In 2014, the MA Commission for the Blind became the first agency to sponsor Project SEARCH for adults who are legally blind.
This national 9-month program has traditionally provided internship experiences for transition age youth with developmental disabilities; now it also helps unemployed adults in Massachusetts to build their skills and get back to work. The Polus Center has been proud to partner with MCB and the Carroll Center for the Blind to provide meaningful education and job opportunities in the Boston area.
The host businesses are Cambridge Health Alliance and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, with job support and workforce development provided by the Carroll Center for the Blind and the Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, Inc.
Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, in 1996, to train people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry level positions which involved complex and systematic tasks. Since its inception, Project SEARCH has grown from a single program site at Cincinnati Children's to over 300 sites across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia.
While following the core components of the Project SEARCH international and trademarked business-led program model, focusing on outcomes of competitive integrated employment including both classroom workplace readiness training and three job experiences throughout the 9-month program, the MCB program applied those principles to the needs of chronically unemployed adults who are legally blind.
People participate in Career Planning workshops and complete assessments such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest Inventory to explore their career interests. They have guest speakers on topics such as Emotional Intelligence, Giving and Receiving Feedback, and Effective Communication Skills.
Classroom dialogues address workplace issues sparked by their own experiences and an online development program on Finding and Maintaining Employment.
While most of the workshops are the same as one would find in a typical corporate professional development program, guest speakers from organizations such as Work Without Limits provided seminars on when and if to disclose disability, and online workshop topics sometimes address issues of specific interest such as transportation for people who cannot drive. One of the trainers/mentors of the program is himself legally blind.
Project SEARCH and other internship programs with MCB represent, like the Disability Employment Initiative, collaborative cross-agency and business focused approaches to supporting people with disabilities to find competitive, integrated, meaningful work.
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