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Vision Foundation unveils plan to "break the cycle" of unemployment for visually impaired

The Countess of Wessex and Lord Blunkett have backed a new report by the Vision Foundation

Lord Blunkett
Vision Foundation

Thousands of people who are blind and partially sighted are being excluded from the workplace because employers see their disability and not their skills, a new report released by the Vision Foundation last week has claimed.

The See my skills report, which was released last Wednesday (7 July) through a tandem cycling event led by the Vision Foundation’s Royal Patron HRH the Countess of Wessex, sets out a plan to “break the cycle of unemployment among the visually impaired workforce.”

Speaking about the report, the Vision Foundation’s vice president, Lord Blunkett, said he was “staggered” by the findings. He highlighted: “Just over 25% of blind and partially sighted people of working age have a job. That’s the exact reverse of the population as a whole. It’s a question of perception: understanding what people can and can’t do and then the practicalities of giving them the tools so they can do the job. Not every job is possible, but the vast majority are.”

Blunkett called on UK employers to “act now” to tackle unemployment for blind and partially sighted people, explaining that “unemployment contributes hugely to the costs of sight loss in the UK, which are estimated to be £28 billion a year.”

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the See my skills report forms part of the Vision Foundation’s centenary campaign to change the employment landscape for people with a visual impairment. It will also help guide its grant programme.

The project, undertaken by Birmingham University’s Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs, saw researchers review and subsequently categorise 605 peer-reviewed academic and professional journals, review the most relevant papers, and hold focus groups with visually impaired individuals and sight loss professionals.

A finding highlighted by researchers is that blind and partially sighted people face significant and multi-faceted barriers in finding employment, and it is claimed that a lack of understanding about visual impairment by employers and Jobcentre Plus staff are “major barriers.”

In the report, the charity emphasises the need for changes in government policy, as well as how businesses perceive employing partially sighted people in order to create “a level playing field for sight loss employment.”

The Vision Foundation explained that sight loss charities can support this change by improving knowledge and tackling negative attitudes.

The See my skills report can be accessed via the Vision Foundation website.