Wednesday 3rd November 2021, NCBI is today launching a new suite of resources aimed at tackling the challenges faced by people who are blind or vision impaired when trying to obtain or retain employment. The campaign is being launched by An Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
Chris White NCBI CEO said “Employment is important for much more than just financial stability, it can boost your self-esteem, your health and happiness. It is a crucial element to maintaining a person’s independence yet so many talented and qualified people who are blind or vision impaired are not getting the opportunities. This can be due to employer assumptions, inaccessible recruitment practices, limitations of statutory supports etc. NCBI is keen to raise awareness of this and seeks statutory, employer and public support to tackle these barriers, dispel myths and create a more inclusive workforce”.
Internationally, Ireland has a low employment rate with only 24% of people who are blind or vision impaired in employment. However, NCBI’s Seeing Your Career report proposes a series of recommendations which if implemented would see the employment rate increase. These include:
• Implementing the information campaign contained within the Government’s Comprehensive Employment Strategy which details supports available to employers and employees. This campaign needs to have sight loss specific information to help demystify the assumptions about a person’s ability and capacity.
• Technology is a significant equalizer and can empower workers to both obtain and retain employment. But funding to assist with costs through HSE Technical Aids Grants and Reasonable Accommodation Fund is fragmented and channelled through the employer. Instead a person-centred fund should be rolled out so individuals can keep adaptations such as any magnification software throughout their career.
• Digital accessibility is a real barrier if recruitment ads and processes are not accessible effectively excluding job seekers who are blind or vision impaired. Also, many systems and software used within the public sector is not compatible with assistive technology. Full compliance with EU Web Accessibility Directive for statutory agencies and inclusive recruitment practices are required.
• Being self-employed brings huge benefits to someone who is blind or vision impaired but there is inadequate tailored financial support or advice to encourage entrepreneurship so a package of tailored supports should be available.
• Ongoing confusion and fear remain among people who are blind or vision impaired around social welfare entitlements when working or taking up casual work or self-employment. Some efforts have been made including increases in income disregards but also need to ensure mywelfare.ie is fully accessible so can apply online for supports and any project-based funding should not be considered in full as means tested income for the purpose of social welfare supports.
As part of its campaign NCBI has produced a series of resources to assist employers, inform job seekers and influence policy development. These include Seeing Your Career report with a number of policy recommendations outlined, Tips for Employers on how to recruit and retain staff with a vision impairment, Guide for Job Seekers and Guide for Employers on the current suite of statutory supports available.