by Ned Stoller Ned Stoller

Is it reasonable for a person with severe visual impairments to operate high-tolerance machines to manufacture parts with a lathe and mill?  Would that be a good recommendation?  What trades are most conducive to what abilities? 

Our culture has strong differences of opinion regarding questions like this. 

While the goal of assistive technology is to help people with disabilities live independently, it is important to consider what jobs are appropriate for each person.  Think about each of these points:

Previous work experience & education


Alternative employment/training options

Work setting and relationship with employer

Cost of accommodation 

For example, Roger has owns $20,000 of tools, has 15 years experience and 2 years of education in the tool & die industry.  It is appropriate to consider costly assistive technology to help him continue that job in spite of low vision.  On the other hand, Phil is a high school junior who is legally blind.  He is trying to decide on a career.  While it is possible to teach him as a tool and die maker, the cost of accommodation would be unrealistic when there are other career choices that would be more safe and provide equal or better employment opportunities. 

The O*NET program is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Central to the project is the O*NET database, containing information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors. The database, which is available to the public at no cost, is continually updated by surveying a broad range of workers from each occupation.

Workers can go to and search according to their abilities.  Select your ability and search the database.  Over 900 occupations will be listed in order of how important that ability is for the successful completion of the job.  If the desired occupation requires a highly important and regular use of an ability you do not posess, it may not be an appropriate option. 

When a worker has most of the abilities needed to accomplish a certain occupation, Disability Work Tools can help accommodate any remaining abilities that are needed.  Disability Work Tools can provide assistive technology assessments to determine how to make the work site and tasks accessible.  We can also research and develop new assistive technology for workers in skilled trades.