An interview with CNIB's Tina Sarkar-Thompson, project manager of career support program development
What are the challenges facing fully qualified workers who experience loss of sight in the middle stage of their careers?
For the worker, it is important they learn what tools are out there, like large print programs, screen readers or accessibility tools. For the employers, it is about being educated on how to make the workplace accessible. There is a misconception that accommodation is expensive. It doesn't have to be.
How can we change attitudes and prejudices about hiring workers who've experienced sight loss?
I think the true underlying reason for some employers' reluctance is the saying "you don't know what you don't know." For employers, it's about welcoming an open and honest conversation along with the willingness to try something new. That's one way we'll smash the barriers associated with this stigma.
What are some of the ways employers can respond and adapt to the situation of having a worker with sight loss?
The best way to adapt is to ask them what their needs are. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for accommodation. The worker and the employer need to collaborate to find what works for them.
Have you noticed a shift, either positive or negative, in society's willingness to hire a qualified job applicant who has experienced sight loss?
Corporate Canada is open to hiring qualified people with sight loss. Today, we help educate companies on how to do this. They are willing – they just need support.
Is there a significant number of talented, experienced workers in our society who have been effectively sidelined because of sight loss?
According to the Canadian Survey on Disability (2012), only 37 per cent of working-age Canadians with sight loss are employed. It's not about being sidelined, but rather overlooked because of the stigma and misconceptions.
What piece(s) of advice do you have for any employer who might be sitting down tomorrow to interview a job applicant with sight loss?
Treat the candidate as any other and see past the person's sight loss. Your goal as the employer is to get to know the person for who they are, and what they can bring to your organization.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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