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Hiring Sight Impaired Workers

In celebration of World Braille day, it is crucial to raise awareness of the issues impacting those who are blind or visually impaired within our society and what can be done to improve their integration within the world of work.

Two hundred years ago, the invention of braille, completely transformed accessibility for those with visual impairments, but, fortunately, the improvements did not stop there.

In 2021, the number of assistive technologies that exist to help blind individuals have a standard work life is tremendous. Why then are only 27% of blind and partially sighted people of working age currently in employment in the UK?

According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), more than two million people are living with sight loss – including 350,000 people who are registered as severely sight impaired (completely blind) – and, even though the UK government is committed to halving the disability employment gap in the next 50 years, things are simply not moving quickly enough.

As an employer, one can do so much to help employ more people with this disability. Putting aside the ethics behind it, there are also many corporate advantages to hiring individuals suffering from vision loss. According to a new study led by NEI-funded researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, blind individuals have enhanced cognitive functions such as memory, speech and language. Furthermore, from a young age, blind children are systematically taught social interaction, assertiveness and communication skills, allowing them to work very efficiently in a team. Who would not want to employ someone with astounding teamwork skills? Not to mention that hiring people with visual impairments increases overall workforce diversity and offers new and different perspectives on business challenges and opportunities.

Employers often assume that technologies linked to vision loss are prohibitively expensive, but help is available via the publicly funded employment support programme Access to Work. The scheme will help identify changes needed in the workplace and finance most of the extra costs (between 80% to 100%) of implementing those changes. For example, blind and partially sighted people successfully use computers in the workplace through synthetic speech, magnification and braille displays which can be entirely paid for by the scheme. Additionally, the scheme will pay for the help of a Support Worker for up to 20 hours per week.

Employers also worry about the health and safety impact and the adjustments to their office space if they were to allow a guide dog in the workplace. However, it is important for employers to note that not only it has been estimated that as few as 1 to 2% of blind or partially sighted people use guide dogs to get around, but the dogs have been specifically trained not to interact with or disturb other people in a work environment. Moreover, guide dogs are exempt from most of our health and safety legislation.

For all of the reasons mentioned above, enabling visually impaired workers to work for your business should perhaps be in your 2021 resolutions. If you want more information or visibility in the Blind community, do not hesitate to reach out to organisations that cater to disabilities such as RINB. Additionally, you can learn more about making your application process accessible to blind candidates on W3C.

If you would like support around any of the issues raised in this blog or if a sound boarding session about any HR or employment law issue could help don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for a free consultation or contact us at legal@lexleyton.co.uk.

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