Our Founding Director Dan Williams takes a look at common workplace challenges faced by employees with eyesight problems and highlights a range of practical solutions.
Losing eyesight is challenging, scary and disconcerting. Having to change the way you do things, adapting to new challenges and learning new skills can be exhausting. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of vision deterioration is the uncertainty around employment.
It may be hard to tell somebody at work about your sight loss for fear of losing your job and you may struggle with tasks and suffer from eye strain or headaches because you are trying so hard to cope. You could be afraid to tell your manager in case they think you can no longer carry out your daily tasks as efficiently as you used to.
You may not realise you have difficulty seeing and convince yourself and others around you that you’re just clumsy.
Let’s think about the common symptoms of sight loss, and how experiencing them may make you feel:
• Finding the computer screen difficult to see
• Experiencing eye fatigue or pain
• Struggling to recognise colleagues
• Difficulties with navigating, especially in unfamiliar and dim environments
• Experiencing discomfort from lighting or glare
• Finding print or handwriting difficult to read
• Constant headaches and/or migraines
• Becoming more clumsy
• Not seeing your keyboard clearly due to your eyesight
• Tripping and falling more often than normal
Experiencing just one of these symptoms may make you feel uncomfortable or anxious and if not checked, in time, these feelings may escalate and cause you to struggle in both your work and private lives. It is important to know that help is available and that you don’t have to be totally blind to get support. In fact, the vast majority of visually impaired people in full-time employment, have partial vision.
Let’s take a look at the four most common problems that can occur in the workplace for people who are losing or have lost some of their eyesight. Alongside the problem, we will look at possible solutions.
This is a common issue that can be tackled in several ways. You can use a bigger or smaller screen, use an anti-glare filter or change the colour scheme and text size within Windows. If required, screen magnifying software can be used to enlarge what’s on the screen and change the colours and contrast to make content easier to see.
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 and screen magnification software, others may exclusively use a screen reading programme, depending on their level of eyesight and what works best for them.
A hand-held magnifier can be used to enlarge print, but technology can also be used. A CCTV / video magnifier can make reading easier, as can coloured filters and smartphone apps such as KNFB Reader and Seeing AI. Sometimes, scanning a document and reading it on a screen suits some people, as does experimenting with different lighting. In cases where the print is too challenging for technology to tackle, Access To Work may pay for a PA or support worker to help you read documents.
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 good quality consistent light source can make a huge difference.
Remember, your colleagues may not have ever worked with someone with reduced vision. So be loud and proud and tell them what you need and how best to communicate with you. They may also benefit from visual impairment awareness training to understand how best to support your needs.
Losing your driving license because of sight loss is common and can knock your confidence, however, there are ways to tackle the problem. Discounted rail and bus travel can be acquired with disability passes, making travel to work on public transport cheaper. However, if you have to travel to appointments within your role, or if using public transport is impractical, Access To Work may pay for taxis. This makes life a great deal easier and eliminates much of the stress.
It is important to remember that help is available and communication is often the key to starting the journey to positivity and a sense of equilibrium. The Equality Act 2010 protects you against disability discrimination and your employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments, so talk to your line manager and HR team as soon as you can.
At Visualise, we can carry out a work-based assessment which identifies the challenges you face at work. We then produce a detailed report that recommends the assistive technology and workplace adjustments that can make your role more enjoyable and productive.
So don’t suffer in silence because for every problem there is usually a workable solution as this video demonstrates…
To find out how a workplace assessment can help you regain your independence at work, visit our workplace assessments page