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

Workplace Accommodations for Partially Sighted Workers

If you are partially sighted, you access information through visual, audible, or tactual input, which means that you look at, listen, or touch something to learn about it. To read books, job manuals, or other printed materials, you may:

  • Use vision to read standard or large size print with optical devices (e.g. glasses or magnifiers) and/or with non-optical devices (e.g. task lighting, reading stands, or copy holders). Or, you may choose to enlarge the print with video magnifiers (sometimes called CCTVS – closed circuit television systems) and/or by adding screen enlargement software to your computer.  
  • Use hearing to listen to audiobooks or electronic text that is converted to speech with a speech synthesizer and speech output software such as JAWS, Window Eyes, NVDA, Thunder Screen Reader, or other comparable programs. 
  • Use touch to read braille versions of materials that have been produced either by hand with a manual braille writer, a slate and stylus, or with electronic text that has been converted into braille using a braille translation software program and a braille embosser. 

There are numerous tools in each category and it’s possible to use just one or a combination of all three. To figure out what works for you, first determine your needs and then do your research to match the best tools to you.

An important step in the process is to get a low vision evaluation by an optometrist or ophthalmologist and get recommendations on the tools that would enhance your vision and help you perform basic literacy operations.

Take with you a list of the tasks you’ll need to perform at work so the eye professional can give you recommendations based on your true needs. Also, ask if your low vision specialist has a loaner program, or knows of a loaner program, so you can try the tools outside of the clinical environment.

Sometimes very simple tools can be extremely helpful, such as caps with visors if you are photophobic, or specially designed sunglasses with ultraviolet and infrared protection and top and side-shields to fit over prescription glasses.

Lighting is another key consideration if you have partial sight. You’ll need to figure out whether natural light, high intensity lighting, or focused (task) lighting improves your ability to see what you’re doing.

Also, how you position your work can make the difference between whether you can effectively use your vision or not. For example, flexible copy holders (a reading stand-like device on an adjustable arm) allow you to bring your work closer to you, saving you from bending over or stretching to see materials. If you’re interested, visit AFB’s CareerConnect website which includes an illustrated workspace that includes assistive technology (as well as descriptions of these tools).

Many of the devices and tools designed for individuals who are blind are just as useful to people who are partially sighted. Also many computers and electronic devices (cellphones, music players, electronic book readers, etc.) come with built-in accessibility features. If you shop around, you may find that the device you’re interested in has an option to enlarge the text, listen to audio output and/or record voice input. Be sure to have the list of tasks you’ll need to accomplish with you when you go shopping for technology so that you can try out any tools you find. Do your research!

Tools and materials specifically for workers who are partially sighted include:

  • Optical devices such as glasses, contact lenses, hand-held or stand magnifiers, illuminated magnifiers, telescopes, etc.
  • Non-optical devices such as task lighting, flexible copy holders, reading/book stands, stands with built-in lighting, head lamps, etc.
  • Large print publications (large print typically ranges from 18-point font upward) and devices such as calculators with enlarged displays and/or print capability.
  • Assistive technology such as desktop or portable video magnifiers and flex-arm camera models for distance viewing, screen enlargement software, and digital imaging systems.

For a list of audible or tactual tools for people who are blind, visit Workplace accommodations for workers who are blind.

For additional information on workplace accommodations and helpful external links visit the Working Life Resources section.​