Sight loss and the workplace
At the age of 8, Daniel Williams was diagnosed with
retinitis pigmentosa. He has very little vision and will eventually lose it
completely. At the age of 22, with help from The Prince’s Trust, he founded Visualise Training and
Consultancy to advance social change for disability rights through
campaigning and advocating for inclusion, equality, diversity and making
services better for everyone.
Losing your eyesight is challenging, scary and disconcerting and having to change the way you do things can be exhausting. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects is the uncertainty around employment as it can be hard to tell somebody at work about your sight loss for fear of losing your job.
Let’s think about the common symptoms of sight loss, and how they may make you feel:
- Computer screen is difficult to see
- Eye fatigue or pain
- Recognising colleagues
- Struggling to get around
- Lighting may be giving you discomfort
- Getting tired
- Print is difficult to read
- Constant headaches
- You may think you are being clumsy
- Unable to see your keyboard clearly
Experiencing just one of these symptoms may make you feel anxious and if not checked, in time, these feelings may escalate and cause you to struggle in both your work and private lives. It’s important to understand that help is available, and that you don’t have to be totally blind to get help, in fact, many visually impaired people in full-time employment, have partial or useful vision.
The Equality ACT 2010 protects you against disability discrimination and your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments, so as part of my role, I carry out employee work-based needs assessments to help employers comply with the Act.
Let’s look at the four most common sight-related problems that may occur in the workplace with possible solutions.
“I can’t see my computer screen very well anymore...”
This common issue can be tackled by using a bigger screen, an anti-glare filter or changing the colour scheme and text size within Windows or a special screen magnifying programme can be used to enlarge text and change the colours and contrast. In some cases, a special piece of screen reading software such as Jaws or NVDA can be used which will read out what you type and tell you what is on the screen. Some people may use a mixture of screen reading and screen magnification software, others may exclusively use screen reading software.
“I am finding print difficult to read...”
A hand-held magnifier can be used to enlarge print, but technology can also be used. A CCTV / video magnifier can make reading easier, as can coloured filters and smart phone apps such as KNFB Reader and SeeingAI. Sometimes, scanning a document and reading it on a screen suits some people, as does experimenting with different lighting. In cases where the print is too challenging for technology to tackle, Access To Work may pay for a PA or Support Worker to help you read documents.
“I suffer from headaches and eye strain...”
Trying to exceed the limit of your vision can be very tiring; sometimes, headaches and eye fatigue can be environmental, caused by bright, fluorescent overhead lighting or poor task lighting. Often, tweaks to the environment and regular breaks can help prevent discomfort and a good quality, consistent light source can make a lot of difference.
“My sighted colleagues don’t know how to support me in the best way.”
Remember your colleagues may not have ever worked with someone with reduced vision, so be loud and proud, tell them what you need and how best to communicate with you. They may also benefit from visual impairment awareness training to understand how best to support employees with sight loss.
“I can no longer drive...”
Losing your driving licence because of sight loss is very common and very worrying, however, there are ways to tackle the problem. Discounted rail and bus travel can be acquired with disability passes, making travel to work on public transport cheaper and if you have to travel to appointments within your role, or if using public transport is impractical, Access To Work may pay for taxis.
These problems can cause high levels of discomfort, stress and anxiety so it’s important to remember that help is available, and that communication is often the key to starting the journey to positivity and a sense of equilibrium.
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society and makes the law easier to understand and strengthens protection in some situations.
Don’t suffer in silence, The Equality Act 2010 is on your side!
To find out more about workplace assessments, visit https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/consultancy/workplace-assessments/
What issues have you faced in the workplace? Have you undergone a work-based needs assessment? What solutions were put in place?