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Understanding how the onset of sight loss affects employment

This research paper looks at newly registered blind and partially sighted people and their employment status and experiences.

Title: Understanding how sight loss affects employment; Authors: Alex Saunders and Fay Sadro; Publisher: RNIB


The purpose of this report is to increase our understanding of what happens to the employment status of people newly registered as blind or partially sighted. What is the relationship between the onset of sight loss, and its effect on employment? Why is it that some people feel able to stay in employment, and others don’t?

“You have to find a way of making employers see you as a rounded person. I’m not just blind”

The research focused on a discrete group of blind and partially sighted people of working age, residing in the county of Kent in England. It offers rich descriptions of people’s experiences, which reflect the complexity of issues that blind and partially sighted people are faced with when trying to find, or stay, in employment. The research is intended as a pilot study, to guide future work at a national level.

Key findings

  • Positive attitudes from employers made a significant difference in people being able to stay in work.
  • People can be reluctant to tell their employer about losing their sight out of fear of losing their jobs.
  • People in work articulated a strong personal desire to remain in employment and not to be defined by sight loss.
  • Most participants no longer in work did not want to leave their employment.
  • Larger organisations had a better awareness of the needs of blind and partially sighted people than smaller organisations.
  • Specialist equipment made an important contribution to being able to stay in work.
  • Participants’ experiences of using Access to Work were mixed.
  • Knowledge of Access to Work was generally low.