Work matters for everyone – if we can find a job that uses our particular skills and abilities, it’s good for our general well-being and our health, both physical and mental. It can also help to provide financial independence.
Employment is also a key issue for people who are blind or partially sighted. Some have had to change careers or give up their job due to their sight loss, whereas others can struggle to find any employment at all. According to the RNIB, the number of working age people who are in employment has dropped from 45% to 25% in the last 10 years.
There are many reasons for this: some are about the individual – for example someone losing their confidence or self-belief or getting disillusioned after failing to get the jobs for which they have applied. Other more general reasons include a lack of suitable training, not enough opportunities to gain workplace experience, limited access to equipment and the reluctance of certain employers to employ blind or partially sighted people.
Yet many people with sight loss regularly demonstrate their ability to be flexible and adapt to new situations, solve problems and collaborate with others – key qualities that are valued by many employers.
Bradbury Fields has collaborated with partners to develop the Bridge the Gap project including Jill Barlow from Jigsaw Coaching CIC, Iain Mitchell from the Merseyside Sight Loss Council and Lynne Sedgewick from Wirral Society for the Blind and Partially Sighted.
Funded by Visionary and PH Holt Foundation, Bridge the Gap supported twenty-four visually impaired people from Liverpool City Region in 2019-20 to enhance their employment prospects through a tailored programme of coaching, peer workshops and training.
Its finale was an Employer Engagement event, which aimed to showcase the skills and knowledge of sight loss, challenge some of the myths that some employers hold and encourage communication to develop a strategic plan for the future.
The methods developed and lessons learnt from Bridge the Gap have been utilised by another project – Navigating Your Future, this time funded by the European Social Fund. As well as supporting people through individual coaching and peer support, it involves increased connections with employers and practical support from key local players in the Department of Work and Pensions.
We’re planning further work with our partners to address the issues that have been raised, so that more Blind and Partially Sighted people can engage fully in the workplace and achieve their dreams and ambitions in a more inclusive society.
For further support please make contact through reception at the Bradbury Centre on 0151 221 0888