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PRESS RELEASE
10-25-05

EEOC EXPLAINS EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS OF PERSONS WHO ARE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED

New Document Answers Frequently-Asked Questions, Challenges Stereotypes

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a question-and-answer document on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to people in the workplace who are blind or who have vision impairments. The new publication, is available on EEOC's web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/blindness.html.

The latest Q&A document is the fifth in a series of fact sheets issued by the EEOC for persons with disabilities, and/or focusing on the ADA and specific disability issues, in accordance with President Bush's New Freedom Initiative. It is the second ADA document made available by the Commission in the past two weeks, in observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

"This publication will help eliminate unfounded fears and stereotypes that lead to employment discrimination against so many people who are blind or visually impaired," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "As with prior ADA fact sheets, our goal is twofold: first, to make clear that all people with disabilities are protected from workplace discrimination and, second, to educate employers and promote access and inclusion."

Among the issues the new Q&A document addresses are:

  • When a vision impairment is a "disability" within the meaning of the ADA;
  • What questions employers may ask job applicants or employees about their vision impairments and when employers may conduct medical examinations that test vision;
  • What accommodations people who are blind or visually disabled may need to apply for a job, to perform a job's essential functions, or to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment, such as the ability to take advantage of training and other opportunities for advancement; and
  • How employers should handle safety concerns they may have about applicants or employees with vision impairments.

The fact sheet helps to advance the goals of the President's New Freedom Initiative, a comprehensive strategy for the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life. The New Freedom Initiative seeks to promote greater access to technology, education, employment opportunities, and community life for people with disabilities. An important part of the New Freedom Initiative's strategy for increasing employment opportunities involves providing employers with technical assistance on the ADA. Information about other EEOC activities under the Initiative also is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.

In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government, EEOC enforces laws prohibiting race, sex, color, national origin, religion, and age discrimination in employment.