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Research assistant with blindness at the Technische Universität Dresden


The employer is the Technical University with 8,300 employees and 32,000 students.

Disability and functional restriction of the employee:

The woman is blind from birth. The residual vision is only sufficient to distinguish between general brightness and darkness. Optical information must therefore be converted so that it can be perceived tactilely with the fingers or acoustically. The GdB (degree of disability) is 100.

Transition school - work:

The woman attended high school at a school with a focus on vision and left with a high school diploma. Then she completed a degree in educational science and social work at the TU Dresden. Even during her studies, barrier-free literature was provided for students with visual impairment or blindness and she received seminar texts on disk or found online literature in PDF form in her own research. Less text-based lectures, such as statistics, were more difficult. Here the lecturer had to dictate all the characters of the formulas individually. A helpful study assistant was not available at the time. That is why her friend friends also spoke numerous texts on cassettes.
After graduating as a graduate educator, the transition to working life was difficult, followed by a period of unemployment lasting several months with numerous applications. Eventually she found employment with a social service provider. As part of her work, she initially looked after pupils from socially disadvantaged families for several years and then designed a barrier-free cultural program for people with and without disabilities.
After the project work, the ongoing contacts with her old university helped her. On her own initiative, she received information about a job offer from the 'Working group for studying with visual impairment and blindness' and was given the position as a research assistant. A year and a half later she was promoted to research assistant.
She also completed an apprenticeship as a peer counselor and since then has also worked as a peer-to-peer consultant for students, prospective students and employees with disabilities and chronic and mental illnesses at the TU Dresden.

Workplace and duties:

The graduate educator mainly works at a screen workstation in an office (picture 1). Your main task is to create and provide accessible study materials. For this purpose, she coordinates some student assistants who create barrier-free texts and monitors their work results. She also selects and assists the student assistants in the application process.
The reworking of graphics in image descriptions or in tactile graphics represents a particular challenge. B. can be achieved by a swell printing process, in which a print on special paper (swell paper) is carried out, which is provided with a chemical, whereby lines, Braille, etc. swell on the paper when heat is applied and become palpable. Here, too, however, some adjustments in the graphic are necessary, such as adapting the labels in Braille and changing the scaling.
Hardly any literature used in the course is completely without graphics. And since it is usually complex scientific content that is conveyed using the graphics, the task of creating a barrier-free alternative is correspondingly demanding. In the area of ??barrier-free graphic editing is also the focus of research in which the research assistant is involved.
The research assistant also offers training courses on creating accessible documents both for university lecturers and on a fee basis at other universities and institutions. And if other areas or departments of the university want to publish literature in Braille, they will read them for correction beforehand.
At her computer workstation, she uses a laptop in combination with a small mobile Braille display (Fig. 2), which she can also use or take with her on business trips and training courses. To read the screen contents, she uses special output software or a so-called screen reader, which outputs the screen contents either tactile with your fingers in Braille via the Braille display or acoustically via the loudspeaker and headphones. For input, she uses a commercially available keyboard, which has standard marking points for typing or operating via the ten-finger system. For reading documents in paper format, she uses a scanner in conjunction with text recognition, so that she can also read the content tactile via the screen reader in connection with the Braille display or have it output acoustically.
Due to their field of activity, there are other aids in the workplace. In addition to a braille printer, there is also an interactive graphic display with a pin plate for tactile display and generation of graphics (Figure 3).

Work organization:

The research assistant works 30 hours a week. A work assistant is available for 20 hours. In particular, the reworking of graphics as a focal point of work cannot yet be completely accomplished without the comparison of a sighted assistant. The work assistant also accompanies the research assistant to all outside appointments, which is why either the appointment itself or the sometimes flexible working hours of the work assistant have to be adjusted accordingly.

Work environment - mobility:

As a student, the woman had already completed mobility training for orientation on the university campus. As with her first job, she received mobility training at the beginning of her job at the university. The woman uses a long stick for orientation and can cover the way to work and important routes on campus either by bus or on foot. The access route and the other internal routes are equipped with a guidance system (floor indicators) and corresponding orientation aids (e.g. information in Braille on a notice board and on stairs or handrails) (Fig. 4).
On business trips, she is usually accompanied by her work assistant. However, since every business trip requires the effort of a single application for funding, it is not uncommon for colleagues who are traveling with you to take on the necessary assisting tasks.


In the event of an emergency with possibly necessary evacuation, the scientific staff member is familiar with the escape route. It is also agreed that a sighted colleague will accompany them outside as part of a rescue partnership.

Employee comment:

The research assistant is very satisfied with her work and believes that she couldn't have done better. She feels well integrated at her work place, is also involved in project days and is supported by all colleagues wherever necessary. Her disability is not perceived as restrictive by her surroundings, but as an enrichment.

Assistive devices used:

Taststicks and white long sticks
Tactile materials for floor and stairs (floor indicator, handrail markings)
tactile computer displays (Braille displays)
Printer (braille printer)
special output software (screen reader)

Funding and participation:

The job assistance, which is available for two thirds of the working time, was funded by the employment agency in the first three years and has since been funded by the Integration and Inclusion Office. Mobility training at the start of employment and the re-equipping of the workplace with a laptop and Braille display, for example, were funded by the employment agency - with the aids and the laptop being funded on a personal basis. The advice was provided by the technical advice service of the employment agency.



  • braille /
  • employer /
  • employee /
  • work task /
  • working equipment /
  • working environment /
  • access to workplace /
  • eye /
  • output device /
  • vocational rehabilitation /
  • screen work /
  • aids for the blind /
  • braille printer /
  • office work /
  • computer /
  • printer /
  • input device /
  • employment /
  • white stick /
  • reading device /
  • mobility /
  • mobility aid /
  • mobility training /
  • new hire /
  • public transport /
  • organisation /
  • orientation /
  • orientation aid /
  • screenreader /
  • sensory disorder /
  • software /
  • university studies /
  • participation /
  • participation in working life /
  • text recognition /
  • text recognition software /
  • environment /
  • best practice /
  • umemployment /
  • computer workplace /
  • EASTIN /
  • safety /
  • emergency /
  • brand /
  • scientific assistant /
  • barrier-freedom /
  • hand rail /
  • marking /
  • guidance system /
  • soil indicators /
  • evacuation /
  • speech output /
  • headset /
  • working hours /
  • part-time job /
  • inclusion /
  • digitalization /
  • university /
  • information and communication /
  • mobility and locomotion /
  • soft skills and social behaviour /
  • scanner /
  • labour office /
  • office for vocational integration /
  • blindness /
  • office /
  • public service /
  • education /
  • science /
  • visualize /
  • information perception /
  • information output /
  • independence /
  • workplace design /
  • work organisation /
  • industrial safety /
  • technical advice /
  • assistive product /
  • job assistance

update status: 06.07.2020

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