How access technology supports independence in the workplace

Posted: 
23 January 2014

Andy White, Employment and Working Age Manager at RNIB, looks at how technology can support independence in the workplace.

Access technology enables blind and partially sighted people to take more control over their work, and participate in jobs that they may otherwise be excluded from. The use of a computer installed with appropriate access technology software, plays a fundamental role in a blind or partially sighted person's ability to work in a wide variety of roles, and the increased use of information and communication technology in the workplace means that blind and partially sighted people can do almost any job.

What is access technology?

Access technology refers to a wide range of specialist equipment or software that helps blind or partially sighted people participate in activities as independently as possible. It often refers to a computer that has been adapted so that information can be entered or retrieved (accessed) by a person with limited or no sight. Examples include:

  • Screen magnification software. This is software installed on a normal computer, which allows the user to enlarge the image on the screen. This would generally be used by someone with some level of useful vision.
  • Screen reading software. This is software installed on a normal computer, which converts text on the screen to speech. The user typically listens using headphones so as not to disrupt others. This would generally be used by someone with little or no sight.

More information is available on our website in our assisitive technology at work section.

IT compatibility with business systems

Blind or partially sighted employees will probably need to use access software, such as the types described above. We have produced a factsheet designed to help employers test the compatibility of access software with corporate IT systems.

Sometimes, access technology software needs to be configured to work with bespoke application software. This requires commissioning the services of an access technology specialist, although installation and configuration of access technology software can often be paid for by Access to Work.

Assessment

The access technology a person requires should be identified through a detailed work-based assessment carried out by a qualified access technology specialist. Access to Work normally pays for an assessment to identify adjustments funded under the scheme, although many large employers or occupational health providers prefer to commission a more thorough assessment from a specialist provider such as RNIB or Action for Blind People.

For further information contact research@rnib.org.uk

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