An untapped workforce


Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is urging business owners to open their eyes to the benefits of employing someone who is blind or vision impaired.

The call follows an online poll of the organisation's clients last month, which revealed that 37% of those who are of working age (15 to 64 years old) are currently unemployed, but 91% of these clients want a job*, indicating an untapped workforce. (See below for more detailed survey results)

Ahead of International White Cane Day tomorrow, and with support from the NSW Disability Services Minister John Ajaka, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is today launching its 'Have cane, am able to work' employer awareness campaign. The campaign aims to increase the number of people who are blind or vision impaired in the workforce.

"Research and employer feedback shows that people who are blind or vision impaired make great employees because they are loyal and determined to work hard and do a good job," said Dr Graeme White, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

"Despite this and the fact many people with a vision impairment are willing and able to work, they are four times more likely to not have a job than the average Australian*.

"Our campaign aims to alleviate common employer concerns including that someone who can't see can't work because they won't be able to get to and around work safely or be able to read emails or use a computer.

"Thanks to mobility aids like the long cane or Guide Dogs, people with impaired vision are able to travel safely to, from and around work, and text-to-voice technology enables them to use computers and read emails.

"Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is calling on employers to give this untapped workforce a chance so they can enjoy the financial freedom and independence the rest of us take for granted."

Top 3 benefits of hiring someone who is blind or vision impaired:

– A person with a vision impairment is more likely to show loyalty to an employer, resulting in a lower turnover rate and a lower overall cost of employment.* 

– Due to the access challenges they face every day, people with a vision impairment tend to be great problem solvers, flexible and resourceful.* 

– People with a disability have lower levels of absenteeism and use less sick leave than their colleagues.*

To help employers access the untapped workforce of people with a vision impairment, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has produced a handy employer guide highlighting these benefits and offering solutions to common concerns as well as hiring advice. 


A strong advocate for improving employment opportunities for all people with a disability is Graeme Innes AM, who is blind and knows first-hand the value of having a job.

"I think what is needed is a change of attitude," said Mr Innes, who has established the Attitude Foundation following his career as Australia's Disability Discrimination Commissioner. "Employers should be supported to give people a chance. That's what happened with me and it changed my life. We all have a personal responsibility to help others get the same opportunity.

"Employers should be government funded to do this, but the difficult bureaucracy around that funding should be removed. We should ask employers what they see as problems, and address those."

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's 'Employers' guide to hiring people who are blind or vision impaired' can be downloaded from


Media Contact

Sally Edgar, +61 413 753 241,

Notes to Media

Online Media Kit avialable for download from the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT website. Kit includes:

  • Backgrounder
  • Client case studies
  • Images of the people featured in the client case studies

Key results of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT employment survey

– 37% of respondents of working age (15 to 64 years old) are unemployed.
– Of these clients, 91% would like a job.
– Of those who are employed, 57% had full-time work, while 43% had part-time or casual work.
– Most clients with a job work in an office.

Respondents said common barriers to employment included:

– Vision impairment is perceived as a WH&S risk.
– Employers view vision impairment as a burden on their business.
– A lack of understanding from employers about the types of activities that people who are blind or vision impaired can undertake. – Employers focus on a person's disability, not on what they can do. For example, an applicant's qualifications and experience do not receive fair consideration.
– A driver's license being a pre-requisite for a job.

Other relevant statistics
– Nationally, people who are blind or have low vision are four times more likely than the average Australian to be unemployed*; 
– 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 of which are in NSW)*; and 
– Sadly, 45% of Australians with disabilities are living in poverty*.  

*Sources: – Survey of 100 people who are blind or vision impaired and clients of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, conducted in September 2014 – Vision Australia's Employment Research Survey Report 2012 – Blind Citizens Australia Policy Paper Employment: the cornerstone of social inclusion for people who are blind or vision impaired. – Blind Citizens Australia Policy Paper Employment: the cornerstone of social inclusion for people who are blind or vision impaired. – An employer's guide to employing someone with a disability, Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, – Vision Australia's Employment Research Survey Report 2012 – Access Economics report published in June 2010 by Vision2020, Clear Focus: The Economic Impact of Vision Loss in Australia in 2009 – Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers – A Synthesis of Findings across OECD Countries. OECD. (2010)

About Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of Guide Dogs and orientation and mobility (white cane) services to enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities independently. Services include providing training and aids including long canes, Guide Dogs and electronic travel devices such as talking GPS technology. Visit, call 1800 804 805, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.