Document Sample
Barrier Powered By Docstoc
					Blind Citizens Australia

Submission to the National Mental Health and
Disability Employment Strategy Consultation
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace

June 27th 2008


Leah Hobson
National Policy Officer
Blind Citizens Australia

Level 3, 247 – 251 Flinders Lane
Phone: 03 9654 1400
“To get a job as a blind person you need to be the
racehorse pulling the milk cart.”

Blind Citizens Australia believes that everyone
deserves the chance to get a job no matter whether
they are below average, average or brilliant.

“When I lost my vision at the age of fifty three I couldn’t
think about staying in my job as a receptionist. There just
would have been too many changes to make. I wouldn’t
have known where to begin.”

Staying in the workforce is hard enough as you get
older. Acquiring a disability shouldn’t make it harder.
About Blind Citizens Australia

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) is the peak national
advocacy organisation of and for people who are blind or
vision impaired. Our mission is to achieve equity and
equality by our empowerment, by promoting positive
community attitudes, and by striving for high quality and
accessible services which meet our needs. As the national
advocacy peak body we have over 3000 individual
members, branches nationwide and 13 affiliate
organisations that represent the interests of blind or vision
impaired Australians.


Employment is a critical part of our ability to participate in
society, improve our quality of life and develop our sense
of self worth. People who are blind or vision impaired have
experienced chronic, ongoing barriers to employment. The
most recent figures from the Vision Australia Employment
(2007) cite an unemployment rate of 63% for people who
are blind or vision impaired. Even among what is arguably
the most privileged and employable section of this
population – those with postgraduate qualifications – there
is an unemployment rate of 34%.

The barriers to work for people who are blind or vision
impaired can be broadly categorised as directly
employment-related or as part of ‘whole of life’ issues
which have an indirect influence on employability. While
many – such as training in blindness-specific skills – have
been matters of concern for a long time, others – such as
the lack of support for those already in jobs to find other
work – have come about directly because of recent
government policy.
To make any of the recommendations listed below
effective, BCA believes there are some overall measures
which need to be undertaken. These include:

Ensuring connectivity: The measures undertaken as
part of the National Disability Employment Strategy should
inform, and be informed by, other federal government
initiatives. This might include the National Disability
Strategy, the Commonwealth State and Territory Disability
Agreement and the anticipated ratification of the UN
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Additionally, the government should seek to connect with
State and Territory based programs, such as aids and
equipment programs and vocational education and

Cross-sector collaboration: The federal government
should seek to bring together stakeholders from all areas
to implement the National Disability Employment Strategy.
This should include representatives of people with
disabilities, as well as public and private sector
stakeholders, government agencies and training bodies.

Data Collection: There is little or no data on some
aspects of employment or job searching for people with
disabilities more broadly, let alone those who are blind or
vision impaired. BCA believes that data should be
collected on a frequent, ongoing basis to measure as
many aspects of the job seeking and employment process
as possible, including unemployment rates, public and
private sector employment rates, average earnings and
cost of living, participation in job searching, participation in
education and training and career progression.
Additionally, attention needs to be given to the levels of
awareness among employers so that changes can be
noted over time.

  1. The need for young people who are blind or vision
     impaired to develop appropriate life skills, such as
     socialisation, orientation and mobility, adaptive
     technology skills and self advocacy before even
     reaching working age.

  BCA believes that developing age-appropriate skills
  should be a priority for young jobseekers who are blind
  or vision impaired. For example, it is reasonable to
  expect that an eighteen year old would be able to travel
  independently of their family, including secondary tasks
  like managing money, navigating, displaying acceptable
  manners and knowing when and how to ask for help.

