How Employers Can Accommodate Visual Impairments In The Workplace

The above picture is of a man wearing glasses and sitting at his desk looking at his computer and appearing to be frustrated while looking at his screen. 

How Employers Can Accommodate Visual Impairments In The Workplace

Arranging accommodations in the workplace is a combination of legal responsibility, ethical duty, and genuine empathy. As an employer, you must recognize that everyone connected to your organization benefits from an empowered, diverse staff. Taking steps to make certain all staff is equally included and supported is a necessity in this regard.

One of the most common areas you may need to provide accommodations is in regard to employees living with visual impairments. According to the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) report from 2020, around 32.2 million Americans live with some form of adult vision loss. As such, this needs to be a key area of focus when making your workplace more inclusive.  

This isn’t always a simple matter, though. Let's explore some of the ways employers can accommodate visual impairments in the workplace.

Understand the Range of Impairments

Effectively accommodating visual impairments isn’t about simply waiting for staff to request assistance. Wherever possible, you should put accommodations in place as standard. This means you need to understand the range of potential challenges your staff may face and the tools that might help them.

For instance, blindness and low vision (BLV) in and of themselves can take a variety of forms. Some of your employees may have cataracts that can be caused by age, ultraviolet (UV) exposure, or diabetes, among others. While there are some treatments available, not all employees may have been able to access them as yet. Your workers don’t have an obligation to disclose these types of impairments. But, making screen reading tech and magnifiers available as standard can give them options to perform more comfortably.

Another frequently overlooked area of visual impairment is color blindness. This can impact their ability to comfortably and safely navigate the workplace. Some employees may have lenses to help address this. However, you can standardize the workplace in a supportive way here by ensuring all signage and documentation have high-contrast color distinctions.

Review and Adapt the Physical Environment

Many businesses arrange the layout of their working premises for efficiency. They aim to fit the most assets into spaces or to streamline the flow of activities. Unfortunately, this approach can occasionally result in businesses being inadvertently ableist. It’s important to be aware that what layouts are effective for workers who don’t identify as disabled are not necessarily supportive of your employees with BLV.

As such, it’s important to perform regular assessments of the physical environment and make appropriate adjustments. Ensure there are no cables, furniture, or storage items that can present tripping hazards. Confirm that there is sufficient distance between desks, furniture, and equipment to maneuver comfortably. As some people with vision impairments navigate spaces using walls, you need to minimize protruding objects that are below 80” in height or above cane sweep areas (around 27” high).

Not everybody in your organization is likely to have experience with blindness or vision impairments. As such, it can be wise to involve an external contractor with experience in the field during your assessment procedures. They can highlight problematic elements and make recommendations for improvements.

Prioritize Digital Accessibility

While adjusting the physical environment is important, you shouldn’t limit your focus to that area. Your software and online materials are also important points of accessibility. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) now recognizes the failure to include accommodations on digital tools as disability discrimination. In an increasingly digital world, you have an ethical duty to ensure your employees can function equally.

Take the time to assess your digital assets. Your software must be compatible with screen readers, speech-to-text interfaces, and other adaptive tools your staff with BLV might utilize. If you use e-learning modules for training purposes, make certain there are audio descriptions available as standard.

It is also vital to ensure your website is compliant with ADA accessibility standards. Include alt text for all images and make sure there is high color contrast between text and background on pages. Any videos or podcasts should have caption options or transcripts available. This not only supports staff with BLV or color blindness who need to interact with the website as part of their role. It also sends a distinct message that you take your responsibilities for online accessibility seriously.

Be Flexible

One of the most valuable ways you can accommodate workers with visual impairments is to be flexible. Provide all workers the option to work from home, wherever practical. This means that your workers can choose to operate from the location that best suits their needs each day.

This certainly shouldn’t be an alternative to providing accommodations onsite. The power to choose should be largely in the employee’s hands. Don’t make remote working a situation that forcibly excludes them from the office and isolates them from colleagues. Indeed, you still have a responsibility to ensure workers’ remote operations are as accessible as those onsite.

This should include ensuring video conferencing and remote collaborative software is compatible with workers’ assistive technology. You also need to put protocols in place to enhance communication with managers and colleagues to ensure equal support. In some cases, it’s wise to provide workers with a budget to invest in any essential additional equipment they need at home. After all, they are likely to understand what tools meet their needs better than you do.


Accommodating visual impairments in the workplace requires a variety of measures. Gaining an understanding of the range of visual challenges people face can help you better identify solutions. It’s also important to regularly assess and adjust both physical environments and digital tools to meet workers’ needs. Wherever possible, a flexible working arrangement can be advantageous — on the condition that employees are still provided with sufficient support. By committing to these efforts and others, your company and workers benefit from a more inclusive working culture.