Visual Impairments In The Workplace

Since the 1990 creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, companies have been required to provide a general level of accommodations for their employees. Although it was a substantial win for those with disabilities throughout the nation, some would argue it still wasn't enough.

What The Act Did For The Visually Impaired

Among other disabilities the act set standard guidelines for those with visual impairments such as Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, Stargardt etc. Some of the work-place standards are as follows:

  1. Modified training: Employees who are blind or visually impaired can request individual instruction to allow them to learn new systems if the workplace is upgrading its computer programs 
  2. Written materials: Employees with a visual impairment can request written materials in their preferred accessible format— braille, large print or audio
  3. Guide dogs: Even in offices with no-pet policies, employees that use guide dogs can request an exception to allow them to bring their dog to work
  4. Accessible website: Work portals and message boards that may not be usable to employees with no vision can be made accessible by request.
  5. Assistive technology: Assistive technology is vital for impaired employees as it often makes the individual able to work. Without these devices in the workplace almost all other accommodations would be rendered meaningless. Popular examples include:
    • Scanners
    • Magnifiers
    • Digital recorders
    • Refreshable braille displays
    • Braille embossers

Good Enough For Today 

While these are definitely helpful guidelines for companies with visually impaired employees in the workforce, the question remains is it truly enough? As far as assistive technology, there are times where standard devices may not be nearly enough for those with severe impairments. The technology certainly exists but the issue is the rate at which companies are upgrading their amenities for their visually impaired employees.

What About Tomorrow?

Just in the last decade alone, developments in the virtual field of assistive technology have led to headsets that not only allow users to magnify their screen but also view their entire desktop from the headset. These devices, which have been made completely with the visually impaired in mind, have been breaking ground in not only the workforce too. However, the issue is wether the individual company is willing to allocate funds towards these higher end products instead of the standard magnifiers that have been around for years.