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Hiring Someone with Vision Loss - What Employers Need to Know: Audio Interview

In this interview we talk about what employers need to know when hiring someone with vision loss with Michelle Pandith and Carolyn MacDiarmid, employment specialists with CCRW’s Workplace Essential Skills Partnership.

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Interviewer: Welcome to this Project Aspiro audio feature. Today we’re talking about what employers should know about hiring someone with vision loss. And we’re talking with Michelle Pandith and Carolyn MacDiarmid, Employment Specialists with CCRW’s Workplace Essential Skills Partnership. 

So, tell me, what are some of the misconceptions and concerns that employers have about workers with vision loss?

Carolyn: Well one misconception is that there’s going to be a greater rate of absenteeism and this isn’t necessarily going to be the case. People are off work for a number of reasons, whether or not they have a disability. It could be health related, they might be prone to colds, prone to migraines, there could be other personal reasons, so just because the person has a disability doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to be off work all the time.

Another misconception that employers have is that the person will be too expensive to hire because the person will come with accommodation requirements, however, most accommodations cost less than $500 if anything at all. Any money spent on an accommodation is actually an investment and will pay for itself in the long term. And the accommodation will enable the person to do his or her best work. So it should be viewed in terms of an investment as opposed to being an expense. Employers actually reap the benefit of investing money into professional development training and investing accommodations should be viewed in the same way. 

Interviewer: So if an employer is considering hiring someone with vision loss, when do they need to know?

Michelle: Well they really should look more at the skills of the person rather than the vision loss, because vision loss is accommodated easily. There are many tools out there, and a lot of the times a person has their own tools, perhaps it’s a magnifier, perhaps they just need enlarged print. Zoomtext is one of the software’s, but perhaps that person only requires magnification which many computers already have that option on the computer to enlarge what’s already on the screen.

So I think it’s very important to focus on does this person have the skills to do the job, is this person the right fit? Because the accommodation piece can be taken care of and there are a lot of organizations that can help employers get those tools in place. Those tools are often inexpensive as well. Costs do vary over time but it’s certainly, as Carolyn said, it’s an investment to that company. 

Interviewer: And you mentioned Zoomtext, just so for listeners who aren’t so familiar with some of the technologies, what are some of the typical accommodations that workers with vision loss might require?

Carolyn: Well just to name a few of the more common ones; there is screen magnification software, screen reader software…

Interviewer: So screen reader software, what is that exactly? 

Carolyn: That’s software that actually reads out what’s on the screen for people who are blind or who have significant vision loss.

Interviewer: So it will read a word document or internet webpage, it will read the text to them? 

Carolyn: That’s right.

Interviewer:  Okay.

Carolyn: And there are also CCTV’s which are optical systems that a person can use to read hard copy documentation and these systems are more versatile than magnifiers because they can also change the background colour, they can change the colour of the text. They can do whatever suits the person using the system. And to name a couple of others; there are braille displays, there are mobile and portable readers and as Michelle said, the prices vary, and they do vary over time so I’d rather not go into the cost of these accommodations. 

Interviewer: But you were saying also that often people will already own their own assistive technology that they use for day to day use?

Carolyn: That’s right. I have my best friend right beside me, it’s a hand held magnifier, I’ve called her “Maggie” and I use her everyday and she is portable so I take her everywhere I go and this would come with me to a new job, so this is one thing an employer would not have to invest in. 

Interviewer: Okay great, well that’s been really informative thanks a lot Michelle and Carolyn for talking to us today.

Michelle: Thanks for having us.

Carolyn: Thank you.