An untapped labor pool: visually impaired workers

An untapped labor pool: visually impaired workers

The unemployment rate among people with a disability remains more than double the number of people without a disability. Outlook wants to raise the flag in October as its National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and National Meet the Blind month. 

Statistics on employment of people who have lost or have declining vision remain alarming. In December 2013, 36 percent of blind and visually impaired individuals between the ages of 16 and 64 participated in the workforce, compared to 72 percent of people without a disability in the same age group. By April 2017,  job opportunities for the blind and visually impaired rose to just 39 percent.

The NDEAM 2019 theme, “The Right Talent, Right Now,” brings awareness to businesses of the untapped labor pool of individuals with disabilities. In addition to performing work at the same level as their peers without disabilities, disabled individuals bring employers new insight on creative problem solving. 

Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success,” U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta said in the NDEAM press release.

With today’s awareness and technology advancements, blind workers can choose from a much broader array of job opportunities for the blind. Businesses can also make accommodations with much lower costs and effort.

How to make a workplace accessible depends on the field. In STEM fields, information may need to be presented in a linear or tactile way. For educators, it may be having a specific way to submit assignments or requesting the same classroom every semester. For fields based more in communications or administrative work, adaptations may be as simple as a few Braille dots on a phone keypad or using screen-reading or magnification software on a computer.

Visual impairment doesn’t always mean completely blind. Digital magnifiers, magnification software and modified display settings on a computer make it possible for low vision workers to easily complete office tasks. High contrast flooring — with darker floor covering along wall edges and textured flooring at intersections — allow independent navigation throughout the building. Keeping equipment and supplies organized helps blind workers — and all employees - efficiently find what they need.

Employers can help visually impaired workers overcome traveling challenges. In larger cities, public transit might be the cheapest, fastest, or most convenient option. Carpooling and ride share services such as Uber or Lyft are also options. In some cases, employees work remotely.

Businesses should understand that not all blind job candidates — especially those who became blind later in life — can read Braille. Technology advances in screen-reading and dictation software, are often available at no cost, allow companies to more easily accommodate blind professionals.

Outlook Business Solutions has job opportunities for the blind. We employ people with vision loss as copywriters, graphic designers, and customer care specialists. Blind individuals hold successful manufacturing, accounting, and IT careers at our sister organizations – Outlook Nebraska and Outlook Enrichment. Call 402.614.331 for more information about how your business can employ someone with limited vision.