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blind employment

Ed Garcia: From Hired to Hiring

Ed Garcia: From Hired to Hiring

When it comes to getting hired for a job, having successful conversations with a company’s Human Resources Department is crucial. Human Resources employees are usually the first people who review your resume and cover letter and the first ones you’ll talk to in the interview process. 
Ed Garcia is LightHouse’s Human Resources Generalist and is the first blind person to hold a position in the Human Resources department at LightHouse. He does much of the recruiting and interviewing for positions at LightHouse and works closely with LightHouse hiring managers to help them find jobseekers who would be a great fit for the managers’ departments. Below Ed chats about how he got into Human Resources, and lessons he’s learned about blindness and employment.
Ed is a San Francisco native who played baseball and football in high school. For college, he went to the University of San Francisco. where he majored in psychology and minored in biology. That’s also where he met someone who he learned he had near misses with over the years. 
“I met this wonderful woman named Anne who happened to live seven minutes away from me. We learned that we had been at the same events over the years, but we had never met before.” Anne would become his wife.
After college Ed started working as a customer services representative in a call center and over the course of a few years worked his way up to director. He went on to work at a bank call center and was soon promoted to training director. As training director, he took some courses and learned how to recruit employees. He and his Human Resources team ended up hiring dozens of people for the call center. Eventually Ed started his own consulting company and would consult on HR and customer service matters. After doing this for six years, Ed experienced some medical issues that caused him to become legally blind. 
Ed continued his consulting work but realized he missed interacting with coworkers. He was ready to work at a “9 to 5” office job again but had never conducted a job search as a blind man.
Ed admits that he had no idea what to do next.

“I had been working for 25 years. I had a nice career going, and all of a sudden, I can’t see like I used to anymore. I was wondering how am I going to look for work?”
Ed was referred to the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) where he met a woman who told him about her husband who was a blind computer programmer.
“I was astonished. How can someone be a computer programmer when they’re blind? That’s when I learned about accessibility tools like ZoomText, JAWS and CCTVs. I was referred by DOR to the LightHouse to work with the Employment Services department including [Director of Employment Services] Kate Williams.”
That’s when Ed’s perspective on blindness began to change.
“Kate taught me a lot of things, including how to accept my blindness. Before then, I think I was in denial. Soon I realized you can learn skills that you can use to advance yourself and be independent.”
An opportunity opened up in LightHouse’s Human Resources department. Ed applied and got the job.
Though the general economy took a beating in 2020, Ed is proud that despite those challenges Lighthouse still hired 40 people between the San Francisco headquarters, East Bay office, LightHouse Industries: Sirkin Center and Enchanted Hills Camp. With interviews happening virtually, Ed relies on his years of experience to compensate for cues that are harder to pick up when an interview is not in person.
“One of the things that I’ve gotten pretty good at over the years is a technique called active listening. It’s not just listening; it’s also playing an active role in the discussion. When you’re interviewing somebody, you want to make sure that you ask questions and you confirm that you understood what it is that they’re saying.”
Ed, also known as Edward Garcia V (“my son is Edward VI, so you know what the family tradition is,” he says laughing) notes that one of the most important things to do during a job search is to network. He also takes it a step further: He believes that blind jobseekers must include other blind people in their networks. “Immerse yourself in the blindness community. I had a very extensive work history and I had a lot of contacts, but guess what? None of them were blind. Learn from other blind people.”
Of the nearly 40 people who were hired by LightHouse last year, 70% of them were blind and many had learned about the jobs at LightHouse from others in the blindness community.
Ed explains the best thing about his role as an Human Resources Generalist.
“Nothing brings me more joy than once we’ve gotten to the point where you’ve interviewed someone and you’ve done all your background checking. You get to call somebody and offer them a job and you listen to how excited they are.”
LightHouse is hiring. Check out the career opportunities webpage.

