How much do employers know about how blind people perform specific job tasks?
We conducted several surveys with almost 1,000 hiring managers that included questions about how legally blind people can perform five specific job tasks. The managers were from businesses across the country. They were asked if they knew how legally blind people could perform certain job tasks, and if so, to describe how. We rated the accuracy of their “how” responses.
We found that most employers do not know much about how blind people perform work-related tasks. Although several managers thought they knew the correct answers, few actually did. But, the most important thing is that managers realize there is a way for someone who is blind to perform all of these tasks, and more!
Can you correctly describe how blind people perform the following tasks?
1. Access pre-printed material, such as a document already in regular print?
[7.2% of employers answered correctly]
Low vision adaptations include using a photocopier to enlarge the print and low vision aids like a magnifying glass or an electronic video magnifier. Someone with no sight can use an optical character recognition (OCR) app on their phone or OCR software on the computer, with the document scanned into the computer. OCR apps are one of the most commonly used assistive technologies for people who are blind, and many of them are available for free.
2. Access a computer to use the internet or email, or utilize standard computer software?
[11.4% of employers answered correctly]
Low vision options include a larger computer monitor, screen magnification software (like ZoomText), or built-in screen magnification (like Magnifier in Windows) to enhance the size of what appears onscreen. People who have little or no usable vision would use screen reader software, which reads the words on the screen aloud, such as JAWS or NVDA. Windows and Apple both offer built-in screen readers (Narrator and VoiceOver, respectively). Some people may use a refreshable braille display in addition to the screen reader. This allows for more detailed editing and proofreading. The use of a refreshable braille display also makes a computer accessible to someone who is both deaf and blind.
3. Use general office equipment, such as a copier or multi-line telephone system?
[9.6% of employers answered correctly]
People with low vision can use a magnifying glass or a portable electronic video magnifier. Non-visual ways to access these devices include memorizing buttons and locations, using bump dots or other added tactile markings, and light probes. The most efficient way to utilize office equipment is to memorize buttons and controls, so one doesn’t have to look at the buttons each time. Some office devices offer large print settings for their displays and some offer speech command options. In general, devices with physical buttons are more accessible than those with touch screens. When possible, choose devices with high-contrast buttons that are not flush to the surface. Some copier brands offer a computer interface that provides more accessibility options for people who are blind.
4. Utilize standard industrial equipment or machinery (like sewing machines or production equipment)?
[4% of employers answered correctly]
Low vision adaptations include task lighting, use of contrast, and use of low vision aids like magnifiers or portable closed circuit televisions. Non-visual adaptations include tactile markings such as bump dots or guides to indicate alignment or spacing. These do not have to be high-tech; they can be as simple as taping a piece of cardboard to the work surface for guidance.
5. Handle a cashier position (including taking money, making change, and managing a cash register)?
[2.7% of employers answered correctly]
People with low vision could employ various techniques, such as turning bills upside down to see the larger print on the back or using a portable electronic video magnifier. A non-visual technique for cashiers is the use of a talking device to identify bills. There are many apps for cell phones that also serve this purpose. Coins can be identified by touch, and some people use different folding techniques to differentiate bill denominations. The keys of the cash register can be memorized, and talking cash registers for people who are blind are available. Mental math or a talking calculator can be used to make change if a talking cash register is not available. Some accessible apps provide point of sale functions for iDevices.