  While it may appear that a night out with friends is
  unrelated to one’s ability to get and keep a job, for
  people who are blind or vision impaired many of these
  skills are transferrable to paid employment, and an
  eighteen year old who does not possess these skills will
  be at a serious disadvantage when it comes to finding
  work. The Vision Australia Employment Report (2007)
  particularly identified self advocacy, or ‘compensatory’,
  skills as essential. In some instances people who are
  blind or vision impaired may be unable to utilise
  ‘traditional’ methods for solving work-related
  accessibility issues, such as adaptive technology; under
  these circumstances the ability to think creatively,
  articulate needs and identify solutions is especially


Young people who are blind or vision impaired should
leave the secondary or tertiary education systems with
measurable, age appropriate skills in each of the areas
listed above. As a general rule, the following should be
possible for a young adult who is blind or vision impaired
but has no additional disabilities:

Socialisation: A young adult who is blind or vision impaired
should be able to meet and interact with a range of people
without needing assistance to maintain a conversation or
to introduce him or her self to others.

Orientation and Mobility: A young adult who is blind or
vision impaired should be able to travel some important
routes – home to school, friend’s houses and church, for
instance – alone if necessary.

Adaptive Technology: A young person who is blind or
vision impaired should be able to use computers and read
material in print or alternative formats with appropriate
adaptive technology.

Self Advocacy: A young person who is blind or vision
impaired should be able to seek out assistance from
others when appropriate. He or she should also be aware
of their rights as a person with a disability, and understand
what discrimination means.

If these skills are not present when a young person
reaches the point of beginning to search for a job, there
needs to be adequate remedial training available.

The abovementioned skills are required specifically of
people who are blind or vision impaired so that they can
be job ready. Some young people who are blind or vision
impaired also leave the education system with a lack of
skills in critical areas such as literacy. It should also be
part of this goal to provide remedial resources for those
young people.
Ideas and Solutions

Blind Citizens Australia recognises that the state and
territory education systems do not fall under the power of
the federal government and connections between the
secondary and tertiary education systems and those
which provide welfare and employment assistance are
difficult to maintain at best. However, it is important that
these links be explored as part of any discussion of a
national employment strategy for people with disabilities; it
is inevitable that the education system will not always
meet all of the needs of all students and appropriate steps
need to be taken to ensure that this is accounted for in
any whole-of-government policy.

Young people who are blind or vision impaired need a
complex range of remedies to ensure that they leave the
education system with the same skills as their peers.
Implementation of the National Unified Lifeskills Model
(NULM) across Australian jurisdictions would allow for
each state and territory to devise the most context-
appropriate methods of support with a standardised
measurement system. NULM focuses on supporting
families in particular, but also educators and therapists, to
build age-appropriate skills for children who are blind or
vision impaired. It articulates appropriate expectations and
offers supports at the early childhood development stage.

Broadly speaking, young people who are blind or vision
impaired require several things to solve this problem:

   Coordinated support from schools, parents and
    specialist supports such as early intervention staff,
    orientation and mobility trainers, adaptive technology
    trainers or psychologists;
 Access to adequate supports in the first place. Blind
  Citizens Australia is aware that in some rural and
  regional areas, students who are vision impaired or
  blind have been unable to learn Braille because of a
  lack of appropriately qualified teachers;

 Appropriate expectations from parents, teachers and
  specialist support staff. It is only useful to have
  everyone in place and well coordinated if the
  expectations set for students do not under or over
  estimate their needs and potential.


     - The number of students leaving their secondary
       or tertiary education with appropriate, clearly
       defined academic and life skills should increase

     - The connections between home, community
       and school based supports for students who are
       blind or vision impaired should increase

     - The connections between schools, tertiary
       education institutions and the employment
       sector should increase

2. The need for people who acquire their vision loss to
   have adequate access to skills training for orientation
   and mobility as well as adaptive technology.

People who acquire their vision loss either suddenly or
gradually need different types of assistance to those
who have grown up learning the skills they need and
being immersed in the system of service providers,
medical professionals and adaptive technology. These
people will, generally speaking, have limited referrals to
service provision agencies. As a result, many find that
  they stumble across services through luck rather than

  Even once a person with acquired vision loss is aware
  of the services they need, accessing these services
  may be difficult. This is especially true for people in
  rural and regional areas where public and community
  transport is scarce and outreach services can be rare.

