The value of successful employment should not be underestimated for a person who is blind or visually impaired with multiple disabilities.Successful employment, whether volunteer or paid, provides opportunities to engage in meaningful, structured activities outside of the home; offers opportunities to increase social interactions and foster relationships; and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth. All of which contribute to a positive self-concept and a satisfying, emotionally-healthy life; a goal we all strive to attain.
There are certainly barriers to employment when you, your family member, or consumer is blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities. It may seem these barriers are ‘dead ends’ to reaching a successful work experience; the barriers can instead be viewed as opportunities to brainstorm and problem-solve for solutions. You will need to brainstorm accommodations that enable you, or the individual, to perform the job tasks.
For example, if you are visually impaired and have a disability that decreases your energy level and strength, your accommodations may include (according to Job Accommodation Network (JAN)) blindness-related accommodations, decreasing physical exertion, scheduling rest breaks, use of a mobility aid, assistance in lifting heavy objects, and use of stand/ lean stools. If your family member is visually impaired and has a significant intellectual or developmental disability, he may require, among other accommodations, weekly support from a job coach.
While it is the employer who officially approves specific accommodations, it is the employee, or support team if appropriate, who is responsible for determining and proposing the types of accommodations used to perform job tasks. To begin determining necessary accommodations, perform a job analysis and read through APH CareerConnect’s Steps for Determining Accommodations. I have also found the Job Accommodation Network’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource particularly helpful in browsing accommodations for specific disabilities and specific job functions. Examples of worksites with accommodations can be viewed and described in the CareerConnect Virtual Worksites section.
Perhaps most important to the employer is the question of who will purchase the few, costly accommodations. Inform your employer or potential employer that you will use technology you already own, when possible, and that the department of vocational rehabilitation can assist in the purchase of additional technology or equipment.
Therefore, if you, your family member, or client would benefit from volunteer or paid work, do not let barriers stand in the way of successful employment. Determine the types of accommodations needed to perform job functions, learn the accommodations, and get to work!