Helping Your Visually Impaired Child Craft a Functional Disability Statement
The ability to describe one’s vision is a valuable skill. Certainly, your grade schooler’s educational team and peers are curious as to what your child can see and how he accomplishes various tasks. Your child’s grade school teachers and peers may choose to ask him about his vision in order to gain a better understanding. It will not always be that simple.
In the future, your child will interview for jobs. The interviewers cannot legally ask about your child’s visual impairment until he has disclosed it. The panel will likely make inaccurate assumptions and question whether or not your child will be capable of fulfilling the job responsibilities. Your child will be more successful by preparing to answer the potential employer’s unspoken questions and concerns.
This conversation your grown child will have at job interviews—informing a potential boss about his capabilities for job tasks—is called a functional disability statement. This statement conveys basic information about your child’s vision and how he may accomplish tasks differently.
AFB CareerConnect has multiple resources on the topic of describing one’s visual impairment and creating a functional disability statement, including:
- “The Fear of the Foreign: Addressing Unspoken Concerns of Hiring Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired”
- “Tools for Finding Employment: Writing a Disability Statement”
Anyone with a disability (especially a disability that is noticeable), should get comfortable talking about that disability using positive language, discussing how it changes the way she accomplishes tasks, and providing supporting evidence of her ability to successfully accomplish tasks.
Preparing Your Child to Discuss a Visual Impairment
Here are some ideas for preparing your child for such experiences.
- Help your child come to terms with his visual impairment. A disability is one aspect of life, not the defining feature. Others become comfortable with his visual impairment if they notice he is comfortable with his vision.
- Model positive language regarding the visual impairment. Help your child focus on what she can do and who she is instead of focusing on what is lacking.
- Teach your child to describe what he can see. It is important to keep a disability statement simple and free from medical terms. He may say, “I have a small amount of vision. I can only see in the center field. In this room, I can see the paper you are holding, but when I look toward the paper, I can’t see much else.”
- Help your child recognize her abilities and communicate them with others.
- Talk with your child about how he accomplishes some tasks differently than sighted people. Help him acknowledge the differences and give him opportunities to teach others about his methods.
- Give your child opportunities to demonstrate assistive technology to people around her. She can show curious friends, educate the IEP team, and introduce her technology to teachers each year.
- Coach your child in respectfully answering others’ questions about his visual impairment. Explain to your child that most people do not understand what it is like to have limited or no vision. Help him understand that if the situation was reversed, your child would want a respectful answer to his questions.
- Help your child understand and anticipate possible concerns and questions of his teachers, friends, service providers, and future employers. Teach him to address the concerns and questions.
Three common concerns of potential employers include an assumed lack of safety, an assumed lack of productivity, and insecurity about getting printed material to a person with a visual impairment.
Talk about these concerns with your older grade schooler. Offer encouragement for mobility training to travel safely, praise when you recognize a strong work ethic, assistance to get the tools and training needed to be productive at school, and advocacy to make sure your child learns the technology needed to access written material.
Unless your child actively works on these skills, the employer’s concerns are justified. With the right motivation and many years of hard work throughout grade school and beyond, your child can completely disprove and address employer concerns.