Wednesday

28th Jun 2017

Focus

Reach out to blind people, expert tells employment services

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.

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.

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"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.

Disability in figures

People from Malta are least likely to have health problems that limit their daily activities. In 2011, 88 out of 100 told EU pollsters they were fine. Only 64 percent of Slovenes did, and some 75 percent of EU citizens.

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European Parliament leaders have committed themselves to better upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, starting with making their political websites more universally accessible ahead of next year's EU elections.

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Over recent decades, there has been a "paradigm shift" in the way disability rights are treated in the European Union with policy-makers now focussing on how to make society more inclusive of disabled people.

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