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Visual Impairment and Employment
Holly is a 24-year-old disability blogger who is registered blind. Today, she talks to us about her employment experiences and how she has been able to support others along the way.
You’d like to think that disabled people have equal opportunities in the workplace, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Securing work can be an uphill battle for many disabled people because we are denied the opportunity to show what we’re capable of.
I graduated university in 2017 and started the search to find a graduate job, just like all my sighted peers. However, I don’t think I was fully prepared for how difficult it was going to be. I came across countless jobs that I was unable to do because of my visual impairment, also I often felt overlooked.
The good news is that I found employment within 6 months of finishing my degree. It was a long 6 months, but I know that many disabled people are not in that position and struggle to find work despite having the skills, qualifications and experience.
Working as an Assistive Technology Advisor
When I came across a job for an Assistive Technology Advisor at the university I studied at, I really liked the sound of it. I have a keen interest in technology and wanted to work with disabled people, so the role was perfect for me. After applying for the job, it was a surprise to be offered the position!
The main focus of my job is to teach students how to use a range of assistive technology that can aid them with their studies, I also promote assistive technology and the benefits of using it.
I’ve been working at the university for just over two years and it has been great. I’ve had opportunities that I never thought I’d have, such as speaking at a conference and running workshops.
Many of my colleagues had never worked with a visually impaired person before, so it was a learning curve for everyone. I work with extremely supportive people; I’m constantly learning new skills and broadening my knowledge. Yet most importantly, I’m valued and understood. My disability isn’t overlooked, in fact, it’s embraced.
Adapting your job
I couldn’t do my job without support and adaptions; they enable me to carry out my role to the best of my ability. I received the following support from Access To Work:
- Orientation and mobility training around the campus when I started.
- Assistive technology and equipment, including my screen-reader and a braille display.
- Travel costs so I can get to and from work.
Access To Work is fantastic, however certain aspects of the system meant that I was unable to do my job properly for a few months. This is because you have the assessment once you start work, it can then take a while for the support to be put in place. As I was the only member of staff with a visual impairment the university didn’t have the screen-reader I used. This initially held me back, but thankfully things were soon sorted.
I know how difficult it can be to find a job when you have a visual impairment or any other disability, the barriers we face can include inaccessible application forms or being overlooked. But I also know the incredible feeling of getting a job and having an employer that looks beyond disability.
I don’t have extensive knowledge about employment and would never claim to do so, but what I do have is my own personal experiences. I share these to try and campaign for change and equal opportunities for everyone. I aim to show students that disabled people can get a job and I hope to give other disabled people the confidence to do the same.
I also try to support others through my writing, by sharing tips and advice on finding work, putting support in place and ensuring that employers understand your disability. One of the most important things that I try to do is to show employers that there is no reason they can’t employ disabled people. There is support available, such as Access To Work, that can benefit both disabled people and employers. I also want to show employers that there are so many benefits of employing disabled people and that they should focus on the positives.
I believe we have a long way to go before disabled people have equal access in the workplace, but by sharing my experiences I hope it helps to create change and show that more needs to be done.
Have you felt overlooked by an employer? What support would help you to work? Let us know in the comments below!