Creating an Enriching Work Life for Older Adults with Vision Loss

Vocational rehabilitation helps individuals with vision loss and other disabilities to participate more fully in the workforce and lead increasingly independent and rewarding lives. Vocational training enables those with blindness and vision loss to secure, maintain, or regain employment. These services also benefit employers by helping them attract and retain strong and passionate employees living with blindness and vision loss to create a diverse workforce.

Adults now work later in life, which is often true for adults with blindness and vision loss and other disabilities. While efforts are being made to help reduce the income gap, adults with vision loss have historically faced reduced earnings, which impacts opportunities for early retirement. Adults with blindness and significant vision loss may qualify for state and/or federal vocational rehabilitation services and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). But adults with lower levels of vision loss who are not yet eligible for assistance may still face significant challenges maintaining employment.

An extensive network of vision rehabilitation agencies across the United States provides crucial employment services and training. Agencies partner with individuals, employers, educational institutions and other community organizations to offer vocational services tailored to individuals’ unique goals and needs.

Job coaches provide on-site support and help to facilitate orientation, build skills, address more complex tasks, and problem-solve to maximize success.

Vocational rehabilitation services often begin with a comprehensive evaluation and assessment to confirm an individual’s strengths, skills, abilities and any limitations related to their vision loss (or other disability). This assessment helps vocational rehabilitation counselors work closely with each client to identify the best career options and highly personalized vocational goals. They also help clients understand the process and training needed to address any recent or ongoing changes in vision, enhance skills to continue to thrive in an existing job, or develop new skills to secure another position.

Services are tailored to meet each client’s specific needs and goals and often include:

  • Vocational Training
    If a client can remain with an existing position or employer, agencies will provide specialized training to enhance existing skills and help clients develop new ones. This may include one-on-one career coaching and training, skills development workshops, on-the-job training and more. Vocational training often means using a broad range of hardware and software. Given the continuous changes in the requirements of individual positions, the workforce and technology, many clients with vision loss benefit from continued training and counseling support.
  • Job Placement and Job Search Assistance
    Individuals seeking a new position or reentering the workforce benefit from a broad range of job search support. Job placement specialists help clients conduct detailed searches to locate suitable positions, assist with resume development and job applications, and build interview skills.
  • On the Job Training
    Once a position is secured, on-the-job training and added vocational support helps an employee navigate their new company and position and determine the best technology, accommodations and other training to maximize success.

Vocational Support Often Includes:

  • Workplace Accessibility and Modifications
    Vocational rehabilitation agencies collaborate with employers to enhance workplace accessibility and modifications to accommodate individuals with vision loss and other disabilities.
  • Job Coaching and Support
    Job coaches provide on-site support and assistance to facilitate orientation, build skills, address more complex tasks, and problem-solve to maximize success.
  • Transportation and Orientation and Mobility Services
    Access to transportation is essential for people with blindness and vision loss who commute to work. Vocational rehabilitation programs offer orientation and mobility training that helps people with vision loss navigate transportation and their work facility safely and independently. Training often includes using a white cane and may extend to dog guides. Specialized software, including GPS apps, can help navigate public transportation and the purchase of bus passes, transportation vouchers or accessible transportation options.
  • Assistive Technology
    Vocational rehabilitation agencies provide assistive technology devices—hardware and software to perform essential job functions. Access and assistive hardware and software are vital in connecting people with vision loss to the tools they need to overcome barriers to job success.

Some of the most used hardware and software used in vocational rehabilitation include:

  • Access Technology & Assistive Devices
    Various hardware is available to help individuals with vision loss and other disabilities at work. Examples include: o Mobility aids such as white canes o Adaptive keyboards o Voice recognition software and speech-to-text devices
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices
    AAC devices range from basic communication boards to high-tech speech-generating devices.
  • Adaptive Technology
    Adaptive technology refers to hardware modifications or specialized equipment and specialized devices and tools to accommodate the needs of individuals with blindness and vision loss. Accessible workstations are equipped with hardware modifications and assistive technology tools to accommodate individuals with disabilities. This may include large, adjustable monitors and braille keyboards.

Adaptive software includes:

  • Screen Readers
    Convert on-screen text into synthesized speech or Braille output, allowing individuals with visual impairments to access and interact with digital content, including documents, websites and applications.
  • Screen Magnification Software
    Enlarges on-screen information to help people living with blindness and low vision to access content, images, graphics and links to browsers and software.
  • Speech Recognition Software
    Speech recognition software allows users to control computers and dictate text using voice commands.
  • Text-to-Speech Software
    Text-to-speech (TTS) software converts written text into spoken audio, enabling individuals with vision loss to access written information more easily.
  • Accessible Web Design Tools
    Web accessibility software helps developers create websites and digital content that comply with accessibility standards, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can access and navigate online resources effectively.

These hardware and software aids, when coupled with personalized training support, empower individuals with vision loss and other disabilities to overcome workplace challenges. The result is a well-trained employee who performs job tasks independently and succeeds in their chosen careers.

These are just a few examples of the vocational rehabilitation services available to help individuals with blindness and low vision achieve their employment goals and lead fulfilling lives.

Vital Benefits of Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation can have tremendous benefits, including:

  • Increased employment opportunities: Individuals develop the skills, confidence and resources needed to maintain an existing job, retool for a new one, or re-enter the workforce.
  • Enhanced independence: Through suitable employment, vocational rehabilitation promotes confidence, independence and self-sufficiency.
  • Improved quality of life: Employment offers many crucial benefits, including financial stability, a sense of purpose, social connection and personal fulfillment. Increased self-reliance and less isolation can improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.
  • Enhanced workforce diversity: Inclusivity not only creates increased opportunities and helps those in the workforce overcome barriers to employment, but also builds momentum in helping employers understand the tremendous and unique value of employees with vision loss and other disabilities—leading to a more diverse and inclusive society.

Accessing Vision Rehabilitation and Employment Services

VisionServe Alliance members offer vision rehabilitation services, with many providing vital employment services and training. To locate the vision rehabilitation agency nearest you, visit You can also visit Time to Be Bold, locate added resources at APH Connect Center, speak with an experienced representative at (800)232-5463, or email

For more information, enjoy 10 previous articles in this VisionServe Alliance series: The Reality of Aging and Vision Loss in America, Vision Rehabilitation Can Complete the Continuum of Care, Vision Rehabilitation—Help and Hope, Vision Rehabilitation Helps Older Adults Thrive, Shining a Light on Inclusion: Empowering People with Vision Impairment, Vision Rehabilitation Professionals Make the Difference, The Connection Between Health and Vision Impairment, How to Meet the Growing Challenge of Older Americans with Vision Loss, Identifying Services for Those with Vision Loss, A 21st Century Vision for an Age-Old Problem.

Lee Nasehi, MSW, is president and CEO of VisionServe Alliance, which leads a cooperative of member organizations that advance the vision loss field, and Aging and Vision Loss National Coalition (AVLNC), which addresses critical issues impacting older adults with blindness and low vision. Previously, Nasehi served as president and CEO of Lighthouse Central Florida and Lighthouse Works. She is the parent of an adult son who is blind and has other disabilities.