ACT News

Employers asked to open their eyes to job seekers who are vision impaired

Scott Grimley is a valued employee of the National Museum of Australia. He is also legally blind. 

Despite being declared legally blind 16 years ago due to a condition Retinitis Pigmentosa, his vision impairment hasn't stopped the 43-year-old from building a successful career.

Much to offer:  Scott Grimley has overcome obstacles to build a successful career at the National Museum of Australia.
Much to offer: Scott Grimley has overcome obstacles to build a successful career at the National Museum of Australia. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Since joining the museum 14 years ago, Mr Grimley has held five different roles, earned several promotions and is now the diversity and wellbeing officer. 

He believes employers have a lot to gain from hiring people who are blind or visually impaired.  

"You may find your staff are a bit more aware of workplace health and safety and you may find that staff are a bit more aware of customer needs," he said.

Mr Grimley admits he struggled to find employment in the early days of losing his sight and spent several years unemployed despite applying for a variety of roles he felt capable of doing. 

Advertisement

With the support of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Mr Grimley accessed mobility training to use a white cane and a Miniguide - a hand-held sonar-driven device that vibrates when it detects objects  - and now easily navigates his way around the workplace.  He also uses a screen reader and magnifier for his computer.

New research from the organisation revealed nearly 40 per cent of their clients were unemployed, despite nearly 91 per cent wanting a job.  

Ahead of International White Cane Day on Wednesday, the organisation will launch a new employer awareness campaign, calling on business owners not to turn a blind eye to job seekers who are vision impaired. 

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's regional manager in Canberra, Beth Helmers, said the new Have cane, am able to work campaign aimed to raise awareness of the benefits of hiring people with vision impairment.

"There's an untapped workforce out there," she said.

"Many people with a vision impairment have had to learn how to be good problem solvers, have had to learn how to be resilient and those are skills that are an asset in any work environment. 

"They may also have heightened awareness of what it's like to be discriminated against and therefore can bring a better level of customer service into the workforce." 

Ms Helmers said the campaign also aimed to alleviate common employer concerns about hiring a person with a vision impairment.

"Sometimes there's a fear, they'll have to do too many modifications to a workplace and that's generally not the case, there are technology adaptions that make it possible for a person with vision impairment to do all the computer-related skills and there's funding available to help make those modifications," she said.

 "In terms of work health and safety, an environment that is kept free of trip hazards is safe for everybody."

As part of the campaign, the organisation has also released an employer's guide to hiring people who are blind or vision impaired.