Blind etiquette: Mastering business skills

January 12, 2009 4:52:39 AM PST
In the business world, etiquette is important. For many who are blind and visually impaired, it takes more work to master these skills. Since it's primarily a visual world, most people learn from what they see. But the right training makes a differences for everyone.

For 20 years, Lynn Cooper has been doing corporate image training. She is teaching etiquette to students from Chicago's Curie and Walter Payton high schools.

"What I am doing is, I am trying to give them these secret weapons to demystify the visual realm and these visual codes of behavior that will really be missed if they are absent," said Cooper.

Cooper started working with this population after she became a member of the Blind Services Association's board of directors.

"I started it on a lark, as a hobby, and a very small group and it took off," said Cooper.

Eating in a social setting is the most challenging.

"If you cannot see the plate and the food in front of you, chances are there is a greater room for error, and if the rest of your compatriots at the table are aware of what is where and proper etiquette, you may be likely to drop food," Cooper said. "If they have a stain, like all of us may have a stain, because they are visually impaired and are people with disabilities, there is a fear and ignorance."

Daniela Estrade, a senior at Walter Payton, says her parents have been trying to teach her proper etiquette since she was a little girl.

"I didn't want to believe them, so I learned the stuff, but I never really put it into practice. But now that I've been attending these wonderful speeches here, I know that it's a very important weapon, like Miss Lynn Cooper says, and that I need to put them to practice," said Estrade.

"You can feel you are out of control if you can't see the visual cues," Cooper said.

"I also very much hope to change attitudes, because through their proper behavior and through understanding these norms they will better apply themselves in the work world," said Estrade. "I will start practicing it because I know it's important for interviews and other matters as well."

Cooper says feedback from teachers and students has been positive.

For more information on proper etiquette go to www.blindserviceassociation.org


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