Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) from Job Seekers and Employees Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA logo

Job seekers and employees who are blind or visually impaired, do you understand the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act? If you’re a little fuzzy on the subject, read on.

First, understand that the ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual based on his or her disability. This means that you, as a person who is blind or visually impaired, can file a complaint if you think you were not hired, were not fairly compensated, were not considered for promotion, or were not given job training opportunities solely because you have a disability. ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations needed to perform job tasks and trainings. Lastly, ADA requires accessible public spaces in workplaces with fifteen or more employees.

Maybe you are left with a few questions regarding its implications for you. I created this basic “FAQ” list and answered the questions using the resources listed at the close of the blog.

  1. At my recent interview, I did not disclose my visual impairment. However, I was asked how I would perform a particular essential job function. I felt discriminated against. Was that an unlawful question? No, it was not unlawful. While the individual cannot ask about the severity of your blindness or visual impairment, he can ask if you can perform essential job functions and how you can perform the job functions.
  2. I was not selected for the position for which I interviewed. Should I file a complaint? I would ask you the questions: were you fully qualified for the position? Do you have relevant training and experience, and stellar recommendations? Were you more competitive than the other applicants? I would not file a complaint unless I was fairly certain it was a disability that kept me from getting hired.
  3. Who should bring up my limitations or performance problems related to my disability? You, the employee, should bring up any limitations or performance problems related to your visual impairment. Generally speaking, the employer should not assume any problem is disability-related.
  4. When I ask my employer to provide an accommodation, do I need to bring an eye report? You can simply discuss the need for accommodations with your employer. He or she may ask you to bring an eye report or other verification if your visual impairment isn’t apparent.
  5. Can I request reasonable accommodations for my volunteer position? While you can always ask for reasonable accommodations, you are only protected under the law if you are technically an employee.
  6. Does my employer have to provide the exact accommodations I request? No, you and your employer can discuss appropriate options, and the employer can decide which she will provide.
  7. So you mean to tell me my employer should fully cover the cost of all my necessary accommodations/ assistive technologies? First, note that the employer isn’t responsible for supplying your personal accommodations or technologies, such as a talking watch, white cane, or accessible calendar. Second, when possible, you should use technology or devices you already own at your workplace. Third, discuss your assistive technology needs with a local vocational rehabilitation counselor, who may be able to provide equipment for you. Otherwise, your employer should provide accommodations to processes or equipment, assuming it is not placing an undue hardship on the employer.
  8. I was hired to perform tasks A, B, and C, but I now realize I cannot accomplish “task C” because of my disability. Can I ask my employer if my coworker can perform “task C”? While you are allowed to ask for restructuring of work responsibilities, you are only protected under the law if you can perform your essential job functions with or without accommodations.
  9. Where can I file an ADA complaint? Check out this website for information on filing a complaint electronically, by mail, or by fax.
  10. When can I file a complaint? The complaint should take place within 180 days of the discrimination.

For more information on the ADA, read The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability and Disability Discrimination.