February is Low Vision Awareness Month
Workforce development is a key priority for our state. As employers look to find and retain people to fill open positions, one talent pool that should not be overlooked is individuals with disabilities.
During Low Vison Awareness Month, North Dakota Health and Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation is breaking a few myths about individuals with vision impairments in the workplace and sharing how Vocational Rehabilitation can help both employers and people with disabilities achieve workforce success.
Myth 1: Only older individuals have low vision issues.
Reality: Low vision affects people of all ages.
About three out of 10 children under the age of 18 have a significant vision impairment or are blind according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (i). These individuals have trouble seeing even with glasses or contacts.
Vocational Rehabilitation can help students with disabilities ages 14 and older identify career interests, explore in-demand jobs and find employment opportunities in North Dakota. Learn more about VR student services.
Myth 2: People with vision impairments are less productive.
Reality: They contribute equally when given the right support and accommodations.
Studies show that individuals with vision impairments are dedicated and reliable. They are skilled in problem solving and creative thinking because they have mastered these skills from living in a visual world.
In 2021, North Dakota ranked highest in the nation in the employment of people with a vision disability (nearly seven out of 10 were employed). Nationally, about five out of 10 people with a vision disability were employed (ii).
Myth 3: Hiring a person with a visual impairment requires expensive equipment.
Reality: Workplace accommodations can be no or low cost.
Workplace accommodations are effective in increasing productivity. Many accommodations are no cost or cost under $500. Some common accommodations involve minor changes like flexible scheduling or work-from-home opportunities or work-related technologies like apps, magnifiers, UV shields, talking calculators and other devices.
“People with disabilities have always been a valuable workforce resource,” said Vocational Rehabilitation Director Damian Schlinger. “Oftentimes there are barriers and a stigma about hiring people with disabilities. Our team is ready to help employers get over these hurdles and find solutions for their workforce needs.”
A Vocational Rehabilitation business service specialist can help employers find qualified applicants and retain quality employees and answer questions about workplace accommodations. Vocational Rehabilitation also helps qualifying people with disabilities find employment, remain employed or advance their careers.
In 2023, Vocational Rehabilitation collaborated with statewide businesses to help 737 individuals become successfully employed in various jobs including service professionals, technicians, laborers, sales professionals, craft workers and other professions.
To learn more about Vocational Rehabilitation services, visit hhs.nd.gov/vr.
Other HHS workforce initiatives
HHS has several initiatives and resources that support North Dakota’s workforce development efforts.
Love You to Stay connects new graduates and established health and behavioral health professionals with rewarding health careers in North Dakota and student loan repayment help and support for those serving rural areas and underserved populations. These professionals can build a big life in small-town North Dakota. Learn more at LoveYouToStay.ND.gov.
The North Dakota Child Care Initiative aims to alleviate one of the state's major barriers to workforce participation: child care. As a result of this initiative, child care assistance has become accessible to more working parents by expanding the Child Care Assistance Program and the Working Parents Child Care Relief Pilot Program. Learn more at hhs.nd.gov/nd-child-care-initiative.