Many individuals who haven’t met a visually impaired person assume that they’re unable to do most everything, especially since they cannot see. This is far from the case though. Individuals who are blind need only to be given some minor accommodations by an employer to be able to carry out their assigned job roles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes anyone that has eyesight that can’t be corrected to a functional level as having a vision impairment. More than 21.2 million adults suffer from blindness according to the National Health Interview Survey Preliminary Report which was published in 2011. Only 36.8 percent of those individuals have jobs.
There are several reasons that individuals experience blindness in the United States. It’s most commonly caused by age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. Those 40 and over are at the highest risk for these eye diseases.
Many employers avoid hiring visually impaired workers because they fear that they’ll be accident prone. They also feel that it will be too expensive to accommodate their needs. This isn’t a valid concern though.
The American Disabilities Act (ADA) extends protections to individuals with substantially limited vision. It prohibits employers from asking prospective employees if they have visual impairments. They can, however, be asked if they can work at night, read labels on packages or inspect small electronic components for damage.
An employer can ask more pointed questions about a prospective employee’s visual impairment after making a job offer. They may inquire about how long they’ve been visually impaired, how it affects their work and if they need special accommodations. No employer can lawfully withdraw an employment offer unless it becomes clear that the employee can’t perform their assigned duties.
Once an employee assumes their job role, an employer is given even more leeway in asking a worker about their medical condition. They can even ask them to submit to a medical evaluation. Job retention becomes conditioned exclusively on a worker’s ability to perform their assigned work at this stage with reasonable accommodations.
Both California and federal workplace discrimination laws exist to prohibit those with disabilities such as blindness from being treated unfairly during the hiring process and their employment. If your visual impairment was used to deny you a job or as grounds for firing you, then a disability discrimination attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit.