A career planning and employment resource for people who are blind or partially sighted

Employer Concerns: Accessing Information

How do workers with vision loss access information?

You may be curious about how an individual who is blind or partially sighted can access information that is typically presented visually – in print or pictorially. Many workers with visual loss are able to read regular print and write with the help of reading glasses, magnifiers, or special software (screen enlargement programs) on their computers. In fact, most word processing software now comes with built-in accessibility, including a screen magnification option

Likewise, many workers who are blind can read and write using braille for notes to themselves or using their computers for sharing information with co-workers or customers who are sighted. They may also use reading machines or computers with speech or braille output for reading.

On the whole, workers who are blind or partially sighted are able to access written materials, unless they are available only as handwritten notes. Handwritten materials cannot always be read by reading machines and pose a challenge for people without good eyesight. For access to such materials, they need to ask for assistance from a sighted co-worker, helper, or volunteer.

Pictorial information is another challenge for people with vision loss. In some instances, pictures or graphics can be described to the person who cannot see well. In other instances, the picture or graphic may be reproducible in a tactual format (a raised line drawing or tactile graphic) or pictorial information may be read aloud. For example, a sign with raised-line drawing indicates the universal “no” sign (a circle with a diagonal line through it) or information being announced, such as floors on elevator stops or at bus/train stops.

The important thing to know is that even pictorial information can be made accessible to workers without good sight.  

Some of the things that you can do as an employer to help your workers access information at work include:

  • Use email or voicemail to leave messages for workers rather than handwritten notes affixed to doors or computers.
  • Send out instructions, manuals, directories, and other written materials in electronic formats rather than print.
  • Speak directly with your employees who are blind or partially sighted.
  • When you prepare PowerPoint slide presentations, send a text-only version (you can use the outline feature to save your presentation) to workers who will not be able to follow your slides visually. This way they can follow along as their sighted peers read your slides.
  • Keep pictorial information to a minimum – use words whenever possible to express your ideas. If you need to draw a picture or graph, be sure to describe it verbally.
  • If you plan to show videos or other pictorial information in training seminars or in-service training sessions, be sure that they are audio described.
  • If you plan to use printed handouts, be sure that you’ve sent those to your workers with vision loss in electronic formats in advance or have copies prepared in braille or large print formats.
  • Always ask yourself before posting a notice on a bulletin board or other spot, “How will my employees who are blind or partially sighted get this information?”