Blindness and low vision

The aim of this guide is to raise awareness of blindness and low vision at work so that blind and partially sighted people can fully exploit their capacities in the service of their professional ambitions.

This guide is intended for blind and partially sighted people and employers.

Thanks to B. Louis for his contribution.

I. Blindness and low vision in the professional world

What is blindness and low vision?

Visual handicap refers to disorders linked to visual function (therapeutic, medical, surgical, etc.).

It is defined using two criteria: the state of the visual field (extent of the space that an eye can grasp) and the measurement of visual acuity (ability of an eye to appreciate details) .

From there, we can distinguish two categories of people with visual impairment:

– The blind, suffering from blindness, whose corrected visual acuity is less than or equal to 1/20

– The visually impaired, with amblyopia, whose visual acuity after correction of the better eye is between 4/10 and 1/10.

In addition, there are 4 types of visual difficulties ( to go further on the different vision pathologies )

  • Blurry Vision: As the title suggests, it indicates seeing “blurry”. Even though the items can be “seen”, they cannot be clearly identified.
  • A narrowed field of vision: The field of vision is largely narrowed, only the central vision remains. This very often means being able to see only what is strictly in front of us. It is therefore more difficult to distinguish what surrounds us
  • Peripheral vision: It is the reverse of the narrowed visual field. It is possible to see what is on the side, on the other hand, what is in front is no longer visible.
  • Complete blindness

These different visual difficulties can vary in severity. For far vision, we distinguish 4 stages of visual difficulties:

  • Mild – visual acuity between 6/12 and 6/18.
  • Moderate – visual acuity between 6/18 and 6/60.
  • Severe – visual acuity between 6/60 and 3/60.
  • Blindness – visual acuity less than 3/60.

Thus, there is not ONE but DES visual impairments which vary according to the type and the severity of the visual difficulty.

These different difficulties have more or less severe consequences on certain capacities related to visual function such as:

– Reading and writing

– Activities of daily living

– Communication

– Assessment of space and travel

– The pursuit of an activity requiring prolonged maintenance of visual attention.

Each person who is blind or partially sighted will have a different degree of vision and therefore different needs. Some may have full view while others may not be able to see anything. Supports such as the white cane or guide dog can be used by people who are blind or visually impaired, but this is not always the case. These are choices made by people based on their needs and beliefs.

Tips for integrating blindness and low vision into the world of work

Organization

– Coordinate with your colleagues to have your things in one place. Ask to be notified if they are moved.

– Discuss with your colleagues how you prefer to be guided (if necessary)

– Ask for key information to find your way within the department (contacts) and within the company. If you want, you can request it in audio format

– Request all the material, technical and support arrangements that you feel are necessary to carry out your tasks:

  1. Bigger, brighter screen so you can easily see content.
  2. Text-to-speech software to transcribe in writing what you say orally and to transcribe orally what is written.
  3. Magnification software to facilitate zooming on the screen.
  4. Other tools to make everyday life more pleasant ( Adapted keyboards, Braille tablets) .

Communication

– The meetings:

  1. Ask for a tour de table at the start of a meeting so that you know who is present and where they are in the room.
  2. Depending on your needs, you can request that the text be large or zoomed in, or request that the content be described precisely orally.

– Communication with colleagues:

    1. Specify if you want to be touched without being notified
    2. Tell your colleagues how you prefer to be compared to them, when you talk
    3. Tell your co-workers that if more than one person is speaking at the same time, it may be more difficult for you to identify the person speaking.
    4. Specify that when someone speaks to you, it may be easier for them to indicate their first name
    5. Ask to be notified when someone working next to you is away and when they return

    Please note that there are many degrees of visual impairment. Thus, the candidates will not have the same needs. Here are guidelines that can be adjusted according to your employees

    Communication

    – When addressing the blind person, make it clear that you are addressing them

    Never touch the person suddenly without asking permission, except in an emergency. If you offer her help, wait until she allows you to do so.

