Benefits of Hiring a Blind or Low-Vision Employee

Individual wearing suit and sunglasses

Are you looking to recruit from a pool of WORKERS who are . . .

  • Qualified
  • Safe
  • Dedicated
  • Reliable
  • Conscientious
  • Literate
  • Productive

Recruit from a pool of WORKERS who are…blind or low vision!

Your workplace will benefit from the general attributes common among employees who are blind or low vision, as well as benefit from a diverse workforce, an inclusive environment, and employee retention.

Attributes of Blind and Low-Vision Workers

Safe

There is ample evidence that blind and low-vision workers are as safe, if not safer, on the job than their sighted co-workers. A national study by pollster Louis Harris reported approximately half of the employers they surveyed believed disabled employees actually had fewer accidents on the job. A quarter were unsure if there was any difference at all. Additional studies report the same positive message that people who are blind/ low vision people are at no greater risk of accidents than sighted workers. Employers’ group health insurance rates will not increase due to hiring a person who is blind or low vision, nor will worker compensation rates increase. Insurance rates are based on the company’s industry and insurance usage, not employee characteristics.

Reliable

Employers can rest assured that their employees who are blind/ low vision will come to work and be productive. Employees who are blind/ low vision will handle their transportation to and from work. They may ride with colleagues, friends, or family members; use buses or trains; make arrangements with taxis or hired drivers; or walk to arrive at work on time. The same Louis Harris poll indicated that 39% of employers felt their employees with disabilities were more reliable than employees without disabilities, and 42% felt their reliability was comparable to those without disabilities.

Literate

Many workers who are blind/ low vision can read regular print and write with the help of reading glasses, magnifiers, or screen enlargement programs on their computers. Likewise, many workers who are blind/ low vision can read and write using braille, reading machines, and computers with speech or braille output. Employers will find that, on the whole, blind and low vision workers can access most written materials and produce print materials for their sighted colleagues and customers.

Affordable

The equipment workers use with low vision to do their jobs is comparable to that used by most other workers. Although workers who are blind/ low vision may need some adapted tools and equipment, often, the rehabilitation agency in your state will help offset the initial expense of assistive devices that will help the worker maintain productivity. In addition, many blind/low-vision workers have tools they can use to get started on the job while special devices are on order. The expense of providing accommodations is easily recouped by having workers who are consistent in attendance, diligent, and loyal.

And how does the workplace generally improve after hiring someone blind or low vision?

The Benefits of a Diverse Workplace

A diverse workforce is one in which employees include a blend of different looks, different backgrounds, different outlooks, different ways of thinking, and different thoughts. A company that takes full advantage of a diverse workforce needs to do (or have done) the following:

  • Build a truly diverse workforce, including, where qualified, people with disabilities.
  • Build an understanding of differences so that differences become non-threatening.
  • Build an inclusive corporate environment.

To use differences effectively to their best advantage, a company must recognize, embrace, and blend the differences in the employee base.

Using differences effectively will:

  • Drive innovation
  • Improve employee morale and productivity
  • Increase retention and reduce the cost associated with turnover
  • Enhance the corporate reputation
  • Grow product design and development
  • Target marketing and increase market share

All of these will help grow your business.

Hiring an individual who is blind or low vision will increase your workplace’s diversity. Building a diverse work environment also helps in employee retention.

Employee Retention

Getting and keeping the right people is critical to any business.

As the baby boomers reach retirement age and leave the workforce, the knowledge they possess is too frequently leaving with them.

Younger workers show low retention rates. They invested little in the company in the early years, so their movement is easy. One factor that can influence them to leave is if they perceive the environment as one where they can’t get a leg up—they don’t get an equal chance. This is especially true for members of minority groups.

Value of an Inclusive Environment

An open, inclusive environment will foster employee retention by demonstrating the value of diversity and its sister, equal opportunity. Inclusion of workers who are blind and low vision is a fast, highly visible, and inexpensive way to demonstrate an open, inclusive environment.

Turnover is lower for workers who are blind/ low vision. Based on the experiences of major corporations, employees who are blind/ low vision show lower turnover rates than sighted employees.

  • The South Carolina State Commission for the Blind operates a customer service training program, placing graduates into a call center serving major rental car companies. They hired 15 employees who are blind/ low vision over three years into their call center. Despite the overall high turnover in the center, 14 remain with the company (1 was dismissed for poor attendance after all appropriate remedies were exhausted). Ninety percent of this group consistently performs in the top 25 percent for all productivity ratings.
  • Hiring workers who are blind/ low vision improved retention and productivity. The Marriott Global Reservation Sales and Customer Care Center, an international hotel reservations center based in Santa Ana, California, modified its Pathways to Independence training program and developed partnerships with various organizations specifically to locate, hire, and train associates who are blind/ low vision. Graduates of the program staff the reservation center as Customer Care and Sales Specialists. Many have competed for and have been promoted to other positions. The program was launched to address the company’s difficulty in finding and keeping qualified workers. Turnover and productivity standards are no longer problematic.

It’s easy to see that hiring individuals who are blind or low vision benefits your entire workplace.

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