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Sight Loss Need not Mean Job Loss

Posted by Ann Caluori | Wed, 09/03/2022 - 08:59


Guest blog by Dan Williams


Losing my eyesight was challenging, scary and disconcerting and having to change the way I do things, adapt to new challenges, and learn new skills was exhausting. One of the most difficult aspects was uncertainty around employment. It was hard to tell somebody at work about my sight loss for fear of losing my job. I struggled with tasks, suffered from eye strain and headaches because I was trying so hard to cope. I was afraid to tell my manager in case they thought I could no longer conduct tasks as efficiently as I used to. The fear of it leading to unemployment made me avoid the fact I was having difficulty seeing and I convinced myself and others around me that I was just clumsy.


Common symptoms of sight loss include finding the computer screen difficult to see, eye fatigue or pain, struggling to recognise colleagues and getting around, lighting discomfort and tiredness. Other signs include print or handwriting becoming difficult to read, constant headaches, unable to see your keyboard clearly, increase in  trips and falls and difficulty when navigating in dim or dark environments. Experiencing just one of the above may make you feel worried and anxious, and these feelings may escalate and cause you to struggle at work and home.


The Equality Act 2010 protects people against disability discrimination and employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments. It is important to know that you do not have to be blind to get help. In fact, most visually impaired people in full-time employment do not have to give up their job. With the advances in assistive technology, it is now possible to help people work effectively.


Let us look at challenges and solutions in the workplace for people who are losing or have lost some of their eyesight:


I cannot see my computer screen very well anymore...

You can use a bigger or smaller screen, use an anti-glare filter on your screen or change the colour scheme and text size within Windows. Failing this, a special screen magnifying programme can be used to enlarge what is on the screen and change the colours and contrast. In some cases, a special piece of screen reading software such as Jaws or NVDA can be used. This will read-out what you type and tell you what is on the screen. Some people may use a mixture of screen reading software and screen magnification software, others may exclusively use screen reading software, this will depend on the needs of the employee.


I am finding print difficult to read...

A hand-held magnifier can enlarge print, but technology is also available. A CCTV/video magnifier can make reading easier, as can coloured filters and smart phone apps such as KNFB Reader and SeeingAI. Sometimes, scanning a document and reading it on a screen suits certain people, as does experimenting with different lighting.


I suffer from headaches and eye strain...

If you try to exceed the limit of your vision it can be very tiring. Sometimes, headaches and eye fatigue can be environmental, caused by bright, fluorescent overhead lighting or poor task lighting. Often, tweaks to the environment and regular breaks can help prevent discomfort. Also, a decent quality, consistent light source can make a real difference.


My sighted colleagues do not know how to support me in the best way...

Encourage employees to voice their needs. Colleagues may benefit from visual impairment awareness training to understand how best to support team members with sight loss.


I can no longer drive...

Discounted rail and bus travel is available with disability passes, making travel to work on public transport cheaper.


So, help is available, and communication is often the key to starting the journey to positivity.

Dan Williams is the founder of Visualise Training and Consultancy which promotes accessibility, inclusion, and equality for people with a visual impairment.