LightHouse Staffer Marc Grossman on Moving Forward in his career with Blindness

LightHouse Staffer Marc Grossman on Moving Forward in his career with Blindness

I grew up in Southern California and had a pretty typical childhood filled with adventure and mischief. I was a Boy Scout, participated in sports, and loved learning new things in school. As a teenager, I liked to toss the baseball with the neighborhood boys in front of our houses. Even though nobody recognized it at the time, this was the first clue that something was amiss. If I had dropped the ball and gazed down to look for it, I could only find it if it were in my field of vision. Of course, everybody had the same experience, but we did not know that my field of vision was significantly smaller than the rest of the boys. While the nickname did not stick, I recall some of the kids calling me “eagle eyes” but in retrospect it was not much of a compliment. Since we had no family history of vision problems, we did not think much of it and I continued through the years, especially since I had no trouble seeing printed words in my high school textbooks or the blackboard in the classroom.

During the summer after my freshmen year at college, I came home to spend time with family and friends. While on a road trip with my two best friends, they pointed out that I was consistently not seeing things in my peripheral vision. At first, I just laughed it off but a subsequent visit to a local optometrist confirmed that in fact, I needed to see a specialist. By the end of the summer, I would have endured a full day of testing at a prestigious university medical center and gone home with a diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa. Armed with that knowledge, I merely buried my head in the sand and chose to ignore the doctor’s advice. I was determined to be in the minority of people that don’t go on to lose all of their eyesight. I attribute that stubbornness to being a Taurus and, of course, college kids knowing better than everybody else. I went on to complete my bachelor’s degree, but my university experience was not what I had envisioned. I struggled with my diagnosis and was ill-equipped to handle the emotional aspects. When sharing this new information with my friends and classmates, I encountered disbelief. “You don’t look blind” and other expressions made their way into the conversation and from that time I decided to keep it to myself.

Upon my return to Southern California, I tried to continue hiding my diagnosis. By this point, driving was getting to be a challenge and I found myself crashing into walls and other immovable objects. Fortunately, they were all at low speeds and nobody got hurt. This was in the 1990s before there was a robust transit network in Los Angeles. So, I moved to New York City where the streets were filled with bright yellow taxis, buses to every corner of the five boroughs, and an expansive subway system snaking its way under the city.

As my vision continued to diminish, I decided that I wanted one more adventure before I lost my remaining eyesight. I hopped on a plane and landed in Santiago de Chile. The city was compact and had great transit. I taught English to business executives and made friends from all over the world. It was during this time overseas that I realized that I was not going to avoid blindness and that upon my return it would be in my best interest to seek out services.

I found myself in the office of the New York Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped when a wonderful man named Carlos asked me if I wanted to learn JAWS or ZoomText. I must have looked at him like he was an alien because he burst out laughing. I had no idea what he was talking about, so he started fiddling with the keyboard that sat in front of me. ZoomText was enabled but I was slow at picking it up and not able to follow the focus. Carlos asked to take the keyboard and he made some additional changes. He asked me to put my hands on the keys and before I knew what was going on, I heard a voice talking to me. I had no idea what was going on but minutes later, we were diving into the nuances of the powerful magnifier/screen reader. This began my relationship with accessible technology and catapulted me into my current area of expertise.

After a successful career in sales, I began working for the American Foundation for the Blind. I learned the ins and outs of digital accessibility and started to build relationships with key players in the area of technology. When I moved back to California, I discovered the wonderful people at LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to learning braille and orientation to a new city, I had the great pleasure of going through the Employment Immersion program where I met [Director of Employment Services] Kate Williams, who would later become a mentor and supervisor. For four years, I crisscrossed northern California working with other people who are blind or have low vision to help them discover the doors that can be opened when they learn how to use assistive technology. Finally, in May 2018, I joined LightHouse as an Employment Specialist where I support jobseekers in their quest to find a career. Together, we work on resumes, cover letters, interviewing, and networking. My favorite area is helping jobseekers address the challenge of disclosing their disability to a potential employer.

As it turns out, going blind was not the end of my adventures. When not at work, I enjoy running and swimming with Achilles International or river rafting and Nordic skiing with Environmental Traveling Companions. I’ve participated in a swim relay across Lake Tahoe with four other blind swimmers and completed the Escape from Alcatraz swim four times without being eaten by a great white shark.

Every month a new cohort of blind jobseekers enters our Employment Immersion Program. To see if the program is right for you, or to sign up lease reach out to the Employment Services department at EiTeam@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7359.