  EXAMPLE: Barbara is forty three years old and has
  recently been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa,
  meaning her vision will deteriorate at an unpredictable
  rate. She is currently night blind and relies on large print
  to read. Barbara used to work as a carer in a nursing
  home and now wants to retrain as a medical typist.
  Before Barbara can begin classes as part of her
  training, she needs to know how to move around safely,
  and how to use a computer.

  An orientation and mobility instructor is only available to
  visit her once a fortnight at her house on the Gold
  Coast. She cannot begin her computer training until she
  has finished orientation and mobility because the class
  is in Brisbane, three bus trips and two hours each way
  away. Once her orientation training has finished,
  Barbara is only able to attend the class on a limited
  basis because of the time involved in getting to and
  from the classroom.


As discussed under Barriers, this issue has several

Goal One: People experiencing vision loss should have a
coordinated and standardised referral service available to
them so that they are able to access assistance with
employment and training issues as soon as possible after
diagnosis. Referrals should include information about job-
related services, such as public transport travel passes,
taxi vouchers and welfare payments which may assist
someone in getting and keeping work.

Goal Two: People experiencing vision loss have access to
readily available and easily accessible employment and
training related services. This should include services
which may be considered peripheral to employment and
training, but which are critical to ensuring that an individual
is job ready, such as counselling and peer support.

Ideas and Solutions

Goal One:

Methods for improving connections between medical
practitioners such as optometrists, GPs and
ophthalmologists and service providers for people who are
blind or vision impaired need to be explored.

Goal Two:

An evaluation of services available to people who lose
their vision should be undertaken.

Innovative methods for increasing the amount of training
for people who are losing their vision – such as video
conference classes – should be explored.


Goal One:
Referral rates are consistently monitored through service
provider agencies via a standardised data collection and
reporting process.

Goal Two:

Longer term measurements cannot be discussed without
an in-depth assessment of the current situation and future
options for change. Any such assessment should be
undertaken within a set time frame and with outcomes
agreed across the blindness and vision impairment
advocacy and service provision sector.

  3. People who are blind or vision impaired need to be
     able to access adaptive technology even when they
     are not working, so they can maintain the skills
     necessary for employment and engage in activities
     which might lead to employment, such as voluntary

  For many people who are blind or vision impaired,
  adaptive technology is critical to their ability to access
  information and to travel safely in the community.
  Adaptive technology might include tools to help read
  printed materials (such as a closed circuit television or a
  portable Braille note taker), software to help read digital
  information (such as a screen reading program on a
  computer or mobile phone), and devices which help
  with navigation (such as a talking global positioning
  device). There is evidence that adaptive technology
  which assists with information access is vital to
  employment; the Vision Australia Employment Report
  (2007) found that people who are blind or vision
  impaired are more likely to be employed if they can
  access information in a number of formats.
Much of the adaptive technology available to people
who are blind or vision impaired is expensive to buy.
Acquiring a mobile phone with screen reading software
currently costs approximately $800; a portable Braille
note taking device is close to $7,000. Many
unemployed Australians who are blind or vision
impaired have no way to buy or borrow the equipment
they need.

This means their job searching efforts are made
significantly more difficult. In particular, gaining
voluntary, temporary or casual work becomes
impossible because the equipment they need to
function is too expensive to purchase and the
Workplace Modifications Scheme is either impractical or
unavailable. Keeping a job can also be harder without
access to the correct adaptive technology in times of
unemployment. For some people, getting the necessary
training and proficiency in adaptive technology is only
effective if they have the equipment to use on a regular
basis afterwards.

EXAMPLE: Jennifer has lost her vision as an adult and
is now looking to return to the workforce as a counsellor
after years at home looking after her children. She is
aware that she will need to use a portable Braille note
taker during counselling sessions, and her employment
consultant arranges for her to receive training in the use
of a PacMate note taker.

