Ninety-three per cent of people with sight loss have some level of vision but making simple adjustments can maximise the sight they do have, says Kudirat Adeniyi.
03 February 2020 | Kudirat Adeniyi
1. Make the physical environment accessible
Every aspect of the workplace must be considered to make it as accessible as possible.
Signage: This should be clear. Accessible fonts and colours should be present at all entrances and exits.
Handrails: These should be in place on steps. The edge of each step should be highlighted with bright yellow nosing.
Lighting: Everyone has different degrees of sight loss and, therefore, has different requirements, particularly when it comes to lighting.
Although some people find natural light best and would prefer their workstation positioned to be close to a window, others would opt for low-level lighting from desk lamps as opposed to overhead lighting.
Dimmer switches can be useful to adjust lighting levels in different areas of a building. For those sat by windows, some people may require blinds to avoid glare.
General decoration: Ensure that door handles and frames are clearly visible through the use of colour contrast to significantly improve accessibility. The same can be done with flooring; shiny surfaces should be avoided and use good wall-to-floor colour contrast throughout to aid navigation.
Lifts: Equip with adequate lighting and audible announcements. Tactile or Braille aids should also be on buttons to indicate floor levels.
Sighted colleagues should also get into good habits when it comes to improving accessibility.
Walkways should be kept clear of clutter, and members of staff should be aware of their surroundings, always tucking in their chairs and closing cupboard doors when leaving their desks.
There should be sufficient gangway space between workstations, and desk and chair colouring should contrast with the colour of the floors.
2. Provide accessible information
It is crucial that staff and any customers who use the premises can access all information.
Everyone with sight loss has a different reading format preference, so it is vital that all printed information is available in large print, Braille and e-format.
Assistive technology is another must when it comes to accessibility. There is a wide range of equipment and software available that enables people with sight loss to read information.
Magnification devices allow blind and partially sighted people to enlarge the font size and change the colour of printed information, while screen reading software is installed on a computer and converts text to speech.
Employers will need to ensure that their IT systems are compatible for installing this software - it is of the utmost importance.
3. Create staff awareness
Staff should be provided with a basic understanding and awareness of sight loss. A wide spectrum of sight loss is possible, so colleagues should never feel there is an expectation to be an expert in someone's sight condition. If you're not sure of someone's level of vision, or what assistance they might need when it comes to guiding and navigation, just ask them!
4. Implement good recruitment processes
If the employer knows a candidate has sight loss, workplace managers can find out if they have any specific requirements when they arrive on site for an interview.
Candidates might need test materials in large print or have a workstation set up with appropriate software. Getting in touch with candidates before the interview will give you the chance to check if they would like any assistance or guidance on the day.
For more information on accessibility in the workplace, visit
www.rnib.org.uk or contact RNIB's Helpline on 0303 123 9999
Kudirat Adeniyi is employment manager for London, South East, South West of England and Wales at Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)