Discrimination in the workplace
Are we turning a blind eye to discrimination in the workplace? Georgie Bullen FRSA, Director and founder of Team Insight Limited and GB Paralympian thinks that we are; and with just 27% of visually impaired and blind people of working age in employment compared with 73.6% of the non-disabled working population, it’s hard to disagree.
“If you were faced with the CV of someone who was visually impaired, would it have any impact on whether you felt you could employ them? Whether it be a conscious belief that blind people are not capable or skilful employees, or whether it is simply the fear of making some sort of ‘Politically Incorrect’ statement that would offend, like ‘See you later’, the simple fact is that visually impaired people are not gaining employment.
In the UK just 27% of visually impaired people are in employment
“In the UK, approximately 27% of visually impaired and blind people of working age are in employment. When you compare this to the non-disabled working age population in the UK, where 73.6% are employed, one begins to appreciate the enormity of this issue. Even on comparing the visually impaired population against the general disabled population, there is a huge disparity where 46% are in employment. So why is it that, either consciously or unconsciously, we view visually impaired people as unemployable?
“I believe one of the main factors contributing to the unemployment rate, is a general discomfort interacting with visually impaired people; it’s the feared awkwardness of ‘should I go in for a hand shake?’ or should I avoid saying “Nice to see you” for fear of causing offence.
“There is no shame in not knowing how to handle a new situation, but we should not let our fear of making a social faux pas affect decisions on whether to give a visually impaired candidate an interview. The best way of dealing with such a situation is to be frank, to ask questions regarding accessibility prior to the interview, for example ‘Do you need any special assistance or requirements’ should not offend. (Side note: Visually Impaired people say phrases like ‘See you later’ all the time, do not make an unnatural effort to sensor yourself!)
Employers under false impression
“Another factor that may be a disincentive to employment are the ‘supposed’ costs associated with employing a disabled person; some visually impaired people require support workers or specialised equipment and employers are under the false impression they would bear that bill. However, there are schemes, such as the Government’s ‘Access to Work’ programme, which exist to fund these additional costs.
“There are instances where there will be no ‘direct’ discrimination, but visually impaired people will be blocked from even completing an application due to its inaccessible nature. This can be down to issues such as the application itself being unresponsive to programmes which allow visually impaired people to enlarge and modify resources, or it can be down to the format of the application, as there are some which will not allow them to continue if they fail to meet certain criteria such as being able to drive. Yet in many employment situations a visually impaired person would be entitled to use a driver/taxi through access to work and their other skills may be entirely otherwise appropriate to the position. Employers should consider whether their application process is unknowingly discriminating.
Many people feel undermined by their disability
“It should be acknowledged these appalling employment statistics cannot necessarily be blamed entirely upon the employer, some responsibility must also be due to the nature of the impairment and it’s affects upon the individual. Many visually impaired people feel undermined by their disability, self-conscious, and suffer from a lack of confidence which may easily deter them from seeking employment. It is important to understand that visual impairment can be a very isolating disability. To actually apply for a job demands the individual may have initially had to overcome many of the barriers that come with their disability.
Getting a job is a competetive process
“Getting a job is a very competitive process for everyone and deciding who to hire is in itself a challenging task, there will often be only minor criteria differentiating the applicants, but when considering the pro’s and cons of each candidate, visual impairment should not automatically come down as a con. Many would argue that visually impaired people make even better employees as they’ve had to work ten-times harder to earn their position and they will be keen to over-achieve in their work to prove their doubters wrong.
Unemployment rates amongst visually impaired people are a major issue and it is time for us to open our eyes to it. As a caring society we should make a conscious effort to improve our short comings.”
Local jobs club
If you’re visually impaired and currently looking for work, find out more about a job clob hosted by My Sight Notts on behalf of our partners at Action for Blind People.