It’s the cane that gives away Kate Williams’ blindness. If she didn’t have it, you’d never know. She’s petite and elegant, with flawless makeup and bright, attentive eyes.
“Making eye contact is so stressed by those who train people to do interviews,” says Williams. “We believe that is important. It may be a different technique that’s used by a blind person. Perhaps it’s looking at the voice. … Everyone knows that where the voice is, so probably a few inches on top of that, there’s gonna be a pair of eyes.”
Williams has had time to perfect her own eye contact skills: She started losing her sight in her 40s and was blind by age 65. But she wasn’t ready to give up her career, and she didn’t see why she should have to.
She moved to San Francisco from Southern California in 1997, when she could still see a little but couldn’t drive. She got a job in recruiting, which she kept for six years with the help of adaptive technology -- things like magnified screens and computer programs that speak. Eventually, the company whose products she used asked her to design an employment training program for the blind.
“Most employers are not aware of the capabilities of a person who’s blind or visually impaired,” she says. “They would be like me. I didn’t think blind people could accomplish too much, maybe anything -- that was my impression before I started losing my vision. I still pictured people on the corner selling pencils. Honestly, I hate to say that, but it’s the truth.”