According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), 20% of Americans and almost 3% of all working-aged Americans are blind. Employers are not only legally mandated to make sure their hiring practices are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant but if their website, interview practices, and office aren’t accessible to disabled applicants, they’re doing their company a disservice by deterring qualified candidates. These strategies can help with hiring blind and visually impaired candidates.
Make Your Application Process Accessible to Blind and Visually Impaired Candidates
Blind candidates must be able to access your job postings and fill out the application itself. You can use web content accessibility guidelines to determine what needs to be done.
“If I’m a blind person and I go to an employer’s website and I can’t even fill out the basic job application, that discourages me and tells me that employer is maybe not all that serious about hiring blind people or hasn’t thought about it,” says Chris Danielsen, a spokesperson for the National Federation of the Blind.
Consider putting information on your website on how to contact someone if a candidate needs to request a reasonable accommodation for any part of the hiring process. “The fewer barriers there are to hiring, the more likely it is that you’re going to get applications from blind people,” Danielsen says.
Contact Relevant Organizations
You can reach out to organizations that work with blind and visually impaired people, such as the National Federation of the Blind, the New York State Commission for the Blind, or VISIONS.
“We have a job fair every year as part of our convention,” Danielsen says. “Blind people have as many career goals and employment interests as the sighted public does, so there’s no particular thing that needs to be done other than letting blind people know that you’re interested in hiring, and making your hiring process accessible, so that blind people can participate in it.”
It’s also worthwhile to spread the message that you’re committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) internally and externally. “Often, there’s commitment at the top of the organization, but it doesn’t always trickle down to the hiring manager or recruiters,” says George Abbott, a chief knowledge advancement officer for the American Foundation for the Blind. “Make sure the organization as a whole is clear on their philosophy about it, and you may need to do some awareness training.”
Know What You Can and Can’t Ask Candidates
Before you’ve extended a job offer, you cannot ask a candidate any questions that would reveal the existence of a disability or ask about the condition itself. For instance, you can’t ask whether they’ve had any medical procedures related to their vision or whether a medical condition may have caused their blindness.
That said, if the disability is obvious or the candidate brings it up themselves, you may ask them whether they would need a reasonable accommodation to perform the tasks required in the job.
In general, however, you should be asking all candidates the same questions about their relevant experience and why they’re qualified to do the job. “Ask a blind person the same questions you’d ask any other candidate, and try to stick to that,” Abbott says
Additionally, respect that candidate by not asking them things you’d never ask any other job candidate – like how they’d get to work every day.
Expect Great Things
“The biggest thing we face in all areas, including employment, is low expectations,” Danielsen says. “Blind people are doing almost every job you can think of,” Danielsen adds. “If it doesn’t involve driving, a blind person is probably doing it somewhere. And as a general rule, the blind person wouldn’t be applying if they didn’t think they could do that job.”
You may find that hiring blind and visually impaired people is a huge advantage – because they can add a lot to your team. “We spend so much of our day being problem solvers for everything we do,” Abbott says. “So we just naturally bring creativity and creative thinking to the work environment and I think that adds value.”
Start the Hiring Process
These tips will help you create an inclusive hiring process. Ready to get started? Create a free job posting on Monster to reach qualified candidates quickly.