Few would deny that vision is a
critical aspect of
many jobs. Whether the job involves driving, visual inspection and
quality control, sorting by color or making critical life and death
decisions, vision can be very important to safe and effective job
performance. Despite these facts, vision requirements for specific jobs
are seldom specified by employers and physicians rarely utilize
appropriate vision screening devices in their practices.
Until halted by the U.S. Supreme Court
on June 22,
1999, vision requirements for commercial drivers, police officers and
firefighters were being targeted by the EEOC for discrimination
lawsuits. In some cases, organizations that posted vision
qualifications, such as "20/40 vision required," were pressured to
eliminate these requirements. While the EEOC's activities will now be
limited to those persons with severe disabilities (blindness, monocular
vision, etc.), one can expect that continued and expanded activity by
state fair employment practices departments to work toward the
elimination of vision requirements.
with myopia who can perform the job should be hired. However, if the
job requires performance at a measured level of 20/20 and the
individual's myopia makes him or her only capable of only 20/40
performance, that individual should not be hired if no reasonable
accommodation is available.
requirements can be determined for jobs for which visual abilities are
critical. Some factors to consider in assessing whether vision
requirements are warranted include:
Contact MED-TOX if you are
interested in developing valid vision requirements for your company's
Does the job
involve life or death decisions? Firefighters, emergency service
providers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, lifeguards,
and medical professionals must, at times, make life or death decisions
on the basis of their visual assessment of a given situation. The
failure of proper performance in visual tasks could be catastrophic.
Is speed a factor
in task performance? If decisions must be made quickly on the basis of
visual stimuli, vision may be related to job performance. Inspection
workers, for example, who fail to see color or defects in a product
because of lack of acuity, could be failing to adequately perform
essential functions of the job.
tasks be performed in dim light or relative darkness. Vision scientists
have determined that acuity should be at least twice as good to perform
a task in dim light or darkness than in a well illuminated environment.
Must the activity
be performed alone? Many jobs may require an occasional
vision-dependent task, but if there are several people in close
proximity to the worker assistance may be given. Tasks that are not
performed alone are not suitable tasks upon which to base vision
Can the job be
accommodated? New technology in vision assistive devices now allow
persons with low vision and blindness to perform many jobs. Vision
requirements must be based on tasks that cannot be modified by
currently available technology.
Does the job
involve driving? State driver's licensing departments do not always
check vision upon license renewal. Mere possession of a driver's
license is not proof that a given person has the visual capabilities
necessary to operate a motor vehicle or even perform vision-related
tasks. Arizona, for example, issues a driver's license at age 20 that
does not expire until the driver reaches age 65. The table here indicates whether vision is checked during
the renewal of a driver's license.