5 Simple Work Accommodations for the Blind and Low Vision Workforce
The above picture is of a man sitting at a desk in his home and working.
Managing low-vision or blindness doesn't mean that you're unable to work. Many people with vision limitations still have fulfilling careers in the fields that they're interested in; they just need to ask for accommodations!
But what exactly should you be asking for? You're entitled to work accommodations from your employer, but it can be hard to know what you need and what's going to be reasonably available.
We have a few suggestions for things that may help to make your work experience easier. Whether you need full-time worker accommodation or seasonal worker accommodation, there's something that will work for you.
1. Keyboard Adjustments
How much of your work needs to be done on the computer? If you're like most workers in offices, it's probably a lot.
This can be difficult for many people who have vision impairments. While many of us learned the proper way to rest our fingers on the keyboard as children, not everyone has had that training and it isn't foolproof.
Some younger employees may be adept at typing without looking, but older ones without keyboard training will struggle and anyone can make errors (even people with standard vision).
There are two great ways to help with this, and depending on the vision impairment, one may work better than the other (or you can combine them).
First, making the keyboard larger, with larger keys, is a great solution for people who are visually impaired but not blind. Larger keyboards are available from many stores and they can be a huge help to those who need to look close to type.
You can also invest in a keyboard with physical letters or braille. Even without braille, keyboards with letters that are convex or concave can be helpful as they give the user an idea of what letter the key represents without needing to look at it.
You can do this with a label maker or buy your own impairment-friendly keyboard.
2. Computer Changes
This isn't the only problem that can come with computers and the work associated with them.
If someone has a vision impairment, looking at the screen and reading or writing on it can be difficult even with an adjusted keyboard. There are options, though.
One is a program that reads text out loud to the employee. To avoid disrupting other employees, the employee should be supplied with headphones. This gets rid of the need for reading.
Speech to text or transcription programs can also be great for this. Employees who have trouble typing can speak to get the work done. Again, to avoid having this disrupt other employees (and to avoid any office chatter being included in the transcript), it may be beneficial to provide the employee with a quiet space.
3. Floorspace Adjustments
People with vision-related disabilities may have trouble maneuvering around a crowded office space. Accommodations that don't require complete remodels can help deal with this problem.
The employer should make sure that every piece of furniture is far enough away that there's a clear path around the office that the employee can use with ease. If the employee uses a white cane, there should be room for its use without other employees ending up in its path.
The employer may also want to consider adding handrails. These are great for many kinds of disabilities, as well as any injuries that other employees could end up with. They're also great for dark spaces, or just as extra stability.
Handrails are a no-brainer in the workplace!
Beyond this, avoid any clutter or loose wires around the workspace. This is basic workplace safety advice, so it shouldn't be a difficult transition if the employer is already adhering to workplace safety best practices.
Labeling around the workplace doesn't only provide an organization boost, it's also a great way to give tangible directions to those with vision impairments.
Many label makers have convex labels where the letters are tangible enough to "read" without seeing. You can also get labels in braille for those who can "read" it.
Labels are great for people who need to touch to understand what an object is. Employees can find labeled coffee makers in the break room, printers and fax machines, and even various hallways and rooms.
There are many professional workplace signs to act as labels or a simple label maker does the job. This is an easy way to help people with vision impairments get around a space with ease.
5. Work-From-Home Options
Depending on the workplace and the allotted space and funding that the employer has, it may be difficult to make enough adjustments to fully support the employee. As working from home grows in popularity, a work-from-home option for the employee might be a better fit.
This allows the employee to work where they're already comfortable so that they can do the job without worrying about the hazards and trials that the workplace provides.
The employer should provide the employee with everything that they need to do the job (such as the transcription software) but allowing the employee to work from home means that there are fewer in-house accommodations to make that may not be feasible.
Which of These Work Accommodations Fits You Best?
Employers are required to provide suitable work accommodations for any employees with disabilities, so don't be afraid to ask! It's always helpful to offer suggestions to employers who aren't quite sure where to start. A willing employer will be open to suggestions and happy to help.
To learn more about navigating options for your disability in the workplace, visit our site! We love matching potential employees with employers who care.