According to the American Foundation for the Blind (2010):
- 75% of adults who are visually impaired are not in the labor force
- The rate of unemployment rate in visually impaired adults is 13.2%
Data on the employment status of persons with visual impairments presented in this document was obtained from two sources: the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and the National Health Interview Survey on Disability (NHIS-D). Please note each source uses a different definition of vision impairment and includes different age categories of working age adults.
Data From the Survey of Income and Program Participation
- Nationally, among persons age 21 to 64 who have a visual impairment (defined as difficulty or inability to see words and letters in ordinary newspaper print even when wearing glasses or contact lenses), only 55.3% are employed; among individuals unable to see words and letters, this figure decreases to 48.0%. This proportion is significantly lower than the estimated 88.2% of persons in this age group without any kind of disability who were employed (Steinmetz, 2006).
- An examination of data collected from the Survey of Income and Program Participation 1991-1992, 1997, and 2006 indicates an increase in the proportion of persons with severe vision impairment who are employed. During 1991-1992 only 26% of persons with a severe vision impairment were employed, compared to 30% in 1997 and 48% employed in 2002 (McNeil, 1993; McNeil 2001; Steinmetz, 2006).
Average Annual Earnings
- Average annual earnings of individuals with visual impairments are about 33% lower than those earned by persons without disabilities ($22,106 versus $32,870) (Steinmetz, 2006).
- Working-age adults with visual impairments also earn annual incomes that are about 4% lower than those earned by persons with any type of disability ($22,106 versus $23,034) (Steinmetz, 2006).
- Utilizing data from the American Community Survey (2009), average annual earnings of individuals with visual impairments in NY State was $32,600.
Data From the National Health Interview Survey on Disability
The following estimates were compiled by the American Foundation for the Blind (2004) utilizing data collected from the National Health Interview Survey on Disability.
- Approximately 46% of people ages 18 to 69 years who have a vision impairment (serious difficulty seeing even with glasses or contact lenses) or are legally blind are employed.
- Not including persons who are legally blind, 46% of individuals ages 18 to 69 who have a visual impairment (serious difficulty seeing even with glasses or contact lenses) are employed.
- An estimated 32% of legally blind individuals ages 18 to 69 years of age are employed.
Youth & Employment
- Youth aged 16 to 21 – 67% have had some work experience in the past 5 years (McDonnall, 2010); this varies when taking into account a secondary disability – it ranges from 43% (with a secondary disability) to 77% (no secondary disability).
- Results of the National Longitudinal Transition Study indicate that only 29% of youths with visual impairments (between the ages of 16 and 21 years) were competitively employed 3-5 years following secondary school. This figure can be compared to 57% of youths with disabilities overall and 69% of youth in general who are employed (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996).