Description of Employment Barriers: Access to Assistive Technology and Research Needs
Persons with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision) continue to be substantially underrepresented in the competitive labor market. The unemployment rates of those aged 21–64 who are visually impaired and actively looking for employment range from 66% to 78%, depending on the severity of vision loss and the database used to compute the data (Leonard, 1999; McNeil, 2000; Turpin, Sebesta, Yelin, & LePlante, 1997). These figures are significantly higher than the 5.6%–17% rates estimated for the general population (Turpin et al., 1997; U.S. Department of Labor, 2002). Ongoing progress and innovation in technology and access to information is improving the quality of life for all, including persons with visual impairments, but there is concern that individuals with disabilities will be unable to use the expanding technology because of access problems. Only 33% of persons with work disabilities aged 15–64 have computers in their homes, compared to 56% of those without disabilities (Kaye, 2000).