A new survey commissioned by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind reveals that 70 per cent of Canadians, if tasked with choosing between two fully qualified job candidates, would hire a sighted person over a blind one.

“With today’s technology, adaptive equipment and the integration of people with vision loss in the community, I just assumed that everybody sees us as the same as everyone else,” says Diane Bergeron, executive director of strategic relations and engagement at CNIB. “But, it seems to be that based on two equal candidates, the person with sight loss is going to be left behind the majority of time. It’s sad to me that we’re still in that same state of affairs in 2016.”

Read: How to handle a workplace accommodation

Individuals with vision loss continue to have problems finding employment partly due to misconceptions Canadians have on what it’s like to work with someone who has vision loss and have little understanding about how that individual performs their job, according to a press release from the CNIB.

A 2012 survey by Statistics Canada, published this year, found that many Canadians with vision loss are unemployed. Only 38 per cent of that group is working compared to about 74 per cent of people without the disability. To address the issue, the CNIB has launched a public service campaign of videos and online resources that convey the realities for individuals with vision loss in the workplace.

“A lot of the issue seems to be around simply not having experience working with people who are blind or partially sighted,” says Shelagh O’Donnell, director of corporate communications at the CNIB.

According to the CNIB survey, eight in 10 Canadians have never worked with someone who is blind or partially sighted, while two in three don’t personally know someone with vision loss. Surprisingly, individuals who have previous experience working with someone with vision loss scored a full 10 points higher as being likely to hire a blind candidate over a sighted candidate.

Read: Employers grappling with poor optics of employee vision coverage

Part of the misunderstanding is how employees with vision loss need to be accommodated in the workplace, according to Bergeron. She adds that workplace adjustments don’t have to be costly and aren’t difficult to understand or implement.

According to the CNIB, employers can make simple adjustments such as adding a lamp into a work space, removing the bulb from an overhead light near the employee, making sure hallways and communal spaces are free of obstacles or providing accessible technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers and refreshable braille displays.

Bergeron, who’s fully blind herself, says that employers often underestimate individuals with vision loss and the skills they can bring to the workplace. Employers today look for candidates who are good at problem solving, managing time and thinking strategically, notes Bergeron. Individuals afflicted with vision loss need to practice those skills because they are essential for them to function on a daily basis, she adds.

“[Employers are] looking at it from a different perspective. Have you written a strategic plan or drafted a Gantt chart? We don’t use [the skills] based on a template. We live this stuff.”

Source: CNIB

Source: The Canadian National Institute for the Blind

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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