You can keep working with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
If you want to keep a job you already have or find a new one, you have legal rights and benefits to help you work.
Here’s what you’re entitled to, how to get what you need, and what to do if you think you’re being discriminated against.
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination from employers. If you have vision impairment from AMD, the ADA can protect you from problems that may come from your disability at work.
The ADA protects you in all areas of the employment process, including:
- Disciplinary actions
- Leave from work
- Medical exams
By law, you’re protected throughout the entire employment process. If an employer lets your AMD influence a decision they make in any of these areas, it’s considered illegal discrimination under the ADA.
When You Apply for a New Job
You don’t have to talk about your disability with your potential employer. It’s up to you whether or not to disclose it, even when you apply for a new job.
If you’re applying for a job, it’s illegal for an employer to turn you down because of your vision. As long as you’re qualified for the job based on your skills and experience, you can’t be denied the job because of your vision problems or because you may need accommodations to help you do the job.
When You Already Have a Job
You don’t have to talk about your disability with your employer. It’s your choice whether or not to disclose it.
As long as you can do your job safely, your employer can’t take back an employment offer because of your disability. They also can’t reassign you to a less strenuous job they think will be better for you because of your vision.
But if you need adjustments to help you do your job, you’ll need to share some information.
As long as you’re qualified to do it based on your skills and experience, the ADA requires your employer to make reasonable accommodations to help you manage your job with vision loss.
A reasonable accommodation can be any adjustment that helps you do your job without unnecessary barriers. It may involve changes to the hiring process, how you do your job, or your work environment.
Reasonable accommodations may include:
- Changes in certain job functions
- Modifying equipment or devices
- Equipment or devices you decide to provide
To make your job more manageable with vision loss, you may want to ask your employer for accommodations such as:
- A closed-circuit TV that magnifies what you need to read
- A color identifier
- Computer adjustments like a glare screen, larger monitor, large-print keyboard, and screen reader
- Large-print document formatting
- Magnification devices that help you read
- Prescription safety goggles
- Special lighting, like a lamp, headlamp, or light probe
One exception is if the accommodation causes your employer undue hardship, like if it’s a very expensive accommodation. Otherwise, they have to pay for it and put it into place for you.
How to Know if You Qualify
You qualify for ADA protection if you:
- Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits your life activities
- Have a record of your impairment
- Are viewed as having an impairment
If you have impaired vision from AMD, the ADA may protect you from discrimination.
But remember that in order to qualify for ADA protections, you have to be qualified for your job, which means you have the skills or experience necessary to do it.
How to Talk to Your Employer
The first step in managing your job with AMD is to talk to your employer. Open communication will help them understand and give you what you need to do your job.
Remember that under the ADA, your employer can’t take back an offer because of your disability. They have to give you reasonable accommodations to help you work better.
Set up a time to talk to your employer about what you need. You can tell them you have AMD, share basic information to help them understand what it means, and request accommodations.
Try to be clear about which aspects of your job are challenging because of your vision. You can make things smoother by suggesting specific things that will help you. It may be helpful to prepare what you want to say in advance.
You can also choose to have a friend, family member, doctor, or other representative make the request.
What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Discriminated Against
If you think an employer made a decision in any aspect of your job or the hiring process based on your AMD, you may be protected by the ADA.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is in charge of enforcing the ADA. If you have a complaint, they’ll investigate the charge and look for resolution. They may start a lawsuit or send you a “right to sue” letter.
To start a complaint, you can contact the EEOC here:
800-669-EEOC (voice) or 800-800-3302 (TDD)
EEOC Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs
1801 L Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20507
You can also talk to a lawyer about your situation. Look for a lawyer who specializes in disability law.