    – During a meeting,

    To. if the person is blind, you can describe the content

    b. if the person is visually impaired, you can put the content in a suitable format

    – Allow the person to speak at the meeting by clearly mentioning their name

    – Make sure you get all of your messages orally

    Provide an alternative if there are presentations by overhead projector. The vast majority of visually impaired and blind people cannot read the information on the overhead projector (meeting for example). Solutions can be access to a laptop computer to have access to the content or to privilege the oral as much as possible.

    – During a group exchange, go around the table so the blind or visually impaired person can find their way around

    Do not speak louder, the decibels will not compensate for the exchange of glances. People with visual impairments usually hear very well

    – When you meet your colleague, say “hello, I am such” because if he recognizes your voice in the premises of the service, he may be surprised to meet you elsewhere.

    – When you walk away for a few moments or answer your phone which vibrates silently in your pocket, notify it of your departure and your return to prevent it from continuing to speak in a vacuum. Close the doors behind you or leave them wide open if it is customary, but especially not ajar, a position in which a visually impaired person risks bumping into their face and injuring their face.

    Organization

    – Allow the visually impaired or blind person to have their belongings in the same place. She must be warned if you move them.

    – Discuss with your blind or visually impaired colleague on how he / she prefers to be guided

    Blindness, visual impairment and Recognition as a Disabled Worker

    What is recognition as a disabled worker?

    Blindness and low vision are recognized as a handicap by the House of Handicapped Persons (MDPH). Thus, a deaf and blind person is eligible for the Recognition as a Disabled Worker (RQTH). The RQTH is the administrative recognition of disability. Do not hesitate to apply for RQTH if you think it could be of benefit to you.

    What are the advantages?

    RQTH is not mandatory. However, it is important because it allows:

    – to benefit from schedule arrangements for medical and therapeutic appointments.

    – to benefit from advantages during recruitment within certain companies. Companies are subject to a quota of 6% of employees with an RQTH. Certain recruitment policies are advantageous for people with RQTH in order to reach these quotas.

    – benefit from the implementation of workstation arrangements as recommended by occupational medicine

    – to access services and financial aid from AGEFIPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a private structure) or FIFPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a public structure)

    – to benefit from special rules in the event of termination of an employment contract, such as doubling the length of the notice of dismissal.

    – access to rehabilitation and vocational training courses in the event of incapacity for your former profession.

    How to apply for his RQTH? To apply for his RQTH, you must complete a file to send to the departmental MDPH. The file is detailed here .

    When is it possible to request RQTH? RQTH’s application is a big step. It recognizes the handicap administratively. It is not always easy to apply for RQTH. Some blind or visually impaired people will consider themselves to be disabled, others will not. The advantage of RQTH is that it protects and encourages companies to adapt the work environment to the individual’s needs.

    The other difficulty is that disability can be seen as something personal that some people do not want to share with the whole company. It is important to note that the RQTH is CONFIDENTIAL. It is possible to share it only with the occupational physician, who will do what is necessary to adapt the position. There is no obligation to speak to the disability manager of the company or to human resources, even if this can help to have a daily follow-up.

    Visual handicap is recognized as a handicap by the MDPH. Thus, a blind or partially sighted person is eligible for the RQTH, which counts blind or partially sighted people in the 6% quota. The person can also request their RQTH when they are employed in your company. The request takes a maximum of 6 months.

    Possible arrangements to help the blind or visually impaired person

    Material fit-out

    • Adequate lighting to help the visually impaired or blind while limiting fatigue. This must be the case on her workstation but also on the passages she uses daily (example: install lamps adjustable in intensity and color temperature or install blinds to limit natural light)
    • Computer screen: for the visually impaired, the position of the screen in relation to the window (s) is essential, avoiding reflections as much as possible. The size of the screen can vary for the visually impaired (depending on the need), the most used software is the screen magnification (zoom) coupled with a speech synthesis for screen reading (more particularly for blind people ). The use of voice synthesis on a daily basis requires a quiet place and not a noisy open space
    • Other computer equipment: Adapted keyboards, braille tablets, speech synthesis software, anti-glare filters, a tele-magnifier and an electronic magnifier

    Accompaniement

    • Depending on the visual impairment, the blind or visually impaired person may need a support to move around. This can be done using a guide dog, a white cane or a colleague.

