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Call for NI Businesses to "Get on Board"

A new free resource for employers has been officially launched today to help strengthen inclusion practices within our workforce.

The free "Understanding Sight Loss For Employers" eLearning module looks at best practice in recruitment and retention to ensure people with sight loss have equal opportunities and that employers are ready to support any employee who may develop sight loss.

The resource has been created by leading sight loss charity RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) in Northern Ireland through its Eye Work Too employability programme, which is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme, the Department for the Economy, and the Department for Communities.

Only one in four people with sight loss of working age are in paid employment – down from one in three a decade ago, despite advances in technology enabling employees with sight loss to carry out their duties alongside their peers. RNIB hopes to reverse this worrying trend, as the prevalence of sight loss in our society increases, by working in partnership with our business sector.

Robert Shilliday, Director of RNIB in Northern Ireland, said, “Sight loss is a part of a person’s story, as much as their competencies, skills and work experience.

“Yet we know that people who are registered sight impaired or severely sight impaired continue to meet barriers in finding work. For example, someone with sight loss and a degree or higher-grade qualification still only has the same chance of getting a job as someone with no qualifications in the general population.

“This is all perhaps due to the many myths and misconceptions surrounding what it means to live and work with sight loss.

“Many people don’t realise sight loss is a spectrum - 93 per cent of people who are registered sight impaired or severely sight impaired actually can see something. Just because someone uses a cane, doesn’t mean they can’t then read a book or do complex tasks on a computer.

“We’re delighted to have the commitment of Translink and the Federation of Small Business leading the way in addressing these issues.

“We’re delighted to have the support of Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl, Translink and the Federation of Small Business leading the way in addressing these issues.”

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “The launch of RNIB’s new, free eLearning module for employers and staff is a really welcome development. As well as helping to dispel common misconceptions of what it means to live and work with a vision impairment, it’s going to help increase business and organisations’ confidence in employing someone who is blind or partially sighted – and help employees who want to know how best to support their colleagues.

“We need to do all we can to ensure that diversity is welcomed and that there are equal opportunities in our workplaces, and in wider society. I’m really heartened to see that Translink and the Federation of Small Businesses are leading the way in adopting this important learning tool for their staff and hope that many others in Belfast and Northern Ireland follow suit.”

Bessie Cairns, 34, who is registered partially sighted and mum to lively four year old Hugh, is currently completing qualifications to become a personal trainer. Bessie says, “I’ve done various admin jobs, but have been going to my local gym for years now and recently came to the realisation that this is an area I could pursue.

Due to my sight I rely more on vocal cues, and use magnification software when using the computer. Simple adjustments such as making information more accessible, and initial sighted guidance enable me to complete the required tasks.

There needs to be more awareness that not all visually impaired people carry a white cane or use a guide dog, and how you can ensure staff or customers to have the best experience with your business.

Visually impaired people may do something in a different way but I don’t let my eyesight hold me back. I’m determined to prove that my disability doesn’t define me and with the right support we can do just as well as sighted people.”

Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive said, “Translink welcomes the opportunity to work with RNIB to promote the ‘Understanding Sight Loss For Employers’ eLearning Module. As a major employer in Northern Ireland, we are committed to providing an inclusive and safe working environment for every employee. Understanding Sight Loss is a welcome tool in helping the company understand how we can recruit and retain more staff with a sight loss, ensuring they feel safe, inspired and encouraged to reach their full potential throughout their careers with Translink.”

Niall Parfitt, Area Leader FSB Northern Ireland said, “As always, FSB Northern Ireland appreciates the support RNIB provides for businesses in ensuring that they are following best practice and increasing the confidence of business owners in the recruitment of someone who is blind or partially sighted.

“All too often it is this lack of knowledge and experience that can inhibit employers, so the RNIB’s free e-learning module is a great opportunity for our members and all businesses to gain a better understanding. This convenient training will challenge misconceptions and encourage a more inclusive and equal workplace. FSB look forward to being part of this change and congratulate RNIB on their proactive programme.”

For more information contact [email protected] (Eye Work Too Project Coordinator,RNIB) or visit