National Council for the Blind Ireland - Employing a Person with a Visual Impairment
Employing a Person with a Visual Impairment
This leaflet is for employers or potential employers of people with a visual impairment. It covers some of the most frequently asked questions and shows how the National Council of the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) can support you and your employees.
It makes good business sense to employ people with visual impairments. They represent a significant untapped resource in the labour pool, and with the right accommodations and supports are capable of doing most jobs.
When employing blind or partially sighted people, do not make assumptions about what they can and cannot do - ask them! They are the best judges of their own abilities.
The Legal Aspect:
Under the new Employment Equality Act, an employer has a duty to do all that is reasonable to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability. This can be done by making available special treatment or facilities, provided that by doing so, the person with a disability is fully capable of undertaking the task involved in the job. It is unlawful to reject a candidate just because of a disability.
The employer's duty to accommodate the employee applies both to the physical features of the workplace and to all aspects of employment and employment practices such as recruitment, training, transfer, career development and retention.
NCBI can advise on suitable equipment or adaptations to the workstation to enable a person with a visual impairment to work to their full capacity.
What will it cost me to employ a person with a visual impairment?
It should not cost very much at all. There are grants available from FÁS to cover the cost of equipment to make the workplace accessible for your employee.
- The Workplace Equipment/Adaptation Grant will provide up to Euro 6,350 towards the cost of adaptations to premises or equipment.
- The personal Reader's Grant will cover the cost of the reader to help your new employee settle into the job.
What about Health and Safety?
As long as your usual health and safety guidelines are in place, there should be no problem. In fact, having a person with a visual impairment may well encourage improved systems for everyone. The most significant health and safety obligations are:
- To keep circulation routes, entrances and exits clear of obstacles.
- To designate somebody to assist a person with a disability in the event of an emergency. The Access officer of the National Disability Authority can be contacted on 01-8747530 to offer advice on working arrangements for employees with disabilities.
Can a visual impaired person be as productive as any other employee?
With the correct use of appropriate adaptive technology or perhaps simple adjustments to the workstation, people who are visually impaired can achieve similar targets and perform as well as anyone else. For example, a voice synthesiser system helps blind people use computers to the full. If the environment is accessible and good working practices are in place, everybody benefits.
What sort of job do blind or partially sighted people do?
There are many aspects to most jobs where good eyesight is not essential. Where good vision is important, it may be possible to introduce adaptations to either the job or the equipment used. Many demanding tasks such as generating ideas, planning strategies, talking or communicating do not require the use of sight.
With appropriate training and equipment people who are blind or visually impaired have the same range of career prospects as anyone else, apart from obvious exceptions where good vision is an essential requirement of the job, (such as driving a bus or piloting a plane). There are no 'jobs for blind people' as such. To give you an idea, consider that there are people who are blind or visually impaired successful working in the following careers in Ireland today.
- Craft Worker
- Social Worker
- Chief Executive
- Radio Presenter
- Call Centre Staff
- Bank Manager
- Computer Programmer