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Although people who are visually impaired work in as many different job sectors as people with normal vision, the unemployment rate of visually impaired people is significantly higher. (Learn More) The rate of employment of visually impaired individuals has been steadily increasing, but more opportunities need to be made for these highly qualified and skilled individuals to enter the workforce.
That being said, people who are blind or visually impaired make a living doing a wide range of jobs depending on their interests and skillsets. With reasonable accommodations, visually impaired individuals can perform just as well as anyone else. (Learn More)
According to the American Printing House for the Blind, visually impaired individuals work in as many different career sectors as people without visual impairments. (Learn More) People with visual impairments generally know what resources and adaptations they need to make them successful in the workplace. There are various resources available to help visually impaired individuals learn about these accommodations as well.
For anyone, visually impaired or not, salaries vary greatly depending on many factors, such as job sector, competition, and geographical location. (Learn More) Having a disability, such as being blind or visually impaired, should not impact one’s salary.
Education paths for people who are blind or visually impaired are often the same as for people with normal sight. With the help of special education resources, there are many potential education setting options for people with visual impairments. (Learn More) Based on a child’s unique needs, visually impaired children attend school in settings ranging from general education classrooms to private schools for the blind.
Following basic education, higher education options are available for people with visual impairments. The Americans with Disabilities Act has helped to ensure that colleges and universities across the country make their education fully accessible to all students, including students with visual impairments. (Learn More)
Employment Statistics for the Visually Impaired
The unemployment rate of visually impaired individuals is more than twice as high as the unemployment rate of the general population. According to 2016–2017 data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37 percent of working-age individuals (ages 16–64) with vision loss participated in the U.S. labor force, with a 12 percent unemployment rate. For the general population, 73 percent of working-age people were active in the labor force with an unemployment rate of just 5 percent.
As the percentage of the working-age employment population in the U.S. has increased slightly, so has the employment rate for visually impaired people. From 2014 to 2017, the employment rate of visually impaired individuals increased from about 29 percent to 35 percent. Despite this positive trend, the employment rate for visually impaired people remains roughly 37 percent lower than that of the general employment population.
How to Make a Living
Despite the gaps in employment rates for visually impaired people compared to the general population, there are many rewarding ways to make a living when visually impaired. Most people who are visually impaired have the same education and skills as people without visual impairments. They can perform the same tasks and only require reasonable accommodations to get the job done.
Many misconceptions and stereotypes exist about the abilities of visually impaired individuals to work in a regular job setting. Thanks to advancements in modern technology, adaptive equipment, such as screen-reading software and braille displays, is available to make nearly any job accessible to people with vision loss. Additional accommodations may need to be made, but someone who is visually impaired has likely already explored solutions so they can successfully fulfill their duties.
In truth, visually impaired individuals can do nearly any job you can think of. According to Career Connect, which is operated by the American Printing House for the Blind, people with visual impairments are employed in as many different types of careers as people with full sight.
Blind and visually impaired individuals currently hold jobs in a wide range of industries. They may be any of the following:
- Marketing professionals
- Human resources managers
- Business managers
- Agriculture workers
- Teachers and professors
- Health care providers
- Counselors and psychologists
- Social workers
- Physical therapists
- Writers and journalists
- Customer service representatives
- Retail employees
- Athletics instructors and coaches
- Motivational speakers
The above list is not exhaustive, and nearly any job you can think of could be added to it. If you are blind or visually impaired and considering your career options, the important thing is to consider what type of career interests you have and what aligns with your skillset and education. Your visual impairment should not be a limiting or guiding factor in your career search.
Expected salaries from any given career vary depending on many factors, such as geographic location, education, work history, industry, the current job market, and competition for the job.
