1. People who are blind cannot be held to the same level of productivity as someone who is sighted.
Once a person who is blind or have low vision has learned the necessary alternative techniques and has the appropriate assistive technology, they can be as productive as anyone with normal sight. We all know some sighted people are more productive then some other sighted people, so there certainly is variation. Occasionally people with visual impairments may require a little more time to orient to a new situation, but once oriented, they can be expected to be as productive as any other employee.
If you have an employee who is experiencing vision loss, it is very important that they have time away from the job to get adjustment and rehabilitation training so that they can continue to be a productive employee when they return. Vocational Rehabilitation Services in your community can help provide training and assistance with job accommodations.
2. There is no special technology to allow someone who is blind or have low vision to access a computer.
There is specialized computer access technology that will allow a person with a visual impairment or blindness to access a regular computer with large print, speech or Braille output. This is referred to as "Assistive Technology (AT)". If your business has proprietary software, there may need to be a little work done to set up the software-AT linkages.
3. If I hire someone with a visual impairment, the person will need a lot of expensive equipment that I will be responsible to buy.
Specialized Equipment (Assistive Technology - AT) used by people who are blind or have low vision varies in cost from the price of a rubber band to more expensive Braille equipment. Often the potential employee may have their own AT, or Vocational Rehabilitation Services may assist with the purchase of AT. In some cases, the employer may or may not need to be involved in the purchase of the equipment. This will vary by the individual and their needs.
4. A person who is blind and has no vision will never be able to contribute substantially to my company.
In addition to their knowledge, abilities, and skills in a particular job area, people who are blind are often great problem-solvers and have a number of skills that can be useful to any company. In fact, one company attributes over $150 million of income to the patents developed by an engineer who is blind. As one employer said, "It's not the wrapping paper, it's the mind we are hiring.
5. Braille is obsolete now that there are computers.
People who learn and use braille find that braille is a great way to organize some work tasks. Could you do a job without a pen or pencil? Could you add a column of numbers or write computer code using audio output only? Many braille users find information is easier to manage when they use braille, similar to how sighted people need to see a print copy. Braille is essential for many people. For more information about braille usage, check out the article below.
National braille week - Is braille still relevant?
Posted 5 January 2012
Recently I was asked if I thought the art of reading braille would fade out, now that assistive technology has become common place in homes and offices of people with sight loss. I replied that, to me, it still has a very important role to play, both in leisure activities and the working lives of blind and partially sighted people.
Although electronic magnifiers and scanners that read text and convert it to the spoken word have opened doors to people with low vision, enabling us to compete in employment with our sighted peers and live independent lives, braille also plays an important part in my everyday life.
For example, I can’t see Powerpoint slides so when I give a presentation I have to remember everything on the slide. Following notes in braille provides me with a safety net, just in case I forget something.
Before I lost my sight I was a great book reader. There’s something special about the weight, smell and feel of a book in your hand; you don’t get the same experience from an e-reader or audio. Now I enjoy relaxing on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a good (braille) book.
For me, braille has its place and always will. It would be lovely if braille was offered to everyone as a communications tool.
Linda Bancroft, Business Consultant.
6. I will have to be involved in doing a lot of extra activities for an employee who has low vision, like taking them to lunch or helping them find files.
A person who is blind or have low vision can organize their own work environment and handle their own special needs such as lunch. They may ask to make some subtle modifications such as large print on shelves or blinds to reduce glare, but you would be surprised to find out how many of those modifications benefit everyone. There is technology that can handle many of the needs people have. Generally, once things are accessible, the person who has low vision does not want to be treated any differently than any other employee. If you take your other employees to lunch occasionally, include the person who is blind. If not, you have no obligation to be concerned about how they get their lunch.
7. Blind employees will be so limited as to what they are able to do. If there is a travel assignment to a conference, they will not be able to go.
Blind people attend conferences and travel on their own with no problem. New accessible GPS systems, combined with the use of a white cane or dog guide, allow people who are blind to travel safely in unfamiliar environments. It is true that some people are better travelers than others, but that is true of sighted people as well. If it an essential job function to be able to travel independently, let the person know and ask how they might handle those requirements. Often long-distance travel is more accessible than local travel when there is limited access to cabs or public transportation.
8. I have all sorts of concerns and questions about an employee with low vision's ability to do the job, but I cannot legally ask him or her.
An applicant with a disability, like all other applicants, must be able to meet the employer's requirements for the job, such as education, training, employment experience, skills, or licenses. In addition, an applicant with a disability must be able to perform the "essential functions" of the job: the fundamental duties, either on his or her own or with the help of "reasonable accommodation." However, an employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation that will cause "undue hardship," which means significant difficulty or expense. Don’t just assume that the person cannot do a task. You can ask how they might do certain tasks and you can inquire about accommodations they might need. For more information on hiring persons with impairments, check out www.eeoc.gov/facts/jobapplicant.html.
9. People who are blind are a risk on the job and have more accidents. My insurance will skyrocket.
Accident insurance rates are based on the actual experience of a company, compared with the experience of other companies in the same type of business. Individual characteristics of workers are not considered when determining a company's insurance rates. Studies that have researched the safety records of people with visual impairments indicate that the records of blind employees are equal to or exceed those of sighted workers. In the terminology of the insurance industry, there is no actuarial evidence that blind workers are a greater risk. It is reasonable to assume that a blind worker faces the same risk as a sighted worker. Problems arise when employers assume that blind employees would present a greater danger. Simple alternative techniques exist which make it possible for blind people to do things which most people use sight to accomplish. Today blind workers operate power tools and other heavy industrial machinery safely and efficiently. Their employers do not pay higher insurance premiums.
10. I am uncomfortable around people who are blind and I don’t want to offend them.
If this is true, you may want to take an opportunity to learn more about blindness and people who are blind on this website. We are often uncomfortable around people who are different. We know the best way to get over that discomfort is to get to know the person. It is okay to use terms like “look” and “see.” For example, you can say, “How nice to see you today,” or “He looks much better today.” People who are blind are just people who can’t see. They have different likes and dislikes, they enjoy sports, or art museums, or the theater. They play sports, compete in the Olympics and care for their children. If you reach out a little, you might just make a friend.