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RNIB employee reveals how accessible working environments helped her thrive

Holly Tuke, age 26 (at the time of writing, 2022), from York, was born with Retinopathy of Prematurity, leaving her with only light perception. Holly is the author of the blog “Life of a Blind Girl” where she writes and creates content on living with sight loss. After graduating from university and working for a disability charity Holly discovered her passion for the charity sector. She now works for RNIB as a Social Media Officer and describes how she has found the role that connects her main passions for content creation and disability advocacy.

“I’ve been an RNIB service user since I was a very young child. I remember getting braille versions of kid’s magazines. Then as I got older, I started to use the Talking Book Library and braille library.

When I hit my teens, I started to volunteer with RNIB, and I began working at events for visually impaired children and their families in Yorkshire. It was great to connect with other blind and partially sighted young people and speak to families to give them some reassurance.

I remember when I experienced difficulties getting Access to Work to reimburse me for my travel costs and I was owed a lot of money. I wasn’t getting anywhere, and RNIB’s help was invaluable. I ended up calling RNIB Helpline who gave me guidance on what to do, and I was able to claim the money back that was owed to me. There are times when we all face challenges and I think it’s good to turn to RNIB, as they understand what you’re going through and can offer you advice, so it doesn’t feel as stressful and daunting.

Being a content creator

In 2015 I started my blog “Life of a Blind Girl” to talk about my experiences of disability and being sighted in a predominantly sighted world. I wanted to use my platform to play a part in helping to educate others and raising awareness for my community.

I was inspired by other visually impaired content creators who were creating their own content. At this point in my life, I’d reached a point where I felt comfortable with my disability, enough to talk about it openly online.

Being disabled and looking for work

I remember being at school and then university and seeing all my friends get jobs and it was very frustrating not being able to join in. I felt like my sight loss was a barrier, even though I knew deep down it wasn’t, but it was the attitude of employers that really made me feel upset and frustrated, because I wanted to work, like everyone else.

Eventually I got my first job working part-time for a small charity when I was studying at university. It made me realise just how much I loved working in the charity sector, and I then realised this was what I wanted to do as a career.

I secretly wanted to work within communications for a while, but I didn’t really know how to make it happen. Because I’m based up north, at the time I didn’t feel like I had as many opportunities. But when the pandemic happened, we all shifted to remote working and flexible working and it was a real gamechanger for me as a disabled person looking for employment.

I began working for RNIB as a Social Media Officer in September 2021. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like a job, because of my background in content creation it feels like I’m doing something I love.

Making social media accessible

I’ve always been passionate about accessibility, before coming to work at RNIB I worked as an assistive technology adviser at my university. I helped both students and staff to acquire the right technology to help them with their tasks. But now I work as a Social Media Officer, I can use my knowledge and experience to help make social media more accessible.

Recently, I’ve done quite a few presentations and training sessions to external organisations on accessible social media best practices.. This gave me an opportunity to share my lived experience of sight loss, whilst encouraging people to make their content accessible for everyone. People can learn from people like us, and they can learn from our unique perspective to grow and do things better.

Becoming a radio presenter

In September 2020 I became a presenter for RNIB Connect Radio, I co-presented a show called “Happy Hour” which was launched in February 2021 and focused-on sight loss and mental wellbeing. I presented the show from February 2021 until September this year.

It’s given me skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I got to do things like audio editing, putting together orders for a show, preparing, planning and recording interviews and so much more besides. I’m so grateful to have been able to do something that was out of my comfort zone.

Overcoming challenges in work

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in work is the struggles of not being able to do certain tasks that my sighted peers can. Due to my sight, I can’t make graphics or produce subtitled videos for example. When I first started this role, that really bothered me, because it made me feel inadequate. But others helped me to truly value the areas I’m skilled in and to focus on what I can uniquely offer that others can’t.”