three photos of people using technology at work -- a woman using a laptop, a man wearing a suit and glasses, using a traditional keyboard and a large monitor, and a woman using a high-contrast keyboard and magnified screen

At AFB we are committed to supporting blind and low vision individuals who are in the workforce or are striving to join the workforce. We know that for job seekers who are visually impaired, there are often technology obstacles that affect their obtainment of employment and that once employed, they may encounter accessibility barriers that impact their productivity. They also find solutions to overcome barriers. We want to shed light on these challenges, and the solutions that mitigate them, through our Workplace Technology Study.

What Are Our Research Questions?

  • What are the technology experiences (training, tools used, required job tasks, barriers, wishes) of workers with visual impairments who are in the workforce, seeking to join the workforce, or employed in the workforce within the last 5 years?
  • What mainstream and assistive technology tools allow workers with visual impairments to be successful and productive in their work tasks?
  • How do workers use assistive technology in all aspects of employment?
  • How has telework impacted employment opportunities?
  • How do individuals with visual impairments learn to use assistive technology and other accommodations?

How Are We Going to Answer Our Research Questions?

To answer our questions, we are taking a multi-pronged approach by doing the following:

  1. We reviewed the literature to learn about effective practices and barriers for people with visual impairments when it comes to employment. We examined the responsibilities that employees have in the workforce and the tools they use, both mainstream and assistive, to get their work done.
  2. We conducted focus groups to hear from employees who are blind and who have low vision to identify patterns of experience and common challenges. We also checked in with some sighted employees because we wanted to know how the experiences of those with vision loss differ from the experiences of those who are sighted. Listen to our Inform & Connect podcast where Dr. Rosenblum and Ms. Bolander share what we learned.
  3. We collected data through a survey of individuals who are blind or have low vision, are employed, seeking employment, or have worked in the last 5 years. In order to gather data from a broad cross-section of individuals, our accessible survey collected data on a wide range of topics.
  4. We will be diving in deeper through interviews of a sample of workers who are visually impaired who took part in our survey. We will look more in-depth at the experiences of these workers.

What’s the Timeframe for the Research?

We have completed the literature review and the focus groups. During February 2021 we collected more than 450 surveys that we are currently analyzing. Interviews will follow in March and April.

Through our four-pronged approach we will be able to present a robust report that will summarize our study findings and contain recommendations for software and hardware developers, assistive technology companies, employers, rehabilitation staff, and individuals with visual impairments.

Who Can I Reach Out to For More Information?

Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, AFB’s Director of Research, is heading up this study. Please email her at prosenblum@afb.org.

Who Is Financing This Research?

AFB appreciates the generosity of the donors who have made contributions to fund this research. The donors have no access to the study data. They will receive the same report that will be available on the AFB website for anyone to read and will be sent to participants who request a copy at the end of the survey.

The donors are:

eSight
Google
Hadley
JP Morgan Chase
LCI Foundation
Microsoft
James H. and Alice Teubert Foundation
Vispero