Top tips for visually impaired people getting into the workplace

Getting into the workplace is a nerve-racking experience for anyone, but can be extra daunting for visually impaired people - especially if you've recently lost your sight. Blind and visually impaired people play an important role in the workplace, and with the right support, losing your sight shouldn't mean losing your job.

A man and a woman sat a desk, looking at something on an iPad screen.
Jo sat at her desk in the Liverpool resource centre, working at the computer

“I’m Tom, and I volunteer for Henshaws in their Manchester centre. I am partially sighted and have an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which affects my eyesight and mobility within dark and low light conditions. I’ve recently started my next level of legal Secretarial Diploma with Pitman Training, and am going to share some of my advice which I hope those with a visual impairment will find useful for finding and starting new jobs.

Applying for jobs

Whilst applying for jobs I would recommend disclosing your disability, as this should enable the employer to understand your requirements and needs. During the application process, I also recommend including details of any assistive aids that you use or may need providing. Whilst looking and applying for work it might be worth asking for either advice or support from organisations such as Henshaws who are dedicated to helping blind/visually impaired back into the workplace.

Whilst applying for jobs, double check all sections of your application to ensure that you’ve not missed anything and that there are no errors on the application form. Asking a friend or a relative to help with proofreading of your application can be really useful for this.

Preparing for interview

If your application is successful and you are invited to an interview I would recommend researching the company. You need to make sure that you know how to get to the interview and that you have some prior knowledge of the company. If you’re getting public transport, make sure you plan lots of extra time in case there are any delays!

Whilst arranging the interview with the employer it may be worth describing your disability in more detail to ensure that you have reasonable adjustments in place to feel comfortable and confident within the interview.

Skillstep guiding

Starting a new job

Starting a new job is nerve-racking for anyone, and it is important that you feel comfortable within your work environment. Your new colleagues should have been made aware of your disability by the employer and they should also be aware of some of the challenges that visually impaired people face on a daily basis. If you feel confident it might be an idea to demonstrate how to correctly guide a blind or visually impaired person within the office (Henshaws offer a Visual Impairment Awareness Training which might be useful for your staff team).

It is important to become familiar with your working environment and exploring the building during your free time to ensure that you become familiar with stairs, furniture, etc. During your induction ensure that you know the company’s fire evacuation procedures, and you understand the company’s health and safety procedures if an incident occurs. If necessary ask for a demonstration of these procedures from your line manager.

When you start a new job the correct support needs to be put in place by the employer. This could include assistive technology such as handheld magnifiers, PC screen magnification software etc. These requirements are essential for you, and the employer needs to be fully aware of this. I recommend visiting the Access To Work section of the Direct Gov website as they may be able to fund a proportion of the cost of these aids, and may also be able to help with travel arrangements.

In the workplace

If you work for a large institution such as a University or Government department, they might have a specialist disability officer who could provide help with any concerns or queries you may have – check this by researching online, or ask another member of staff.

Don’t be afraid to remind people if you need something provided in your format or any extra support – for example, if you’re going into a meeting and you need a hand-out in large print.

Remember, it’s important to feel happy in your working environment – arrange regular meetings with your line manager and make sure to let them know any problems you might have and how you’re progressing.

I hope this helps with finding and starting your new job – good luck!”

If you’re interested in getting back into work, training or volunteering, Skillstep might be the course for you! Skillstep is our free 12-week programme for anyone of working age with sight loss to learn new skills, gain confidence, and take advantage of employment and accredited educational opportunities. Find out more on our website or get in touch with our team on 0300 222 555.

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Tom is a volunteer with the marketing and fundraising teams at Henshaws, and has helped with the website and the Henshaws e-book. Tom enjoys anything to do with technology, films, sports and his football team Sunderland AFC.
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