Life at Work with Macular Degeneration

Whether you want to keep working or need to keep working, having Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) might make you feel vulnerable in your current job and less confident about finding a new one. Vision loss can make some tasks more challenging—a potential issue even if you’re self-employed. But despite the challenges, many people with macular degeneration keep working, enjoying the income and camaraderie that come with having a job or a business.

It’s useful to know about adaptations that have helped people with low vision keep working well, along with types of employment you may be suited for that are less stressful when vision is compromised. It’s also important to know about legal protections in the workplace.

Your Rights at Work

Did you know that people with vision impairment are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws?

If you are employed

If you’re qualified to do your job because of your skills and experience, your employer is required to make “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace for changes in your vision. “Reasonable accommodations” are changes that don’t cause “undue hardship,” such as a significant expense. Your company is required to pay for adaptations and put them in place. If you have or are starting to have symptoms of macular degeneration, it’s a good time to work with your employer to make adjustments.

If you are switching jobs or job hunting

The ADA offers the same protection to job applicants as it does to people who are already employed: You can’t be turned down just because of your vision if you’re qualified and reasonable accommodations would make it possible for you to do the job. It may help to come to the interview prepared to explain how you can manage the job with some simple adaptive devices.

Making Adjustments at Work or in Your Home Office

Some work tasks and environments lend themselves to accommodations better than others. But especially if you work mainly in an office, a number of tools and adjustments are available that fall within the definition of “reasonable accommodations”—in other words, they should be covered by your employer. Here are some examples of adjustments you can make at work or in your home office:

  • A magnification device to help you read
  • A glare screen, larger monitor or screen reader for your computer
  • A closed circuit television (CCTV) to magnify items you need to read
  • A large-print keyboard
  • A light probe that senses the buttons lit on a phone or panel
  • Lamps or a headlamp to focus light where you need it
  • Creating all documents in large print
  • Prescription safety goggles
  • A handheld color identifier
Getting help with adjustments

If you’re struggling with your work, get proactive about finding solutions. Make the assumption that challenges can be overcome so you can keep doing your job. First, make a list of the tasks you must accomplish in your work that are impacted by your vision. Then find someone who can advise you. Your first option might be a local low-vision center. In many towns and cities, you can find a nonprofit that provides people with visual impairments free training.

Some people who can help you with ideas for adaptations:

  • Your eye care professional
  • An occupational therapist
  • A rehabilitation counselor
  • A technology expert in your company

You may be surprised at what you can still manage with some simple tips and adaptive devices. People have managed to continue operating power tools and painting in their jobs, even with vision impairment.

Click here to see Tools & Resources

Resources

There’s a wealth of information on ADA adaptations at the Job Accommodation Library. Click here to see their website.

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