The statistics show
that blind and partially sighted are the disability group with the lowest
employment rate but the biggest obstacle for visually impaired jobseekers is
not their disability, experts say https://www.euractiv.com/section/health-consumers/news/workplace-prejudice-keeps-blind-people-out-of-employment/
According to the
Hidden Majority Reports ( http://www.euroblind.org/publications-and-resources/guidelines#_Hidden ) there are vast differences in economic
activity of blind persons in different European Member States.
reports is a series of reports – covering Sweden, Germany, Romania, the
Netherlands, Poland, Austria, and France. The reports have included statistics,
gathered where these are available and report on the employment situation of
blind persons in those countries. The project team were spending several days
in each country interviewing policymakers, NGOs and where possible those blind
people affected by policies in the country https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/interview/blind-rights-activist-in-the-uk-66-of-visually-impaired-are-unemployed/
Hidden Majority It is
an EU-funded project administered by the European Blind Union http://www.euroblind.org/
Economic activity is
generally low in Europe, but varies significantly among The Member States. The
Hidden Majority report shows that living standards for the blind vary
considerably across the European Union, but a uniformly ageing demographic and
the challenges of modern technology afflict all people with visual impairments
in the same way.
The European Union
(EU) has a strategic aim to support people with disabilities to become
economically active, either in the mainstream labour market or in special
provision, according to their abilities. The Hidden Majority reports warns that
the EU is still far from achieving this goal.
According to available
reports none of the member states reviewed, apart from Sweden, has secured
anything approaching a 50% rate of economic activity, and most are still
struggling to achieve or maintain a rate approaching 33%, in Romania on other
hand as much as 86% of working age population with visual impairments were
The rate of economic
inactivity varies widely. There is also a huge variety in the type of
employment delivered. In Spain 80% are involved in the selling of state lottery
tickets. If you look at Italy there is a heavy dependence on so-called
“reserved occupations” for blind people. This means that the visually impaired
tend to be shepherded into jobs which are considered to be blind people’s jobs https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/interview/blind-rights-activist-in-the-uk-66-of-visually-impaired-are-unemployed/
The range of so called
“reserved occupations” is reasonably
broad. It is not just telephony – though that remains one of the main jobs.
There is some mainstream employment as well.
The more common and
modern approach is to skill up blind people and encourage them to join the main
employment market. Sweden, Germany, the UK and Austria all have sophisticated
support networks and they will provide a support officer where that is
required, in those cases a sighted support worker is paid for by the state.
There are no clear figures available whether this jobs are more available in
private or public sector, but speaking impressionistically, one would suspect
that more jobs like this are available in public sector.
There is a little
evidence that Spain is beginning to change its approach away from “reserved
occupations”, but they seem to take the view that it’s better to sell state
lottery tickets than nothing at all.
Poland is a very sharp
contrast to Romania. The rate of inactivity is high in Poland but they are
systematically working to change the situation and activate blind people and
they have a rights-based system of employment support. The prediction is that a
mainstream market will develop and grow. Romania was very far behind, and many
blind people leave in poverty https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/interview/blind-rights-activist-in-the-uk-66-of-visually-impaired-are-unemployed/
In Sweden there is a
high rate of employment, but only 13% of that group work full time, the rest
are part time. There are disagreements about this situation. Some say the
employers are under considerable statutory constraint not to dismiss a person
who becomes blind, and that this leads to employers guiding the visually
impaired to part-time work. Others disagree, and say that those workers would
prefer to be part time. Modern employment conditions for blind people can be
very difficult, and travel can be a huge strain. So part-time employment might
be a rational solution in those circumstances and I do not know which of these two
opposing views is true.
How can reports like
this help blind people
much needs to be done in different member states across Europe. The blind
people’s organisations in the member states need to study these reports and to
put pressure on their own governments. There are things that can be copied. In
Sweden, for example, there is strong “retention legislation”. Under this the employer must retain an employee losing
his sight, or – where possible – offer similar employment. Such retention
legislation does not exist in all member states, and I see no reason why it
should not be introduced in other jurisdictions.