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People from the blind and low vision community are no different from their sighted peers in that they make passionate, committed and efficient employees. Despite this, the unemployment rate of people who are blind or have low vision is significantly higher compared to the general population.

Health and safety officer James is a great example of how Vision Australia’s employment services can help employees to have everything they need to succeed in the workplace.

Impact of low vision

Having worked as a health and safety officer for decades, James loves what he does.

“I like that my work focuses on the health and wellbeing of everyone in the workplace,” he said.

“Ensuring that people who go to work in the morning get home safely in the afternoon, is my number one priority.”

James was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 1990, a condition that causes the degeneration of cells in the retina, which is the light sensitive part of the eye.

After more than 20 years coping with the condition, in 2016, his vision significantly deteriorated.

This made it difficult to get a job because potential employers were worried about how his vision would impact his work.

“I understand in my industry people might be worried about employing me because if something goes wrong on a worksite everyone is going to be worried about me.”

The right job

James connected with Vision Australia’s employment services as a result of his volunteer work with the organisation.

His employment consultant, Pedro, supported James in a number of ways including resume writing, applying for jobs and explaining to employers all the supports available to them when hiring someone who is blind or has low vision.

“He helped me get in contact with a company I’d worked for indirectly for many years and told them about the adjustments they could make so I could do the job.”

The right equipment

When James got his new job, the next step was making sure he had the right assistive technology.

Pedro organised the funding for assessments and technology through JobAccess and James received a new computer screen, a new computer keyboard with letters on it that were easy to see, the screen-reading software Zoomtext and two different sized magnifiers.

James’ manager Claude said James used to struggle to see the computer but the technology he received from Vision Australia through JobAccess made all the difference.

“James’s role involves creating and revising detailed Sight Operating Procedures (SOP), Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and Working Policies and the assistive technology made this work a lot easier for him,” Claude said.

“I’m very grateful to Vision Australia.

“These procedures have timelines and now James is able to get everything done much faster.”

Words of advice

The support James received from Vision Australia has changed his life for the better and he had some advice for other job seekers who are blind or have low vision.

“Keep your chin up,” he said.

“Remember that the most important thing isn’t our disability, it’s what we can offer the companies we work for.”

Claude agreed and said James’ decades of acquired knowledge and experience in the health and safety industry make him a valuable employee.

“He’s well-known and sought after in the industry.

“We are grateful to Vision Australia’s employment services because the fact that James is able to keep working for us makes our lives a lot easier.”

To learn more about Vision Australia’s employment services, contact us on 1300 84 74 66 or at [email protected]