What You Need to Know About Hiring a Person with a Visual Impairment (#InclusionWorks)

Older man and young man shaking hands while sitting at a desk

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and as such, I want to speak to employers and highlight #InclusionWorks.

Let’s assume you recently interviewed an individual who disclosed he is blind or visually impaired. His education and experience point to his know-how, but you’re (let’s be honest) very hesitant about hiring the individual. I hear your concern—blindness and low vision are low incidence disabilities; hence you likely have no experience working with an individual with a visual impairment.

You’re wondering:

  • Can an individual who is blind complete the essential job functions?
  • How expensive are his accommodations?
  • Is this individual a liability?
  • Can we communicate effectively?

You’ve come to the right blog post. I will give you brief responses to your probable concerns and provide you with resources to further subside your reservations.

Rest assured, persons who are blind or have low vision are far more similar to sighted individuals than different. They have individual strengths and experiences, and if the strengths and experiences of this individual are an asset to your employment team, you’ve struck gold. I say that because job accommodations (most of which are free or extremely inexpensive) enable the individual to perform nearly all job functions with no sight or minimal sight, and his experience with a visual impairment has likely fostered resilience and a determined spirit. Research even reveals employees with vision loss often have higher performance ratings, retention, and lower absenteeism than their sighted counterparts.

I’m sure that was music to your ears, but what about liability? Take a minute to read "Are You Looking For a Few Good Workers?" and "Myths vs Realities of Employees with Vision Loss," and you’ll learn employees who are blind are as safe, if not safer, than sighted employees. Furthermore, insurance rates do not increase with the hiring of a blind or visually impaired employee.

Now regarding communication concerns: utilize the tips in "Communicating Comfortably" to facilitate positive verbal communication. If your concern is written communication, realize (1) you can provide and accept electronic copies of documents, (2) in lieu of a post-it note message, call the individual and leave a voicemail and, (3) understand technology exists to both convert printed material into electronic material and to convert printed material into speech.

Hopefully I just made your decision easy!

Now apply the information in the following four resources to facilitate your newest employee’s smooth entry into your workplace: