How to advise people with sight loss about employment

Post date: 
Thursday, 20 August 2015

People with sight loss should be able to stay in work and be supported. Emily Wight outlines what professionals need to know.

There are many worries that will go through someone’s mind when they are diagnosed with sight loss. A common concern is whether or not they will be able to continue to work. But providing employers comply with equality legislation and follow the advice of RNIB, blind and partially sighted people should be able to remain in work.

Here are some common questions you might be asked as a professional, and ways to answer them.

I have sight loss. Will I have to give up work?

It depends on the job. Jean French, Legal Rights Service Manager at RNIB, says: “There are circumstances where you might have to give up work – for instance, if it was no longer safe for you to drive and you were a bus driver – but in most cases, people can remain in employment if they get appropriate support.”

How can I get support from my employer?

You will need to discuss the support you will need. According to the Equality Act, employers have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments”. French says: “There are many different sorts of reasonable adjustments an employer might be expected to make for someone with sight loss. For example:
  • Providing equipment (such as a CCTV).
  • Providing software (such as ZoomText/JAWS/Supernova).
  • Changing the working environment (altering lighting levels).
  • Changing procedures so that, for instance, medical appointments about someone's disability are recorded as 'disability-related leave' rather than sick leave.
  • Making changes to a job description to reassign some duties to other staff.”
You can also tell your employer about RNIB’s employment assessment toolkit, which will help them work with employees with sight loss.

Where can I start looking for work?

Looking for Work includes an important fact sheet, resources, tips on how to write a CV and interview advice.

What kind of services does RNIB have that I can contact to help me look for work?

To help you with your job search, you can talk to the RNIB Helpline. 
French says: “An Access to Work grant can pay for practical support if you have a disability to help you to start working, stay in work or move into self-employment. How much you get depends on your circumstances. The money can pay for things like special equipment; fares to work if you cannot use public transport; a support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace; disability awareness training for your colleagues; a communicator at a job interview; or the cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job.”

Chris Turton’s story

Chris Turton is an English teacher in Scotland. He was diagnosed with Stagardt’s macular dystrophy at the age of 34. 
He said: “The school has always accommodated me. They’ve been very supportive. I’ve also had two workplace assessments done by RNIB Scotland. And, of course, the Access to Work scheme has helped massively. Through this, I got a handheld magnifier, a desktop magnifier, ZoomText software on my PC and a bigger keyboard layout. It takes away the responsibility for funding some things.” 

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