The employer of a person who is blind or visually impaired might need to make accommodations that would minimize or eliminate workplace barriers. In doing so, you have the opportunity to maximize that person's productivity. These accommodations must be reasonable in cost and implementation, taking into account the practical and economic dynamics of your worksite. In many cases the employee will know what accommodations they need, and may have in fact provided their own. But, if that is not the case, a number of resources and professionals are available to help.

Every employee, worksite, and situation is different. With that in mind, the American Foundation for the Blind has provided you with ideas and information you might find useful. In trying to cover every resource, strategy, legality, tax credit, and technology AFB can imagine, it is important to note that this is a transition period you and your employee are dealing with what may seem to be an overwhelming amount of information. However, in time, the accommodation will become familiar and seem a logical addition to the workplace.

In order to get a good general idea of what an accommodated job site might look like, AFB encourages you to view the CareerConnect Virtual Worksites. These worksites can give you an idea of some of the low- and high-tech solutions employers are using to enhance accessibility in the workplace. Additional sources of information are the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and your local Department of Rehabilitation Services. Take advantage of these free and helpful available resources.

visionJob analysis

The first step in evaluating accommodations needed for a qualified applicant or employee is a well-written, current job description that defines both essential job functions and marginal job tasks. Decisions regarding appropriate modifications can then be made based on that document.

For more information on how to do a job analysis, see:

Job Analysis Process (Office of Disability Employment Policy)

Essential Job Functions

Essential job functions have been defined as those elements that are fundamental or critical to the integrity of the job. They are the main reason the job exists. Without them, the job would not be the same.

Essential Function Test

  • Task or function is reason the position exists
  • No other way or limited potential to redistribute tasks
  • Specific expertise or specific ability is purpose job exists
  • Most time is spent performing that function
  • Job is not effective (serious effect) if function is not performed by incumbent

While any one of these rules can be useful, it's best not to rely on any single rule to say that the task or function is essential. If a function meets more than half of the rules, then there is a higher probability that the task is verifiably essential to the position.

Experience has shown that it is useful to go through the process of examining each function or task separately. Although ADA does not require employers to provide written descriptions of essential functions, prudent employers do it nevertheless. Having such a list at hand facilitates a focused and defendable interview and justification for the ultimate hiring selection.

Job modification

Situations may arise in the workplace in which a job modification could be needed. A job modification may include:

  • Restructuring the job by eliminating marginal job functions
  • Changing a shift's start time or hours worked
  • Sharing job duties
  • Telecommuting
  • Modifying company policy