Production and Warehouse Assistant

POSITION:                           Production and Warehouse Assistant

REPORTS TO:                      Plant Manager, Assistant Plant Manager, Lead Person & MOD


The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, headquartered in downtown San Francisco, is looking for Production Assistants to assist with production, warehousing and shipping of product at our Lighthouse Industries location currently in San Leandro. This position will be moving to Alameda later this year to our new Factory location.

Role Overview

The LightHouse is currently in a period of growth, increasing our capacity to serve more low-vision and blind clients. We seek dedicated team members to help us grow our warehousing and production capability at our Lighthouse Industries (LHI) factory.

This position is designated to provide work experience for an individual who is blind or visually impaired.


Education:  High school diploma or GED required

Experience: Will train

Other:         The Production Assistant is responsible to check product, tape full boxes and then place those boxes on a pallet. The assistant will stretch wrap the pallet when it becomes full. The Warehouse Assistant will then proceed to pull, pack and fill product and work on a production line.

Job Responsibilities:

  • The assistant will check their supplies, making sure that they have enough for the day
  • The Production Assistant will report any out of spec. or suspected out of spec conditions to the Machine Operator at once
  • The person in this role will work on production lines filling, packing and shipping
  • The assistant will sort and pack boxes
  • The assistant will make boxes
  • The Production Assistant, upon filling a box, will remove it and put an empty box in its place
  • The assistant will perform cycle counts
  • The assistant will sweep, clean, and perform housekeeping when there is down time
  • The person in this role will rework product
  • The Production Assistant will neatly stack the full carton onto the pallet
  •  Using a hand jack, the assistant will remove the completed full pallet and put it in the designated area for stretch wrapping
  • After the pallet is removed for stretch wrapping, the assistant will place a new pallet down for the next products
  • The assistant will stretch wrap the full pallet to be warehoused
  • The person in this role will keep the area neat and tidy. The assistant will empty the trash daily
  • The Production Assistant should let their supervisor know when their task has been completed
  • The assistant should exercise caution around machines and when the forklift is operating in the area
  • The Production Assistant should report all accidents or safety concerns to their supervisor at once
  • The assistant should never perform a task if they feel it is unsafe until they talk to a supervisor
  • The assistant will lift or carry 60 lbs. throughout the day
  • The assistant will also stand for long periods and climb up and down ladders
  • The Production Assistant is expected to complete any other duties as assigned by their supervisor

Other Duties:

Please note that this job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee for this job. Duties, responsibilities and activities may change at any time with or without notice.

The Production Assistant will also stand for long periods and climb up and down ladders throughout the day. The Production Assistant is expected to complete any other duties as assigned by their supervisor

Who We Are:

LightHouse has an audacious mission – to transform the lives of the 40,000 blind people in the greater Bay Area and beyond. We do this through tech design, disability advocacy, consultation, classes and community formation in San Francisco, our four satellite offices and Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa. We are a fun, fascinating, widely diverse, warm and friendly community. We work in downtown San Francisco in a 40,000 square foot state-of-the-art workspace renowned for its universal design, steps from Civic Center BART. LightHouse is working for nothing less than to change the future for blind people and the wider community.

Within a five-minute walk are the world headquarters for Twitter, Uber, Dolby, Zendesk and many other tech giants. Within three blocks are all of the principal building for Northern California’s federal, state and local government. Also in our neighborhood are many theaters, San Francisco Symphony and Opera, the Asian Art Museum and dozens of other key cultural anchors of the entire Bay Area.

The successful candidate will join a unique organization in which blind and sighted professionals work together at every level. Our governing Board of Directors, management and staff are all composed of roughly equal numbers of blind and sighted people, a parity unprecedented in our field.

Founded in 1902, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides skills, resources and community for the advancement of all individuals who are blind or have low vision. Our innovative programs have been featured in 60 Minutes, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal and beyond. The blind community comes to LightHouse to learn how to travel independently with a white cane, to rejoin the workforce, use accessible technology, and meet a community of mentors and peers. From unique tactile maps, to an unparalleled camp for blind campers, to a world prize for blind ambition, LightHouse offers programs unavailable elsewhere

Learn About Us:

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1155 Market Street, 10th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103

Employee Benefits:

The LightHouse offers a rich package of benefits, including medical, vision and dental insurance. Employees are eligible for an employer-matched 401(k) plan and subsidized health club membership, among many other perks.


