A MAJOR charity has called for a drive to increase opportunities for blind people after research showed fewer than one third are employed.
According to sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, too many employers have worrying misconceptions about what workers with sight loss can and cannot do and are reluctant to take them on.
The charity says there are an estimated 8,500 people of working-age in Scotland who are blind or partially sighted, who remain among the most disadvantaged groups in society when it comes to jobs.
Just 29 per cent of blind and partially sighted people are in employment, compared to 76 per cent in the general population.
John Legg, the charity's director, said: "While the employment rate of disabled people in general continues to increase, the position of blind and partially sighted people has remained almost static.
"In times of economic downturn, they face an even more disproportionate disadvantage. And yet much of this can be due to employer misperceptions.
"Most people with a visual impairment, for instance, aren't completely blind, and while some blind people do have guide dogs, not everyone does. In many cases an employer might only need to make relatively minor adjustments to the workplace environment.
Among the jobs detailed in the report are civil engineer, university lecturer and administrator. Other posts filled by people with sight loss in Scotland include astrophysicist, civil servant, BBC reporter and physiotherapist.
Allan Milne, who lectures in software engineering at Dundee's Abertay University, and whose own sight has deteriorated since childhood, argues in the report that employees with sight loss can bring a whole new perspective to how people and organisations work.
"If anything, I probably pay more attention than most people," he said. "I'm not distracted by what's going on elsewhere. And I find my colleagues can be grateful when you ask for something to be clarified.
"I have an excuse to ask for more information, or have some item explained further, when sometimes others might not want to speak out."
The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Disabled Workers Committee has welcomed the study, adding that more needs to be done to change employer's attitude towards employing workers with visual impairments.
Robert Mooney, Chair of the STUC Disabled Workers Committee and a member of the Royal Blind School Board said: "Loss of sight or partial sight does not equate to loss of capability and more needs to be done to provide more opportunities such as those highlighted in this publication and two previous reports.
"The STUC Disabled Workers Committee is committed to working with the RNIB to encourage prospective employers look beyond the visual impairment and recognise the skills and qualities people with visual impairments, like myself, can bring to the workplace.
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