Tackling ignorance

19 December 2016

One of our campaign volunteers in the South East shares her experience dealing with lack of understanding from staff in her local Jobcentre. She tells us why she thinks people need to take this chance to tell the Government how blind and partially sighted people can be better supported into work and while in work.

My experiences at the Jobcentre

When I first started going to the Jobcentre, the lady I saw couldn’t have been more helpful. I was very nervous, I didn’t want to get anything wrong. She was understanding in respect to the sight loss, and patient. When I was leaving she would always see me to the door and ask me if I was going to be okay. She was very pleasant and reassuring, but then she moved into a different role.
On another occasion, when I visited the Jobcentre, the person helping me leaned over and said, “If you can’t see very well, how did you get here?” I felt that she said it in rather a loud voice, and it made me feel that I was some kind of fraud. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. She could’ve put it differently and said “Did you need help getting here?” I didn’t know how many other people were there, and I was so embarrassed. 
I said someone was coming to meet me, because I felt I needed to. I felt guilty because I’d managed to do something on my own. The way that she said it made me feel that I shouldn’t be travelling places on my own.

It’s also not a very well-lit Jobcentre. The last time I went there, someone came up and spoke to me, but I couldn’t see who it was and who they were talking to, because it’s too dark in there. When I explained, he said “Would you like to take a seat over there.”

People in services such as Jobcentres should be more aware of people’s disabilities, and talk to them and deal with them accordingly. Not to take it for granted that someone could see or hear. 

Employers attitudes need to change

There are two sides to the problem: encouraging employers to employ VI people, and providing support so they can stay in work. I think one of the problems that employers have with employing VI people is the health and safety aspect. They’re scared that if you have an accident that you’re going to sue them. But really, if offices are up to scratch with their health and safety regime, and didn’t have wires trailing across the floor and trip hazards, then they wouldn’t have an issue.

I think employers should talk to their employees to make them feel that people with sight loss aren’t any different or unusual, or a danger. We are human, not stupid. We are capable. It’s not only the health and safety aspect, I think some people think that physically disabled people are also lacking in the head department.

Employers need to know about Access to Work

The government should make companies more aware of the help they can get, both financially and for the disabled person themselves, for example with Access to Work, support with travel and grants towards special equipment that’s needed.

What can we do to help?

It’s important for people to take this chance to tell the Government how blind and partially sighted people can be better supported into work and while in work. If we don’t make our voices heard, the government is not going to know how serious this issue has become. The government may not be hearing all that’s going on.