Blind job seekers face hurdles in the job search
Updated: Sunday, December 1 2013, 08:44 PM MST
By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas - Job hunting is tough for anyone in this economy. But for someone with visual disabilities, it is especially difficult.
A new survey shows employers are still reluctant to hire blind workers, despite new technological advances that can boost their capabilities.
In 2011, only 24 percent of working-age people with visual disabilities had full-time jobs in the United States.
Jim Kelly of Central El Paso was left visually impaired after a stroke in his eye five years ago.
When he lost part of his sight, he lost his job as a communications director for a software company too.
"It was my job to make sure I would proof everybody else's writing," Kelly said. "But when I lost my sight, it became pretty hard for me to do it."
Jim was without a job for one year and three months.
The National Industries for the Blind surveyed 400 hiring managers across the United States.
The survey found 54 percent of hiring managers said there were few jobs at their company blind workers could perform.
Forty-five percent said accommodating those workers would be a "considerable expense."
"Research shows that sometimes accommodations cost less than $200," said Felicia Patrick, an employment assistance specialist with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, also known as DARS.
Patrick said despite technological advances, some employers are still hesitant to hire blind job seekers.
"As long as they're a great employee, the visual disability shouldn't ever matter," Patrick said. "What should matter is that the person can perform the essential job functions."
Since Jim lost his sight, he has learned to use different devices to help him better perform his job.
"For work it's the ZoomText that's been primarily the most important thing to me," Kelly said.
Kelly said without DARS' help, he doesn't think he could have landed the two jobs he has now.
"There's a lot of different challenges that people face in life and being blind is not the worse thing that can happen to someone," Kelly said.
According to the DARS office, 22,000 people in El Paso are visually impaired.
For more information on the services that DARS provides, call its office at (915) 834-7004 or go to itswebsite at http://www.dars.state.tx.us/.