ENABLING STUDENTS WHO ARE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED TO SUCCEED AT SCIENCE CAREERS A Master’s Paper in Counselor Education By Joel Solkoff Submitted in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements For the Degree of Master of Education



Students who are blind and otherwise visually impaired require additional assistance from vocational counselors, educators, and other professionals working together to prepare students for long term careers such as in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

A 2005 U.S. Department of Census report regarding individuals with visual impairment found:

(a) only 47.2% are employed;

(b) 72.4% have no bachelor’s degree and are not enrolled in college; and

(c) have a poverty rate of 18.7 %.

Good jobs that pay well require years of education. The considerable demands placed on the vocational counselors and educators often require them to focus on day-to-day problems, and execution of a long term strategy may receive second priority status.

The primarily youth-based focus of this study relies on a thorough literature review which supplements scholarly articles with specialized books, web-based government reports and other information, and personal interviews for clarification. Scholarly journals need to focus on the disabled, where much new has taken place; develop nationwide empirical studies; and perform them in a timely way.

Empirical studies would help develop accurate research and evaluation tools at a time when the National Federation of the Blind and others have come to regard STEM careers for the visually impaired as a movement worthy of the resources at their disposal.


Note to the reader: In 2007, I submitted a paper entitled  ENABLING STUDENTS WHO ARE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED TO SUCCEED AT SCIENCE CAREERS. I submitted this document in the form of a master’s degree dissertation. My chairman provided I execute a second draft. Revision required research, substantive changes. I was too sick to do the rewrite. This document has been in my filing cabinet since then. After reading it with the surprise of a Martian reading an alien document. With the exception of not yet providing you with the most recent Census Figures, the document is sadly up to date.

The reality today is that to be blind means that 90 percent of the blind population is poor. Give our take. During the first Obama Administration I worked at a for-the blind organization in Altoona.

Joseph Fagnani and me

Photo by J.D. Cavrich 4/30/10
Photo by J.D. Cavrich

Profile  of Joseph


My interview reported in The Altoona Mirror on what it was like to work for Joseph:

*The employment rate for those who are visually impaired is 75 percent, he said, whereas the rate for an average person is about 9.6 percent.

“*We want to bring the employment rate for visually impaired people and disabled people up to the highest potential,” he said. “For the ones that do [want to work], we want to have a job available for them. That’s my main goal.”

One of his employees, Joel Solkoff, an employment specialist, thinks highly of Fagnani.

“I think he’s modest,” Solkoff said.

Solkoff was hired recently with help from federal economic stimulus money. He is mobility disabled.

“We communicate very well,” he said of Fagnani. “He has a tremendous sense of humor, and he’s very smart.”

Solkoff said those who are blind that he has come in contact with tend to have a high level of concentration and good humor and said Fagnani is no different.

“*His looking at the world is different from how I look at the world,* he said.

**Being blind does not hinder Fagnani in his work with the association, but rather the challenge is the size of the workload.

“**There’s so much that needs to be done,* he said.

*He has a screen reader program on his computer called JAWS, or Job Access for Windows Systems, which reads aloud words that appear on his computer screen. Fagnani has it set to read it at 2 times the normal speed of speech. To one not accustomed to it, the screen reader sounds like a foreign language or almost gibberish.

“I’ve been using it for years, so I’m used to it,” he said. “I would get bored if it were at a normal speed/

I will be publishing installments of the paper.

The installments will consist of:


PS: I am looking forward to working with Joesph again.


I look forward to greeting you readers at the next Installment.


— Just call me Joel.

Copyright 2016 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.