    For exhaustive arrangements, you can consult the sheet produced by AGEFIPH

    II. Blindness, low vision and interviews

    The interview is an exercise with multiple challenges, for the candidate and for the company. When disability comes into play, assessment and decision making become more complex. The candidate, for his part, is apprehensive that his visual handicap is blocking opportunities.

    Before the interview

    The interview is a complicated exercise, because it is an exercise where the way in which one interacts with the recruiter is important. However, you are quite capable of shining during this exercise!

    Whether or not to declare blindness or visual impairment

    The declaration of blindness or visually impaired (in the CV, in the cover letter) is your right before or during the interview. There is no obligation. Declaring their blindness or visual impairment in the CV or cover letter allows recruiters to make the necessary adjustments during the interviews. The declaration before the interview allows you to be frank about your blindness or visual impairment and not having to overcompensate to hide or limit your stuttering.

    If you don’t mention stuttering in your resume or cover letter, you can talk about it when Human Resources contacts you to schedule the interview.

    The main downside is that there are still a lot of prejudices. The purpose of this page is to limit prejudices. The advantage of talking about blindness or low vision before the interview is that it allows the company to schedule extra time for you if necessary. Talking about it also allows you to be less focused on the stuttering, because the recruiter will already be aware of it, so they will be less surprised.

    You will find here our guide to the declaration of disability in the business world.

    Prepare for your interview

    Ask about

    – Find out about the company (what are its activities? What are the latest news?)

    – Learn about the job you are interviewing for. If available, you can read the job description and learn about the skills required and the tasks to be done.

    Request information

    – Make sure you have all the information to access the company’s premises. If you need arrangements to access the premises, specify them upstream.

    – Ask recruiters what dress code is required. If the requested outfit does not make you comfortable, you can ask to put on an outfit that makes you comfortable.

    – Ask recruiters with whom you will be interviewing. You can then find out about your contacts upstream (by looking on LinkedIn in particular).

    – Ask recruiters what is the format of the interview. (Interview with a person, case study, group interview, access plan, etc.). This will allow you to better prepare yourself and let the recruiter know before the interview if any of the interview formats may be more complicated for you. For example; if there are any written or reading tests, specify the accommodations you need.

    Prepare what you are going to say about yourself

    The recruiter may ask you to introduce yourself and ask you questions about your motivations, strengths and skills, and past experiences.

    Introduce yourself: You can give your first name, your last name, say what studies you have done and speak in 1 sentence (20 to 30 words maximum) about one of your passions

    Motivations : List a maximum of 3 reasons for your motivation. It is important to develop your motivations in 2 short sentences. These sentences can answer the question “why this motivation”)

    Strengths and skills : You can list your 3 main strengths for this position. It can be your skills (in code, graphics, math etc.) or your personality traits (courageous, persevering etc.). You can illustrate these strengths with an example each time

    Past experiences : The employer will ask you to present 1 or 2 experiences that you have had. This can be professional, associative, sports or student experiences (university project). For each experience you can

    1. Describe what you did
    2. Describe the result of what you did
    3. Describe what you have learned and learned from your work.

      Talk about blindness or low vision during the interview

      Talking about your stuttering is a very personal thing. Being able to talk about it with a recruiter can:

      1. Create a bond with the recruiter. You share something very personal. You share part of your vulnerability. It’s something that touches people and creates a bond beyond the interview
      2. Help recruiters understand you better and understand blindness and low vision.

      When to talk about it? :

      At the start of the interview or at the end of the interview

      How to talk about it? :

      – Factually: say what it means for you in terms of skills and difficulties

      – Positively: say it factually, adding a sentence about what stuttering bring you. the stuttering helps develop a lot of skills that can be very useful in the world of work.

      In an interview, it is often difficult to go beyond a difference such as visual impairment. If the person has been interviewed, it means that they have a profile that meets your expectations. Despite all the skills that we can see, we tend to favor candidates without disabilities over different candidates.

