Goodwill has opened a Long Island City call center to help launch a program to train and employ hundreds of visually impaired people as customer service representatives. NY1's Employment reporter Asa Aarons filed the following report.
Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey recently opened Project Call Forward, with a tour and demonstration of their new Long Island City call center.
Using funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, Goodwill is prepared to train visually impaired job seekers to hold down positions in telephone customer service.
"What makes them very special is they're highly motivated, incredibly reliable, very intelligent," says Martha Jackson of Goodwill. "And because they're used to bad customer service themselves, they're actually able to take that life knowledge and translate it into making sure that they can help people through their employment, as well as their daily lives."
In addition to learning the business etiquette of customer service, the training also navigate specially equipped computers. These are capable of magnifying the tiniest type to maximum screen size.
Besides taking advantage of technology, the trainees can be sensitive and careful to listen carefully to customers' complaints.
Trainee Edwin Reed says you will rarely find a better listener than someone who is sight-impaired.
"It helps sharpen your listening skills," he says. "You're more attentive to what someone says, you pay attention a little more. So maybe someone with vision may take for granted certain aspects of eyesight, whereas a person who is visually impaired, I listen a little more carefully to what someone is saying."
The first batch of about a dozen trainees will be taking positions soon. Goodwill believes the program has the potential to employ hundreds of customer service reps.
"We're really focusing on people's abilities, their skills, the untapped talent pool that we have in this room in the city of New York, the legally blind and visually impaired," says Jackson. "If people just gave them a chance, they'd be pretty wowed at what they were going to get for employees."