Depending on Experience; industry competitive

How to Apply:

After reviewing the complete Job Description please apply by going to our website at: https://lighthouse-sf.org/about/careers/.

Please complete the application there as well as a cover letter and résumé as word processing document attachments (no PDFs please).

Please submit to hr@lighthouse-sf.org, including the job title in the subject line. We will not consider videos or hyperlinks to online profiles. Due to time constraints we will only respond to complete submissions. Thanks for your understanding.


In a Batch of Blind Hires, Companies Prove Dedication to Inclusivity

In a Batch of Blind Hires, Companies Prove Dedication to Inclusivity

Lockheed Martin, App Dynamic, Grove Collective, the San Francisco Public Library and the State of the California—what do these things all have in common?

Each of these companies and institutions hired one of our Employment Immersion Graduates within the last two weeks, representing a step towards improving employment rates in the blind and visually impaired community.

These five hires are a testament to our students’ tenacity and hard work, as well as to companies’ increasing dedication to inclusivity. The batch of prestigious hires also speaks volumes to the commitment of our Employment Immersion Program staff, who work one-on-one with students even after they complete the four-week program and liaise with employers to match them with students, and vice versa.

“We don’t care if you’re young, old, totally blind, low vision, have a college degree or no college degree,” says Employment Program Manager Kate Williams. “It doesn’t matter as long as you have a real desire to go to work. We furnish our Employment Immersion students with the tools to make sure that happens, by building their confidence and giving them the techniques to conduct a successful job search.”

In the blindness community, we know that one size does not fit all, and this is reflected in the curriculum of this four-week workshop. With a combination of short lectures, interactive activities, expert speakers and candid, honest discussions, each blind or low vision student has an opportunity to explore their interests, aptitudes, and think outside the box about which part of the job market holds the highest promise for their talents and ambitions.

Step-by-step training includes:

  • Using personality indicators like Meyers Briggs and Gallup StrengthFinder to identify core strengths as a springboard to build a career
  • Resume and cover letter building
  • Job search techniques, networking and the hidden job market
  • The application process
  • Blindness disclosure and requesting accommodations
  • Interview preparation including self presentation and body language
  • Free professional and online portrait photographs courtesy of LightHouse for the Blind
  • How to approach an interview and role playing
  • Job retention

Williams, who is a Purpose Prize Winner and nationally recognized job coach by the Wall Street Journal, is the driving force behind these achievements. She knows what it takes to get blind jobseekers into positions that suit them and keep them there — and the payoff doesn’t end on payday.

“We spend a great deal of time on encouraging our attendees to connect,” says Williams. “My motto is ‘People hire people.’ We help students make connections during the job search and interview process that are genuine and show their own authenticity. We’re fostering relationship building — which is a lifelong skill.”

With an increase in referrals as LightHouse steps in as the key provider of services in the East Bay, our Employment Immersion Program is growing and evolving to meet higher standards and increasing volume of blind jobseekers. The sky’s the limit, once the skills are there.

Keep chipping away at those employment statistics and sign up for a Employment Job Preparation Workshop this fall. The workshop is open to people who are blind or have low vision, from any background, seeking any job. To sign up, contact Employment Immersion Trainer Angela Denise Davis at adavis@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7353.

YES Academy Week One: Cane skills, cooking and mock interviews

YES Academy Week One: Cane skills, cooking and mock interviews

It’s been a lively week at LightHouse headquarters with our three-week Summer Youth Employment Series (YES) underway. The 10th and 11th floors have been warm with the chatter of blind and visually impaired youth attending four classes a day including orientation & mobility, technology, living skills and job readiness trainings.

Many of the students at YES Academy are getting their first introductions to life skills like using a white cane, cooking, doing laundry, interviewing for jobs and volunteering. But it isn’t all work and no play. They also explored the city of San Francisco, including a ghost tour of Chinatown and a scavenger hunt at Fisherman’s Wharf.

