Industry's blind spot challenged

Roger Trapp looks at a new initiative for the visually impaired

Industrialists will be urged to do more to put blind people into business this week. Delegates at a Confederation of British Industry conference on Thursday will be told that action is needed to avoid wasting the talents of often highly skilled, trained and committed people.

The vehicle being proposed for any developments is Workbridge, an initiative due to be formally launched in September with the aim of uniting government, employers and support service providers "in a unique partnership to harness the benefits of quality training and technical support to the advantage of visually impaired employees and their employers".

Workbridge, part of the "Out of Sight - Out of Work?" campaign set up to publicise the plight of the large numbers of visually impaired people who are out of work, is designed to be an integrated scheme that will make the most cost-effective use of resources. It will have three key elements: information - the establishment of a national database of job seekers and employment opportunities; co-ordination, bringing together different organisations in the field; and action, including the introduction, development and enhancement of new and existing employment schemes.

This is a response to the finding that only 22,000 of the 91,000 blind and partially sighted people in Britain of working age are in paid employment. Of the 69,000 not in this category, 7,000 have never worked, only 7,000 worked during the previous year and 19,000 have not worked for more than 11 years.

Moreover, a survey by the former Department of Employment suggests that even companies making an effort to help the disabled are more reluctant to take on people with visual impairments than those with other disabilities. While only 17 per cent were unwilling to employ people with learning difficulties, 67 per cent involved in schemes to employ disabled people were reluctant to consider candidates with blindness or eye trouble.

Peter Talbot, the chief executive of the Royal London Society for the Blind and a member of the steering committee of the "Out of Sight - Out of Work?" campaign, points out that need for action is urgent because improvements in education and technology over recent years have enabled many blind people to become educated to a very high standard. At the same time, the vogue for multi-skilling in a wide variety of industries means that roles traditionally reserved for the blind, such as telephony, are disappearing. "There is a considerable waste of resources," he says.

Dealing with this would, he adds, require giving innovative thought to the sheltered workshop and homeworker schemes of the type operated by the Royal London Society so that progression to placements and full employment can be encouraged.

But Mr Talbot and his colleagues are also calling for a review of the benefits system because they feel it discourages people from taking the risk of accepting employment. They want reforms introduced that would allow the visually impaired to resume claiming benefits without having to reapply if the job taken turned out to be either too difficult or unsuitable. This would alleviate their fears and allow them the opportunity to give the scheme a fair trial, they say.

Perhaps the greatest challenge, though, is dealing with the lack of accurate information about what visually impaired people can and cannot do.

"Employers look at obvious hurdles - some of them related to health and safety," says Mr Talbot. "But often they are things that if you've got the opportunity to explain then you can remove anxieties."


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
A view of today's Spanish papers
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'

nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

Helpdesk Analyst

£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London