The Visually Impaired in the Workplace

The Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) was established in 1868, and has since played an instrumental role in supporting the blind and partially sighted in the UK. Kudirat Adeniyi, Employment Manager at the RNIB, speaks here about the work the organisation delivers, what employers can do to appeal to blind and partially sighted workers and why they should to be looking towards this talent pool for their own organisations.

Tell us about the RNIB and the work it performs.

The RNIB is a charity that promotes the interests of blind and partially sighted people, and all those at risk of sight loss across the UK. It works with a wide network of partners to support all those living with sight loss – up to around 2 million people in total. It strives to create a world without barriers for people experiencing sight loss. Its services include advice, information, industry reports, confidence – building exercises, assistive technology consulting and, of course, employment support.

Why is this an important issue for employers?

Employers should be looking to elevate this issue for three main reasons: our ageing work populations, attracting the right talent and creating more diverse workplaces. For one, we’re seeing our workforces become increasingly older, with sight loss having more and more of an impact. Without an environment that caters for these people, organisations risk losing a wealth of experience from within their own firms. We often see organisations missing out on the right candidates that are perfectly suited to a particular role, as they do not have the procedures in place to support them. By having sight-loss-friendly procedures, employers can hire from a wider pool of talent and gain the skills they truly need within their organisations. It is also important to engage a more diverse workforce. Hiring workers experiencing sight loss contributes to this and brings different strands of thinking into organisations, all of which can deliver value for businesses.

How can employers maximise the potential of the partially sighted at work?

It all starts with their recruitment practices. Employers need to be ensuring that their job postings are more accessible to the partially sighted, so they are recruiting from the widest possible talent pools. Where are the jobs advertised, what are the processes involved with applying, what adjustments need to be made for the interview: these are key questions hiring managers should be asking themselves before posting any role. Within the workplace, there are also physical steps organisations can make to maximise the potential of the partially sighted. Varying lighting levels, ensuring clear signposting, making adjustments on computers and providing assistive software are just some of the small steps employers can take to increase productivity and participation. Many of these steps are even of benefit to the entire workforce, and are often common-sense adjustments that can easily be put in place.

What do people with sight loss value most when choosing a new role?

The same things that I would look for when choosing a new role. Above all, a position where they have the opportunity to use their existing skills and experience to the benefit of the organisation, and the opportunity to develop new skills on the job. I think many would also want a role where their contributions are valued, where they are regularly participating in discussions and are engaging with the organisation. A welcoming environment where their needs are met and they feel comfortable asking for any additional support they may require from their employers is also important. Finally, I believe many would be looking for a role where they are delivering a positive contribution to society. For employers, appealing to these qualities will ensure they are broadening their appeal to the widest possible candidate pool.