Facing up to Vision Loss in the Workplace
30th January 2020
This guest post was provided by Daniel Williams. Dan was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 8 and is now helping to improve the lives of others living with sight loss through his business, Visualise Training and Consultancy.
We’ll let him take it from here.
For two long years, I struggled in an administrative role when it suddenly became difficult. I was slow, clumsy and annoying myself as well as others.
No-one could tell what I was going through and how or why I was acting in this odd and cumbersome way. I knew why, I just didn’t want to admit it to myself or to anyone else; I was afraid. I thought my job would be taken away from me and I’d be unemployed, without income and with little hope of getting another job.
The answer was so simple. I just had to admit to my boss that I was experiencing loss of vision. I did not realise there was plenty of help and support out there for me and that it was easily accessible and relatively inexpensive, as you don’t know what you don’t know.
A visual reality
How many others are feeling like this? At the time I felt as if it was only me who was facing the worry and impact of the loss of my vision, whilst struggling to hold down a job.
I didn’t see beyond my own worry. I looked fine and sounded fine but couldn’t see properly, and everything became very stressful. Visual loss is often invisible loss as no-one can see what the problem is so you can get easily judged and misjudged and on the outer fringe of things, feeling helpless and isolated.
After two years, I approached my occupational health provider and explained the difficulties I was having with my vision. At last, I had spoken out loud about it and felt I had made a start.
The best thing of all was that they took immediate action by commissioning a specialist visual impairment workplace assessment – it was that simple.
To my astonishment, there was a mountain of equipment to help me which I had no idea existed and software that could magnify the screen on my PC was recommended to me. Then I discovered there was software that could talk my emails out loud and keyboards that were larger than usual so that I could now see the letters and numbers.
This speeded up the pace at which I could work – I was raring to go, I felt so much happier. Once my pace quickened, I found the confidence to tell my work colleagues that before I hadn’t been able to see very well but now that I had the right support, I felt so much better. Naturally, everyone else felt much happier too; they understood and felt relieved and could also offer me support if I needed it.
Most of all it meant I could perform my duties at work as efficiently as before and stay in my job. My colleagues also had visual impairment awareness training to help them understand how to help me best.
If you are suffering in the workplace due to limited vision, struggling to read the small print on your screen, using your keyboard or even recognising colleagues whilst you fumble around feeling awkward and clumsy, then stop.
Say it out loud
Acknowledge you have a problem with visual loss and get a workplace assessment. It will benefit working colleagues, increase productivity and add to the positive reputation of the company for which you work.
The digital market is constantly expanding and assistive technologies for people with visual impairments abound, including programming specific settings into your device focused to your condition.
An assessment will be conducted in a professional manner, and as unobtrusively as possible to minimise impact or disturbance. It will not be invasive or condemning and will be confidential.
Sight loss needn’t mean job loss, so talk to the relevant people and get your working life back on track.