When the training course is finished, Jennifer spends a
long time searching for a job before she is hired by a
large government department. During this time, Jennifer
has not had the money to purchase a PacMate and she
has forgotten many of the skills she needs to use the
machine. Her Workplace Modifications grant pays for a
PacMate, but she still struggles to take adequate notes.
  Her clients begin complaining that she loses track of
  facts during their sessions and she is given a formal

  Jennifer has to undertake further training during her
  early days in the job to ensure that she is able to remain
  employed. This causes her both physical stress
  because she has to catch up on work missed while she
  is training, and psychological stress, because she is not
  sure if she will be able to stay in her job.


The ultimate goal is to provide jobseekers who are blind or
vision impaired with appropriate adaptive technology at
appropriate times. For some, the best outcome may be
short to medium term access through loans, while others
will need to be more readily able to purchase equipment at
little or no cost.

Potential solutions may also be dependent on the kind of
technology. It is, for example, less feasible to loan out a
mobile phone but much more practical to provide trial
licences for screen reading software.

  Ideas and Solutions

BCA believes that there should be better funding for aids
and equipment needed by people who are blind or vision
impaired. This should be provided as per the Australian
Blindness Forum policy on aids and equipment, which
allows for partial funding under the Commonwealth, State
and Territory Disability Agreement (CSTDA) and partial
self funding.

The government should also examine ways to make
funding under the Workplace Modifications Scheme
retroactive so that people who find jobs can get equipment
more quickly and easily, with minimal waiting times. For
instance, this would be feasible for employees who had
received Workplace Modifications Scheme funding
previously and who were listed as having a permanent

In addition, BCA believes that equipment lending libraries
should be readily available for short term use by people
with disabilities. Such a library already exists in Tasmania,
run by Guide Dogs Tasmania.


The number of people who are blind or vision impaired
accessing aids and equipment funding should be
measured through the State and Territory aids and
equipment programs;

The establishment and success (in terms of loan
frequency and length) of one or more equipment library for
people who are blind or vision impaired

  4. People who are blind or vision impaired need to have
     better access to opportunities which can lead to
     longer term, stable employment, including quality
     vocational training, voluntary work, casual work, work
     experience and job redesign.

  People who are blind or vision impaired experience
  significant barriers to entering and remaining in the
  workforce. According to the 2007 Vision Australia
  Employment Report, 63% of people who are blind or
  vision impaired are unemployed. 50% of these
  jobseekers have been searching for over a year,
  compared to 33% of the general unemployed
Aside from concerns regarding aids and equipment,
people who are blind or vision impaired face a range of
barriers to entry into the paid and unpaid workforce.
These include:

- Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) concerns on
the part of employers or those recruiting volunteers
(HREOC, 2005);

- Insurance concerns on the part of employers or those
recruiting volunteers (HREOC 2005);

- Lack of disability-specific positions in work experience
or entry level job programs at large companies and in
the public services across Australia (Vision Australia

- Prevailing negative attitudes (Vision Australia 2007);

- Lower levels of educational attainment, which leads to
poorer quality employment outcomes (Barnett and
Spoehr, 2008)

Additionally, current government policies may be
creating barriers to workforce participation for people
who are blind or vision impaired. BCA has noticed a rise
in concern among members who would like to begin
searching for work but who are afraid to do so because
the prospect of a Job Capacity Assessment (JCA)
under the Welfare to Work program causes many to
fear that their Disability Support Pension (Blind) (DSP
Blind) will be taken away, leading to greater pressure to
find work and/or to accept an inappropriate job.

The Welfare to Work policy is also having an impact on
vocational education and training. Recent research
  concludes that people affected by Welfare to Work are
  often concerned that they are expected to find work as
  quickly as possible, meaning that they undertake
  shorter training courses with little in the way of
  preparatory assistance if they are not used to the
  education system. This is leading some people with
  disabilities into a cycle of short courses and short
  periods of employment, with no real prospect of longer-
  term employment and a clean break from the welfare


An increase in people who are blind or vision impaired
participating in voluntary work, and paid casual, temporary
and part-time positions. The flow-on effect from this
should be a greater proportion of people who are blind or
vision impaired able to get and keep full time jobs.

