Vision impairment is not uncommon in Australia. It’s estimated that around 453,000 people in Australia are blind or have low vision, and this number may increase to 564,000 by 2030. Though a significant portion of the population struggles with vision issues, finding and staying in a job is still challenging for many of them. There have been many policies and laws made to make workplaces more accessible, safe, and inclusive, but discrimination and systematic barriers are keeping many of them from finding stable work. Here are some obstacles for those with vision impairment and blindness in the workplace and what businesses can do to support them and protect their rights.
Workplaces are not always accessible for those with vision impairment. The lack of adapted adjustments or the inability to accommodate their needs makes it considerably more challenging for them to do their jobs effectively. Legally, this inability to make the necessary changes for vision-impaired employees at work can be considered disability discrimination. As such, it is required for businesses to adapt workplace environments and resources to allow employees with vision issues to work effectively and excellently. This would include providing adaptive technology or tactile resources to ensure they are treated fairly and equally.
Lack of employer confidence
Many vision-impaired individuals struggle with finding a job, as employer confidence regarding hiring people with low vision or blindness is particularly low. Around 83% of Australian businesses lack confidence in hiring someone with a vision impairment. Many believe these employees will be held back by their disabilities and hamper business productivity. During job interviews, disclosing vision impairment issues often lowers people’s chances of getting the job. If the disability is not mentioned, hiring goes more smoothly. Still, workplaces may be unwilling to adjust even if the employee has the tools and technology to work efficiently. Preconceived biases and beliefs regarding vision-impaired individuals can make it challenging to land a stable job, regardless of whether they have the qualifications to suit the role.
How can businesses accommodate vision-impaired staff?
Ensuring wellness at work is a significant responsibility for business, including eye health. They must adhere to their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide a working environment that is healthy, safe and risk-free. Regarding eye care, employees are typically responsible for any personal eyewear, technology, or tools needed to enhance their vision; however, workplaces can assist in other areas. Encouraging and providing easy access to or covering the costs of eye care services, such as eye tests, can be a big help in making the workplace more accommodating for low-vision and blind employees — especially as eye exams can now be scheduled conveniently online. Brands like OPSM have a “finder” feature for their eye test appointments, letting users book eye tests in a nearby store. Few people get eye tests regularly, so making it easier for all employees to get the proper care can help improve workplace welfare.
Employers are also legally required to ensure a discrimination-free environment. The Disability Discrimination Act covers low vision and blindness, making it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their disability. Making the necessary adjustments, preventing hate speech and discriminatory remarks, and providing aid to people with vision impairment are the responsibilities of businesses that employ them. Australia has made significant strides to make workplaces more inclusive and safe for marginalised individuals, from tightening sexual harassment policies to enhancing protection for people with disabilities. Employers planning to hire or work with people with vision impairment should know their legal obligations to improve the work environment.