Maintaining a Job after Vision Loss

If you've recently experienced a loss of sight, you might have questions about whether you can maintain your current position or career path. Here are a few tips that might help: 

Deciding whether to change careers
Educating your employer
Standing up for your rights

Deciding whether to change careers

Before you can make a decision about whether to stay in your current job or career path, you'll have to determine whether or not you're still capable of completing the essential functions of your job. If the answer is no, ask yourself:

Are there technologies that could allow me to keep my job?

New assistive technologies for people with vision loss are coming to market all the time, and you might be surprised to learn how many helpful tools are available to assist people with doing daily tasks – including work-related tasks – without normal vision.

If you work on a computer, for instance, you may benefit from using a screen magnifier, which magnifies the images and text on your computer screen; or a screen reader, which reads information on a computer aloud to a person who is blind or partially sighted so that they can do all the same things on a computer that a sighted person can do.
Are there tools and equipment that could allow me to keep my job?

On top of all the assistive technologies on the market (like screen readers), there are also hundreds of practical tools available that might help you perform your job functions more easily. For instance, some people who work with their hands doing fine detail tasks can benefit from specialty magnifiers or lights. Others may use talking products like talking watches, timers or even barcode scanners, which allow you to identify any product with a barcode. For some people, simple tools like these can make a huge difference in allowing them to maintain their career after vision loss.

Could I move into another position within my company/organization?

If it's not possible for you to do your job because of vision loss, even with the help of the technologies and tools described above, you may want to think about other roles within your current company or organization. If you want to stay with your organization, think about whether or not there are any other positions internally that appeal to you and that don't depend on your vision. If there are, consider speaking to your employer about the possibility of transitioning to another role. You might find that he or she is open to the idea and can accommodate your request.

Could I transition into another role within my chosen field?
 
If you love what you do but believe that you can't perform your current job with vision loss, consider moving to another role within your field. For instance, someone who works as a fashion designer may consider moving to fashion merchandising or purchasing after vision loss if designing is no longer possible. It may take some extra training or education, but if you have a passion for the industry you're in, you don't necessarily have to give it up because of vision loss.
Am I ready to move forward in a different line of work?

If none of the options above work for you, don't give up. Losing your vision doesn't have to mean losing out on the opportunity to achieve meaningful employment or to pursue your career dreams. Your future career might be different from the one you had mapped out for yourself, but it can still be just as rewarding. Here are a few tips that might help you pursue that new career:
  • Attend career fairs in your area to get a sense of what jobs are out there. Chances are, there are many potential career paths that haven't occurred to you. Attending career fairs will not only expose you to them, but give you an opportunity to speak to real people in those lines of work. (This online job fair may be a good place to start if you can't find one in your area.)
  • Make a long list of careers you might be interested in, then narrow it down to a few that really speak to you. At that point, start looking online for people in those careers who you can speak to for more information about what their field is really like, and give you advice on getting your foot in the door. Often times, professionals are happy (and flattered!) to be asked to chat and share advice with others who are interested in following in their career path. (Note: LinkedIn is a good place to make these professional connections.)
  • Speak to a career counsellor who can help you determine what line of work might be right for you, and put a plan in place to achieve your career goals.
  • Consider applying for scholarships if your new career choice will require you to upgrade your education. No, it won't necessarily be easy to go back to school, but remember: you're never too old to follow your dreams. And the process may be a lot easier if you have some financial aid behind you. Here are a few online resources for finding scholarships and grants that you might be eligible for:
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Educating your employer

Sometimes all it takes to maintain your current job after vision loss are a few small accommodations and a bit of flexibility from your employer. Whether your employer provides you with the necessary assistive technologies, like a screen reader or accessible mobile phone, or that he or she ensures your workspace is set up in an accessible way, a bit of communication can go a long way in ensuring you have what you need to do your job successfully – especially if you've recently begun to lose you sight.

If you're concerned about keeping your current job after a loss of sight, one of the best things you can do is reach out to your employer and have a thorough, one-on-one conversation about what you're experiencing, what your expectations are and what you need to move forward.

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Standing up for your rights

If you feel you've been unfairly disciplined or dismissed solely because of your vision loss, you may be entitled to pursue legal action. Here are a few resources that may help:
  • Labour ministries across Canada: