The UK will be missing out on thousands of talented workers unless organisations radically change their attitude to employing blind people, leading campaigners have warned.
The number of people losing their sight is likely to double in the next 20 years as the workforce ages and the number of people suffering from obesity and diabetes – key causes of blindness – grows. An estimated 80,000 people of working age are currently affected by sight problems, with two-thirds of these unemployed.
Government research has found that 92% of employers said it would be either ‘difficult’ or ‘impossible’ to employ a blind or partially sighted person. The vast majority were also unaware of the financial support available through the government’s Access to Work scheme.
Now campaigners have joined forces to launch the ‘UK Vision Strategy‘, which sends out a stark warning about the scale of the problem.
Colin Whitbourn, head of service development at Action for Blind People, said a major focus of the strategy was keeping people in work when they lose their sight.
“For many visually impaired people, the barrier to employment is not so much lack of skills or qualifications, but rather employer assumptions,” he said.
“The strategy aims to show employers how they are needlessly missing out on thousands of talented potential employees who want to work.”
Most employers were not being malicious or discriminatory, but simply lacked the right information on how to help individuals.
Whitbourn said the £65m government-funded Access to Work scheme was a good place to start, but it needed extra cash.
The Vision Strategy calls for more supported employment for people with sight loss and for employers to review their recruitment processes to ensure they are not discriminatory.