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Dr. Candace Berg
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Women with guide dog at computer Tapping the Talent

One of the major trends presently affecting the American labor market, as identified by the 1988 U.S. Department of Labor study “Opportunity 2000”, is the substantial reduction in qualified personnel to fill the jobs that become available. If American business is to remain an economic leader, it will have to tap the talent of diverse populations that traditionally has been overlooked.

Blind and visually impaired individuals are just such a population. Blindness and severe vision loss have traditionally created significant barriers to accessing information such as printed materials or standard computer screens. However, advances in technology have brought about changes in the way information is being processed and have created exciting opportunities for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Computers, when combined with advances in synthetic speech, large print software, or electronic Braille, create entirely new methods for them to receive, process and transmit information. Thus, these new advances can now unlock the talents of this overlooked population in the workplace.

Tap into a pool of SAF's talented job ready candidates (DOC, 51KB).

Man working at bank call center The Advantage

The advantages of hiring an individual who is blind or visually impaired are:
  • A broad-based pool of qualified, job ready candidates. A sampling includes Communications Director for the EPA, a Research psychologist with NASA Ames, and an On-line Operator with Silicon Graphics.
  • ADA compliance with the letter and spirit of the law, consistent with a model leadership role in Human Resources practices.
  • Accommodations made for individuals who are blind or visually impaired can mean creating an environment more accessible to the changing needs of all your personnel. For example, large print monitors can reduce eyestrain, which can increase the amount of time spent at a workstation.
  • Often a worksite evaluation for a blind or visually impaired worker can examine productivity, identify inefficiency and provide suggestions for alternative work procedures. For example, the reorganization of a filing system by physically changing its positioning, adding additional lighting, or increasing the size of the print on the labels, can make the workplace more accessible and productive for all personnel, not just those with a visual disability.


Man with guide dog in front of sign Win-Win Relationship

Industry leaders have already recognized and tapped the talent of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Sensory Access Foundation (SAF) was created to act as a conduit between you, the employer, and the qualified job-ready individual. For over thirty years, SAF has assisted individuals who are blind or visually impaired to find and keep competitive employment throughout California. A working relationship with SAF and its clientele is a “win-win” proposition with many benefits, such as:

  • Pre-screened qualified job-ready candidates with diverse experience and education.
  • Access evaluation and training on-site or at SAF.
  • On-site evaluation of job tasks and work environment.
  • Recommendations for cost effective accommodation or restructuring.
  • Assistance in identifying appropriate access technology for specific needs.
  • Assistance in interfacing access technology with existing systems.
  • Follow-up support services to guarantee success of a placement or retention.


SAF’s Access Technology team performing job task analysis Project Open-Doors

For years the model for job placement has been to identify the client's skills and objective, look for an opening in the job market, and then try and make a match. This works for the majority of disabilities. However, people who are blind or visually impaired have many other considerations that make this model not very effective.

Project Open Doors is a complete mind shift in job placement for people who are blind or visually impaired. The traditional placement model uses 5 steps:

  1. Obtain a job ready client.
  2. Identify objective & skills.
  3. Match objective & skills with job.
  4. Obtain job offer.
  5. Determine accessibility. The accessibility issue is critical to whether or not a job offer is rescinded or even given to a person who is blind or visually impaired.


Project Open Doors looks at job placement from the front, that is, before a client is even identified. We work with "the job" itself, breaking down every aspect of the job determining accessibility from the technology involved, to ergonomics, to lighting, etc. The Project Open Doors model uses 4 steps:

  1. Identify major job growth clusters within industries.
  2. Perform a complete accessibility evaluation of identified jobs to determine accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired, free-of-charge to employers.
  3. Company is given the "seal of accessibility" (and knows that accessibility is no longer an issue in the hiring process).
  4. Job developers for the blind or visually impaired can concentrate on the exact skills required by the job and pre-screen candidates more thoroughly, thus making placements more expedient.


Project Open Doors is the reverse of how placement has been traditionally done. This process can put employers at ease and can empower them to hire people who are blind or visually impaired.