Train-to-Hire Programs

The United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Outlook: Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new openings for massage therapists.

 By combining knowledge gained from the pilot program with research regarding best practices in massage therapy training, ABS, in partnership with a local massage school, has developed a three part 600-hour Train-to-Hire Program for blind/VI adults that will enable them to participate productively in the growing field of wellness.


Train-to-Hire Program

Phase I: Occupational Training

Phase I consists of comprehensive training in vocabulary, theory fundamentals and various techniques demonstrated through hands-on practice sessions under instructor supervision. ABS will  maintain a small trainee-instructor ratio for close supervision and assistance.

The ABS Therapeutic Massage Program provides essential knowledge and training to prepare individuals for a New Jersey license through a combination of lecture (theory), demonstrations, and hands-on experience. Our training program incorporates specialized training and training aids that are used in regions such as the Far East where massage therapy is more accepted as a career for people who are blind/VI. 

Trainees learn to provide improved health, relief and a sense of well-being to clients through the application of manual techniques for manipulating skin, muscles, and connective tissues. Pertinent topics include: Anatomy and Physiology, Massage Techniques, Professional Theories, Business Ethics, Safety, CPR and Emergency Management. Classroom instruction will include use of accessible formats including Braille and Assistive Technologies. For the practical applications we will use specialized training aids such as mannequins, nerve and muscle charts, and maps of the body which are labeled in Braille and covered in different textures of sandpaper, cloth, rope and wood. Overall instruction will incorporate strategies used around the world to make instruction in massage therapy more accessible to individuals who are blind/VI.

Phase II: Internship/Clinical Practicum  

In this phase of the program, trainees will gain the 100-hour minimum practical experience requirement for New Jersey massage licensure. Phase II of the program will enable trainees to synthesize knowledge, apply skills in a clinical setting, and develop experience under close supervision. Trainees must greet, interview, massage and write post session SOAP notes on each client as required by New Jersey Massage Therapy Regulations. Trainees integrate skills, knowledge and abilities acquired on a daily basis with the public at large

All trainee massage is provided under the supervision of a licensed Massage Therapy Instructor who is present on the premises and is available for advice and assistance. Our low student:teacher ratio will allow the clinical instructor to identify each trainee’s strengths and weaknesses; providing feedback to enable them to evolve  according to developmental, practical, and individual abilities. Importantly, our trainees will continue beyond the 100 hour minimum requirement if necessary to meet our standard of employment readiness.

Phase III: Paid Apprenticeship Program

Longer term, ABS will work to develop a paid apprenticeship program for graduates of Phase II. This part of the program would take place at a dedicated community wellness center incorporating massage therapy from the apprentices with other services from other professionals who are not visually impaired.

In this setting, valuable knowledge would be gained through experience regarding business operations, customer service and other areas crucial to the graduates’ entry into the private sector. During  the apprenticeship program, ABS will also assist and support them as they seek employment opportunities in the private sector or through entrepreneurship. This collaboration provides therapists who are blind or visually impaired the opportunity to transition seamlessly from training to self-sufficient professional employments.

This invaluable phase of the program not only readies people who are blind/VI for employment, but it will help to demystify blindness and breakdown barriers to inclusion.  Our wellness center will serve to demonstrate both to the public and potential employers that people who are blind/VI can work independently alongside sighted peers. Our program will pave the way for gainful employment in the fast growing wellness industry and contribute to the deconstruction of negative stereotypes.  

Program Requirements

  1. Must be at least 18 years of age
  2. High school diploma or GED
  3. U.S. Citizenship

Train-to-Hire Refresher Program

The Train-to-Hire Refresher Program, is for unemployed blind massage therapists who have completed 600 hours of training from an accredited massage school, are licensed and CPR-certified, yet lack adequate supports to obtain and maintain community-based employment after graduation. As a result, they may have become dis-empowered and disconnected from community life.

 Refresher Program Requirements

  1. Must be at least 18 years of age
  2. Completed 600 hours of training from an accredited massage school
  3. Licensed in the State of New Jersey

Program Objectives

Empower and equip 6 to 10 blind massage therapists annually with uninterrupted transitioning skills, bridging the critical link between training and economic self-sufficiency as licensed massage therapists.

    Provide in-depth on-the-job experiences integrating supervised hands-on training to advance skills, promote increased self-esteem, and enhance professional development - all derived from successfully meeting new challenges and promoting community awareness.

    Enhance prospects for long-term employment and/or entrepreneurship.

    Break barriers that hinder participation of individuals who are blind in the workforce as capable professionals and/or self-employed entrepreneurs.

    End Results

    Confident licensed blind/VI massage therapists with two years of paid, hands-on experience will successfully demonstrate that people who are blind can live independent, meaningful lives alongside non-disabled peers.  These benefits all contribute to the deconstruction of negative stereotypes.