Considerations for Hiring a Blind or Low-Vision Employee
If the first time you meet a person who is blind or low vision is when they come into your office for an interview, you are not alone. The overall population of individuals in this situation is very small, and those working age and eligible to be competitively employed are even smaller. Because of this dynamic, many stereotypes and misunderstandings have existed, preventing many talented and capable workers from contributing to society.
The truth is that people without sight or with limited sight can perform almost any job you can imagine. There are blind and low-vision lawyers, artists, accountants, secretaries, customer service representatives, food service workers, factory workers, financial analysts, teachers, medical transcriptionists, daycare workers, counselors, computer programmers, cooks, salespeople, clerks, and more.
Additionally, employees who are blind or low vision can be highly motivated and successful individuals, having overcome what many people might consider a challenging work/life barrier. With that in mind, you might very well be interested in locating and recruiting such individuals.
How to Find Employees
There are a host of organizations and agencies that might help you find employees who are blind or low vision employees and help you with the hiring process. The best place to start would be the employer resources section of this website which will provide you with several local agencies and training centers in your area.
In addition, the following national agencies might prove helpful in linking you up with these unique and hardworking individuals.
The Employer Assistance Referral Network (EARN) is a free national employer service that connects employers with employment services that provide access to job-ready candidates with disabilities in their community. EARN is supported by the Department of Labor.
The eSight Careers Network provides a bridge between employers and job seekers as well as topical information for employers concerning disability.
Other helpful links for connecting with potential employees include:
The Job Application Process
Blind and low-vision applicants must be given the same opportunity as all other applicants. Once the applicant has self-identified as blind or low vision, the employer must provide appropriate accommodation to allow equal opportunity.
In all cases, simply focus on the requirements of the job and what the applicant can do, not on the disability and on what he or she cannot do.
If you routinely require all applicants to complete an application, there are ways to make it possible for blind or low-vision applicants to do so as well. The following are some practical solutions for handling application forms.
- Make the application available electronically. You could email it on request, provide the applicant with a USB drive, or put it on your website. Often, blind or low-vision applicants can use computers with braille or speech output (talking computers) or screen magnification to read and complete applications. Electronic access will facilitate the application process for many sighted applicants and those who are blind or low vision.
- If you prefer that job seekers complete their applications on-site, provide someone in your company to read the application and record responses. Ensure the recorder notes the applicant’s answers without editing or modifying them.
- Offer to provide blind or low-vision people with applications to complete before interviews, so they can use low-vision devices or readers to help them complete the form in print.
- Suppose you already have other blind or low-vision employees who use assistive technology, such as closed-circuit televisions for magnification, screen enlargement programs, or computers with speech or braille output. In that case, you can offer to make this equipment available on-site to a job applicant.
- Consider accepting a standard completed application in lieu of your application form.
Administering Employment Tests
ADA Requirements The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers specific requirements for testing applicants with disabilities. Here are some useful requirements to remember:
- Test results must be designed to reflect the applicant’s skills, knowledge, aptitude, and other job-related factors, not the effects of the applicant’s disability.
- Unless the applicant’s disability interferes, the test should be administered as is done with all other applicants.
- Tests must be available in an alternative format to accommodate the applicant’s disability unless the particular testing method is an essential part of the job or the evaluation process.
- Reasonable accommodations might include an assistant to read test questions and record the applicant’s responses.
- The test can be presented in large print, braille, or electronically with a speech synthesizer.
- Employers are encouraged to announce in advance that testing will be required.
- Notification may be printed on the application form, invitation letter, or other recruitment communications.
- Advance notice of testing allows the applicant to request specific accommodations before arriving or upon arriving at the test or interview site.
The following are accommodations for employment testing:
- Ask a staff member to read the test to the applicant and record his or her answers. Ensure the recorder notes the applicant’s answers without editing or modifying them.
- Make the test available electronically on USB drive, or put the test on a computer that the applicant can use with appropriate assistive technology.
- Ask if a state or local agency for the blind can administer the test or determine if the applicant has already passed a similar test (for example, tests measuring typing speed and accuracy, spelling, grammar, or basic math skills)
Interviewing Applicants Who Are Blind or Low Vision
If you know that an applicant is blind or low vision, you may be concerned about what questions you are allowed to ask during an interview. Relax, and use the following suggestions to guide you.
- Remember that a person who is blind or low vision is a “person” first. Lack of vision is just one aspect or characteristic and doesn’t define a person any more than hair color does.
- Blindness or low vision does not equate to helplessness. When you greet an applicant, you may want to ask if he or she needs assistance. Some people who are blind or low vision will want to take your arm while others will prefer to follow your verbal directions.
- When you enter the interview room, describing the setting to the applicant may be helpful. For instance, “We are going to sit at a round table. Your chair is on your left, and I will sit across the table from you.”
- Focus on the person’s qualifications to do the job that you are seeking to fill. Matters that are not job-related such as how or when an applicant lost his or her sight are not relevant to the interview.
- Never pet a dog guide. A dog guide is a working animal. While some of these dogs are indeed beautiful and friendly, lengthy discussion about the dog during the interview takes time away from discussing the applicant’s qualifications.
- Don’t be afraid to use terms like “See you later” or “Do you see what I mean?” Blind or low-vision people use them, too.
Interviewing Dos and Don’ts
Do Ask Applicants…
- what accommodations, if any, will be needed for the interview or testing (e.g., online application, reader/recorder, extra time for the test)
- only those questions that focus on the person’s abilities as they relate to essential functions of the position
- if the applicant understands the essential job functions of the position
- if the individual can perform the essential job functions, with or without accommodations ( e.g. “This job requires editing documents. How would you go about that task?”)
- for evidence/demonstration of specific skill or expertise (only if asked of all other applicants)
- for information on any job-related education or training they have undergone
- about experience or licenses (if the same is asked of all others)
- for help when unsure of your interaction
Do Not Ask Applicants…
- what accommodations will be needed to perform the job before you have extended a conditional offer of employment
- questions directly or indirectly related to the existence, nature, severity, cause, or prognosis of their disability; or how their past attendance record has been influenced by it
- if the individual thinks the job would be “too hard” because of his or her disability
- how the applicant would perform non-job-related tasks
- to demonstrate a job-related or other skill if you do not require all other applicants to do so
- about the type of benefits package the applicant seeks
- questions that will not ultimately and directly affect your assessment of the applicant’s qualifications and, thus, your hiring decision
Best of luck with your recruitment!