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Employing someone with visual impairment: Employer toolkit

If you employ, or are recruiting someone with visual impairment, we can help to ensure a positive outcome for everyone involved.

Huge advances in assistive technology mean that people living with sight loss can now overcome most of their previous barriers to work.

Help with equipment and training costs is usually available and as an inclusive and socially responsible employer, you’ll meet your obligations under The Equality Act.

Woman sat at desk feeling happy after Zoom Text has been added to her PC thanks to a Workplace Assessment

Your legal obligations

By law, people with a visual impairment should not be excluded from employment. The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.

Reasonable adjustments aren’t necessarily expensive as many are free or involve minimal cost to implement. These include offering a phased return to work, visual impairment awareness training for staff and exemption from a hot desk policy. Longer breaks to reduce eye strain, lighting adjustments and feeding bowls for guide dogs also help. Equality Act Q&As

Know the signs

The most recognisable signs that an employee could be struggling due to sight loss are:

  • Becoming clumsy and struggling to get around the office, shop floor or workplace
  • Difficulty in recognising colleagues
  • Finding computer screens, print and handwritten documents difficult to read
  • Eye fatigue or pain and discomfort with bright lights
  • Experiencing migraines or headaches,
  • Overall tiredness and difficulties in dark or dim environments
  • Finding night driving more difficult
  • Tripping or falling more than usual

Effects of sight loss

Here are some examples of how people with various forms of visual impairment may see. These will vary between individuals and according to stages.

Photo of PC screen with blank central area to show what someone with Macular Degeneration may see
Macular Degeneration
Example view of a garden for someone with RP where only central vision is retained
Retinitis Pigmentosa
Example of  vision experienced by someone with Diabetic Retinopathy. The sight loss is in the form of  random blotches
Diabetic Retinopathy
Possible view for someone with glaucoma where peripheral is lost and remaining central vision is cloudy
Glaucoma

Think holistically

Living with sight loss impacts every aspect of someone’s life so consider factors such as lighting, signage, office layout, flexible working, additional breaks, and administration of medication.

Mobility to, from and within work may need addressing and some support may be required at home to avoid any impact on work performance.

Safety first

Maintaining good health and safety standards benefits everyone, so keep corridors clear and avoid trailing wires between desks and across walkways. Don’t leave doors ajar or drawers open and consider layout as straight lines are easier to negotiate for everyone. Let your employee know if you are putting something on their desk like a hot drink and say exactly where it is.

Offer localised task lighting for reading printed material and/or a magnifying glass. Keep light levels consistent throughout the building and use vertical blinds to control the amount of natural light. Use colour and contrast, for example around door frames and to differentiate chairs from the desk and carpet. Tactile objects like rails help with navigation and signage needs to be large enough to see and ideally at eye level.

Inclusive video calls

Video calling is now vital to stay in touch with people who are working from home. Working remotely can lead to feelings of isolation and group calls can help improve morale and wellbeing.

If you are unsure about what your employee needs or how they feel about video calls, simply ask them. Everyone is different and speaking with them is the best way to get things right. Plan your meetings with accessibility in mind and all your participants should feel included and enjoy the interaction.

Workplace assessments

Our Workplace Assessment service identifies the barriers your employee is facing. We then recommend the equipment, software, adjustments and support agencies that will enable them to be successful in their role.

We’ll help you to choose the most appropriate assistive technologies for your employee and provide bespoke one to one training.

Our online assessments now cover the whole of the UK and Ireland, so find out more by visiting our assessment page

Supporting colleagues with sight loss

Line managers, supervisors and colleagues have a vital role in ensuring appropriate support becomes part of the working environment.

Effective communication and correct guiding techniques help to facilitate the employee’s health, safety, and wellbeing at work.  

Common questions about visual impairment include:

  • What support can I offer someone?
  • How do different people see the world?
  • Is visual language such as “see you later” offensive?
  • How can a computer be accessed by someone with little or no sight?
  • What jobs can someone with sight loss do?
  • Is it easy to guide someone?
  • How can I ensure my business is fully accessible?
  • What are the best ways to communicate?
  • How can I ensure my staff teams maintain good eye health?

These, and many other questions are dealt with as part of our Visual Impairment Awareness Training sessions.

Assistive technology

Employee with visual impairment in a meeting using assistive technology to read a document
Employee using assistive technology to read a hard copy document

The development of assistive technologies has opened the world of work by enabling access to computers and the ability to read printed documents.

Employers can support staff by making simple adaptations or investing in assistive technology as follows:

Computer users with low vision

People with partial sight can adapt their computers to make them easier to use in the following ways:

  • Displaying large fonts and icons, changing the colour scheme, and increasing contrast.
  • Large monitors can help someone who wants to increase the size of the text on the screen, along with magnifying filter screens. Remember though, bigger is not always better for people with visual impairments.
  • Magnification software can increase the size of a small part of the screen to fill the viewable area.
  • Video magnifiers can be used to electronically magnify what’s on the screen.
  • Adapted keyboards and keyboard stickers can make a standard keyboard easier to use.

Computer users with no vision

Employees with little or no vision can also use a computer.

  • Synthetic speech reads out text using screen reader software and allow users to navigate through the system and control programmes from the keyboard.
  • Voice-activation for programmes is now possible through voice recognition software. A key use is for the entry of text without having to use an onscreen or physical keyboard. It can also be used to issue commands to phones and tablets, set reminders and interact hands free with personal technologies.
  • Users can read the contents of the computer screen by touch in braille by using an electronic braille display device
  • A scanner with optical character recognition (OCR) converts print into electronic text that is read to the user using synthetic speech.

IT compatibility

If your organisation employs, or is due to take on, someone who is visually impaired, they may need to use access software. We will work with your IT department to check the compatibility of software with your existing applications.

Accessibility, inclusion & equality

Retaining a person who is losing their sight means your business will continue to benefit from all the skills, knowledge, and relationships they have built up. Diversity of experience within your team brings additional benefits to your business and enhances your profile as a supportive employer.

Here to help with your visual impairment questions

Here at Visualise, we know that prevention is always better than cure so we run regular webinars to educate and inform including our popular ‘Sight Loss Needn’t Mean Job Loss’.

To book a dedicated training session for your staff team, find out about our next public webinar or ask questions about employing someone who lives with visual impairment email info@visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk or call us on 07472305268 

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