Finding a Job

For people who are blind or have low vision (B/LV), finding and maintaining employment can be a major challenge. Our research focuses on employment for people with B/LV, and findings from our research projects offer practical tips to help you on your employment journey. Following are highlights from recent NRTC research:


Submit Applications with Your Qualifications

Do not hesitate to submit job applications for jobs that match your qualifications. The odds of an employer hiring a B/LV worker increased more than 40 times if they received an application from a B/LV person. However, only a small percentage of employers in our study reported ever receiving such an application. The majority of those who had received an application from a B/LV applicant went on to hire that applicant. Employers at large companies and from companies with formal policies about hiring individuals with disabilities were particularly likely to hire B/LV job applicants. Learn more.


Personal Network

Consider your personal network as you look for a job. Our research suggests that some employers hire their friends and acquaintances with B/LV. Make networking a focus during your job search. Learn more.


Get More Education

Pursue further education. Higher levels of education are consistently linked to better employment outcomes for B/LV individuals. There is also an employment benefit for deaf-blind individuals who earn a degree or certificate. Higher levels of education are also linked with higher quality jobs. Although it may take time to complete a degree, the investment is worthwhile. Learn more here and here.


Improve Your Braille Skills

Consider improving your braille skills. The ability to read braille has been linked to better employment outcomes in some research studies. Your local VR agency may be able to help you find the training you need to learn braille or improve your braille skills. Learn more.


Find a Mentor

Connect with a mentor in your desired career field. Our research found that mentors can help guide B/LV youth through a more efficient job search. Mentors can instruct you on how and where to look for jobs and how to prepare for applying. Tips like these can streamline the job search process and encourage you in your quest for employment. Mentees in our study said they valued the contributions and support provided by their mentors and said they benefitted from working with an experienced person from their career field. Learn more.


Plan for Challenges

Proactively plan for the challenges B/LV young people may face during their job search. To successfully find a career, B/LV youth may need a more intensive job search than their sighted peers. Youth, parents, mentors, and service providers should proactively address common barriers to employment. Be prepared to put in lots of time and effort before finding a job. Do not be discouraged if your job search lasts more than a year, especially during challenging economic times. As the results of our study indicate, for those who successfully find jobs, a satisfying, financially stable career is within reach. Learn more.

Below, you will find free resources about employment for people who are B/LV. More employment-related resources can be found on the NRTC Employment Resources webpage.


Employment Resources from the NRTC


Understanding Employer Knowledge and Attitudes

Have you ever wondered what prospective employers think about hiring blind workers? Research from the NRTC sheds light onto employers’ knowledge and attitudes.


Jobs in the Blindness and Low Vision Field

Many people find satisfying, long-term careers in the field of blindness and low vision (B/LV). Professionals in this field help people with B/LV learn new skills and lead a fulfilling life. Many professionals in these fields also have B/LV themselves.

List of career paths in the field of B/LV:

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist

Teaches safe travel skills to children and adults, including:

  • Street crossings
  • Bus travel
  • Use of a white cane or guide dog
  • Airport and subway navigation
  • Orientation to new locations
     

Educational Requirements

Most O&M specialists have a master’s degree in O&M. After completing this degree, specialists must pass a certification exam through the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation Professionals (ACVREP) to be called Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS).

Employment Opportunities

  • School districts
  • State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies
  • Veterans Administration (VA) blind rehabilitation programs
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Independent contracts

Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT)

Teaches skills for independent daily living, such as:

  • Labeling and organization
  • Cooking
  • Reading mail
  • Paying bills
  • Use of household appliances
  • Money identification
  • Computer use

Educational Requirements

A VRT master’s degree is available, although many work in this profession with only a bachelor’s degree. Certification is available from ACVREP. Certified vision rehabilitation therapists (CVRTs) have the most opportunities for employment.

Employment Opportunities

  • State VR agencies
  • VA blind rehabilitation programs
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Schools for the blind
  • Independent contracts

Low Vision Therapist

Helps people with B/LV improve their lives using low vision aids by:

  • Assessing magnification needs
  • Teaching how to use magnifiers
  • Suggesting helpful changes to a person’s environment
  • Demonstrating closed-circuit televisions
  • Teaching about other low vision technologies

Educational Requirements

A bachelor’s degree is required, and many individuals in this field pursue a master’s degree in low vision or another related area. ACVREP gives a certification exam.

Employment Opportunities

  • VA blind rehabilitation programs
  • State VR agencies
  • Office of a low vision doctor
  • Nonprofit organizations

Rehabilitation Counselor (RC)

Guides people with B/LV toward successfully finding and maintaining employment by:

  • Advising on career options
  • Providing case management
  • Developing a rehabilitation plan
  • Supervising provision of services
  • Counseling on adjustment to blindness
  • Advising on interviewing and disability disclosure
  • Providing job placement services

Educational Requirements

Most RCs are required to have a master’s degree. Credentialing as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) is available through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counseling Certification and requires a written exam. There is no blindness specialty in the certification process. Instead, candidates are required to be knowledgeable in all disability areas.

Employment Opportunities

  • State VR agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations

Teacher of The Vision Impaired (TVI)

Adapts classroom materials and activities to maximize learning for children with B/LV:

  • Assesses student needs
  • Teaches braille and listening skills
  • Serves as a resource for classroom teachers
  • Writes Individual Education Plan for student
  • Teaches computer accessibility
  • Teaches study skills

Educational Requirements

TVIs are required to have a bachelor's and/or master's degree, as well as appropriate teaching credentials.

