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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Attributes of Workers with Vision Loss

In terms of talent, intelligence, and reliability, a cross-section of blind and visually impaired people would reveal a similar pattern to that of sighted people. The variation is the same. However, since such a small proportion of blind and visually impaired people are currently employed, the working population typically includes the best performers and most talented individuals. Experiences of companies employing blind and visually impaired people and evidence from a number of studies bear this out.

Safety

  • Average or above average on safety: A study by DuPont as validated by others, revealed that 97 percent of employees with physical disabilities were rated average or above average on safety, compared with 92 percent of unimpaired employees. See Employ-ABILITY Partnership Toolbox.
  • No higher incidence rate of illness or injury: A study on occupational injuries and illnesses by National Industries for the Blind (NIB), entitled "Incidence of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses among Workers Who Are Blind", reported that workers who are blind do not have a higher incidence rate of illness and injury than the national average. The study compiled data from 1995 through 1997 on recorded injuries, illnesses, and recent Workers' Compensation insurance rates. Similar data were obtained for comparison with for-profit employers.

Retention and Performance

  • High retention and performance: 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 visually impaired employees over a 3 year period into their call center. Despite overall high turnover in the center, 14 are still 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 productive ratings.
  • 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 visually impaired. Graduates of the program go on to staff the reservation center as Customer Care and Sales Specialists. Many have competed for and have been promoted into other positions. The program was launched to address the difficulty the company had in finding and keeping qualified workers. Turnover and productivity standards are no longer problematic.

Some Business Advantages

  • People with disabilities have equal or higher job performance ratings, higher retention rates, and lower absenteeism than their sighted peers.
  • Diverse work groups can create better solutions to business challenges.
  • Employees with disabilities can better connect your business to customers with disabilities, who represent $1 trillion in annual aggregate consumer spending.
  • Hiring people with disabilities ensures consistent application of policy and procedures among all applicants: To ensure ethical hiring practices, there must be a balanced accounting of disability, accommodations, and qualifications when making an employment decision.

What Will This Cost?

Typical accommodation costs are very low. In most cases of low vision only improved lighting and magnification are required. In addition, determining which accommodations are needed can be easy, since in many cases blind or visually impaired employees can tell you the accommodations they need. Visual impairment can range from slight difficulty reading to more severe impairment across many functions and describes the visual status of about 85 percent of the blind and visually impaired population.

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