This week they’re headed to camp and kayak in Tomales Bay, and then they’re off to Enchanted Hills Camp to spend a few days breathing the fresh air and learning the fundamentals of woodworking with blind woodworker George Wurtzel. The final week, a select group will attend the National Federation of the Blind Convention in Orlando, Florida. Here, students will meet thousands of blind role models from across the country, network with the National Association of Blind Students, peruse the aisles of the exhibition hall, participate in a nation-wide accessible job-fair and attend informative seminars.

“When we picked up the students at the airport not a single one of them was using a cane,” says Youth Services Coordinator Jamey Gump when we asked him about the most gratifying aspect of leading the program. “Now many of them feel confident to use their canes. It’s an important landmark for them to be comfortable with themselves and be able to identify as blind to allow the public to understand their needs.”

Romesha Laird is one of the YES students who started off the week having never used a cane before. She’s quickly taken to the mobility training and has found it an incredibly useful tool as she goes through this busy week of fun and self discovery.

“I’m just learning to use a cane,” she says. “I used to trip a lot and the cane makes me feel more confident. After this week, I feel a lot more motivated to use my cane when I’m walking around.”

Romesha is a high school student from San Bernardino, and when she’s not learning to making quick biscuits in the teaching kitchen or learning skills that will help her toward her goal of attending a four year college, she’s an avid cheerleader.

This week she discovered a mentor in YES Academy Counselor Danielle Fernandez.

“I really look up to Danielle,” she says. “She taught me a lot and showed me around. She also has the same condition as me, so we relate and understand each other.”

Romesha has already made up her mind that she’ll be headed back to YES next year.

“I am going to come back next year to learn more and get more experience and visit everyone at the LightHouse,” she says smiling.

Here are a few photos of Romesha practicing mobility in downtown San Francisco and volunteering to braille business cards in the MAD Lab.

Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha smiles as she walks down Market Street with her white cane.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.
Romesha helps emboss business cards with fellow YES Academy students in one of the LightHouse volunteer rooms.

Stay posted for more YES Academy updates in the coming weeks!

Employment Immersion Programs

Employment Immersion Programs

2021 Curriculum – CA DOR Virtual Employment Program

Providing Tools and Resources to Live a Secure and Fulfilled Life

“Employers don’t like problems, they like solutions. We allow people to develop their own solutions; we give them the options, and coach them into finding their own solutions.”

– Kate Williams, Director, Employment Services

After gaining skills in mobility, technology, and daily life, the final metric of success for a working-age individual who is blind or who has low vision may be ensuring a solid paycheck at the end of the month. Although monetary gain is important, we have learned that it is frequently not the most compelling reason individuals want to secure employment!  

Rather, they cite the desire to acquire a sense of “belonging” and “contributing” as the motivating factors, closely followed by a desire to gain confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance. Unlike many employment programs, we pay close attention to these factors and integrate that awareness into each facet of our program.  Our approach to supporting blind and visually impaired individuals on their path to securing employment is customized to each person we work with. As job seekers, we may share similar challenges on our journey; however, our stories and needs are vastly different. This premise is reflected in the design of our award-winning Employment Immersion Program.  

Our Unique Approach to Employment Immersion

Our team is dedicated to providing a thorough assessment of the needs of each individual as they enter the program. Employment Specialists guide students through complex topics such as creating a dynamic resume, writing compelling cover letters, preparing for interviews, disclosing their disability and requesting accommodations. Students work individually to master these skills while they build a network of connections and develop transferable skills.

The Employment Immersion Team augments these one-on-one learning experiences with group activities including highly specialized workshops, expert guest speakers, meetings with employers and mock interviews with local companies. We work tirelessly with our students during their job search. We meet as a team on a weekly basis to review their status and work collaboratively to assist students in discovering job opportunities in today’s competitive job market.

This thoughtful and supportive model has resulted in a consistent placement rate exceeding forty percent. We welcome your inquiries! Our primary goal is to support job seekers realize their value in the workplace.

Learn more about our staff: read their biographies.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Employment Immersion programs, or would like to sign up, please contact Wanda Pearson at 415-694-7359 or at eiteam@lighthouse-sf.org.