We Protect Workers

When can employers refuse to accommodate visual impairments?

As a blind or visually impaired worker, you know you have rights under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, you understand that employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees.

Still, many people find it hard to decide if the accommodations they need to ask for are reasonable. Usually, this is because the employee does not wish to cause any trouble for their boss.

The burden is on them — not you

Caring about your employer is admirable, but not at the expense of your employment rights. As in all reasonable accommodations scenarios, employers must prove that accommodating a visual impairment will result in undue hardships.

The good news is that many visual accommodations are relatively inexpensive. Unless your employer is facing a financial or other crisis, they can probably change your work environment without incurring any hardships.

Some examples of simple and affordable accommodations to suggest are:

  • Read aloud or text-to-speech computer programs
  • Keyboards made for the visually impaired
  • Speech dictation software
  • Floorplans that accommodate canes and other assistive devices

Work-from-home options can also accommodate those with sight impairments while often posing few hardship risks to employers.

What if your employer refuses your request?

California employers cannot outright refuse to make disability accommodations. Instead, they must initiate an interactive process to assess the circumstances (the job position, the impairment, etc.) and find a reasonable solution.

Employers should know they are not allowed to refuse disability accommodation requests. If you’re not able to get the reasonable accommodations you need to do your job, it may be wise to seek legal guidance. Early action helps to determine what steps to take next, while preserving your right to start a workplace discrimination claim.