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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodations

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A businessman with his arms outstretched, showing a number of electronic devices.

My time in the workplace has spanned nearly 25 years. During that time, I have used low tech and high tech equipment to do my job. These items have comprised my arsenal of assistive technology in the office. Some of these items include:

Because my vision loss occurred slowly over several years, I progressed through these various tools. Chalking up more and more knowledge about the process of requesting reasonable accommodations, implementing accommodations, and fine-tuning these accommodations.

Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodation

Here are a few tips to power up your request for reasonable accommodations.

  1. Familiarize Yourself with Job Accommodations

    Woman sitting down looking at a computer screen with enlarged text

    If you are a student transitioning from college into the workforce, you are most likely familiar with lots of accommodations already. But, if you have recently been diagnosed with vision loss, you have some homework to do.

    Accommodations can range from workspace adaptations to assistive technology to flexible work schedules. Make it your goal to learn about the various accommodations that people who are blind or visually impaired use. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a very good place to start. By reviewing JAN, you will figure out what is relevant to your situation. You may learn about something you never thought would be helpful to you too.

  2. Educate Your Manager

    I found myself educating my managers about my eye condition and ways to maintain or improve my performance. Ask your manager for a meeting. Prepare to discuss ways you believe an accommodation could help you be more effective at work. Print out accommodation descriptions, bring a brochure of a product, a list of websites, or anything that gives your manager more information.

  3. Be Patient

    If you require screen magnification or screen reader software, your manager may engage the IT department. Together, they can determine how best to implement the software into their computer system. Whenever the technical jargon started flying, I stood back. Ultimately, the software needs to work with the company’s system, so I let the experts handle it.

    But, be patient. Sometimes the IT department takes time testing the software. Stay engaged with your manager during this time. It is not an opportunity to slack off. Ask for other tasks or duties during the downtime.

  4. Communicate Problems

    Businessman sitting at a table, talking with a businesswoman

    Anytime something new is implemented expect a few problems at the beginning. Again, be patient. Keep track of problems by making notes about them. Later, ask your manager for time to discuss them together. Because it is all in the interest of making you more productive and effective, your manager will listen. Caution though. Do not make it a gripe session. Be professional while you inform her of the problems. Most likely, she will not be in a position to give you answers on the spot. She will need the time to work with the appropriate department to resolve the problems.

  5. Kindness & Gratitude

    I remember feeling upset by the loss of control. Dealing with vision loss and the changes it caused at work became difficult. Sometimes I snapped at coworkers or felt hopeless when talking with a manager. What did I fail to realize during those moments? I was dealing with other human beings who have their own thoughts and emotions too. For the majority of them, I was their first interaction with visual impairment. They did not innately understand how to work with someone in my situation. Their learning curve was steep. Mine too!

    Regardless of the frustrations, I should have shown them more kindness and gratitude. We were all in a unique situation. I could have said more sincere, heartfelt thanks to my managers for their efforts. I could have thanked my coworkers a little more when they gave me assistance, but I was too focused on myself and my feelings to build better relationships with them.

    So, remember, even though you are the one going through the tough time, very few people around you know what challenges confront you. Professional courtesy dictates that you show kindness and gratitude to managers and coworkers at all times. It will pay off later.

Let me sum it all up now.

An older man and woman at a desk in business attire working on a computer together

Requesting an accommodation requires work on your part. Consequently, you may end up educating your manager and others about the need for it. Patience is important to practice during the implementation of the accommodation. Noting any problems or issues helps you communicate effectively with your manager after implementation. You should express your kindness and gratitude throughout the process to build better working relationships too.

Next time you need an accommodation, power it up!

Resources for Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Job Accommodations

What Does "Reasonable Accommodation" Mean?

Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Common Job Accommodation Questions and Their Answers for Employees with Visual Impairments and Their Employers

Facilitating the Accommodations Process

Employment and Workplace Adaptations for Adults Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

Low Vision
Planning for the Future
There are currently 3 comments

Re: Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodations

Hi Steve,
Great life lessons reading your post and impressed that the majority of the lessons I learned from your post are simple. Simple, but at the same time filled with crucial key attitudes that can change any game. Kindness and gratitude, wow! Thank you for sharing it, keen to read more from you.
Would you mind to talk a little bit more about good practices, for example, how someone can make you feel safe, appreciated, what colleagues presented you without you asking that gave you extra strength to go the extra mile? Hope that happened, if not maybe you can think of best practices to be presented to colleagues without disabilities, so it can make someone facing transition better.

Re: Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodations

Hi Monteirod,

Best Practices is an interesting way to look at how coworkers treat each other in the work place and you got me to think about what they might be and here's my take. Do you remember the book, "Everything I Need I Learned in Kindergarten"? A great many of the lessons we were taught as children really apply well in the workplace, whether you have a disability or not. Be kind. Treating each other kindly is never in appropriate or out of place. Be helpful. If someone is having difficulty on the job, offer to help. Offer is the key word in that last sentence. If you, as a sighted person offers a blind coworker help, and they decline, don't get mad or be offended. They know best what they need and you may not realize they have tools or techniques that you cannot even imagine. Learn from each other. Don't be afraid to ask questions about how a coworker with a visual impairment is accomplishing tasks. You just might learn something about those tools or techniques mentioned before. Share. As a person with a visual impairment, share your successes and your struggles with your coworkers, they might have solutions you aren't aware of because of their experience. As a sighted coworker, share your successes and your struggles. (Does this sound familiar?) Your blind coworker may have ideas you never considered. Treat others the way you want to be treated. This is a two way street...just remember that people with visual impairments are people first. They are just like everyone else, just different. Using different senses, tools, techniques and possessing different skills, but still just people. People come in all shapes and sizes, with different personalities and attitudes, and no two are the same. Don't assume that the new coworker who is blind is just like the last person you knew who was blind. Meet the new person with openness and find out who they are as an individual...just like you hope they will do with you. I hope this answers your question and that Steve will also share his thoughts.

Re: Power Up Your Request for Reasonable Accommodations

Hi Monteirod

First, thank you very much for the compliment. I’m touched and encouraged by your feedback.

Second, Neva’s suggestions are excellent practices.

Third, open minded colleagues can make this process easier for a blind and visually impaired co-worker. Colleagues who offer a warm, friendly introduction is a fantastic start. An open offer of assistance, as needed, provides a bit of assurance too. It clears the way for a blind or visually impaired colleague to ask for assistance in a confident, comfortable manner.

Social skills and communication skills are super important for all involved. The proverbial “two way street.” When these skills are developed and practiced, the easier these situations become.

I hope that helps Monteirod. Thank you!

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