Jobs and Careers for People With Visual Impairments
According to the National Federation of the Blind, you are considered visually impaired if you must use alternative methods (not including corrective lenses) to engage in any activity that people with normal vision would be able to do simply using their eyes. In the United States, 2.4%, or 7,675,600 adults, have significant vision loss or are visually impaired. 29.5% of non-institutionalized persons aged 21-64 years with a visual disability in the United States, or 1,120,700 adults, are employed full-time.
This means that about 70% of working-age adults who are visually impaired are not currently employed full-time. This may be because there are unique challenges to daily life and employment for adults who are blind. Commuting to an office every day can be challenging, especially for those who are visually impaired and don’t live close to public transportation access.
Many positions may require visual ability to complete job tasks, such as a cashier who must scan merchandise or a secretary who is required to read written notes. However, the types of jobs available for adults with visual impairments are on the rise. With the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are more receptive to providing accommodations for visually impaired employees.
Discrimination and Accommodation Advice
Employers with 15 or more employees are required to follow the legislation outlined in the ADA. These laws ensure that the employer doesn’t discriminate against a potential or current employee due to his or her disability.
During the job application process, an employer can ask a candidate if he or she can perform all job functions adequately. However, the employer cannot ask details about vision impairment, including probing for information about medical procedures or prescriptions.
Job candidates with visual impairments must disclose their conditions if they need reasonable accommodations to complete the job application process. For example, if a job candidate needs to be escorted from the lobby to the conference room where the job interview is conducted, he or she must give this notice to the potential employer before attending the interview.
After acceptance of employment, the employer may ask questions about what accommodations are needed by the new employee. The employer cannot rescind the offer of employment after finding out the new employee is blind, as long as it’s proven that the new employee will be able to complete the job tasks as assigned.
The ADA states that an employer must provide reasonable accommodations during employment when a disabled employee requests them. However, the requests must be reasonable and the employer can refuse if it would cause the company undue stress or hardship.
For example, if a visually impaired employee wants to complete a training course that is offered to all other employees, the employer must provide training course content designed for those with visual impairments. However, if an employee with visual impairments asks to only work a six-hour day, an employer can refuse this unreasonable accommodation request.
Best Jobs for People With Visual Impairments
There are many jobs available in different industries for people who are blind or visually impaired. Advanced technologies, including screen reading and magnifying software, have increased the number of jobs that people with these impairments can hold. Comparing these positions’ benefits, salaries, and outlook can help those who are visually impaired choose careers that suit their needs.
• Benefits: A person who is visually impaired can teach children with blindness how to live productive lives, including reading braille or using a guide dog. Online teaching for secondary education facilities may also be a good fit for the visually impaired.
• Average Salary: $59,780 annually, depending on the facility.
• Education and Skills Required: A bachelor’s degree in teaching is required, and you may need to earn a teaching certificate. Some facilities may also ask that you already have experience teaching before you’re hired.
• Outlook: Teachers are always needed and the job is steadily growing at 8%, which is slightly faster than other occupations.
Customer Service Representative
• Benefits: Customer service representatives usually need to operate phones and computers to perform job tasks, both of which can be modified to accommodate people with visually impairments. In some cases, customer service representatives may be permitted to work from home.
• Average Salary: $33,750 per year.
• Education and Skills Required: Usually, a high school diploma is required. Most companies do not require representatives to have experience or secondary education.
• Outlook: Customer service representatives are needed in most industries and the growth outlook is 5%.
• Benefits: Also known as a speech therapist, pathologists assess, diagnose, and treat speech impairments in children and adults. In this position, a keen ear for speech discrepancies and strategies to correct them are needed.
• Average Salary: $77,510 per year.
• Education and Skills Required: A master’s degree in speech therapy is required. In some cases, experience or an internship in speech-language pathology may also be required.
• Outlook: Speech therapists are in demand and job outlook is growing by 18%, much faster than other occupations.
• Benefits: Counselors can work in schools or in private practices to assist others with personal, emotional, or mental issues. Most of the job requires listening and critically thinking.
• Average Salary: $56,310 per year.
• Education and Skills Required: A master’s degree in counseling is required. Depending on the field, experience may also be required before hiring.
· Outlook: Counselors are in demand. Career outlook is growing at 13%, faster than average.
Work From Home
There are many jobs that can be performed at home, and with the advancement of technology, many companies are allowing employees to work remotely. This eliminates the hassle of a commute, and the homes of people with visual impairments are often already optimized for their use. This allows for a high productivity level and performance of job functions without asking the employer for workplace accommodations.
Job Search Tips
When you begin your search for employment, it’s important to identify jobs that interest you. Learning about the company culture and the work environment you’ll be in can also help you to pinpoint local companies you know you’ll feel comfortable working for.
There are many employers that specifically look for visually impaired candidates to fill open positions. Certain organizations in your community may be able to connect you to these companies.
Resume and Interview Tips
When you find job opportunities that suit your needs, ensure that you inform the potential employer about your visual impairment in your cover letter. If you aren’t asked for a cover letter, contact the employer to disclose information about your visual impairment. It’s important to provide this information upfront, just in case you need to request accommodations to complete the job interview or onboarding process.
Organizations for people With Visual Impairments
There are numerous resources for people with disabilities, and many are designed specifically to assist the visually impaired. These resources provide assistance with job searching, career advancement, information, regulations on accommodation requests, and group support:
• American Association of Blind Teachers: A non-profit organization that includes support groups and provides information on how to pursue a teaching career as somebody who is visually impaired.
• American Council of the Blind: An organization of people who are visually impaired who defend equality rights and assist others in increasing their independence.
• American Foundation for the Blind: Provides resources for adults experiencing vision loss and their family members while helping to make technology more accessible for these families.
• Lighthouse International: An international resource that helps people who are visually impaired feel more empowered and in control of their lives. This organization assists people with blindness in assessing the tools they need to live independently and maintain productivity.
• NIB CareersWithVision: A collaborative resource between the AFB CareerConnect and National Industries for the Blind that provides a list of jobs from employers seeking visually impaired candidates.
• Hadley School for the Blind: Offers online courses for adults who are visually impaired about navigation skills, technologies, job-seeking strategies, business writing, and more.