Finding, securing and continuing employment is one of the biggest challenges we face in our community.
Sadly, RNIB’s My Voice report shows that rates of blind and partially sighted people in work still continue to fall.
Community member Jay Paul spoke to Nicki Kelly, a music producer with sight loss about her experiences in the workplace.
“I’m a singer, songwriter and producer from Birmingham. I have a very limited field of vision. I do a lot of travelling and writing with and for artists. I’m about to start running songwriting and performance workshops in schools.”
RNIB’s My Voice survey found that the number of registered blind and partially sighted people in employment has fallen to 27 per cent. This suggests that finding work is proving difficult. How did you find job hunting?
"When I started to lose my vision, I was in full-time employment at a bank. I was a manager, and when I returned to work, they said: “Why can’t you do what you used to?”
They weren’t very supportive or understanding that I was going to be slower. It doesn’t surprise me that the figure’s dropped, because everyone with a visual impairment has different needs.
I’ve found that lots of companies use PCs and these can be really difficult. So I changed to a Mac. Looking at what they offer as standard has opened up a different world to me, and it would be great if employers could consider not solely using PCs and look at accessible alternatives.”
Have you had any better experiences since then?
“Definitely – especially with music. Initially I found it very difficult to ask for what I needed, but as I’ve grown in confidence, people are happy to provide what I need.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Often people just think ‘You need something in large print’ – or – ‘You can’t do it’. But if you just tell them how you can do it, you’ll get a lot further.”
What else would you advise for someone, particularly young people who are applying for jobs or are in work?
“You can phone ahead to the recruitment manager and say, “I’m visually impaired, what can you provide for me?” and if it doesn’t suit, explain what you need. With the Equality Act in place, employers have to make necessary reasonable adjustments.
There’s Access to Work too, which was great for me. They come in, do an assessment and speak to your manager, who then works with HR to get things done. For small businesses” Access to Work pays for equipment rather than your employer.”
Particularly for younger people looking for jobs or opportunities, what sort of advice would you give someone who has sight loss?
“Think about what you can do. I have thought “I’ve lost my sight. I can’t do anything.” But the only thing you can’t do is see properly – everything else is within your power.
So try and figure out what you can do and what you enjoy. Find a way to make money out of it, because working for yourself, although hard work, is worth it.
If you want to work for certain companies, approach them and say what you can offer them. Perhaps they do a certain job but are missing something. Find that gap that you could fill.
You can get a lot of opportunities by telling people what you can do. So don’t be limited by the jobs that are out there, because you can create your own work.”
RNIB and Action for Blind People provide specialist support and advice to help you find employment, start your own business, or stay in work if you are losing your sight.