Employers are increasingly acknowledging the importance of establishing diverse and inclusive work environments in today’s competitive business landscape. An integral component of this effort involves recruiting people with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or have visual impairments. When provided with appropriate accommodations, these individuals can bring valuable skills and perspectives to the table.

Let’s explore how to hire workers with visual impairments in a legally compliant way, processes for requesting accommodations as well as the opportunities workers who are blind or visually impaired can bring to a workplace.

4 ways to make your job application process more accessible

  • Provide text alternatives for non-text content like images, charts and multimedia.
  • Create easily navigable page structures and menus.
  • Implement captions or transcripts for audiovisual content.
  • Ensure readable visual presentation without reliance on sensory characteristics like shape, size or location.

More from this author5 Tips for Making a Website Accessible

 

Understanding Vision Impairments

Vision impairments encompass a range of conditions affecting one’s ability to see clearly. Legal blindness constitutes having 20/200 vision or less with the best possible correction, meaning an object 20 feet away is unclear to a person with legal blindness, but a person with 20/20 vision could see the same object clearly from 200 feet away.

Low vision is a severe visual impairment that may not be corrected using standard glasses or contacts. Such vision loss can result from injury, disease or genetic conditions occurring at any stage of life. Many people with low vision, though, still have usable vision for daily tasks. 

Blindness and low vision do not inherently limit one’s capacity to work productively, especially with assistive technologies on the job site. People with vision impairments also often develop alternative compensation techniques early on. While accommodations are necessary to provide equitable access for candidates and employees who are blind or visually impaired, many can perform jobs exceptionally with the proper support in place.

 

How to Make Your Recruiting Process More Inclusive

Hiring managers should educate themselves on making their hiring practices and workplaces inclusive for the blind and visually impaired. Here’s what you need to know.

 

Ensure Accessible Job Application Processes

Job postings and application platforms should meet website accessibility standards to enable use with screen readers and other assistive devices. In addition to meeting general web accessibility guidelines, providing materials in multiple formats maximizes accessibility. This includes digital text documents for use with screen readers, braille printouts of materials and audio recordings reading aloud text-based content.

Creating flexible ways for candidates to submit applications and schedule interviews also helps set up an equitable hiring process. To do this, organizations can accept applications via email, online forms and phone calls in addition to standard digital portals, and permit candidates to suggest interview dates/times rather than only providing preset options.

 

Reach Out to Relevant Organizations

Build a diverse candidate pool by having job listings posted through state and national organizations serving those who are blind and visually impaired like the American Council of the Blind (ACB), American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), National Federation of the Blind (NFB), Lighthouse for the Blind and state-level agencies.

Build relationships with these organizations and groups to access their job boards or directly inform qualified individuals they serve about the company’s opportunities. Developing ongoing partnerships demonstrates a commitment to disabled communities.

 

Follow Legal Requirements for Hiring

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination across all stages of employment for qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA protects the right of candidates with visual impairments to perform essential job tasks with reasonable accommodations.

Here are key requirements the ADA establishes for legally compliant, non-discriminatory treatment of applicants and employees with vision impairments or other disabilities.

 

Testing Applicants with Disabilities

Employment tests must measure job-relevant skills, not reflect disability status. Employers should provide exams in accessible alternate formats allowing equitable participation, like audio recordings, digital text for use with readers or braille documents, without compromising essential skills testing. Workers with visual impairments may need additional time to complete tests in alternate formats.

 

Building ADA-Compliant Interview Practices

Interview questions must focus exclusively on candidates’ qualifications to perform essential job functions. Here are the three main things to be cognizant of when crafting interview questions.

  1. Do not ask about the existence or nature of an applicant’s disability. 
  2. If a candidate discloses a vision impairment, explain job duties and inquire whether they can complete them with or without reasonable accommodations.
  3. If you notice a disability-related barrier during the process, such as inaccessible printed materials, ask what accommodations the candidate needs. Do not discuss the specifics of their conditions.

 

Obtaining, Using and Disclosing Employee Medical Information

The ADA strictly limits when employers ask questions about disabilities or require medical examinations. Disability-related inquiries and exams are prohibited pre-offer. Once a conditional job offer is extended, if required for all entering employees, exams are permissible as long as the information revealed does not lead to revoked offers without proof the candidate cannot perform essential functions, with or without reasonable accommodations, without posing a direct safety threat that cannot be managed.

During employment, disability-related inquiries and exams must have documented objective evidence of performance issues potentially related to a medical condition or safety risk. Supervisors should focus performance management on work duties rather than disabilities. 

If medical inquiries become necessary due to ongoing issues, employee health information must be kept confidential, except for authorized individuals like management, first aid personnel, accommodation specialists and compliance investigators.

 

Create a Process for Reasonable Accommodations

To comply with the ADA, employers must make a clearly defined process to request changes or assistance needed because of disability status; this includes accommodations needed to enable job performance and access to peripheral workplace activities others enjoy when exclusion poses a disability-related barrier. Implementing accommodations constitutes an ongoing, collaborative process.

Needs may shift over time, and open communication is critical. Here are some examples of accommodations for employees who are blind or visually impaired.

  • Accessible information communication via audio, braille and screen readers.
  • Software allowing screen magnification, text readout or voice commands.
  • Adjustments like written material in large print and well-lit workstations.
  • Mobility assistance around offices.

 

Expect Talented People

After hiring individuals who are blind and visually impaired, maintaining fixed expectations of these employees based on disability undermines the purpose and obligations of non-discrimination protections. Skilled employees who are blind or visually impaired successfully fill roles across sectors when adequate inclusion measures provide equitable access. 

If questions arise about a candidate’s capacity to perform certain functions, dig deeper through skills demonstrations, strategies for development and open conversations about adequate accommodations before making assumptions.

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Provide Opportunities for Career Development

Investing in all employees’ growth and professional mobility builds a stronger, more empowered team. Be sure to include staff members who are blind or visually impaired in training and advancement initiatives, ensure accessibility of learning materials, events and new systems, and sponsor participation in educational conferences focused on maximizing careers for those with vision loss. 

In addition, model welcoming questions or conversations about progress plans to show it is safe for employees with disabilities to express ambition. Just as with any valued employee, when supervisors help creatively knock down barriers, professionals with disabilities excel.

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