With one in four registered blind or partially sighted people of working age being unemployed (RNIB, 2020), the difficulties faced finding or remaining in work can be incredibly challenging. At RNIB, one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities, we offer help and support for blind and partially sighted people – including support with employment and support for employers. One of the practical options available to employers looking to support new or existing employees who are living with sight loss is commissioning a specialist Work Based Assessment.
A work-based assessment is a consultation with one of our employment specialists to recommend equipment, software and adjustments that would better allow an employee to fulfil their role. Following the consultation, a report is produced for the employer detailing the customer’s level of vision, work needs, and recommendations to help them fulfil their potential in the workplace and details of where equipment and training can be purchased. All our specialist advisors are highly experienced in supporting Blind and Partially Sighted people in employment, as well as identifying and signposting to other relevant services as required. We can also monitor our customer’s progress, supporting them through the implementation of adjustments and providing information to their employer if required.
As a work-based assessor, I have seen first hand the impact that Work Based Assessments have for our customers, like Zabir (not his real name) who works as a solicitor for a Law firm, he has Cone-Rod dystrophy and is registered as severely sight impaired. Zabir’s employer contacted RNIB after Zabir identified that he was struggling at work after taking on more responsibilities. Although Zabir did have some equipment and other adjustments in place, he had not had an assessment since University and was not aware of what new technology could offer.
Zabir explained “I thought the assessment process was very easy and user friendly. The assessor was very knowledgeable about what was available and the issues I was facing. They were proactive in suggesting adjustments I hadn’t considered before, both in technology and working practices. Different ideas such as using OCR software to read printed documents via audio and not using my webcam for internal video calls because I am unable to see myself on the screen and use my accessibility tech at the same time as being on screen, were not possibilities I was aware of before the assessment. I felt the assessment was a two-way process, we went back and forth in our discussions and I felt my needs were put first. The report was very clear about what the employer was expected to do, from their perspective it was presented in a way that made clear why these adjustments were needed and what the impact would be of not following the recommendations.”
As part of RNIB’s assessment process, as well as technology and equipment, we explore adjustments to environment, duties, application of policies and other factors in the workplace that can have a significant impact for Blind and Partially Sighted People. For example, in Zabir’s case “Prior to the report I worked long hours which I found worsened my eye fatigue and eye strain. I work in a culture where long hours are the norm and I had concerns that my employer would see this negatively if I asked for more breaks but having that specific recommendation in my report made me feel more confident about setting boundaries with my employer.”
The impact of a work-based assessment can be significant not just for Blind and Partially Sighted individuals, but for their employer and organisational culture. Zabir reported “Having an assessment from RNIB has made my working experience so much easier, efficient and accessible. It has made me a lot more aware of what to look out for in the future if I need further adjustments. If I have any changes in my role or eyesight in the future, I feel more confident about requesting another assessment of my needs. In order to implement the adjustments, I required support from IT, HR and other members of my team which has really increased awareness of visual impairment within the organisation. I have noticed internally a greater level of awareness of accessibility and a shift in culture to make our website and services more accessible.”
If you would like to find out more about RNIB’s services for employers or employment professionals please visit our website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone our helpline on 0303 123 9999
By Alice Archer, Employment Advisor, RNIB