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Study Scrutinizes Accessibility Challenges in the Workplace Faced by Those Who are Blind and Visually Impaired

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requiring employers to create an accessible environment for workers with disabilities, many challenges and barriers remain that prevent workers with visual impairments from full workplace participation. A recently released American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) study analyzed the use of technology by workers who are blind or have low vision in their places of employment, and the accessibility issues faced during the hiring and onboarding process, during training, and how it affected productivity. The Workplace Technology Study followed 323 participants across the U.S. who are blind, have low vision, or are deafblind, and relayed their experiences using technology during various stages of work, their accommodations, and interactions with Information Technology (IT) staff. Findings concluded that employers and key staff need to improve workplace practices to achieve full inclusion. Most participants faced some form of accessibility challenges during the hiring process and work experience and reported issues with mainstream technology tools as well as with inaccessible documents prepared by sighted coworkers. There were a host of different experiences when it came to requested accommodations from employers, from easy and quick approvals to long waits, and even refusals, reassignments, and in some cases termination. Many participants also reported having positive interactions with IT staff and that telework enabled them to enjoy their work while maintaining productivity. The completed study included recommendations for employers to implement to ensure full accessibility to all workers such as implementing a policy to ensure that everything is accessible with assistive technology, from documents to workplace procedures. For more highlights of the study, read: American Foundation for the Blind Announces Workplace Technology Study, Examining Employment Experiences of Blind or Visually Impaired Adults). And read the full report here.