How can we accommodate visual impairments in the workplace?

During the Employee Selection Process

When hiring, employers want to know if an applicant has the necessary skills, experience, education, or other background to successfully perform the essential functions of the job. The same holds true when hiring a person who is blind or has low vision (B/LV). A person who is B/LV may choose whether to disclose their disability to you. If you know that an applicant is B/LV, ask how he or she would prefer to meet the requirements of the hiring process. You can also use the following tips to help the application process run smoothly:

  • If you require an application form, ask the applicant which of the following options for receiving and completing the form would work best:
    • Mailing or emailing the application to the candidate.
    • Allowing a candidate to visit your office to obtain an application. The candidate may have someone help him or her complete the form and then return it by mail or in person.
    • Offering the services of someone in your office to help a candidate fill out the form.
  • When you invite a person who is B/LV to an interview:
    • Ask if he or she needs directions to your office.
      • If the candidate is taking public transportation, indicate which stop is closest, then give directions from the stop.
    • Offer assistance from the reception area to your office by asking, “Would you like to take my arm?” If the person wants to, he or she will lightly grasp your arm just above your elbow and will follow one half step behind you.
      • Don't insist on helping or push the person ahead of you.
      • If the person has sufficient vision or would rather use a cane, he or she may prefer to follow you.
      • If the person uses a dog guide, the dog will follow you. Do not pet or distract the dog.
    • When you get to your office, indicate seating either by asking if you may place the person's hand on the back of the chair or by using the example of a clock. For example, if the person is at 6:00, say, "There is a chair at 2:00." Do not push the person into a chair.
    • You cannot ask questions directly about the person’s vision, but you can ask how they would do certain tasks.
      • Don’t assume the person cannot do a task because they are B/LV. Assistive technology devices help B/LV people complete tasks like reading a computer monitor in audio output or braille, reading small print, organizing a file cabinet, or traveling independently to unfamiliar locations.
      • If you have concerns about how the person would complete a task, ask about it in the same way you might ask any other job candidate: "This job entails organizing travel schedules for five other employees. Can you tell me how you might approach this part of the job?"

Remember: All people are different, including those who are B/LV. Don’t assume every B/LV person will approach things in the same way as your grandmother who has macular degeneration.

An Accessible Workplace

An accessible workplace provides an environment in which employees can perform essential job functions regardless of disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that employers with more than 15 employees provide reasonable accommodations that allow employees with disabilities to perform their job functions. To be considered “reasonable,” an accommodation may not place an undue burden on the employer.

The steady advance of electronic devices has dramatically increased access to information for people who are B/LV and has made the reasonable accommodation requirement achievable for most employers. B/LV workers use technology to communicate on equal footing with their coworkers and they access many of the same programs and systems their sighted colleagues use. Because of this, B/LV people often have little trouble completing tasks in an office environment.

However, some common types of office equipment often do not include the necessary accessibility features. Taking the following considerations into account when purchasing office equipment will help ensure the new equipment will be accessible to B/LV employees.