People who are blind or have low vision face significant barriers at each stage of employment from finding a job, to keeping a job, through to re-entering the workforce after taking a break. Vision 2020 Australia, along with its members, are holding a Parliamentary Friends Group in Canberra next week, on Disability and Employment to bring attention to this policy area with a particular focus on people who are blind or have low vision.
Vision 2020 Australia CEO, Carla Northam said, “Access to meaningful employment free from discrimination is a fundamental human right for all Australians.
Alastair McEwin, Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, will present the keynote address providing insights on the work underway to advance the rights of people with a disability in accessing meaningful employment. Attendees will also hear from comedian gough, the first legally blind person to write, produce and star in a feature film. Gough, will highlight the subject with humour, wit and sensitivity.
Vision 2020 Australia is calling on the Australian Government to show leadership through disaggregated data reporting, to capture and monitor the number of people who identify as having a disability employed in the APS, with a specific category for people who are blind or have low vision.
Vision Australia CEO, Ron Hooton said for the vast majority of people with blindness and low vision, employment remains a primary goal.
Mr Hooton said, “While there are some barriers relating to technology accessibility, these can be overcome. I encourage all employers to be open to employing people who are blind or have low vision, as I know from personal experience that our blind and low vision staff members are great employees.
“One of the key ways we think the Australian Government can greatly increase employment opportunities to jobseekers is to mandate the Australian public procurement standard.”
CEO of Blind Citizens Australia, Emma Bennison said, “Having a job contributes to a sense of social connectedness and identity and enables people to achieve economic security.
“Unfortunately though, the qualifications, skills and experience of people who are blind or vision impaired are often overlooked due to the negative attitudes and misconceptions of employers.
“Establishing targets for the employment of people with disability across the public service would represent an opportunity for the Australian Government to lead by example and positively influence employer attitudes towards people who are blind or vision impaired.”
CEO of Guide Dogs Victoria, Karen Hayes highlighted two major factors contributing to high unemployment: lack of opportunities from employers, and low adult job seeker confidence.
Ms Hayes said, “Employers still often judge a person with vision loss as less able than a person with full vision.
“Our experience is that people with vision loss can be as capable, if not more so, than a fully sighted person. They often have improved memory, environmental perception and social competence, and have developed high levels of organisation and communication skills.
“As well as employer awareness and education, funding to support people to prepare for the workplace is key, especially for those who develop vision loss in adulthood. Research Guide Dogs Victoria conducted with Swinburne University demonstrates that people with early vision loss are more likely to be in paid employment than people who develop vision loss in adulthood.
“Starting to develop a lot of new skills later in life, along with adjustments in confidence, need extra support, and it is the community’s responsibility to respond to these needs.”
The Parliamentary Friends Group will be co-chaired by Dr Andrew Laming MP and the Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, with speeches from both the Honourable Jane Prentice MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services and Senator Carol Brown, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About Vision 2020 Australia
Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, an initiative of the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
Vision 2020 Australia's role is to ensure that eye health and vision care remains high on the health, disability and international development agendas of Australian governments. This will ensure that Australia fulfils its commitments under the World Health Assembly resolutions and World Health Organization's Universal eye health: a global action plan 2014-2019
gough has worked as an audio producer and comedy writer for a number of radio stations in Brisbane and the Gold Coast. A successful stint as a stand-up comedian followed, travelling the UK, Canada and the USA, headlining some of the biggest comedy clubs in the world. He is now based on the Gold Coast, where he is the director of Beernuts Productions, producing cutting edge and innovative cinema, television, downloads and books. Not allowing his disability to be a hindrance, gough embraces the challenge with great success.
About Blind Citizens Australia
Blind Citizens Australia, (BCA), is the national representative organisation of people who are blind or vision-impaired. BCA provides information, peer support, individual and systemic advocacy, and consultancy services. The organisation has over 3000 members and 11 local branches across the country.
About Guide Dogs Victoria
Guide Dogs Victoria provides vital support for Victorians with low vision or blindness. It works to ensure people with low vision or blindness are active and involved members of the community. As well as being the leading provider of Guide Dogs in Victoria, it provides Orientation & Mobility, specialist Occupational Therapists, Orthoptists and Group Programs to help children and adults reach their personal potential, regardless of when or how they became affected by low vision or blindness.
About Vision Australia
Vision Australia is a leading national provider of blindness and low vision services in Australia. It works in partnership with Australians who are blind or have low vision to help them achieve the possibilities they choose in life. It supports 27,500 Australians through 28 centres in Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia and with outreach programs in the Northern Territory and Tasmania.
For more information:
Gail Conlon at Vision 2020 Australia