For this to occur there would need to be more information
available to employers about some of the misconceptions
around employees with disabilities. The Human Rights
and Equal Opportunity Commission’s 2005 Inquiry into
disability and employment noted that many of the barriers
to employment could be overcome with better information
provision; this applies to several of the barriers mentioned

Ideas and Solutions

As per the HREOC Workability II report, BCA

- A one-stop information shop (Recommendation 1)

- Information dissemination about OH&S and insurance
issues (Recommendation 13)
- Sponsoring programs to support employers with OH&S
issues and collect data for dissemination
(Recommendation 13)

- Work trials provided under a government-funded scheme
(Recommendation 15)

- Connected and coordinated work placement support for
students in times of transition (Recommendation
(Recommendation 16)

- Provision of appropriate supports for work experience,
traineeship and apprenticeship schemes
(Recommendation 16)

- Clearer transition pathways to government funded
employment network providers (Recommendation 16)

- Public sector leadership in recruiting people with
disabilities into work experience, traineeship and
apprenticeship schemes (Recommendation 16)

Blind Citizens Australia strongly recommends that JCAs
are removed from the Welfare to Work system. These
assessments cause people with disabilities great stress
and discourage workforce participation. In addition,
assessments are often carried out by people with a limited
understanding of disability. Many vision impairments can
be invisible or variable, and an understanding of these
special cases is difficult both for the assessor with limited
training to gain, and for anyone using a standardised
computer form to articulate clearly.

Recent NCVER publications recommend that employment
agencies be given a key performance indicator regarding
quality training and skills development among job seekers.
Further research also suggests that vocational education
and training could be improved for people within the
welfare to work system by providing more targeted
individual support and case management services, and
allowing for better coordination between the VET sector
and welfare and employment agencies at a management
and policy level.


- An increase in employment rates among people who are
blind or vision impaired

- An increased awareness among employers of OH&S
and insurance related issues when hiring people with

- An increase in available places for people with
disabilities in work experience, traineeship and
apprenticeship programs

- An increase in the educational attainment levels of
people who are blind or vision impaired and unemployed

- An increase in the number of people who are blind or
vision impaired searching for work

  5. People who are blind or vision impaired need to have
     access to appropriate assistance when they are
     looking for work.

  Research tells us that people who are blind or vision
  impaired often have a limited understanding of the
  employment services available to them, with many
  relying on word of mouth or luck to find out about the
  most appropriate services for them (Vision Australia
  2007). This report notes that this is of particular concern
  because successful employment outcomes are more
  likely for those who have access to specialist services.

  HREOC (2005) also highlighted availability of places as
  a concern, with a recommendation to examine the then
  current rates of capped disability employment network
  places on offer. The situation remains an issue, though
  it is possible that in some instances Welfare to Work
  measures have slowed the number of clients for
  disability employment network (DEN) providers.

  Welfare to Work has also meant the introduction of a
  ‘work first’ policy which has left those already in jobs
  without assistance from DEN providers when they want
  to change jobs. People who are blind or vision impaired
  require one-on-one assistance to gain jobs in light of
  systemic barriers such as inaccessible job
  advertisements and public transport access issues
  (Vision Australia, 2007), so those without assistance
  are at a significant disadvantage in terms of job


    People who are blind or vision impaired should be
    able to find out about the range of employment
    service options – recruitment agencies, vocational
    rehabilitation services, job network providers and
    DEN providers – with ease. They should be given
    adequate information about which options might be
    most suitable to their circumstances, and why.

    If people who are blind or vision impaired choose a
    DEN provider, they should have the choice to be
    placed with a provider specialising in blindness or
    vision impairment where-ever possible. BCA
    recognises that some rural and regional areas may
     not have a working-age population able to sustain a
     specialised agency. In these circumstances access
     to an employment consultant trained in the needs of
     people who are blind or vision impaired should be

     Access to employment consultants should be as
     timely as possible. People who are already employed
     should also have access to employment consultant
     support as and when necessary.

