The rise of David Paterson to the governor’s chair in New York drew attention to how employers show bias against the blind – often unintentionally – in two major ways.
No, HR managers don’t wake up each morning and say, “I think I’ll discriminate against the blind.” In fact, the opposite is more likely true – that HR managers and their employers want to give the blind a fair shot at employment and advancement.
Advocates for the blind agree that HR managers are fair-minded, but those same advocates point out that there is a degree of unintentional bias that works against the blind, particularly in these two areas:
Hiring student workers or interns. Spring is here, and that’s traditionally the time employers start thinking about hiring student workers for the summer and maybe interns in the fall. So here’s a question: When’s the last time your company hired a blind student or intern?
If you have made such a hire, congratulations, because you’re one of the few. If you haven’t, consider looking into outreach programs that serve blind students, who have an especially tough time getting part-time or entry-level jobs.
Keeping older workers with deteriorating sight. We often think of “the blind” as people whose sight is affected early in life, but many legally blind people fall into that category later, as age affects their eyesight. The result: They quit work in frustration, or they’re fired because they try to mask the disability and employers think it’s a performance problem.
Try alerting your managers to the possibility that a longtime, steady-Eddie employee who suddenly goes downhill might be suffering from a sight problem. You can’t force such an employee to seek help, but you can suggest visiting a medical specialist who can diagnose the problem and provide help.