Nearly one-third of participants reported accessibility challenges during the job application process, and over half reported problems with the onboarding process
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 11, 2022)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the release of the Workplace Technology Study, a new report examining how technology in the workplace influences the experiences of workers who are blind, have low vision, or are deafblind.
The report summarized survey data from 323 participants who were employed in February 2021, and interviews with 25 of the participants. They shared their experiences with technology used for hiring and onboarding, required work-related training, and productivity; requests for workplace accommodations; interactions with Information Technology (IT) staff; and experiences with telework. Self-employed participants reported on the methods they used to access technology for their work.
“The findings in the Workplace Technology Study show us that many technology barriers still exist for workers with a visual impairment, despite nondiscrimination laws and guidance,” said Stephanie Enyart, Chief Public Policy and Research Officer. “It is our hope that this study will provide a basis for understanding where many current workplace practices and protocols have not met their intended marks. The study can serve as a basis for identifying and addressing gaps to create a more fully inclusive workplace.”
Some Key Findings Include:
• Participants frequently faced accessibility challenges during the process of being hired and onboarding for their jobs. For example, about one-third of the participants who were required to take an automated test or screening during the hiring process reported accessibility challenges. In addition, 59% of the participants reported facing accessibility challenges when completing onboarding forms on paper and 48% reported accessibility challenges with electronic onboarding forms.
• Participants reported a variety of accessibility challenges with mainstream technology tools, particularly with video conferencing, instant messaging, and documents prepared by sighted colleagues that were not properly formatted for accessibility.
• Most participants requested accommodations from their employer, including purchase of assistive hardware, software, or both. There was tremendous variability in the accommodations request process and outcome, with some participants receiving accommodations easily and quickly, while others reported long waits for accommodations, denied requests, or even job reassignment or termination.
• About one in five participants (21%) reported that they considered not requesting a needed accommodation because they were worried about backlash from their employer, coworkers, or clients.
• Telework was described as a generally positive innovation for many participants, enabling them to enjoy a more level playing field in the workplace.
The full report is available at AFB.org/WTS, and includes recommendations from AFB experts about how to create more accessible and inclusive recruitment and retention strategies for blind and visually impaired employees.
The American Foundation for the Blind is grateful to the donors who helped fund the research report, including eSight, Google, Hadley, JPMorgan Chase, LCI Foundation, Microsoft, James H. and Alice Teubert Foundation, and Vispero.
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About the American Foundation for the Blind
The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. Publisher of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness for over a century and counting, AFB is also proud to steward the accessible Helen Keller Archive, honoring the legacy of our most famous ambassador. AFB’s mission is to expand pathways to leadership, education, inclusive technology, and career opportunities to create a world of no limits for people who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision. To learn more, visit www.afb.org.