[nabs-l] More on the situation with the hotline I want to volunteer with

Miranda B. knownoflove at gmail.com
Sun Apr 23 11:11:22 UTC 2017

Hi Sam,
I apologize for my delay in responding to your message, but I wanted to
chime in with some suggestions.
First, I might suggest that you reach out to the Community Service (as
you're volunteering) and Human Services (since crisis hotlines fall into
this category) devisions of the NFB. The Office professionals devision may
also be helpful, as far as working with multi-line telephone systems. Their
mailing lists can be found at: www.nfbnet.org.
For those believing that I'm continuing what may seem to some as an
off-topic discussion, my volunteering is directly related to my education,
as I use volunteering as a way to boost my resume and future chances for
employment, while at the same time serving my community. As such, I
volunteer in roles that are directly related to my major in order to
accomplish the aforementioned career goals.

With many of my volunteer opportunities that I've gotten involved in
locally, I've found that not disclosing my disability prior to an
interview/orientation allows me the best chance to present myself as
competent and able to function normally prior to diving into the
accomidations discussion. I use my first interactions at the orientation to
request a more involved discussion. This also gives me the opportunity to
read any hesitation or observe any concerns brought up by either myself or
the organization's staff. A future discussion allows me the time to do
further research on resolutions to concerns, as you are so aptly doing now.
I strive to treat my volunteer roles like I would an employment opportunity,
as they could serve as springboards for future opportunities, even if not
with the same organization. Like you, I unfortunately came to this
conclusion through much trial and error. However, also like you, I have
learned that patience, persistence, and a large dose of grace and tact go a
long way in educating both myself and those I interact with in these various
roles. For instance, after mentioning my blindness upon initial contact with
a local organization, I was abruptly dismissed from even participating in a
volunteer training due to previous negative experiences the volunteer
coordinator had with another visually impaired volunteer over 10 years ago.
After discussing my situation with others and thinking through an
appropriate and professional response, I contacted the coordinator to
address her concerns and request an in-person meeting. I just completed the
in-class training for this volunteer opportunity yesterday, and I'm hoping
to begin my observation in May. I share this example as an encouragement to
you and others reading this, that second chances do exist.
I applaud you for exemplifying these traits as you continue to move forward
towards your volunteer goals.

One thing in your below message that I wanted to highlight were the buttons
on the phone. Either they could be marked with tape or a bump dot that could
be removed, or you could simply memorize them. For me, I would think of
these buttons like the keys on a computer keyboard, buttons on a non-touch
screen cell phone, or anything else with buttons. It's a matter of
memorization. Many times, if someone is on hold, a series of beeps/tones
will intermittently sound to alert you that someone is on hold. If you're
concerned about what line you're answering, the phone system may actually
have different ring tones/patterns for each individual line. So, you could
observe another volunteer as part of your training process, take note of
these different line ringtones/patterns, and memorize them.

The volunteer staff member may have mentioned June 2, as the organization
may be in the middle of other unrelated but more pressing matters that will
be resolved by that date. I wouldn't read too far into her response. To me,
it seems that she's willing to continue this discussion with you after June
2, and you're doing well to locate possible solutions before then.
I hope this helps, and have a wonderful week!

Best wishes, Miranda

-----Original Message-----
From: NABS-L [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Sam via NABS-L
Sent: Monday, April 17, 2017 6:49 PM
To: 'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'
<nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Sam <nelsonsam68 at gmail.com>
Subject: [nabs-l] More on the situation with the hotline I want to volunteer

Hi everyone, 

 So it's kind of a long story with me and this hotline but I want to try and
explain everything plus give all sites involved. 

 So the hotline is the national runaway safeline. 



 I Carol is the site they use to schedule shifts, log calls and other things
not related to the phone. 


Here is shore tel the site/software that works with the phones, showing
incoming number on screen and other things. (didn't have time to explore
phones  much) 


 So I contacted them in 2016 to volunteer. As I said in my other  message
I've done hotlines before and this is a really famous one as it's national.
Since moving to Chicago I've always wanted to do it. 

 So I contacted them and maybe I shouldn't have done this but I told her I
was blind. I mean she would have found that out anyway. I mean I didn't just
say that obviously. I  filled out an application and everything. And most
people then go to an orientation and then she interviews you but it's at
like the last 15 minutes of the orientation and I figured we'd need to have
a bit longer to talk about this. 

 So after knowing this she eventually said that I could come in and her and
someone from IT wanted to see how I used the computer and phones and

 Just so you know, they measure all this stuff about runaway youth like
gender, race, sexual orientation, age, time on the street ETC. Disability
isn't even on the list at all. So I don't  think they've ever had a
volunteer with any kind of disability. 

 The IT guy was actually really cool. His wife had CP so he knew a bit about
screen readers. So this woman is well, very professional, I think wants
things a  certain way, not necessarily personable, didn't give much away
about warming up to me or anything. 

