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Federal laws and technological advances allow people with hearing and vision disabilities to embark on careers that might otherwise have been closed to them. While some careers, such as airline pilot, require good vision and hearing, other jobs -- even truck driving -- can be adapted to include people with impaired hearing and vision.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state laws open the doors for people with disabilities to apply for, get and keep jobs. Those with the skills, training, education, experience, licenses and other necessary requirements of the job, and who are able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations, have the same rights as any other applicant. The employer can’t reject them because of a disability. The ADA requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities. For visually disabled people, such accommodations could include providing assistive equipment, large-print or Braille material, or allowing a service dog at work. For people with hearing loss, these adaptations could include interpreters or translation services.
Technology can help vision and hearing challenged people whether they are seeking workplace jobs or are self-employed. People who are blind or visually impaired can be trained to use computers with special software, including programs that translate print into speech. Assistive technology includes Braille keyboards and pens connected to a computer that allow the user to write in Braille. Screens that enlarge text and images on the computer monitor are available to assist people with residual vision. Low-vision keyboards come with large bright yellow keys. Braille translation software, CCTV, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), screen enlarging software, and talking equipment like calculators, cash registers, money identifiers and credit card terminals assist vision-impaired workers. For the hearing impaired, telephones with amplified sound and flashing lights enable phone conversations. Alerting devices, assistive listening devices, voicewriting, automated TTY systems, cell phones, Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services, paging devices, captioning services and voice mail transcriptions all serve deaf and hearing impaired employees.
Gallaudet University lists accountant, actor, architect, artist, biologist, business leader, carpenter or painter, chemist, clerical worker, dentist, draftsman, doctor, elected government official, engineer, farmer, financial consultant, gardener, landscaper, lawyer, librarian, mechanic, medical technicians, park ranger, printer, social worker, statistician, teacher, tool and die maker and writer among the many jobs and careers held by deaf and hard-of-hearing people. The federal Department of Transportation (DOT) recently granted exemptions from the hearing standard that previously prevented hard-of-hearing drivers from getting commercial drivers’ licenses. Now hearing-impaired drivers can pursue careers in trucking.
Organizations like Helen Keller Services for the Blind offer employment services that help train blind people to develop their skills and find jobs. The organization has helped visually impaired people find work as administrative assistants, IT specialists, lawyers, teachers, nursing assistants and home health workers as well as food service workers and stock clerks, among others.
Both Hearing and Vision Impaired
A number of conditions that can cause the loss of both hearing and vision include Down Syndrome, Rubella Syndrome and Cytomegalovirus. The same laws and standards apply to people who have both disabilities as to those who have either one or to people with other disabilities. With appropriate accommodations, hearing- and vision-impaired individuals with the proper qualifications should have the same career opportunities as their hearing and sighted colleagues.
Agencies such as Lighthouse International provide career services for low-vision job seekers. State rehabilitation agencies also provide counseling and assistance for disabled workers. Internet job banks allow job seekers to post resumes online. Several of these specialize in jobs for people with disabilities.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Questions and Answers About Blindness and Vision Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Gallaudet University: Jobs and Careers of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People
- JAN: Accommodation Information by Disability: A to Z
- National Association of the Deaf: DOT Recognizes Deaf and Hard of Hearing Truck Drivers
- Helen Keller Services for the Blind: Services & Programs
- See/Hear: Syndromes Which Often Result in Combined Vision and Hearing Loss
- Lighthouse International: Career Services
- JAN: Finding a Job that is Right for You: A Practical Approach to Looking for a Job as a Person with a Disability
As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.
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