Employers have been urged to end the “vicious circle of exclusion” against blind and partially-sighted workers, after research revealed that the number of people with sight problems is set to double over the next 20 years.
The call, from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), came as the charity warned that sight loss is costing the nation a total of 4.9bn each year through lost productivity, higher social care and social security costs. This is set to rise as the population continues to age, the RNIB said.
According to government res-earch, nine in 10 UK employers believe it would be “difficult or impossible” to employ someone with a sight problem.
“It does not have to be like this,” said RNIB spokesman Bill Anker. “We will continue to work with employers whose attitudes need to undergo a sea-change to end this vicious circle of exclusion.”
Employers need to know about the support available to them, for example, the 50m-plus fund of government finance, known as ‘Access to Work’, Anker said.
“The government must provide more funding to publicise the Access to Work scheme to employers,” he said. “In the last three years, the scheme has helped more than 36,000 disabled people find and retain jobs.”
As the number of people with sight problems rises, the burden on employers could potentially increase, as organisations are legally required to pay for eye tests if someone has to work in front of a display screen as a significant part of their job.
Employers must also pay towards the cost of corrective vision aids for staff if they are required for VDU use, although this does not apply if the employee wears glasses or contact lenses anyway.