 So I went through the Icarol  site. It was totally anxiety provoking with
them watching and having to navigate a totally new site for the first time.
Ya know people who have no idea you can even use a computer and knowing
every minutre they're judging on how you can do this stuff when you've never
seen the site before and only had an hour. 

 So we went through the site at the time there were a few inaccessible
things like some unlabeled buttons. But generally it was ok. 

 So I really wish I knew all the ins and outs of the requirements and what
exactly she's so worried about. That's like the big unknown right now. I'm
just guessing off this meeting a year ago. 

 So basically a youth calls in and you do crisis intervention on what's
going on, and refer to resources if necessary. People will take notes while
on the phone on paper and I could use the braillenote for that which they
were fine with. 

 But I believe while on the phone you  would have to actually call out to
like a shelter to get information on current availability and then have the
person still on hold. I'm not sure because they never told me. 

 By the time we got to  shore tel which is where the phone and computer are
connected it was almost time to leave. But the one thing that we did find
out was the whole headphone wires getting tangled in the phone cord. Can't
believe there are still landlines out there LOL! 

 So from what I remember the number that calls in does show up on the screen
of this shore tel site. I'm not sure what else shows up there or what it's
for other than like I said the computer and phone are connected.   When
looking at the phone what she was worried about was me navigating all the
different buttons, as there are rows of them above the regular phone keypad.
Not just transfer but like four different open lines, hold, conference call
(which you would also do, you actually at times  have to do conference calls
with the youth and family members) ETC. 

 So they're worried about me not knowing for example whether someone is
still on hold ETC as that stuff is shown visually on the display. Like I
said the phone stuff was literally the last 15  minutes a year ago so trying
to remember. 

 So we got to the end. And said we

D follow up. It was I thought clear to all of us  that we'd continue to
explore the phone situation and brainstorm solutions. 

 A couple weeks later she wrote back saying she and her supervisor had
decided I wasn't a good fit for the phones. So no problem solving.  But that
I could maybe do the online services, so answering chats, e-mails and on a
forum. Well the whole point of a hotline is you're talking to someone on the
phone. And getting that voice to voice  connection. 

 This by the way is the only hotline in Chicago that really I could do. What
crisis hotlines there are for like suicide and stuff  are through hospitals.
There's one rape crisis line but if you do that you have to be an advocate
and do rape kits in the hospital which I would not want to do. And I think
there's one domestic violence hotline and they don't need volunteers. It
says on their site. 

 So this is really the only hotline choice I have. So when she said that I
thought well that's nuts if I want to do a text service thing I might as
well do a crisis line through text. Which I have done for over a year.
They're pretty good. I find texting really  impersonal for the kind of
things we're working with. I really miss that more in person voice to voice

 I asked and she agreed I could contact them in a year this was in 2016 

 So now it's been a year. Before contacting them I looked up I carol. Wrote
them. They're really good. They're like accessibility is so important, our
new version is way more accessible we've worked with , other blind people on
different hotlines ETC. They worked with  JAWS but they've never worked with
NVDA which I have. So they were like no problem we want to see how this
works we'll do a screen sharing session and everything. It was like the best
response I've gotten from a tech organization. 

 So I wrote the volunteer coordinator, mentioning I'd be helping work with
them and NVDA this week as well as saying that  I carol said that if they
wanted to be upgraded to an earlier date than the date they're upgrading
because they have a visually impaired person they can just ask. 

 Well she wrote back this very distant e-mail focusing on not knowing about
NVDA and not knowing when the updgrade would be released and this is the end
of the e-mail. 

we are not in a position to assess potential compatibility with the NVDA
software, or the other requirements of volunteers in providing crisis
intervention services at the National Runaway Safeline. We thank you for
your interest and will follow up with you after we have completed the
necessary program revisions and are in a better place to discuss NRS
volunteer opportunities. We do not expect to reconnect you any sooner than
June 2, 2017.

So I don't know what this June 2nd thing is about at all. So I'm like ok now
what? Like I said this is like my one hotline. She's technically not
discriminating, she had that meeting with me last year and everything. She's
just totally dragging her feet with an attitude. I mean the first thing that
was done with other organizations when I was in MA was let's sit down and
see if you meet all the requirements of a volunteer/ intern minus being
blind. Then if you do we talk about accomidations. But with her it's almost
backwards like Oh you're blind  we need to know if you can do  all this
stuff because you're blind and then we'll see if you can actually volunteer
outside of that. Not in so many words but that seems to be the feeling. 

 Part of me wishes that I could just start over. Like maybe we just got off
on the wrong foot with me telling her I was blind. But she's the type of
person I think who couldn't have gotten past that anyway even if I just
walked in the door. She'd likely still be doing this whole thing with being
all obsessed with my blindness and not looking at anything else. 

 I just never had these problems in MA. IL is just crazy closed minded. 

 Sorry for how long this is I hope I explained things better. 


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