      First of all, make it clear to the candidate that if he has a disability, he can share it upstream, and this is important so that the interview is adapted and the recruiter can prepare and obtain information.

      Please note that there are many degrees of visual impairment. Thus, the candidates will not have the same needs. Here are some guidelines that can be adjusted according to the candidates.

      – If you know beforehand that the candidate is visually impaired or blind,

      1. Be as clear as possible about the conditions of access to the premises and the possible routes, making sure you make the necessary arrangements. You can in particular send a voice explaining the directions to arrive at the place of the interview, send an access plan which is enlarged.
      2. Specify the format of the interview upstream
      3. Coordinate with the candidate to identify the necessary accommodations. Pay attention to the format of the interviews. For interviews where there are texts and / or written tests, it is necessary to ensure the necessary adjustments (zoomed texts + additional time if necessary, oral transcription of the text). For interviews with several people, it will be necessary to remember to specify the location of each person
      4. Reserve a room with a minimum of noise so that the candidate can hear you as well as possible
      5. Tell the interviewer to read the part below “during the interview”
      6. Provide an alternative if there are presentations by overhead projector. The vast majority of visually impaired and blind people cannot read the information on the overhead projector (meeting for example). Solutions can be access to a laptop computer to have access to the content or to privilege the oral as much as possible.

      Here are some additional avenues to prepare before the interview to judge the candidate as objectively as possible:

      – Before taking into account the candidate ‘s visual impairment , does he have the necessary skills for the position ?

      – Can we adapt the position to their visual impairment?? See the layout section.

      – Can the tasks be done differently? Certain tasks of the position could be performed just as well by the dyslexic person if an approach corresponding to his specificities is permitted.

      – Are the skills limited by the visual handicap compensated by those which the visual handicap develops? ? During the interview, ask positive questions about visual impairment (the biggest wins with visual impairment, what visually impaired can bring). This will have a benefit for you, because it will allow you to understand the visual handicap as something other than a constraint, and for the candidate, it will be able to put him in confidence and reassure him.

      During the interview

      General advice

      – Be at the interview 10 minutes early.

      – Put your phone on silent.

      Maintenance tips

      – The gaze is a key communication channel. If you are not maintaining the gaze for some reason related to your blindness or partially sightedness, you can talk about your difference or simply explain “I may not constantly maintain the gaze”.

      – If you need to wear sunglasses during the interview, specify that it is for medical reasons

      – Pay attention to your non-verbal language (expression of the face, hands, body, and tone of voice). The message goes through all channels, it is key to be aware of your non-verbal language beyond the simple background (what we are going to say)

      – Do not rush to answer a question, take your time. If necessary, say you need a few more seconds. The most important thing is that you are satisfied with your answer.

      – Specify, at the start of the interview, the specific adjustments you may need to ensure that the recruiter has all the information. Do not hesitate to point out when a situation may prove to be more complicated for you (text to read, written tests with limited time, several people present during the interview). The interview can be tailored, offering content you can read or changing the format to suit you best. It is your right to say so and it is the recruiter’s duty to ensure that you are in the best possible conditions.

      – If you don’t understand a question, don’t panic. Ask the other person to repeat it.

      – Do not base your impression on the visual handicap, but on the whole discussion with the blind or visually impaired person.

      – Speak clearly. Take your time and make sure the candidate understands.

      – If there are several people in the room, indicate who is who in terms of location in relation to the candidate

      Provide an alternative if there are presentations by overhead projector. The vast majority of visually impaired and blind people cannot read information on the overhead projector (meeting for example). Solutions can be access to a laptop computer to have access to the content or to privilege the oral as much as possible.

      – If there are written texts, written productions or written tests, ensure that the candidate has the necessary arrangements (rough text, extra time, oral transcription).

      – If you need to move around the room, you can describe the room and how it is set up.

      – If you move around the room, specify so that the candidate is not surprised

      Take an interest in what his disability has allowed him to do. The adventures lived are a gold mine to get to know the person and discover all his skills. Be careful, some people will be less open on this subject, in this case, respect their restraint.

      Remember to be transparent with your interlocutor. If he tells you about his visual impairment, be honest about your position on it. If you have any doubts, ask the candidate for examples of situations similar to those they will encounter on the job.

