While there are some jobs that would be difficult for blind people to do, visually impaired people work in many different fields and sectors in the American workforce. In fact, people with vision impairments are employed in so many different fields that there currently isn’t a specialized list or collection of careers for blind people. While there aren’t specific blind people jobs, there are some fields that are more common than others for the visually impaired to work in.
Blind, Low Vision, and Visually Impaired
There are some differences among these terms, so it’s important to know what they mean. The people who fall into these groups may have different abilities when it comes to looking for jobs for the visually impaired.
- Low vision: People with low vision have reduced vision but still have some degree of sight.
- Partially sighted: This is a term to describe visual impairment in educational settings, meaning that the person needs special services or accommodations.
- Legally blind: This indicates people with less than 20/200 vision in their stronger eye or who have a field of vision of 20° or less.
- Totally blind: Individuals that are totally blind need tools like Braille, audio recordings, and raised-line drawings for visual materials.
Challenges in the Workforce for the Visually Impaired
The National Industries for the Blind did a study on unemployment among people with blindness or visual impairment. The results were staggering: Of the 3.5 million Americans of working age with visual impairment, 70% were unemployed. Two major reasons for this included public misconceptions about the abilities of people with visual impairment and hiring managers’ perceptions of candidates who are blind or visually impaired.
There are currently no national-level employment programs to provide jobs for visually impaired people. However, people with visual impairment have rights, and with some workplace adjustments, they can perform most of the same jobs that sighted people can.
What Jobs Can You Do as a Blind Person?
The better question to ask is, "What jobs can’t you do as a blind person?" People who are blind or visually impaired work in a variety of roles in every major category of employment. They hold professional, associate professional, and administrative roles in various sectors. Legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people from discrimination during the hiring process. This means that vision shouldn’t be a factor unless the role specifically calls for good vision, like being a pilot or driver.
Since jobs for blind people can vary greatly, it’s important that you explore careers that you’re actually interested in. There are more than 300 occupational fields that have people with visual impairment on staff. Finding something that you like and feel is rewarding is just as important in your job search as if you were a sighted person.
Careers for Blind People
That said, there are some careers that are popular choices among people who are blind or who have low vision.
The arts. Working in the arts is a creative career that has multiple pathways, many of which do not need vision or can be easily adapted with the right equipment. For example, being a musician, like a singer or someone who plays an instrument, may not require any sight at all. In these jobs, you rely on your sense of touch to play the instrument and should have a keen ear for sounds, tones, and pitches.
Other popular jobs in the arts include:
- Fashion designer
Some of these could be great jobs for the blind working from home. As an artist, writer, or designer, you could create an office, studio, or workspace in your own home with all of the equipment you need.
Education. Blind people can work in both traditional school settings and schools that are especially for the blind and visually impaired. There are several roles you can fill both in and out of the classroom. Besides working in a school, you could consider working in education in a different way, such as working in a museum or library. Some positions to consider:
- Speech/language pathologist
- School counselor
- Museum educator
Business and finance. Working in this sector would probably mean that you would need some adapted technology, like a computer with synthesized audio or lighting adjustments, but there are several career paths to consider with these accommodations. Depending on the role, you may need a bachelor’s, master’s, or other types of certification. Some options include:
- Financial advisor
- Customer service representative
- Financial analyst
- Business owner
Technology. Because of all the advances in technology, it’s now much easier for visually impaired people to break into the tech sector. This includes working in jobs like coding, engineering, or software development.
Health care. Similar to careers in finance, jobs in healthcare can be performed with little or no vision with the right accommodations and adaptations in the workplace. What’s interesting about working in health care is that there are several paths to choose from, including mental health, holistic care, or working in a traditional setting. Here are some options to consider:
- Social worker
- Massage therapist
- Physical therapist
Job Accommodations in the Workplace
Accommodations are changes or adjustments that employers can make to help people with low vision or no vision perform their job as well as their sighted coworkers. As blind people have the same working rights as anyone else, employers are expected to make these adjustments in the workplace for their visually impaired employees. If the accommodations are beyond the employer’s resources, vocational rehabilitation may help pay for some of these expenses.
Accommodations that have proven to be both effective and affordable include:
- Adjusted lighting and glare reduction
- Larger computer monitors
- Computers with screen readers, magnification, and optical character recognition (OCR) software
- Braille devices
- Large print materials
- Tactile or talking devices
With these adjustments, blind and visually impaired people can be successful in just about any role.