Blindness or vision impairment
Key facts about blindness and vision impairment
'Vision impairment' refers to some degree of sight loss and may range from blurred vision, reduced depth and distance perception, sensitivity to glare, tunnel vision to poor night vision.
A person is 'legally blind' if:
- they cannot see at 6 metres what someone with normal vision can see at 60 metres, or
- their field of vision is less than 20 degrees in diameter (normal vision 180 degrees).
Types of vision impairment include:
- Macular degeneration
- Retinitis pigmentosa.
It is estimated that less than 5% of people with vision impairment are totally blind. Most people have some useful vision.
A person may be born with a vision impairment or blindness, or acquire it through an accident, illness, medication side-effects or the aging process.
An appropriate environment can greatly increase the ability of a person who is blind or has a vision impairment to function independently.
Affects and adjustments at work
Common affects of blindness of vision impairment at work
Remember! No two people with the same disability experience the same affects at work!
Employees with disability are not likely to have all the listed disability features OR affects at work! Most people have just a few of those listed; you'll only know by asking the person directly.
Here are some examples of how an employee with a vision impairment or blindness may be affected at work. They may have difficulties with:
- accessing written or electronic information
- navigating unfamiliar workplaces and/or new tasks
- identifying workplace hazards; and/or
- getting to a workplace via public transport during 'peak hour'.
Possible workplace adjustments for people who are blind or have a vision impairment
The following examples of workplace adjustments are only examples! These examples will not suit everybody.
In each case the best supports in the workplace can only be discovered through conversations between employer, employee and, if needed, a disability specific employment specialist.
Some examples of workplace adjustments that have been used for people who are blind or have vision impairment include:
- During an interview, explain to an applicant with vision impairment what the seating arrangement is and who else is in the room. Offer assistance at the end of the interview to exit the workplace
- Pay particular attention to identifying hazards personally to the employee, such as hot water systems, head-height cupboards, etc during orientation to new job and/or time of any workplace alternations.
- Ensure doors in the workplace are either fully open or fully closed
- Clearly highlight emergency exits, internal pillars or posts, stairs and corners
- Glare-free lighting in the workplace and glare-protectors on the employee's computer screen
- Make any written information available well in advance of any workplace meetings, etc. It may take the person longer to read written material than other employees. Provide written information in an electronic format where possible
- Always read aloud any visual presentations such as PowerPoint presentations, overheads or diagrams.
For more information and suggestions on making workplace adjustments for employees with specific types of disability visit the government website Job Access.
Tips for communicating with people who are blind or have vision impairment
- Introduce yourself by name and introduce anyone else who may be present, even if you already know the person
- Always face the person when speaking to them.
- Use your natural voice – don't shout or over-exaggerate
- Tell the person when you are leaving the room.
- Be specific with any verbal directions or instructions.