Making your workplace accessible starts from the first opportunity you have to open up your organisation to a range of people including blind and partially sighted people, at the point of recruitment.
To attract blind and partially sighted people, consider:
- Advertising jobs where blind and partially sighted people can access them for example at your local Job Centre, or post on an accessible website that works with screen magnification and screen reading software.
- Have your application packs in accessible format such as large print, electronic format, or offer a reasonable adjustment to complete the form over the phone.
- Ask applicants if there is anything, they need in order to give them a fair interview, for example extra time for a written component.
- Ask if the lighting level is suitable, or if the person wants to move towards or face away from a window.
- Keep the room free of clutter and obstacles particularly on the floor
- Offer to guide the candidate to the interview room and within the building.
There are a number of adaptations that can be made to the working environment to help your employee in their job, and these may be funded through the Access to Work scheme. For example, if conditions are too bright or too dark then adjustments can usually be made to the lighting levels.
As well as the amount of light, the source of light can also be an important factor. Many people find that natural light is best. Your employee is often the best judge of what works well, and what kind of lighting is best for them, the key is to speak with them or call in a specialist where necessary. Sometimes the simplest change can make a huge difference to a working environment.
In addition to lighting, you would need to ensure that signage is clear, colour contrast is used effectively, aisle and walkways are kept clear of clutter and all are familiar with health and safety practices at work, for example tucking in your chair when you leave your desk, not leaving cupboard doors open, etc.
You can provide visual awareness training to staff to help your employee settle into their role and colleagues feel better able to assist if required.
The increased use of technology in the workplace means blind and partially sighted people can work in all employment sectors. Access technology enables blind and partially sighted people to take more control over their work and participate in jobs that they may otherwise be excluded from.
Access technology is a range of specialist equipment or software that helps blind and partially sighted people participate in activities as independently as possible. It often refers to a computer that has been adapted so that information can be entered or retrieved (accessed) by a person with limited or no sight. Examples include:
- Screen magnification software. This is software installed on a normal computer, which allows the user to enlarge the image screen. This would generally be used by someone with some vision.
- Screen reading software. This is software installed on a normal computer, which converts text on the screen to speech. The user typically listens using headphones so as not to disrupt others. This would generally be used by someone with little or no sight.
Case study: The impact of a work-based assessment
Lucy works as a solicitor for a major international law firm, where she specialises in contract law.
A few years ago, when putting in her contact lenses she realised that she could not see fully out of one eye. It was like a curtain had been drawn across her vision. After surgery to repair her eye, she he was left with distortion when looking at text and sensitivity to light.
Lucy spoke to her line manager, and they weren't sure what to do or what adjustments they could make to help. Their Occupational Health service requested input from RNIB and a work-based assessment was arranged.
RNIB's assessor recommended screen magnification software, a monitor and keyboard and a portable video magnifier to read text. The assessor also made suggestions for changes in the working environment to make things easier.
Lucy had been unsure about how it would even be possible to use a computer with the changes she had in her eyesight and worried about losing her job. The work-based assessment gave her the confidence she needed to return to work. Now Lucy and her employer are happy and they have both benefitted from the results of a simple intervention.
Lucy said: “I was told about some wonderful equipment - some very high tech, and others very simple. RNIB gave me lots of tips for making work more comfortable, and I felt listened to by experienced practitioners. I can’t thank my employer and RNIB enough for supporting me back to a job I enjoy after a challenging time in my life.”
For more information on the RNIB and making the workplace more accessible, contact their Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or by email Helpline@rnib.org.uk