Focus

Reach out to blind people, expert tells employment services

22.11.12 @ 13:18

  1. By Philip Ebels

BRUSSELS - First, the figures. There are some 30 million blind and partially sighted people in Europe, according to the European Blind Union (EBU), an umbrella organisation. Of them, some three quarters do not have a job.

  • Employment agencies are not reaching out to blind people, experts say. (Photo: European Commission)

According to a series of recent studies, more than half of them do not bother applying, even though many of them would like to work.

"Research suggests there is an indeterminable proportion who would like to have a job, but do nothing to get one," Fred Reid, co-author of the studies, told EUobserver.

"When asked, they say things like 'I don't know how to set about it,' or 'My sight is too bad'," he added.

The studies - called The Hidden Majority and commissioned by the EBU - look at individual member states one at a time.

The latest, on France, was published earlier this month and is the seventh in a row after Germany, Sweden, Romania, the Netherlands, Poland and Austria.

But already in 2009, when the authors began working, were they able to make an EU-wide assumption.

"There is evidence to support the hypothesis of a significant rate of involuntary economic inactivity [of blind and partially sighted people] in every member state of the EU," they said at the time.

The reasons are manifold, noted Reid.

"There is a very large prejudice among employers. And there are additional impairments [when people grow old]," he said.

Perhaps most to blame are public sector employment bureaus, whom he accused of "very poor data keeping" and "extraordinary complacency."

"[They] don’t actively reach out to find out if these people would like work or not," he said.

"Our argument is that they ought to reach out," he added.

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