Standing Out and Standing Tall in the Workplace As a Person Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

young woman at a computer

Here’s a fact one can’t refute: As a person who is blind or visually impaired, you already stand out in your workplace. When you’re walking with a white cane or guide dog, when you’re accessing your computer with a screen reader or screen magnifier, and when you’re reading braille or print with the aid of a magnifier, people notice you. Why not use this sometimes-annoying-sometimes-awesome truth to your advantage? You definitely can.

Your social skills and your work skills are noticed. I liken this to my husband’s job as a military chaplain. A chaplain is a counselor and pastor, and for that reason I’m acutely aware that our family life is examined. People take note. How did Shannon just discipline her children? It’s observed.

In your case, your proficiencies and skills are not overlooked. Neither are your personal limitations or weaknesses. They’re all observed, spotlighted even, because people are curious and they find you interesting.

How can you use this “standing out” to your advantage?

  • Use your visibility as motivation to improve your job performance; you already stand out, you may as well stand out as a hard worker and as a maturing, developing employee. Best case scenario, if you intentionally improve your performance in a specific, in-demand area you enjoy, opportunities for further work in your niche should continue. With enough practice and training, you’ll be an expert.
  • Are you good at planning, promoting, selling, brainstorming, constructing, organizing, problem-solving, networking, overseeing, managing, analyzing, or computing? Seek opportunities to use your strengths at work and tailor your job to your skill set. Your strengths will be noticed. You will have the advantage over individuals who may be overlooked.
  • Volunteer for difficult tasks that others do not want, ones that are catalysts for personal and professional growth. Your ability to tackle the tough stuff will be noticed, as will your willingness to grow and learn.
  • Cultivate empathy. As a person with blindness or a visual impairment, you have an obviously-distinct and impactful story. Particularly if you have experienced loss of vision as an older child or adult, you especially have known loss. With knowing loss comes an ability to care deeply, feel deeply, and connect with others. Accept that gift and relate to others. In the often cut-throat world of workplaces, authentic care and concern for others is esteemed, treasured, and noticed.
  • Follow through with your commitments, and apologize when you cannot. Your reliability will be noticed, as will your refreshing honesty and decency. Persevere and put forth much effort, but don’t assume you have to be perfect…even if you are living in the spotlight. Nobody is perfect, and even your weaknesses, failings, or mess-ups, together with an authentic apology, will demonstrate your humanity and humility.

You may find yourself wishing you could be the wallflower for a day, week, or longer; I’m sure it sounds enticing. The reality is that when you are visible, your work and skill-sets are visible. What an opportunity to find the motivation to press on, progress, and promote in your career.