The American Foundation for the Blind recently released the findings of the Flatten Inaccessibility research study, which investigated the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on 1,921 blind and low vision participants. Participants repeatedly shared their frustrations with their lack of access to specific information about COVID-19, in addition to challenges with technology tools used to access employment and other life activities.
Protecting access to information and making spaces physically accessible are critical to addressing health risks. Health information should always be provided in accessible formats, including braille, large print, and accessible electronic formats, and videos should be captioned and described. Employees or candidates who are blind or have low vision also need to know where to find the information. Additionally, frequent cleanings and access to PPE and cleaning supplies are important for protecting people who rely on tactile access in the workplace. Employers may consider adding tactile floor markings to help with distancing. Some survey participants noted that they are relying more on apps, like Aira or Be My Eyes, that connect them with sighted assistance to help maintain social distancing and reduce the need to feel surfaces for orientation.
808 participants reported they reached out to other visually impaired individuals in their personal networks for support related to COVID-19. Promoting local support networks can help new and existing employees with disabilities adapt to the pandemic precautions and share information learned through personal experience.
Provide accessible health information (braille, large print, and accessible electronic
Clean workspaces frequently, and offer PPE.
Consider promoting or providing sighted assistance services (i.e. Be My Eyes or Aria).
Consider connecting blind and low vision individuals with support networks and groups.