26 per cent visually impaired people of working age are in employment, according to the report from The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
In the UK, there are almost 2 million people living with sight loss. NHS has found that currently around 360,000 people are registered as blind or partially sighted.
What could affect the likelihood of getting a job?
According to RNIB’s report in 2017, self-reported functional vision impacts heavily on the likelihood of being in paid employment. Only around one in 10 people with poor functional vision are in paid employment, which means no light perception or not being able to see the shapes of furniture in a room. This compares to almost 40 per cent of people who could see well enough to recognise a friend across the road in paid work.
One in 10 people with poor functional vision have a paid job. (Yiwen Feng©)
Some people might also have additional disabilities. 43 per cent of people who reported no other impairments, that is, sight loss only, were in employment. This compared to 26 per cent who reported one additional impairment.
Even for people who manged to get a job, 23 per cent of them said that their employer had made no adjustments to the working environment or hours. Last month, RNIB has launched a programme of resources to help employers support blind and partially sighted staffs. Resources include webinars, good practice toolkits, blogs and guides for making changes.
“With the right support, visually impaired people can thrive in the workplace and make a significant contribution to businesses in almost all employment sectors,” RNIB Director of Services David Clarke told Charity Digital News.
What kind of job are they able to do?
Data from several organizations including RNIB and Labour Force Survey show that blind and partially sighted people are employed in all major occupational groups. Almost 1,000 different jobs have been carried out by people living with sight loss.
These participants in the survey have all been issued with a Certificate of Vision Impairment (CVI) by a consultant ophthalmologist prior to being registered blind or partially sighted by their local council. Currently there are approximately 84,500 people registered blind and partially sighted people of working age in the UK.
However, RNIB worries that certification and registration only indicate the people who have some contact with health and social care services. There might be more people whose lives have been affected by eye problems but may not be eligible for registration.
“I always feel socially isolated”: Eye diseases are not as simple as “bird box challenge”
There are two results from certification (CVI): severely sight impaired (blind) and sight impaired (partially sighted).
CVI criteria (Yiwen Feng©)
Vision loss could be difficult to cope with and some people might need a long period of time to process it. Apart from getting a proper job, to re-learn how to do everyday tasks is the reality for people who have lost vision.
However, only 17 per cent of people with sight loss have received emotional support in relation to their deteriorating vision. UK charity organization Guide Dogs has revealed that over 42 per cent of people with sight loss feel they are “left out” of everyday life.
UK statistics of sight loss (RNIB data tool, 2018)
RNIB believes that public awareness and attitudes towards sight loss is poor. In January this year, Netflix made an injury warning of so-called “bird box challenge” that based on the horror film Bird Box, one of the biggest hits from Netflix yet. The social media challenge asked participants to try various tasks while wearing a blindfold. A 17-year-old from Utah caused a highway collision after driving blindfolded.
Bird Box Challenge while driving…predictable result. This happened on Monday as a result of the driver covering her eyes while driving on Layton Parkway. Luckily no injuries. pic.twitter.com/4DvYzrmDA2
— Layton Police (@laytonpolice) January 11, 2019
RNIB has responded to this on twitter saying: “Does this help with understanding the challenges of life with a visual impairment or perpetuate myths that blind people aren’t capable of doing everyday tasks?”
The #BirdBoxChallenge involves people trying to perform everyday tasks while blindfolded and posting videos online.
Does this help with understanding the challenges of life with a visual impairment or perpetuate myths that blind people aren’t capable of doing everyday tasks? pic.twitter.com/0R5p66tGuR
— RNIB (@RNIB) January 3, 2019
The number of people in the UK with sight loss is predicted to double to over four million by 2050.