Employment data for visually impaired workers shows that an educated, qualified talent pool, composed of people who want to work, is not being fully utilized. Moreover, the gap between available and employed blind and visually impaired people and sighted people is widest in the peak performance years of workers’ 40s and 50s.

  Sighted Persons Blind or Visually Impaired Persons
Percentage Employed 70 – 85% 30 – 45%

Narrative Description:

The following graph shows percentage employed of persons ranked by age group in two separate groupings: those without impairments and those with severe visual impairment and blindness. Those with no impairment are more than 80% employed until the mid-50’s age range when a drop-off begins, culminating at about 25% employed by the 65-69 age range. By contrast, those who have a severe visual impairment are less than 60% employed in the 22-49 age group which drops to less than 40% in the 50 year age ranges and 20% and less in the 60 year age ranges.

graph of percentage of people employed by age group

How Blind or Visually Impaired Workers Do Their Jobs

Blind and visually impaired workers do the majority of their jobs the same way their sighted colleagues do. In the examples below, blind or visually impaired workers who also serve as mentors for AFB’s CareerConnect® describe their jobs and how they do them.

Most blind or visually impaired new hires will already know a great deal about the accommodations they will require, and be skilled at using them.

Access to Information

Assistive technology, particularly computers, has made access to most written information very accessible. The exception is some handwritten information, which can in most cases be replaced by voice or email.

Note: To assure that your website is accessible, see suggestions in AFB’s information on Web Accessibility.

Travel and Mobility

Employees who are blind or severely visually impaired will typically use either a long cane or a dog guide to move around the workplace. The visually impaired worker will need a quick orientation to the workplace, such as where the restrooms, the cafeteria or break room, important offices and work areas, and any emergency evacuation routes are located.

If the worker requires more extensive assistance, he or she will make arrangements with an orientation and mobility specialist, who is trained to teach visually impaired people how to get around. This service is typically available through a local rehabilitation agency.

Skills of Daily Living

The blind or visually impaired worker will typically have these already in his or her repertoire. However, for an employee who is recently visually impaired there are a number of rehabilitation resources available where he or she can get help in learning a range of skills from computer skills to eating, dressing, and dealing with currency.

What Will This Cost?

Typical accommodation costs are very low. In most cases of low vision only improved lighting and magnification are required. In addition, determining which accommodations are needed can be easy, since in many cases blind or visually impaired employees can tell you the accommodations they need. Visual impairment can range from slight difficulty reading to more severe impairment across many functions and describes the visual status of about 85 percent of the blind and visually impaired population.