What is Blindness?

Blindness is the loss of vision due to physiological or psychological conditions. Total blindness is a complete lack of form and light perception. "Blindness" is also frequently used to describe serious vision impairment with residual vision. Individual governments and jurisdictions often create their own complex definitions of "legal blindness."

Most blindness is caused by either malnutrition or disease, including cataracts and glaucoma. Eye injuries, however, as well as genetics, can also lead to blindness. Some treatments and aids are available to the blind, including adaptive computer software that allows individuals to interact with computers and Braille reading materials can make a blind person's life and work much more feasible.

Ways in Which You Might be Discriminated Against Because of Blindness
  • Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
  • Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability
  • Your employer does not provide you with Braille materials or adaptive computer software for the blind
  • Your employer does not allow you to use a seeing eye dog
How the Law Protects You if You Are Blind

To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled. The employee must then show that:

  • his or her disability results in physical limitations
  • that he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations)
  • and that the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability.

According to both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's disability. An adverse employment action would include discriminatory hiring, firing, or lack of accommodation. Blindness is such a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's blindness. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with blindness so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. While some jobs require (even by law) that employees have good eyesight, many jobs can be accomplished by individuals with vision problems. Employers have a responsibility to provide accommodations to blind individuals, such as providing blind individuals with brail reading materials or allowing the use of a seeing eye dog, so long as these accommodations do not place too much of a burden on the employer and workplace safety is not threatened.

Further Information