If you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it's important to know that you're not alone. Many people develop vision loss as more people are living longer. Those who are currently working may wonder whether they should continue in their present jobs.
As you consider this question, learning more about your options for continued income, retirement, disability, and benefits can help with your decision.
Vision Loss and Employment
The initial stages of vision loss can be difficult, especially if you:
- Enjoy your work and want to continue
- Are concerned that you may lose your job
- Know that you can't afford to retire early
Vision loss doesn’t have to mean job loss. Take your time in considering your options before you make any decisions. Here are some issues to learn more about:
Learn as much as you can about your disease and your prognosis. If you have some remaining vision, you may be able to use a low-vision device, such as a telescope or other reading aid. Your doctor can examine you to see if you’re a good candidate.
A low-vision specialist can help you maximize the vision you have so that you can continue to work safely and effectively. Tell the specialist about:
- The type of work you do
- What you want to continue doing
- Details about any visual difficulties you're experiencing
Look into your options for early retirement, Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, keep in mind that it is often much easier to adapt your current work situation than to try to reenter the workforce after leaving.
Workplace Adaptations for People with Macular Degeneration
Be clear in explaining your specific visual needs to your employer or co-workers, because they may not have experience with or knowledge of macular degeneration and low vision. When you meet with your employer, provide details about what types of aids you may need, such as:
- Large print labels for your materials
- Different kinds of lighting to improve light levels
- Desk position or lighting adjustments to control lighting and glare
- Low-vision devices such as a magnifier or CCTV/video magnifier for reading difficulty
Analyze your work to see if there are any duties you believe you can no longer perform, such as:
- Driving a vehicle
- Moving equipment
- Handling potentially dangerous or hazardous items
Consider how each of these issues can be resolved to come up with suggestions for your employer. Perhaps you can “trade” a difficult task with a co-worker.
Services and Support for Low-Vision
Contact your state rehabilitation agency for the blind or visually impaired and ask to meet with a vocational rehabilitation counselor. This person can coordinate a service and training plan for you.
Ask your vocational rehabilitation counselor for referrals to specialists who can help you get to and from work or move around your job site more easily:
- An orientation and mobility specialist can teach you to orient yourself to your work environment and travel independently to and from your place of work.
- A vision rehabilitation therapist can provide instruction in grooming, organizational skills, reading, writing, and money management.
Ask your vocational rehabilitation counselor about low-vision aids and devices. Your employer may be willing (or even legally required) to pay for any adaptive equipment you need to do your job.
Learn about other resources that can support you in your work. Ask your family, friends, and your vocational rehabilitation counselor, and check our Macular Degeneration Resources page.
After completing this research, you’ll be ready to explain your situation to your employer. By planning ahead, you'll have resolved many issues that could prevent you from continuing to work.
Government Benefits and Resources
Please visit our Government Benefits page to learn more about your options for Social Security income, disability, and many other resources.