      If you think the person is visually impaired or blind but dare not say so, you can ask if the person has RQTH, you can put the person at ease and show that disability is not a taboo. However, it is not allowed to ask a person if they have a specific disability. understand and answer the question.

      – Give the candidate time to understand and answer the question.

      III. Blindness, low vision and work

      Daily work is made up of professional tasks and all formal and informal exchanges between colleagues. Visual impairment can thus prove to be a real challenge, both for colleagues and for the person themselves.

      Work integration

      The visual handicap can require strong daily compensations which tire and take a significant part of the energy. Your difference can be felt, which is why it is important to explain why you are different. Saying it verbally is complicated because we share something (very) personal with a stranger.

      For advice on everyday work, see the section of part one.

      Inform about their visual impairment

      You can inform your company about your visual impairment through different channels (written or oral) and different people (human resources, manager, colleague, occupational physician, etc.)

      Here you will find our complete guide on talking about your disability here

      Team awareness

      Some people will come to work with you every day. Giving them precise information on the visual handicap and above all, your visual handicap, will allow them to better understand your difference and facilitate daily collaboration. To educate your team, you can:

      – Share this page.

      – A presentation can be made to your team. It can be done by someone outside, by someone in the company, or by yourself if you wish.

      Assert yourself at work :

      The world of work is demanding. Visual impairment involves thriving in this world with a difference. You shouldn’t hesitate to say what makes you uncomfortable or ask for what you want, because if you don’t, no one will do it for you. It is true that it is often quite complicated, but you should not hesitate because it is your right.

      – Some tasks may not be assigned to a visually impaired or blind person because colleagues may find that these will be more complicated. If you want to do these tasks, ask your manager clearly.

      – If you wish to speak but you are unable to take it, communicate it, either in the meeting chat or orally, even if it means interrupting the meeting for a short time.

      Organization

      – Coordinate with your coworkers to have your business in one place. Ask to be notified if they are moved.

      – Discuss with your colleagues how you prefer to be guided (if necessary)

      – Ask for key information to find your way within the department (contacts) and within the company. If you wish, you can request it in written form

      – Request all the material, technical and support arrangements that you feel are necessary to carry out your tasks

      Communication

      – Specify to your colleagues the communication codes which are the simplest for you:

      1. To be touched without being warned?
      2. How to communicate during meetings?
      3. When there are several people in the meeting, do you have to go around the table?
      4. What kind of content would you need to see adapted in different meetings?
      5. Communication routine – Asking to be notified when a geographically close colleague leaves for a few minutes? Ask her to say her name when she talks to you.

      Visual impairment can surprise uninformed people. It can also have an impact on social life that should not be forgotten. If the blind or visually impaired person interacts in a different way, this may also be related to the visual impairment. It may be important to take this into account in teamwork.

      For advice on everyday work, see the section of part one.

      Team awareness

      – Allow the visually impaired or blind person to talk about their visual impairment and what it means for them, if they wish. Not everyone is comfortable in this situation.

      – Distribute the first informative part of this guide to all team members.

      Integration

      – Oral update with the main reference contacts within the company (for equipment, for the works council). Offer written support if she wishes

      – Assign a reference colleague within the team to facilitate communication.

      Communication

      – When addressing the blind person, make it clear that you are addressing them

      Never touch the person suddenly without asking permission, except in an emergency. If you offer her help, wait until she allows you to do so.

      – Make sure you get all of your messages orally

      Do not speak louder, the decibels will not compensate for the exchange of glances. People with visual impairments usually hear very well

      – When you meet your colleague, say “hello, I am such” because if he recognizes your voice in the premises of the service, he may be surprised to meet you elsewhere.

      – When you walk away for a few moments or answer your phone which vibrates silently in your pocket, notify it of your departure and your return to prevent it from continuing to speak in a vacuum. Close the doors behind you or leave them wide open if it is customary, but especially not ajar, a position in which a visually impaired person risks bumping into their face and injuring their face.

