Accommodating Blindness & Vision Impairment at Work

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any employer with fifteen or more employees must provide accommodations for workers with a disability. The laws are clear on what you should do, but understanding individual disabilities and how to accommodate them can be challenging. This article is here to help you understand what you can do for blind employees as well as those with vision impairments. 

The Interview

No potential hire has to disclose their disability to you, though it does help you consider accommodations ahead of time. If you know your possible new employee does have vision impairment, then you can ask questions about their disability during the interview process. Any disability lawyer recommends having an open conversation as soon as possible. 

The start of accommodation is fully understanding what challenges the individual in question faces relative to their job duties. Reasonable accommodation, under the ADA, require you to help an employee perform their job function despite a disability. The more you talk about the challenges an employee faces, the better. 

Creating Accessibility

When it comes to blindness and vision impairment, technology is your best friend. Modern advancements in the office environment, specifically in computers and mobile devices, allow these individuals to communicate with the rest of their co-workers and access necessary programs. 

While office integration is made simple these days, there are still productivity barriers to address. In an office setting, those are multi-function printers and voice over internet protocol desk phones or VoIP systems. Thankfully, there are ways to address both. 

VoIP Accessibility

With advanced features like address books, call logs, and call forwarding, VoIP devices are difficult for the visually impaired to operate. These features appear on a visual display, usually in small fonts. The soft keys on a VoIP system can also be difficult to read or fully inaccessible to a blind person. 

In cases of low vision, enhancing the font size to a minimum of 18-point and utilizing high-contrast on the screen makes them easier to read. For the fully blind, a softphone system is essential. These systems translate VoIP features into audio signals. 

Windows works with both the Tenacity Accessaphone and VTGO-508. These systems are expensive, however. Other options include Telephone for OSX, Acrobits Softphone for iOS, and 3CX Phone3 for iOS. All of these options provide text-to-speech features among others that aid the blind in performing their job function. 

Multi-Function Printer Accessibility

Multi-function printers share the same issues as VoIP systems. From their screens to physical operation, they are challenging for the visually impaired to use. These devices also utilize PDFs for their documentation, which make using them impossible for the blind. 

Canon Voice Guidance Kit and Lexmark Accessibility Solution are two solutions to this issue. Each offer text-to-speech functionality as well as voice operation. Utilizing accessible screen features on their desktop, your visually impaired employees can also operate these printers with ease. 

Other Considerations for the Blind

There are two main accommodations you should consider for blind employees. The first is braille. An employee may prefer that documents be submitted in braille instead of audio format. At the same time, door signs should include braille for ease of navigation. 

The second is guide dogs. Some blind individuals require the help of these companions to navigate the world around them. Even if there is a no-pets policy in your workplace, the law requires you to make an exception for service animals.