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Accommodation and Compliance Series:
Employees with Vision Impairments

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Introduction

JAN’s Accommodation and Compliance Series is designed to help employers determine effective accommodations and comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each publication in the series addresses a specific medical condition and provides information about the condition, ADA information, accommodation ideas, and resources for additional information.

The Accommodation and Compliance Series is a starting point in the accommodation process and may not address every situation. Accommodations should be made on a case by case basis, considering each employee’s individual limitations and accommodation needs. Employers are encouraged to contact JAN to discuss specific situations in more detail.

For information on assistive technology and other accommodation ideas, visit JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) at http://AskJAN.org/soar.

Information about Vision Impairments

How many people have vision impairments?

There are an estimated 10 million blind and visually impaired people in the United States, 1.3 million of which are considered legally blind (American Foundation for the Blind, 2008a). Of this number, approximately 109,000 people use long canes for assistance, while about 7,000 individuals use service dogs (American Foundation for the Blind, 2008a).

What types of vision impairments are there?

Vision impairments result from conditions that range from the presence of some usable vision, low vision, to the absence of any vision, total blindness. Low vision is a term that describes a person with a vision impairment that cannot be improved by correction but has some usable vision remaining. Legal blindness is defined as 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction. Errors of refraction, diseases of the eye, and other vision-related conditions are usually the cause of vision loss. Each of these categories includes more specific disorders, which are described below (American Foundation for the Blind, 2008b).

Vision Impairments and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Do people with vision impairments have disabilities under the ADA?

The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet (EEOC Regulations . . ., 2011). Therefore, some people with vision impairments will have a disability under the ADA and some will not.

A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment (EEOC Regulations . . . , 2011). For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, visit http://AskJAN.org/corner/vol05iss04.htm.

Accommodating Employees with Vision Impairments

Note: People with vision impairments may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with vision impairments will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee with the vision impairment experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Has the employee who has the vision impairment been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
  6. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee who has a vision impairment to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  7. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training regarding employees who have vision impairments?

No vision considerations:

Low vision considerations:

Color vision deficiency considerations:

Accommodation Ideas:

Reading Printed Materials:

Low Vision:

No Vision (individuals with low vision may find the following helpful also):

Accessing Computer Information:

Low Vision:

No Vision (individuals with low vision may find the following helpful also):

Writing Notes and Completing Forms:

Low Vision:

No Vision (individuals with low vision may find the following helpful also):

Accessing a Telephone:

Low Vision:

No Vision (individuals with low vision may find the following helpful also):

Working with Money:

Low Vision:

No Vision (individuals with low vision may find the following helpful also):

Reading from Instrument or Control Board:

Low Vision:

No Vision (individuals with low vision may find the following helpful also):

Repairing, Constructing, Assembling Pieces/Parts:

Low Vision:

No Vision (individuals with low vision may find the following helpful also):

Mobility:

Driving:

Working with Light Sensitivity:

Distinguishing Colors:

Other Accommodation Considerations:

Situations and Solutions:

A custodian with low vision in a public school setting was having difficulty viewing the carpeted area he was vacuuming. A lighting system was mounted on the custodian's industrial vacuum cleaner and the custodian was provided a headlamp.

A typist with low vision was having some difficulty distinguishing among certain character keys. She was provided with a glare guard for the computer monitor and large print keyboard labels, which significantly enhanced accuracy.

An assistant for a disability program had complete loss of vision in one eye and low vision in the other. The assistant was having problems reading printed paper copies. A portable magnifier and a CCTV were used to magnify materials.

An individual with no vision was placed in a switchboard operator position for a large service complex building. The person needed to be aware of what telephone lines were on hold, in use, or ringing. She was provided with a light sensor to assist in determining the console buttons that were lit, blinking, and/or steady. The telephone console was also modified to provide the employee with ring differentiation for external versus internal calls.

A customer service representative for a financial institution lost his vision and could no longer read his computer screen. The employer provided screen reading software for his computer so that all information present on the screen and all information inputted into the system would be read back to him.

Products:

There are numerous products that can be used to accommodate people with limitations. JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) at http://AskJAN.org/soar is designed to let users explore various accommodation options. Many product vendor lists are accessible through this system; however, upon request JAN provides these lists and many more that are not available on the Web site. Contact JAN directly if you have specific accommodation situations, are looking for products, need vendor information, or are seeking a referral.

Resources

References

American Foundation for the Blind. (2008a). Blindness statistics. Retrieved September 5, 2008, from http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=15

American Foundation for the Blind. (2008b). Glossary of eye conditions.  Retrieved September 3, 2008, from http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?DocumentID=2139

American Foundation for the Blind. (2008c). Tips for making print more readable. Retrieved September 3, 2008, from http://www.afb.org/Section.asp?SectionID=26&TopicID=144&DocumentID=210

EEOC Regulations To Implement the Equal Employment Provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as Amended, 29 C.F.R. § 1630 (2011).

Updated 03/26/13

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