB Peer Support and Mentoring Resources

ACB State Affiliates

Other resources

Professional associations

Many careers have professional associations, such as the American Bar Association for attorneys, the American Medical Association for physicians, etc. These groups provide individuals involved in these professions opportunities to network with others. These groups are also great sources of information for individuals seeking information about the profession and wanting to connect with working professionals to find out more about the career. Please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk for more information.

College alumni groups

Many colleges, including community colleges, have career development offices. Most also have alumni groups, and they are happy to connect students with individuals who have graduated and are working.

Individual interest groups

Interest groups are great resources for networking. Whether you want to connect with fellow Minecraft enthusiasts, marathon runners, book clubs, or other interests, you can probably find like-minded people happy to become part of your network. Please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk for more information.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Bridges Blog Series: Next Steps November 2021

Next Steps November: Navigating (Your Future)

It’s November, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. We settled into the school routine, and the holiday season is gearing up. November is a great time to create bridges between our current realities and the futures we seek, so these are the topics we will explore this month:

  • November 2: Navigating (Your Future)
  • November 9: Networking
  • November 16: Niche (Finding Yours)
  • November 23: Note-taking
  • November 30: Nurturing (Yourself)

In this first installment of our “Next Steps November” series, we begin with mapping the journey: Navigating Your Future.

Where Are You Now?

It’s almost impossible to get to your destination if you don’t know where you are right now. From Google Maps to IEP baselines, we are always asked where we are right now.

Navigating your future is no different; you need to determine where you are right now.

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your interests?
  • What intrigues you?
  • Is there anything you’d like to explore but feel that you cannot?
  • Do you want to learn about different things but don’t know where to start?

Please reach out to others, including the Free Bridges Helpdesk, to dig into these questions and your answers. By asking and answering these questions, you are defining your starting point.

Where Do You Want To Be?

Every journey needs both a starting and an ending point. However, while the starting point is usually very specific and concrete, the ending point does not need to be so. In addition, the ending point might be different at different times of your life. As you think about your ending point, please consider:

The time frame:

  • What are your goals for the next year?
  • The next five years?
  • The next forty years?

What skills do you want to have, and how will you get them?

  • Will you need vocational/technical training?
  • Will you need a college degree? A post-graduate degree?
  • Will you need to get extra disability-related training (for blindness/low vision, other disabilities)?
  • Are there other skills you want to get?

What kind of employment do you want?

  • Working for a governmental agency or a private business?
  • Owning your own business?
  • At an office?
  • Working directly with the public?
  • Working from home?
  • Hybrid?

In what employment field are you interested?

  • Business, such as at a bank, in an insurance office, accounting?
  • Technology, coding, cyber security, customer service?
  • Medicine, law, retail, something else?

Where do you want to live?

  • City? Suburban? Rural?
  • In Maryland? On the East Coast? In another country?
  • In an apartment? A home you own?
  • With a roommate? Alone?

Take It One Step at a Time

It can be overwhelming to think about all of these things. Please remember, you don’t need to have all of the answers, and know that your answers can (and maybe should) change.

Nevertheless, asking yourself these questions will help you navigate each next step in your life. Please know that the Free Bridges Helpdesk is ready and eager to support you every step of the way.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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