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Many Canadians blind to talents and abilities of job seekers with vision loss

Monday, October 3, 2016 Men´s Health News J E 4
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7 in 10 would choose a sighted candidate over a blind one; CNIB's EmployAbility Campaign Calls on Employers to See Past Misconceptions

TORONTO, Oct 3, 2016 /CNW/ - In honour of October's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, CNIB is launching an EmployAbility campaign, calling on employers to look past misconceptions about hiring people who are blind or partially sighted.

Vision loss can happen to anyone, at any age – and when it does, it can have a serious, negative impact on employment potential. At half a million and rapidly growing, Canadians who are blind or partially sighted comprise a significant portion of the nation's population. Of these, over 100,000 are working age adults. The employment rate among Canadians with vision loss is strikingly low: 38 per cent versus 73 per cent for people without a disability. And approximately half of Canadians who are blind or partially sighted live on a low income of $20,000 a year or less.  

According to a new Ipsos survey, 70 per cent of Canadians say, if faced with two fully qualified candidates, they would hire a sighted job candidate over a blind one. This inequity is rooted in widely held misconceptions and stigmas about the perceived abilities of people who are blind. Barriers to employment are rooted in lack of experience working with an individual with vision loss, as well as lack of understanding about how someone with vision loss performs their job.

Today, working with a colleague who is blind or partially sighted is really no different than working with anyone else. People with vision loss successfully perform a wide range of careers, including in areas such as science, law and technology.

"Advances in technology and mobility training have provided the tools and techniques for people who are blind or partially sighted, such as myself, to do the job a bit differently than our sighted peers, but every bit as effectively," says Diane Bergeron, Executive Director, CNIB Strategic Relations and Engagement. "It's time for employers to recognize that we are just as capable and competent as our sighted colleagues."

CNIB's EmployAbility campaign features a series of public service announcements challenging misconceptions about what it's like to work with someone with vision loss.  The PSAs, made possible by Government of Canada funding, feature real people who are blind playing the roles, not actors, and were produced by creatively acclaimed, internationally recognized marketing communications agency DDB Canada. Through an extensive audition process, Fred LeBlanc, a former firefighter who lost his vision in his 40s and now uses a white cane, and Shelby Travers, a public relations student who uses a guide dog, were cast in the English TV spots.

"All people face work related issues and some employers wrongly assume that those with vision loss experience more problems than the sighted," says Dean Lee, executive creative director, DDB Canada Vancouver. "The smart and simple creative depicts common workplace challenges and plays on the expectations and preconceived notions that CNIB is trying to change."

To view the PSAs, visit: cnib.ca/EmployAbility

Can you imagine how you would do your job if you lost your vision? Misconceptions around the abilities of people with vision loss may be rooted in a lack of experience working with an employee or colleague who is blind. As many as eight in 10 Canadians have never worked with someone who is blind or partially sighted. Further, two in three Canadians say they don't personally know someone who is blind or partially sighted. It's important to note that individuals who have previous experience working with someone with vision loss show a much more positive perspective, scoring a full 10 points higher as being likely to hire the blind candidate over the sighted candidate.

Furthering the issue, Canadians are still holding onto outdated perceptions on what type of job someone with vision loss can perform. In the Ipsos survey, Canadians cited more traditional roles for people with vision loss as the top jobs this sector can perform as well as someone with good eyesight, such as massage therapist and piano tuner. Most do not believe that someone with vision loss can perform technical roles such as scientist, engineer, or machinist as well as someone with good eyesight. Surprisingly, Millennials are by far the least positive about blind or partially sighted people's ability to perform these jobs.

Visit cnib.ca/employability for more information on hiring someone who is blind today.

About CNIBCNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. For more information, visit www.cnib.ca.

Interviews available with:Diane Bergeron, Executive Director, CNIB Strategic Relations and Engagement. Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a child, Diane lost all her sight before turning 30. Her career has been dedicated to advocating for the rights of people with sight loss in Canada, including accessible literacy and accessible voting for Canadians with vision loss. 

Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai, Canada's First Blind Cancer Researcher and CNIB Board Member.

Fred LeBlanc, A firefighter for 25 years who suddenly lost his vision in his 40's with no warning.  He is now 13th District Vice-President with the International Association of Fire Fighters. Fred LeBlanc stars in CNIB's new EmployAbility PSA "Interview".

Jason Fayre, National Lead, Accessibility and Assistive Technology at CNIB.

CNIB EmployAbility Campaign – Fact Sheet

    • At over 100,000, working age Canadians who are blind or partially sighted comprise a significant portion of the nation's population. However, this sector of Canadians faces significant challenges seeking gainful employment.
    • With today's post vision-loss training, people who are blind lead fulland independent lives. However, according to a recent Ipsos survey for CNIB, 18 per cent of Canadians wrongly believe that an employee who is blind requires someone to lead them around the workplace, one in three don't know how to interact appropriately with someone who has vision loss in a workplace setting, and three in ten Canadians don't know if someone who is blind requires a sighted person to read their documents to them on the job (they don't, if provided in the proper format – i.e. electronic format, large print.)
    • According to Stats Canada's Survey on Disability:
      • 55 per cent of people with a seeing disability felt that employers regarded them as disadvantaged.
      • Ten to 14 per cent believed they were refused a job interview, refused a job or refused a promotion because of their disability.
    • In addition, workplace accommodations – key to leveling the playing field for people with vision loss – are not well understood by most Canadians. Just one in three Canadians believe they know what type of accommodations are required for someone who is blind or partially sighted. Workplace accommodations are straightforward and not difficult to implement. Accommodations required vary from person to person depending on their specific type of vision loss, usually consisting of software, magnifiers, etc.
    • Despite the relative ease of making the workplace accessible for people with vision loss, a lack of accommodation is a major barrier cited by people who are blind or partially sighted to participating in the workforce. According to StatsCan's Survey on Disability, 58 per cent of people with a seeing disability reported having all of their needs met, 22 per cent reported having some of these needs met, while 19 per cent reported having none of these needs met. The Survey on Disability also revealed that 55 per cent of people with a seeing disability felt employers regarded them as disadvantaged, and ten to 14 per cent believed they were refused a job interview, a job or a promotion because of their disability.
    • Canadians appear to have some reservation about working with a colleague who is blind or partially sighted, with knowledge gaps in key areas.
      • Two in three agree that working with someone who is blind or partially sighted would prompt concern about that person's safety in the workplace.
      • One in three don't know how to interact appropriately with someone who is blind or partially sighted in a workplace setting.
      • Six in ten don't know where to find information about how to make their workplace more inclusive for people who are blind or partially sighted.
      • Although half of Canadians know that someone who is blind doesn't require a sighted person to read their documents to them on the job, another 22 per cent of Canadians think that they do, while three in ten Canadians don't know if this is true or not.

Sources:

1. Ipsos Survey on Vision Loss and Employment for CNIB, 20162. StatsCan, 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-654-x/89-654-x2016001-eng.htm 3. The Cost of Vision Loss, CNIB, Revised 2012

SOURCE CNIB

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