*Name: Janet Di Nola
*Industry in which you work: Customer service
*Job title: Tour Escort / Travel Agent
Employer: Illinois International Travel)
*#2. Please explain to us what any worker would do on this job (specialized blindness alternatives will appear in the next question).
Working with a travel agency, I sell tours to clients, as well as escort international tour groups arranged by the agency. Prior to each tour, I write a three to four page detailed day by day itinerary, so clients may prepare for their trip. A tour escort does what is called a “Meet and Greet” at airports around the world. This entails meeting clients’ flights, finding lost luggage, lost people, and lost belongings. After the “Meet” part is over, I escort my charges to their bus. This is when the “Greet” part begins. On the way to the hotel, a “Welcome to wherever” lecture is given, helping the tourists embrace the differences outside the United States. The escort needs to clearly explain conversions in money, electricity, watts, and differences unique to that particular country. As strange as it may seem, various ways to flush toilets, open windows and use public transportation must be addressed in a simple understandable manner. The first evening I give an orientation lecture recapping clients’ future itinerary. This includes sales, since there are optional excursions to describe and sell to the passengers.
Knowing the specific interests of my group, I work with local guides pointing out history and details throughout city and museum tours.
While traveling on the bus, it is necessary to entertain the group with insight on the land, people, foods and history of the country.
To make a client’s vacation as relaxing as possible, the escort must be able to solve each problem on the spot. A definite asset to keep things running smooth is having the ability to anticipate problems, or “situations,” as I prefer to call them.
Of course it’s to your advantage to have knowledge of foreign languages, history, geography, as well as excellent social skills, and conversational qualities.
Yet for a sensitive person, that characteristic may be a detriment, since often an escort deals with unhappy, discontented or just plain difficult travelers. Being thin-skinned will affect your caring for the rest of the tour group in a pleasant manner. An experienced tour escort must have a calm, happy, professional personality.
*#3. To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job (give the medical term for your blindness and extent of limitation; give the type and name of any special low or high technology and/or procedure you use to perform your job duties, describing where and how you use them)?
My central vision is totally blind. My peripheral vision is there, yet often blurry when I’m tired or stressed. In the evening, I can only see bright lights and really nothing else. Therefore I use a mix of visual and non-visual methods.
At my home office, I use scanning programs to read documents from travel companies, letters from clients or documents from my office in Illinois. Before a tour, I am mailed a folder which includes a passenger list, arrival and departure flight information, rooming lists, hotel lists, dining lists, important phone numbers along with necessary documents and letters needed for the overseas tour. After scanning these documents, my Kurzweil program reads them aloud, while my digital MP3 player records them as note files for me to use on the exact day I need that particular information.
All my writing, reading, emails and correspondence to my office in Illinois is done with my computer using JAWS. Also important is my CCTV monitor, which allows me to address envelopes mailing our tour books, sign checks and handwrite information.
While overseas, I use a talking alarm clock for my appointments and wake up calls, and a talking calculator for the tour transactions. Last but surely not least of all, to work on my own I use my white cane, which has given me the independence and confidence to be successful at my job.
*#4. Please let us know of any required special training, education, certificates, experience needed for this job.
In today’s market, employers like to hire graduates from a travel and tour school. There are different types of programs around, from those that are on-line, to the brick and mortar variety.
Writing skills are important to communicate via E-mail or printed matter. Good writing helps with sales, as well as eliminating future problems, when people do not understand their options. Conversation and social skills are essential for good communication with clients, restaurants, hotel staff, local guides, drivers and airport management.
Learning one language and knowing a few essential words in other languages can be an invaluable asset to your resume.
Being an organizer makes a tour run well, since good timing is everything to a tour.
*#5. Please tell us about anyone or anything that aided you to be successful.
The NJ School for the Blind was a tremendous help. Being trained to use my white cane and a computer literally changed my life for the better. There is no way I could have taken on a job like this without their assistance.
When young, I had teachers who taught history, geography, and literature with a passion. They encouraged me to love the unique differences in the world, and read about other cultures and civilizations. The library of Congress and its marvelous readers brought the world to life, allowing me to travel it in my mind’s eyes.
With books on tape I read constantly and also began studying Italian and Russian. My parents never held me back from trying new things, they never told me I “couldn’t do something,” or “was not able” to do it. They always encouraged me to try. So I did, and I do, and I hate the words, “I can’t!” I prefer the words, “Just let me try!!!”
*1. Personal information:
*Name: Edward Bell, Ph.D.
*Industry in which you work: Education Careers; Psychological and Behavioral Research
*Job Title: Director, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness
Employer: Louisiana Tech University
Street address- Work: 210 Woodard Hall, PO box 3158
City, State, Zip Code: Ruston LA 71272
Telephone number- Work: 318-257-4554
Email- Work: firstname.lastname@example.org
*2. Please explain to us what any worker would do on this job (specialized blindness alternatives will appear in the next question).
Any researcher in this field will need to know about research methods and educational statistics. You will need to understand:
• research design principles
• develop hypotheses regarding phenomena about human Psychology and behaviors (e.g., attitudes, actions, intentions)
• develop/identify outcome measures/instruments
• collect data, analyze findings, and write technical documents that explain those data
*3. To what extent are you blind and what special adaptations do you use on the job (give the medical term for your blindness and extent of limitation; give the type and name of any special low or high technology and/or procedure you use to perform your job duties, describing where and how you use them).
I am totally blind as a result of trauma.
Alternative skills I use include a white cane for travel, Braille for reading, Jaws screen reading software for accessing the computer, and an accessible cell phone.
Specifically related to my research, I rely heavily on MS Excel worksheets and workbooks, SAS Statistical Analysis Software, and Survey Monkey for the creation and deployment of research instruments.
*4. Please let us know of any required special training, education, certificates, experience needed for this job.
This job requires an undergraduate and master's degree as minimal qualifications. I also have a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Education and Research. I have a certificate in Educational statistics and research methods, which gives me the mathematical skills needed for the SAS program.
*5. Please tell us about anyone or anything that aided you to be successful.
The NFB, of course, was instrumental in my success. The mere knowledge that thousands of people supported me was truly significant. Specifically, Fred Schroeder, Joanne Wilson, and Maria Morais were the ones who convinced me that in order to make nationwide changes in the rehabilitation and educational systems, I would have to earn the doctoral degree. They were right, and it is paying off.
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