Employment Opportunities

  • School districts
  • Residential schools for the blind
  • Early intervention programs
  • Independent contracts

Deaf-Blind Specialist

Instructs people who have a dual-sensory loss on topics such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Braille
  • Concept development
  • Instructional planning
  • Assistive technology
  • Independent living skills
  • Job skills
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Social and emotional adjustment
  • Recreational activities

Educational Requirements

Deaf-blind specialists usually have a master's degree in rehabilitation, special education, or a related field and are fluent in sign language and forms of manual communication. Some have backgrounds as O&M specialists, VRTs, job placement specialists, TVIs, or other related fields. It is also helpful for deaf-blind specialists to have intervener or interpreter skills or certifications.

Employment Opportunities

Assistive Technology Instructor

Specializes in helping people with B/LV learn to use assistive software and hardware by:

  • Evaluating needs
  • Recommending assistive software and hardware
  • Installing software and setting up specialized devices
  • Teaching how to use devices
  • Working with team members to incorporate devices
  • Repairing and maintaining assistive technology

Educational Requirements

Instructors need a master's or bachelor's degree in rehabilitation engineering, industrial/educational technology, rehabilitation teaching, or a related area. Familiarity with computer access technology for persons with vision-related needs (e.g., braille, speech access, and large print) is also usually required. ACVREP offers a certification called the Certified Assistive Technology Instruction Specialist (CATIS). Specialized certifications are offered by companies that program commonly used accessible software. These certifications are specific to each software package and include:

Employment Opportunities

  • State VR agencies
  • VA blind rehabilitation programs
  • Private agencies
  • Independent contracts
  • School districts

If you are interested in a career in a B/LV-related field, our webpage of colleges and universities lists schools that offer courses in the education and rehabilitation of people who are B/LV or deaf-blind.


Profiles of Workers who are Blind or Have Low Vision

The NRTC is highlighting a growing list of persons who are working in successful careers.

These short profiles are designed to encourage employers with the capabilities and talents that can be found among persons who are blind or have low vision. Click here to meet these successful workers in a variety of careers. If you have someone you would like to nominate to be added to our list, please contact the NRTC staff at 662-325-2001 or by email at nrtc@colled.msstate.edu.


Career Advantage for V.I.P.s

Do you want to find or change employment? If so, this self-guided program was designed for you! Career Advantage for V.I.P.s offers eight instructional modules you can explore at your own pace. To access this program, visit this page to register. If you have any questions about the program, please contact us at 662-325-2001 or by email at nrtc@colled.msstate.edu.

Learn More about Career Advantage

Career Advantage for V.I.P.s


Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones are found in many offices but are often inaccessible to individuals with blindness or who have low vision (BLV). If you’re in need of an accessible VoIP system for your office, and want to make sure that it’s fully accessible, here are the top 10 features to keep in mind.

Top 10 Features

Discernable Physical Keys

Keys on VoIP phones that are uniform in shape and texture and are placed close together can be difficult to use for individuals with BLV. A VoIP phone that has well-spaced, prominent keys that are different shapes and textures can make the interface of a physical VoIP phone accessible. Keys with unique textures or shapes provide a point of orientation and make memorizing key locations easier when navigating a phone by touch.

Accessible Caller ID

Like most physical phones, VoIP phones usually display caller ID on a digital display that is difficult for someone with BLV to use. A VoIP phone that can connect to an external talking caller ID or has some other way of non-visually communicating caller ID can be used successfully by someone with BLV.

Accessible Voicemail Indicator

VoIP phones have visual indicators to alert users to new voicemail. Look for systems that present this information in an accessible manner. For example, sending an email to the user upon receipt of a voicemail is an accessible alternative for people with BLV.

Accessible Call Log

The call log of a physical VoIP phone is available on the digital display without an accessible alternative. Currently, an accessible call log can be acquired by connecting a software based VoIP phone (softphone) to the same line as the physical phone so that it can be accessed by a person with BLV using computer access software.

Accessible Address Book

Like the call log, the address book is presented visually on the digital display of a physical VoIP phone. The most accessible way to use the address book is to use a softphone that can make calls on the same line as the physical phone so that the user can use the address book using screen access software on the softphone.

Accessible Softkeys

A softkey is a physical button that changes function depending on circumstances. The current function of a softkey is presented visually on a digital display just above the key so that a user knows what the key will do if pressed. Softkeys that have audible or tactile indications that their status has changed are accessible to people with BLV.

Large Font/High Contrast Display

In many cases VoIP displays are not backlit and have small fonts and low contrast, making the display very difficult to read for someone with low vision. A VoIP phone is more accessible if the display has high contrast between foreground and background. Large font also makes the display easier to read.

Accessible Documentation

Printed documentation that uses a small font is inaccessible to someone with BLV. The most universally accessible style of documentation will be digital formats such as DOCX or HTML. Digital documents can be enlarged by screen magnifiers, read with screen readers, or printed in braille. (NOTE: PDF documents that contain only images of text are not accessible to screen readers or braille displays.)

Accessible Indication Of Status Changes

In order to be accessible, status changes, such as phone muting and display navigation, should have sounds to signal these changes. Such sounds, commonly called earcons, make navigating VoIP systems easier for a person with BLV. For example, a different tone playing for mute and unmute allows a person with BLV to determine the status of their device.

Accessible Alternative For Display Information

The display on a physical phone can be used for many functions, from caller ID to settings. Communicating this information using synthetic speech makes a VoIP system more accessible. Currently, the only method for presenting VoIP functions in a completely accessible manner is to use a softphone, because there are no physical VoIP phones that present their information in an accessible manner from the device itself.