Ideas and Solutions

BCA fully supports the recommendations of the HREOC
(2005) report, which calls for ongoing consultation with
stakeholders in the disability employment sector as well as
the collection and publication of data surrounding
employment services (Recommendation 20). Additionally,
Recommendation 17 calls for a review of government
funded employment services to ensure the quality and
quantity of support is suitable for people with disabilities.

Welfare to Work policies requiring DEN providers to assist
only unemployed jobseekers should be abolished.


- The number and quality of referral options for people
who are blind or vision impaired at the beginning of their
job search;

- The range of available employment services for people
who are blind or vision impaired should be determined as
appropriate based on population and waiting lists
- The number of people who are already in work being
assisted by DEN providers should return to pre-Welfare to
Work levels.

  6. Employers need to be made more aware of systemic
     barriers in the recruitment process which affect
     people who are blind or vision impaired, such as the
     way jobs are advertised, the use of key selection
     criteria, and the questions asked by interview panels.

  Systemic barriers to employment may prevent people
  who are blind or vision impaired from applying for a job,
  completing induction and training, or retaining their
  position in the longer term. These issues can include:

  Job searching: Applications may not be in accessible
  formats, or key selection criteria may include a
  requirement for a driver’s licence. Tests at interviews
  may not be made accessible, and interview panels may
  ask inappropriate questions.

  Induction and training: Forms and policy documents
  may not be made available in an appropriate format.
  Staff may not be educated about the needs of people
  who are blind or vision impaired, and may make
  inappropriate assumptions. The working environment
  may have limited access.

  Job Retention: Managers and other team members may
  not be flexible regarding changes required for a person
  who is blind or vision impaired to do their job.
  Organisational policies, such as fire drill evacuation
  processes, may not be suitable for employees who are
  blind or vision impaired.

  EXAMPLE: Anthony is a vision impaired man looking
  for a job in a call centre. He struggles to apply through
recruitment agencies because their website application
processes are not accessible. Even when he can sign
up for job alerts online, many of the job description
forms are only available as PDFs which cannot be
converted to text. To get the application information in
accessible format, Anthony is often forced to disclose
his disability to the employer even before placing an
application. On the rare occasions when he is asked to
interview, testing materials are not provided in large
print and the computers he is asked to use do not have
screen enlargement software.

When Anthony finally gets a job, he faces serious
problems. The training manuals he needs to use are not
provided in large print for the first month of his
probation. The building does not have talking lifts, which
means he is often late arriving at the correct floor in
what is a large skyscraper. Other staff complain that
they are worried he will be a danger when making hot
drinks in the staff kitchen. At the end of his probationary
period, Anthony is asked to leave the company.


People who are blind or vision impaired should face
fewer barriers to applying for jobs and retaining a job
once they have become employed. For this to happen,
employers need to be more educated about the
systemic barriers which prevent people who are blind or
vision impaired from entering and remaining in the

Ideas and Solutions

HREOC Report recommendations include:
- Recommendation 19: A coalition should be formed to
develop guidelines for workplaces which can respond to
the varying needs of employees.

- Recommendation 26: Encouraging best practice
among employers and distributing information about
best practice effectively. This recommendation also
suggests promoting the benefits of hiring people with
disabilities among the business community.

BCA recommends:

- Proactive promotion of disability employment
strategies as part of disability action plans

- The development of a education campaign for


- Number of Disability Action Plans in the public and
private sector addressing the employment of staff with

- Increased accessible job application processes,
monitored through job advertisement placements and
the numbers of people with disclosed disabilities being

- The creation and dissemination of best practice

- increased employment of people with disabilities
7. Employers need to be encouraged to be proactive in
   hiring people with disabilities, especially within the
   public service.

