Did you know that companies have a responsibility to make it easier for those employees with visual impairment to have access to equal employment opportunities, and to make it easier to do their jobs?
It’s more than an ethical obligation—through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required by law to provide both job applicants and employees with “reasonable accommodations” that foster equal employment opportunities. Of course, those accommodations can vary widely depending on the individual and their disability.
Workplace accessibility for the visually impaired or blind tend to take on a few common forms. Let’s take a closer look at what companies can do to remain ADA compliant and provide visually impaired employees with the resources they need to do their best work.
Workplace Accessibility Tips for Companies
It’s the responsibility of company management to make sure they’re providing the necessary resources to visually impaired employees (and other employees with disabilities). But what do those steps actually look like?
Here are the top accessibility tips for visually impaired employees:
Utilize assistive technology
Thanks to modern technology, there is a plethora of resources available that companies can use to make accommodations for employees who are visually impaired. Assistive technology allows visually impaired employees to access computers and other electronic systems in the workplace with ease. And since computers are indispensable parts of almost every modern workplace, assistive technology plays an essential role.
Examples of assistive technology for visually impaired individuals include:
- Screen-reading software
- Digital recorders
- Magnification devices
- Scanning devices
- Braille embossers (devices that generate printed materials written in braille)
- Refreshable braille displays
Have a website that is easily accessible for visually impaired employees
Your company website, as well as employee portals, message boards, and other online materials should be accessible to employees who are visually impaired or blind. Whether that’s accomplished by assistive technology like magnifying devices or screen-reading software, depends on the company, the visually impaired person, and the situation. In any case, making any and all online materials accessible is a vital part of workplace accessibility efforts.
Make written materials accessible for those with visual impairments
In addition to online materials, written materials of any kind must be accessible to visually impaired employees as well. From employment documents to invoices and everything in between, make sure that employees with visual impairments can find documents written in braille or large print (high contrast as well), or that they can find them in audio versions. Employees should feel comfortable requesting written materials and documents in their preferred accessible format.
Make training accessible
From onboarding training to training on the new computer update, your company’s ongoing education and training efforts need to be accessible to visually impaired employees. Employees with visual impairments need to be able to request specialized training materials that have been modified to suit their needs, or at the very least request individualized instruction. That way, they’re kept up to speed just like every other member of the company or team.
Offer flexible scheduling
Because most people with visual impairment don’t drive, they may rely on public transportation or alternative transit services. Keep in mind that for these individuals, public transportation schedules may dictate their commute to work. As such, a flexible schedule option at your company is a good way to make sure these individuals aren’t penalized unfairly if public transportation makes them late to work.
Flexible start and end times are an easy way to implement a flexible scheduling option. A hybrid schedule is another option, in which employees work in-office some days of the week and at home on other days. A remote work option, which has become all the more popular in recent years, is always a good choice as well.
Of course, flexible scheduling is a good thing for all of your employees, not just ones with visual impairments. Studies have proven that flexible scheduling helps to increase employee satisfaction and productivity, benefiting all areas of your company and your bottom line.
Offer time off
Note that employees who suffer from blindness or partial visual impairment might need time off for medical treatment or programs related to their disability. Employees need to be able to request time off whenever they need it in order to be accommodated for these reasons. And this is important for all of your employees, not just ones with visual impairment; remember that life happens unpredictably, and employees need to be able to take time off when they need it, even for unplanned absences.
Allow guide dogs
Guide dogs are an indispensable resource for many people who are visually impaired. That’s why your company needs to allow guide dogs into the office, even if it’s an office with a no-pet policy. Visually impaired individuals use guide dogs to get around, and your employee might not be able to get to work if you don’t allow their guide dog there. Even if you keep your no-pet policy in place, add a clause with an exception for guide dogs as well as training all staff on guide dog etiquette.
Make employment testing accessible
Remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act directs companies to make reasonable accommodations not only for employees, but job applicants as well. That’s why your company’s employment testing process must be accessible by the visually impaired, too.
Whether it’s the job application itself or tests related to employment qualifications, visually impaired employees need to be able to request that these processes are accessible to their needs. Again, that might require assistive technology or an individual dedicated to assisting the visually impaired employees with the application or tests.
VIA Can Help Visually Impaired Employees
Are you a visually impaired individual entering or re-entering the workforce? VIA can help you adjust to the workforce through our Workforce Development programs. The mission of the Workforce Development team is to make your entry or re-entry goals a reality. And because we partner with local community employers who seek skilled, dedicated employees, we can offer you an even greater advantage during this stage of your life and career.
VIA’s Work Experience Training (WET) offers job seekers the opportunity to develop skills in real-life employment settings in a way that benefits both employees and employers. The goal is to help prepare you for obtaining and retaining employment. Topics include:
- Understanding and executing job tasks and requirements
- Organizational skills
- Resume building and other professional documents
- Self-advocacy in the workplace
- And much more.
Contact a member of VIA’s Workforce Development staff to learn more about our programs and how the Workforce Development team can help.
Trust the Vision Loss Rehabilitation Experts of Western New York
VIA’s mission is to help patients adjust to life with partial or full vision loss. Our vision loss rehabilitation services cover a wide range of professional services, and we’ve been providing these services to the Western New York community for more than 100 years.
If your company needs help creating an accessible workplace for visually impaired employees or applicants, reach out to a member of our team. We can help advise you with more workplace accessibility tips in order to provide all employees with equal employment opportunities.
If you’re experiencing vision loss or eye health issues, contact your physician or ophthalmologist. These are the first people you should turn to for treatment. Later, if and when you’re adjusting to permanent or total vision loss, VIA’s vision rehabilitation services can help. The ultimate goal is to help you adjust to life with vision loss and maintain a high quality of life.
Are you suffering from visual impairment, or know someone who is? It’s time to get in touch with the vision loss experts at VIA. Contact us today to learn more about what we offer and how we can help.