Taking the Mystery Out of the ADA:
How to Hire a Competent Blind Employee

JOB Employer's Bulletin / 1991

DOES THE "ADA" APPLY TO MY BUSINESS?

Probably. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990. Here are three of its employment provisions:

  • Beginning July 26, 1992, the ADA states that employers with 25 or more employees may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. Two years later, employers with 15 or more employees will be covered by the Act.
  • Employers must reasonably accommodate the disabilities of qualified applicants or employees, unless an undue hardship on the operation of the business would result.
  • Complaints may be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Available remedies include back pay and court orders to stop discrimination.

WHO CAN HELP US COMPLY WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE ADA?

Job Opportunities for the Blind is a joint program of the U. S. Department of Labor and the National Federation of the Blind. Our free, nationwide service is available to assist employers in locating and hiring qualified blind applicants and to assist employees who are blind or become legally blind while on the job.

WHO CAN HELP US WORK OUT A "REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION?

Most often the blind candidate will be able to suggest alternatives that would make the job you need done completely accessible. Upon request, we offer a free consultation on reasonable accommodations. Please note that we are not vendors. JOB will give you the information you need to wisely make comparisons and choices.

Some jobs need no accommodations, some need a $3.00 Braille slate and stylus (a handheld device that is used to write Braille notes), some would benefit from a computer-voice output attachment, and some call for a mix of tools. With our expertise we can assist you and your employee to locate or design a cost-effective solution.

HOW DO WE LOCATE A COMPETENT EMPLOYEE WHO IS LEGALLY BLIND?

Send a copy of your job openings to JOB.

Which jobs can a blind person do? Jobs which require eyesight are a lot less common than most people suppose. Give us a call; we can talk about it. JOB knows blind lawyers, teachers, secretaries, administrators, factory workers, cafeteria managers, cooks, electrical engineers, accountants, carpenters, and on and on and on.

HOW DO WE INTERVIEW A CANDIDATE WHO IS LEGALLY BLIND?

Ask the usual questions you'd ask any candidate. Some people are competent, some are not—blind people, too. As with any candidate you interview, judge the person's past credentials, poise, and ingenuity level for dealing with your position. If you wonder how the candidate will function in a particular work situation, ask—just as you would ask other candidates.

Travel: Would you have a problem traveling to three conventions per year and running our company booth? How many clients do you believe you could visit in one day or one week? Would you have a problem climbing a 40-foot ladder to clear the eave's trough?

Reading Print: We require daily updating of our inventory. Would this be a problem? Do you have experience in proofreading?

Some questions asked are not really about a candidate's ability to handle a particular job. Some are asked from curiosity about the techniques of daily living used by one who is legally blind. We suggest you observe the candidate and consider whether you would ask a like question of a sighted candidate.

Travel: Would you ask a sighted candidate whether she drove or took a bus, or would you just observe whether she got to your office on time—with no more need to ask the way to your desk than other candidates who are unfamiliar with your building?

Dress: It is unlikely that you'd ask a sighted candidate how he matched his tie with his suit. Of course, you would observe whether his dress was in line with your standards.

Do you have questions you feel uncomfortable asking a person who is legally blind? Call JOB. Whether you are just curious or have a need to know, please don't let your lack of knowledge prevent the candidate from receiving a fair chance to qualify for your job.

HOW DO WE TRAIN A BLIND PERSON?

Your new employee is an adult. Ask him or her to tell you how best to explain the job. As with your other employees, there are variations in ability to learn and in which methods work best. Generally, showing is better than telling. Upon request, JOB will assist with ideas on techniques used by successful blind workers in similar situations.

HOW DO WE FIRE A BLIND PERSON?

Strangely enough, one reason given by some employers who refuse to hire a qualified person who is legally blind is "I couldn't bear to fire him if it didn't work out." Yet, as you know, sight is no guarantee that a new employee will "work out." We urge you to judge employees with disabilities by the same standards you use for other employees in the same position. "Without discrimination" means the employee has to stand the heat. No more, no less.

WHY SHOULD WE HIRE A PERSON WHO IS LEGALLY BLIND?

The real question is "Why not?" Here is a part of a letter written to JOB by a totally blind woman who was hired by the Marriott Worldwide Reservation Center in Omaha last year:

You asked me if I knew why we were doing so well. "Jobs have not come easy to us. The other folks could go work at the McDonald's across town if they lost their job at Marriott. We would be capable of such work but would most likely not be hired. Therefore, I think we may work harder knowing that we cannot take this job for granted.

OTHER QUESTIONS?...

Contact the National Federation of the Blind at 410-659-9314.