  At the federal level, employment of people with
  disabilities is well below some other juridisctions at
  3.8%, according to the Australian Public Service
  Commission (2006). State and Territory governments
  have opted for a wide range of initiatives to improve
  employment rates for people with disabilities, from
  whole of government strategies (ACT and NT) to
  providing specific training streams and job application
  processes for people with disabilities (NSW, Victoria
  and SA). The rates of employment of people with
  disabilities vary between 1.7% (WA) and 9.7%
  (Queensland), though it is worth noting that
  definitions of disability and the range of agencies
  included in figures also varies.

  Within the private sector there is also a range of
  responses to meeting the employment needs of
  people with disabilities. While some companies have
  outlined strategies in their disability action plans for
  increasing the number of employees with disabilities
  (Telstra), others, like IBM, have dedicated staff to
  liaise with employees who have disabilities. Yet more
  do nothing at all.


  The public sector and larger recruitment agencies in
  the private sector should provide opportunities for
  people with disabilities to be recruited and to have
  viable career paths. For this to happen, people with
  disabilities would need to be aware of the
  employment opportunities available to them.
Ideas and Solutions

HREOC Report recommends:

- Recommendation 12: The investigation of whether
tax incentives for employers who hire people with
disabilities could be applied in Australia

- Recommendation 23: Public sector leadership
through collecting statistics and information about
employment in the public sector, and creating and
resourcing frameworks for change.

- Recommendation 28: Multi-sector leadership
coalition to monitor and develop strategies to improve
employment for people with disabilities

- Recommendation 29: Business sector leadership
project, which would provide a minimum of financial
support for incentives to improve private sector
employment levels and allow for specialist support for


- Increased employment for people with disabilities
within the public sector

- Plans and targets for improved public sector
employment of people with disabilties

- The investigation of options for implementation
regarding leadership groups and other incentives for
8. Employment consultants and employers need to be
   given support to help people who are blind or vision
   impaired after a period of longer-term unemployment.

  According to the Vision Australia Employment Report
  (2007), 50% of jobseekers who are blind or vision
  impaired have been looking for work for over a year,
  compared to 33% of the overall jobseeker population.
  Under current conditions, employment agencies areG
  rewarded for placing clients for 3 month and 6 month
  time periods. This means jobseekers who are more
  difficult to place are often given lower priority, or
  screened out altogether (Vision Australia, 2007).
  Given the high number of people who are blind or
  vision impaired in the long-term unemployed
  category, this is of particular concern.

  The Employment Report also identified a high
  number of ‘discouraged workers’ within the
  population of unemployed people who are blind or
  vision impaired.


  Jobseekers who are blind or vision impaired should
  be supported to achieve employment regardless of
  their length of unemployment. This may require
  changes to incentives for government employment
  providers to ensure that rewards are provided for
  longer-term employment success.

  Ideas and Solutions

  BCA believes that the Federal government should
  examine amendments to the Key Performance
  Indicators required of DEN providers, so that a whole
  more holistic approach to job searching, including
     rehabilitation, training and ongoing support, can be
     provided to people who are blind or vision impaired
     and in longer term unemployment. This is in line with
     recommendations made by the HREOC Disability
     and Employment Inquiry Report (2005).


      - Strategies put in place by government to ensure
that longer term unemployed people with disabilities have
their needs met by employment services

- An increase in the number of long-term unemployed
people with disabilities listed with DEN and Job Network

- An increase in the employment rates for long-term
unemployed people with disabilties

  9. People who are blind or vision impaired need to have
     appropriate infrastructure to work, including
     economic incentive, flexible working hours and
     access to good public transport.

     The HREOC inquiry into Disability and Employment
     (2005) identified significant costs to participation for
     people with disabilities, including the costs of
     accessing transport, medication and additional
     equipment or support. For people who are blind or
     vision impaired there are already some subsidies in
     place; public transport access is free for people who
     are legally blind throughout the country, and taxi
     fares are discounted.

     As discussed earlier, people who are blind or vision
     impaired are currently bearing the costs of
     purchasing aids and equipment during
unemployment or for personal use. