Volume VIII Number 2, September 2002

A Review of: A Practical Guide to Accommodating People with Visual Impairments in the Workplace

Steve Noble
Kentucky Assistive Technology Service Network

by Karen Gourgey, Mark Leeds, Tom McNulty, and Dawn M. Suvino
New York: Computer Center for Visually Impaired People
Baruch College, CUNY, 2002

Available in print, on disk (MS Word) and text format, $11.95 (US) plus $2.50 (domestic first class shipping/handling).
To order, call (212) 802-2140 or (800) 490-6609. If you live outside the US and Canada, contact CCVIP for more pricing information: ccvipbookorder@baruch.cuny.edu

Countless studies have highlighted the comparatively low rate of employment among people with disabilities over the past several decades, despite advances in assistive technology and the passage of landmark civil rights laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. The full explanation of this phenomenon may be elusive, but one fundamental aspect of solving this problem can be found in changing the attitudes of employers. In A Practical Guide to Accommodating People with Visual Impairments in the Workplace, the authors not only help to bridge the employer "attitude gap" but also go much further by explaining in easily digestible terms the means by which employers can integrate employees with visual disabilities into the workforce.

The authors conceived their work around a simple question--"If I were blind, how could I possibly do this job?" In the five chapters that comprise this brief yet very thorough guide, the authors answer that question, and show how, if provided with appropriate accommodations, blind and visually impaired people can perform the tasks and activities associated with the vast majority of jobs. The five chapters of this book include: (1) Visual Impairment and the Workplace; (2) Low Tech Access Solutions; (3) Computer Based Assistive Technologies; (4) Assistive Technology and the Multi-User Network; and (5) From Theory to Practice: Some Real-Life Workplace Accommodations. The book further includes four very useful appendixes: (A) Blindness and Low Vision Websites; (B) Manufacturers/Vendors of Assistive Technologies; (C) Selecting an Appropriate Assistive Technology System; and (D) Glossary of Terms.

The first chapter provides a quick overview of the common functional problems associated with visual impairment and their solutions, and provides a brief introduction to such legal concepts as reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. Chapter 2, Low Tech Access Solutions, provides a concise and surprisingly thorough examination of relatively inexpensive means of providing appropriate low technology and training solutions for employees with low vision.

Chapters three and four are devoted to computer based assistive technologies, with the former dealing with standalone assistive technology devices and adaptations to standard computers, and the latter specifically dealing with using assistive technologies in networked computer environments--an important element of the modern day office scene. These chapters deal with such basic assistive technology applications as screen magnification, synthetic speech, refreshable Braille displays, voice recognitions, text scanning programs, and other important access technologies that can enable employees with visual disabilities to work effectively and efficiently with standard office computer technologies.

The final chapter is a handy conclusion to the main text that examines six workplace case studies, which illustrate representative workplace scenarios showing what accommodations were provided for employees with visual disabilities and how much these modifications cost employers. The book then concludes with four helpful appendixes. Appendix C, Selecting an Appropriate Assistive Technology System, is an especially useful set of checklists that can be utilized with little modification for most any working environment.

In conclusion, this book is an ideal primer for human resources and employment professionals, vocational rehabilitation counselors, information technology personnel and systems administrators, and others in the employment arena. Although this handy guide is not meant to be a comprehensive employment manual dealing with all aspects of visual impairment, it does provide the most critical basics that are needed to address the issue. Despite its brevity (scarcely over 100 pages), this book is a very concise and highly practical guide to providing workplace accommodations for people with visual disabilities.

Noble, S. (2002). A review of: A practical guide to accommodating people with visual impairments in the workplace [Review of the book A practical guide to accommodating people with visual impairments in the workplace, by K. Gourgey, M. Leeds, T. McNulty, and D. M. Suvino]. Information Technology and Disabilities E-Journal, 8(2).