A career planning and employment resource for people who are blind or partially sighted

Living Independently

Employers expect all employees to exhibit independent living skills. Independent living skills include knowing how to take care of yourself and others who depend on you (e.g. children, elders, pets, or service animals). This means knowing what basic grooming and hygiene is expected of you and being able to demonstrate those skills. It also means being able to take care of your possessions and manage your household. 

Other skills that people living independently demonstrate include the ability to get around in the community, communicate effectively with others (face-to-face and using technology), and self- advocate or speak up for themselves. For people who are living with vision loss, it is critical to master the disability-specific skills that will enable them to live independently.

The key skill areas you need to master are: personal management, home management, orientation and mobility, communication skills, and self-advocacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my potential employer care about my personal hygiene habits?

The reason employers are concerned about how people care for themselves, their families, pets, and their possessions, is that it is indicative of how they will care for others and their things - including the employer’s materials, equipment, space, employees, and customers. If the employer is sighted and the prospective employee is blind, the employer is unlikely to understand how people can brush their teeth or comb their hair without sight. You don’t have to explain the “how,” you simply have to demonstrate that you know how to do these expected behaviours.

If the employer sees someone who is well-groomed, many of the employer’s questions or concerns may be negated. Likewise, if your grooming is not “up to par” the employer may assume you are unable to take care of yourself because you are blind. If the employer thinks you can’t take care of yourself, they are unlikely to think you can take care of business!

No one is totally independent, certainly not if that person has a significant disability. Why would an employer expect me to be independent? And what happens when the employer finds out that I need help on occasion?

You’re absolutely right. Most people are actually interdependent – they rely on parents, partners, and others to help them do the things that they don’t do well or don’t want to do. It’s rare that anyone lives entirely independently.

However, most people can do things for themselves in the event that no one else is around to help: They take care of themselves and their things, they get to and from work or school without assistance, and they can let others know if they need something.

Therefore, it’s important to learn independent living skills – even if you choose, after learning a skill, that it would make more sense to have someone else do the thing in question for you.

It’s also important to understand that, when you do have to ask for assistance from others, you should reciprocate in some way. Sometimes, a simple “thank you” will do for a simple favour. However, if you ask for favours frequently or ask for a significant amount of assistance, you may need to pay the helper or provide a comparable service for the helper. 

For more on this topic, you may want to visit the section on Self-Advocacy

Why do I always have to consider sighted people’s perspectives? Why can’t they consider my perspective?

While it’s true that you need to work and earn a living – just like anyone else - the crux of the problem is helping employers understand that blindness doesn’t prevent you from being a competent human being and a competitive worker. Making a good first impression requires good personal management, orientation and mobility, and interpersonal or communication skills.

If it takes you a bit longer to accomplish tasks, you must compensate by doing the task well – quality counts as much, if not more, than quantity. People who are blind or partially sighted are working successfully in many occupations – if you’re not sure how, reach out to those who are and ask them how they made the leap!

Visit the Success Stories section to find out about individuals who are blind and partially sighted and who discuss how they managed to succeed in their careers.​​​​​​

More Living Independently

The Living Independently Resources section has useful links to organizations, programs, directories, and more.

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