When was the last time you really wanted to kick yourself for missing an obvious point or having the answer to a question on the tip of your tongue, but not being able to relay it to those around you? Many, if not all of us, have had this sense of frustration, but its one that many employers should be sharing, as they are missing out on employing many visually impaired people with a range of valuable skills.

In the second, of three articles, I’m looking at how perceptions misplace the real image of visually impaired people as individuals, who can and do contribute to the workplace. Apart from the obvious jobs that cannot be done (driving etc), there are many fields in which we can go into and there are solutions to enable this to happen.

Technology, has the greatest potential to further open the workplace to many visually impaired people. Sadly, however, it has proven to be the most significant barrier too. Why? The design of systems, such as those used in many call and customer service centres, are designed on a graphical interface where screen readers and magnifiers find it hard to interact. I have witnessed workplaces where this has been the case and managers and staff within these organisations have openly said to me that visually impaired people couldn’t work there because they didn’t understand how they could. This significantly ties in with the RNIB survey that had 90% of employers stating that they would find it difficult or impossible to employ a blind or partially sighted person.

However, this barrier is purely based on human perception (see last weeks blog), as Technology, through correct and progressive design, can help to make such computer systems accessible and most importantly usable. Think then that if this was the case, what skills, enthusiasm and energy would be released to employers? Many are certainly missing a trick.

I have come across employers, who on the other hand, have shown an active and proactive interest in employing visually impaired people. One, who will remain nameless, looked at making their call centre systems accessible to screen reader users; realising that they were missing out on gaining highly motivated workers.

This, sadly, was the exception to the norm. Employers should not have to go out of their way to consider making their computer and work systems accessible; they should already be available to all potential workers in the first place. It is down to perceptions and again, if governments and authorities are going to preach that everybody who can work, should have the opportunity to find a job, then the playing field needs to be level and opportunities really do need to be equal.