An Untapped Workforce
To help employers access the untapped workforce, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has produced a handy employer guide highlighting the benefits and offering solutions to common concerns as well as hiring advice.
The campaign aims to increase the number of people with vision loss in the workforce by raising awareness among employers of the benefits associated with hiring someone with vision impairment.
Facts & Figures
For all Australians with a disability, including people who are blind or vision impaired, unemployment is a burning issue that needs urgent attention. Some facts include:
- A recent Guide Dogs NSW/ACT poll shows that of the organisation’s clients who are of working age (15-64 years old), 37% are currently unemployed. With 91% of these clients wanting a job, this clearly indicates an untapped workforce[i];
- Nationally, people who are blind or have low vision are four times more likely than the average Australian to be unemployed[ii];
- 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss each day, including nine who have become blind, with these figures predicted to increase by 20% by 2020. (There are an estimated 300,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss, 100,000 being in NSW)[iii];
- Australians who are disabled make up 15% of the working age population, however they represent just 10% of the total workforce[iv]; and
- Sadly, 45% of Australians with disabilities are living in poverty[v].
The top 5 benefits of hiring someone who is blind or vision impaired are:
- A person with vision impairment is more likely to be loyal to an employer, resulting in a lower staff turnover rate and a lower overall cost of employment.[vi]
- Due to the access challenges they face every day, people with a vision impairment tend to be great problem solvers, flexible and resourceful. [vii]
- People with a disability are far less likely to have an accident at work than their work peers.[viii]
- People with a disability have lower levels of absenteeism and use less sick leave than their colleagues.[ix]
- A more diverse workforce will increase organisational effectiveness. It will lift morale and enhance productivity. In short, diversity is good for business.[x]
Common myths about employing someone with impaired vision include:
- People with impaired vision can't work on a computer or read emails. This is untrue. Through text-to-voice software, people with vision loss can use a computer and read/write emails, text files, etc.
- People with impaired vision can't work independently and are slow to complete tasks. Untrue. Like everyone, once trained, a person with vision impairment can work independently and competently.
- People with vision impairment won’t be able to get to work or find their way around the office safely on their own. Untrue. A person with vision impairment can get to, from and around the workplace once shown. Many do so using a mobility aid like a long cane or a Guide Dog.
- Employers think they will have to buy expensive new computer hardware and software and make major workplace changes. Untrue. Many people with vision loss can use standard computers and software and specialised software is supported by the Australian Employment Assistance Fund.
- Employers think there will be greater WH&S risks for their business. Untrue. People with vision loss concentrate while moving around and have been shown to have a lower incidence of accidents.viii
What are we asking?
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is asking employers to download and use the online guide as a hiring resource. We ask employers to consider the abilities, qualifications and experience of an applicant who is blind or vision impaired before deciding that their disability will limit their potential to contribute to the organisation’s productivity. We ask employers to work with the person to identify solutions to workplace accessibility issues.
Why is this campaign so important?
As for anyone, employment means independence and confidence. It provides income, reduces the dependence on welfare, and sustains personal dignity and self-worth. Having a job brings the individual a sense of community belonging and inclusion which helps fight the problems associated with isolation.
- [i] Survey of 100 people who are blind or vision impaired and clients of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT conducted in September 2014
- [ii] Vision Australia’s Employment Research Survey Report 2012
- [iii] Access Economics report published in June 2010 by Vision2020, Clear Focus: The Economic Impact of Vision Loss in Australia in 2009
- [iv] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Disability and Work’ report as part of 4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, March Quarter 2012
- [v] Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers - A Synthesis of Findings across OECD Countries. OECD. (2010)
- [vi] Blind Citizens Australia Policy Paper Employment: the cornerstone of social inclusion for people who are blind or vision impaired.
- [vii] Blind Citizens Australia Policy Paper Employment: the cornerstone of social inclusion for people who are blind or vision impaired.
- [viii] Graffam, J et al., 2002a ‘Employer benefits and costs of employing a person with a disability’
- [ix] An employer’s guide to employing someone with a disability, Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, www.jobaccess.gov.au
- [x] Harvard Business School, Harvard Business Review on Managing Diversity, 2001, (pp. 34)