Sensitivity TrainingDiverse Audiences an informative look at the visually impaired & blind community
Introduction How do you react when you see or meet someone who is visually impaired or blind? Are you so uncomfortable that you freeze up or ignore him or her? Does your pity and lack of information cause you to insist on helping even when it may not be needed? These are very common, understandable reactions, but avoidable. The information provided here is meant to help you to feel more at ease so that you can be yourself the next time the situation arises. Please keep in mind that this information applies to severely visually impaired or totally blind individuals. Many visually impaired individuals have enough vision to travel, dine, etc with little or no assistance.
Objective This Lesson Will Raise Awareness on Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals in• The workplace• The streets• Dining• Social situations
Keys to Remember• The first and most important key to remember is that every visually impaired person you meet is an individual, with different amounts of vision, training, and needs; you cannot categorize people who are visually impaired any more than you can those who are not. You often even cannot make assumptions regarding the same person, because their needs will vary with the situation.• The second key is always ask. Please do not assume that you or anyone else will know what the visually impaired person needs better than they. It may feel uncomfortable to ask, but it is definitely better than the alternatives. Act without asking only when there appears to be an immediate physical danger, even then, proceed with caution. If the person requests your assistance, ask in what way you can help; let him/her show or tell you. If the person refuses your assistance, try not to take offense; most people like to be as independent and capable as possible and visually impaired individuals are certainly no exception.
Keys To Remember (cont)• The last thing a visually impaired individual wants is your pity. Granting unnecessary privileges, indulgences or assistance is usually seen as demeaning and humiliating, regardless of intent. They want to be treated with the same dignity and respect you would show any other friend, acquaintance or stranger.• Try to remember that this is a person first. Someone with limited or no vision second. He or she has interests, skills, likes and dislikes friends and family just as you do. You can decrease your discomfort by seeing this individual as more like yourself than different. Try to relax and let your common sense guide you.
What You Should Know Blindness is no respecter of persons. Itstrikes without regard to race, religion, sexor nationality. In the United States, 1.3million Americans age 25 and older havesevere visual impairments, causing themto make adjustments in areas of careersand everyday living situations. Some causes of visual impairmentsand/or blindness include but are notlimited to: Cataracts, Age-Related MacularDegeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy,Retinitis Pigmentosa, and Optic NerveAtrophy.
• A Cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging and are very common in older people. The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.• Age Related Macular Degeneration is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for “straight-ahead” activities such as reading, sewing, and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. The macula is located in the center of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that instantly converts light, or an image, into electrical impulses. The retina then sends these impulses, or nerve signals, to the brain.
• Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision• Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is a hereditary, degenerative condition of the retina which results in loss of peripheral vision or “tunnel vision”. Initially starts with difficulty in seeing in dimly lit settings and progresses to a significant visual impairment.• Optic Nerve Atrophy damage or degeneration to the optic nerve which carries visual signals to the brain. Vision loss will be dependent on the amount of damage, but may include blurred vision, poor color and night vision, and light sensitivity.
Americans with Disabilities Act 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.
Workplace DiversityBlind and visually impaired workers have proventheir value in a wide range of occupations. Technologyfurther enables them to do more jobs than ever thoughtpossible. Although some accommodation may beneeded, it is often low in cost and easy to implement. Theadditional investment required is relatively small, andthe return—in gaining or retaining loyal, high-qualityemployees who help to diversify the workforce—makes the return on investment a good one.Contrary to popular belief, blind or visually impairedworkers are productively employed in a wide range ofoccupations, including lawyers, judges, teachers,computer programmers, psychologists, artists,accountants, secretaries, astronomers, customerservice representatives, food service workers,financial analysts and more.
Blind People in the Workplace (cont) Vision loss is not incapacitating, but it does have an impact on nearly every daily activity. Meeting this challenge depends primarily on the individual. There is life after sight loss, and it can be rich and fulfilling. It takes motivation and determination, encouragement and a positive attitude. It is up to the person who is visually impaired and to those around him/her to create them.
Assistive Technology There is a variety of equipment used to aid in the work force. The IRS has several of these products for its visually impaired employees if needed.• JAWS (job access with speech) is a screen reader software program that allows blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer.• CCTV is a video magnifier, or closed-circuit television (CCTV) system, uses a stand-mounted or handheld video camera to project a magnified image onto a video monitor, a television (TV) screen, or a computer monitor.• Braille Displays provide access to information on a computer screen by electronically raising and lowering different combinations of pins in Braille cells. The Braille display sits on the user’s desk, often underneath the computer keyboard.
Assistive Technology (cont)• Zoom Text is a screen magnification system enlarges text and graphics on a computer screen.• Braille Printers receive data from computer devices and emboss that information in Braille onto paper through the use of solenoids that control embossing pins.• Braille Translator takes a document and converts it into a Braille file. The Braille file can then be sent to a Braille printer or read on a Braille display or a personal digital assistant.
Lions World Services for the Blind Lions World Services for the Blind was founded in 1947by Roy Kumpe to serve people who are blind and visuallyimpaired who needed to learn independent living skillsor job training skills that considered the specialrequirements of their individual visual impairments. Thegoal of the rehabilitation center then, and today, is toprepare the individual who is blind or visually impairedto function independently in our "sighted" society. LionsWorld Services for the Blind has played a major rolenationwide in the development of new vocationalprograms that utilize assistive technology andenhancements in adaptive equipment to bring more jobopportunities to people who are blind or visuallyimpaired. There are several opportunities with the IRSincluding a Contact Collection Representative.
Contact Collection Representative Curriculum Qualifications:• Lectures and textbook study of • Must be U.S. citizen. technical information about tax law, regulations and IRS • High School diploma or GED procedures. with four years of college or• Training on how to obtain equivalent work experience information on the taxpayer’s • The ability to read print at 100 financial status, potential levy wpm with 75% comprehension sources and whereabouts, in or Braille at 80 wpm with 75% order to encourage voluntary comprehension compliance with federal tax laws, and initiate corrective action to • 90% accuracy on a math test prevent future delinquencies. (using a calculator)• The trainee also receives practical • 12th grade spelling level experience on how to conduct • Filling out forms with a telephone interviews, to demand keyboarding speed of 30 wpm full payment of delinquent taxes • Ability to work well with people and immediate filing of delinquent returns. under pressure
References Lions World Services for the Blind, Center for the Visually Impaired, Wikipedia, National Federation of the Blind