This October is the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Not only are we marking a significant milestone in the workforce for those who are disabled, but we are doing it amid a pandemic. People with vision loss have to adapt, adjust and problem-solve even more than before. When COVID-19 struck many people, including those with vision loss, we had to begin social distancing, sheltering in place, and migrating to a work-from-home environment. Sharing space traditionally reserved for rest, relaxation, and relationships can be a significant adjustment. Yet with careful planning, good communication, and flexibility, a visually impaired employee can successfully work from home.
Create a Home Office
- Begin by evaluating the space you’ll use and cleaning out any clutter.
- You might have to work in the bedroom or set up a laptop in the area of your home. Consider the best space for taking phone calls and working on a computer.
- If you have low vision, consider the lighting you need to work efficiently.
- If this is your situation, establish a routine and create boundaries for the space.
Steps to Take in Setting Up Your Workspace
Communication with your household is important when working from home. It is very easy for home and work life to bleed into each other if boundaries are not set quickly.
- Communicate with your household about your plans.
- If you live with family, clearly share the structure of your work day.
- Let them know important deadlines when you have to take calls, or attend webinars or virtual meetings.
- Set timers to stay focused on your work. Distraction can be a challenge at home.
- Set reminders or alarms to keep track of your work day. It’s very important to take your regular breaks and end your day on time so you can shift to home life.
Talk to Your Employer
- Once you have set up your workspace, communicate with your employer your need for assistive technology and tech support.
- Now that you are working at home, your computer needs might not be quickly met and resolved, so plan when possible.
- Know what low vision aids or devices your company will provide, and talk with your supervisor about your needs.
- Ensure you understand how tech support will work if you have problems logging into the company database, web portal, or email.
- Learn about companies that provide technical assistance to people who are blind or visually impaired, such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft, and can troubleshoot some basic computer problems.
Sharing Your Space
When working from your home you might have to share space with a spouse also working virtually. Also, you may have a child who is learning remotely and who needs to use the same space.
- Maintain a schedule and keep the lines of communication open with your spouse and/or children.
- Talk to your supervisor and colleagues so they understand your home environment.
- Be as thoughtful as you can and emphasize flexibility and patience.
- When the workday is over pick up all work items and neatly store away. This will indicate the workday is done and that there is a transition to home life.
Take Care of Yourself
- Remember to take your customary breaks.
- It is easy to become sedentary. Get up from the computer and do some stretches and light calisthenics to avoid stiffness and maintain good circulation.
- Stop for lunch. Go to another area of the house instead of eating at your workstation.
- If you live alone, schedule time for connection with friends and family to avoid isolation, depression, and loneliness.
When we’re at home constantly, it can be hard to resist the temptations of home life. Watching TV, eating too much, strolling through social media, or oversleeping are all enticing. The key to successfully working from home is recognizing these potential pitfalls and setting yourself up to win. So, if overeating is your challenge, work away from the kitchen. If it is watching TV or scrolling through social media, establish dedicated time slots or use your work breaks for these activities.
Working from home has unique responsibilities. Your employer trusts you to be productive. Take the initiative and educate yourself about working from home. Understand that it may take some trial and error, but if you develop good habits and communicate effectively, you will be successful.