      In meeting

      – In a meeting, if the person is blind, you can describe the content if the person is visually impaired, you can put the content in a suitable format

      – Allow the person to speak at the meeting by clearly mentioning their name

      – During a group exchange, go around the table so the blind or visually impaired person can find their way around

      Organization

      – Allow the visually impaired or blind person to have their belongings in the same place. She must be warned if you move them.

      Discuss with your blind or visually impaired colleague on how he / she prefers to be guided

      Talk to your blind or visually impaired colleague to make sure he has all the necessary equipment to work comfortably

      Evolve at work

      Finding a job and integrating into the professional world are the first steps in a great adventure. There are several key steps that follow:

      • Validate the trial period
      • Be evaluated on the work done
      • Being promoted

      Working with a person with dyslexia is working with a person who has specific needs. These specific needs do not change the skills and work capacities of the person in any way, they only require a little more flexibility. Many tips and arrangements were offered in the first part. The issue is that people with dyslexia can be assessed at key stages in a fair way. Thus, it is conceivable to achieve less on certain aspects (in particular the interpersonal aspects) but more on other aspects (in particular the technical aspects).

      Highlight skills

      Visual impairment is often seen as a constraint. Today’s technologies give people who are blind or visually impaired the tools they need to work. One of the main challenges is above all to accept that each person has their own way of working. A blind or visually impaired person will be able to do any job, if simple accommodations are in place.

      In addition, we often forget to see the constructive aspect of The visual handicap. The daily challenges cannot be denied. These daily challenges and these different ways of understanding the world, forge and develop unsuspected skills:

      Adaptation : it is the capacity to analyze the situation and to adjust its choices according to the current state. A blind or partially sighted person must analyze and understand the situation frequently in order to make the right decision. In the professional environment, this skill makes it possible to be open to changes, to be able to take decisions quickly and to adapt when necessary. In a professional world where choices must be immediate and where knowledge evolves day by day, this skill is key.

      Listening : Oral communication being the most accessible communication channel for blind or visually impaired people, they generally develop good listening skills and auditory memory which can make it possible to memorize and understand a subject thanks to oral exchanges

      Confidence : The visually impaired or blind person may need others for “simple” tasks (getting around the company, finding an object). This implies trust in others and the information they share. This confidence is key in professional environments where cohesion between teammates is key.

      Perseverance : It is the ability to never give up and to persist in finishing a task.

      These skills are not so obvious in reality. They require a welcoming environment where the blind or visually impaired person has their place and where they are not sidelined by their difference.

      The blind or visually impaired person must also dare to face the situations which are difficult for him with his difference in order to show that he is much more than a blind or visually impaired person: he is a person with a specific experience, which allows him to develop skills that are unique to him and that are out of the ordinary.

      The condition for developing these skills is the acceptance of the difference, whether it is one’s own or that of a colleague. The crucial point is not to limit the responsibilities of the blind or visually impaired person because of his handicap. On the contrary, we need him give the opportunity to go further if it wishes, without forcing it.

      Blindness and low vision at work beyond prejudice

      A blind or visually impaired person can achieve even the most “unrealistic” dreams. Of course, the path will be more winding, but the difficulties encountered are also part of the wealth of visual impairment and what it brings to the blind or visually impaired and those around them.

      Some people who are blind or have low vision are brilliant scientists, others are business leaders, others are artists or actors. Many blind and partially sighted people are among us, and feel limited by their difference, by the way they understand it and how our society represents it.

      By going beyond prejudices, we allow people who are often stigmatized to have the right to dream and achieve their ambitions. We also provide our society with skills that we have ignored for too long. We focus on what is not possible to do, while we can focus on actions that can be done in a different way.

      Srikanth Bolla, an Indian entrepreneur born in 1992, proves that the most important faculty is to believe in your dreams. Srikanth Bolla has been blind since childhood. In the Indian school system, the arrangements were complicated. Being refused in one of the best Indian universities, he applied to major American universities and became the first blind student of MIT (American University with the same reputation as Harvard). At the end of his studies, he created Bollant industries, an environmentally friendly packaging production company. At 28, he manages dozens of employees.