Tackling unemployment for blind and partially sighted people

Title: Tackling unemployment for blind and partially sighted people

Authors: Alex Saunders, Graeme Douglas and Paul Lynch, Publisher: RNIB, Year of publication: 2013

Description

A three-year, action-based research project to help improve the employment prospects of blind and partially sighted people.

Background

Blind and partially sighted people are significantly less likely to be in paid employment than the general population or other disabled people. Blind and partially sighted people need specialist support on their journey towards employment. Between 2010 and 2013, RNIB and the University of Birmingham carried out a three-year, action-based research project to help improve the employment prospects of blind and partially sighted people. Working alongside a group of employment specialists and approximately 100 blind and partially sighted people, we designed and tested:    

  • a standard assessment model that has increased our understanding of the skills, aspirations and barriers to employment of blind and partially sighted people    
  • innovative support strategies for those furthest from the labour market, which has helped inform how we deliver services for blind and partially sighted people seeking work        

Key findings

We identified key factors that determine a blind or partially sighted person's distance from the labour market, and whether they are ready for work. Examples of those factors include:   

  • being able to self-advocate to employers, explaining what workplace adjustments will be required to carry out particular roles     confidence and competence using computers adapted with appropriate assistive technology software    
  • confidence and ability to travel independently using public transport    
  • access to information via a preferred format of braille, large print, audio or electronic information.        

We have shown that blind and partially sighted people furthest from the labour market require intensive support and specialist interventions in key areas. These include:       

  • developing assistive technology skills    
  • developing mobility skills    
  • skills to communicate needs and associated adjustments to employers    
  • making the most of residual vision    
  • a pre-employment programme, designed to meet the complex needs of blind and partially sighted people.        

Key outputs

This toolkit is for employment professionals who work with blind and partially sighted people. It includes a set of questions which will help to gain a clear understanding of what a person's aspirations and abilities are in relation to employment, and what types of support and development are needed to help fulfil these. It also includes an action plan development document which allows users to assign the person to one of five levels. The assigned level can be helpful to communicate to blind and partially sighted people the steps they need to take, which will lead to paid or voluntary work. It can also help communicate progress they have made over time.