Here are median annual salaries for specific jobs in the United States based on 2017 and 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Receptionist: $28,392 ($13.65/hour)
- Administrative assistant: $38,880 ($18.69/hour)
- Market research analyst: $63,120 ($30.35/hour)
- Graphic designer: $50,370 ($24.22/hour)
- Interpreter or translator: $49,930 ($24.00/hour)
- Public relations specialist: $59,300 ($28.51/hour)
- Writer or editor: $62,170 ($29.89/hour)
- Architect: $79,380 ($38.16/hour)
- Environmental engineer: $87,620 ($42.13/hour)
- Guidance counselor: $55,410 ($26.64/hour)
- Special education teacher: $59,780 ($28.74/hour)
- School principal: $95,310 ($45.82/hour)
- Teacher: $55,790 ($26.82/hour)
- Accountant: $69,350 ($33.34/hour)
- Financial advisor: $88,890 ($42.74)
- Dietician: $59,410 ($28.56/hour)
- Doctor: $208,000 ($100/hour)
- Health educator: $54,220 ($26.07/hour)
- Medical assistant: $33,610 ($16.16/hour)
- Occupational therapist: $83,200 ($40/hour)
- Physical therapist: $87,930 ($42.27/hour)
- Consultant: $83,610 ($40.20/hour)
- Human resources manager: $110,120 ($52.94/hour)
- Computer programmer: $84,280 ($40.52/hour)
- Computer systems analyst: $88,740 ($68.37/hour)
- Software developer: $110,000 ($52.88/hour)
- Web developer: $69,430 ($33.38/hour)
- Court reporter: $55,120 ($26.50/hour)
- Judge: $99,850 ($48/hour)
- Trial lawyer: $99,000 ($46.60/hour)
- Intellectual property lawyer: $137,000 ($65.87/hour)
- Employment attorney: $87,000 ($41.83/hour)
- Personal trainer: $34,980 ($16.82/hour)
- Marriage and family therapist: $48,790 ($23.46/hour)
- Customer service representative: $33,750 ($16.23/hour)
Educational paths for people who are blind or visually impaired can be identical to those of people with normal vision. If you know from early on which career might interest you, you can outline your educational path accordingly. For visually impaired children and people who are not yet sure of their career goals, a basic educational path may be the right place to start.
If you are the parent of a visually impaired child, you are most likely considering where your child can get the best possible education given their unique educational needs. Basic education options for children who are blind or visually impaired include:
- Placement in a general or regular education classroom.
- Combination participation in a resource room and general education.
- Placement in a self-contained special education classroom for children with disabilities.
- Placement in a special education program specifically for children with visual impairments.
- Enrollment in a residential or specialized school for the blind.
There are many schooling options available to meet the unique needs of children with visual impairments. Through individualized education plans (IEPs), the needs of these students can be met in regular public schools, as well as in specialized and private schools. As your child’s needs change over time, you may decide to take advantage of different education options.
Higher Education Options
For visually impaired students seeking higher education options, most colleges and universities across the country should be equipped with services to meet the educational needs of all their students, including blind and visually impaired students. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, college campuses are required to provide learning facilities that make education accessible to all students, including those with disabilities.
Teachers who work with visually impaired students stress the importance of transition planning to ensure a successful transition to college. Transition planning includes considering the tools and options for a visually impaired student as they graduate from high school.
Educational options to consider beyond high school include:
- Attending a four-year degree program.
- Vocational job training.
- Integrated or supported employment.
- Adult services.
- Independent learning services.
In addition to attending general education programs for higher education, such as at a public university, private continuing education programs, such as Perkin’s School for the Blind, have been established specifically to meet the career development needs of people who are blind or visually impaired.
If you are blind or visually impaired, there are many educational and career opportunities available. With advancements in assistive technology as well as educational and workplace resources and accommodations, nearly any job can be made accessible to you.
Careers for Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals. Career Connect: American Printing House for the Blind.
College Guide for Students with Visual Impairments. Best Colleges.
Exploring the Options for Your Blind Child’s Education. Family Connect: American Printing House for the Blind.
Key Employment Statistics for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. (2017). American Foundation for the Blind.
List of Jobs with Career and Salary Information. The Balance Careers.
What Kinds of Jobs do People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired Do? The Chicago Lighthouse.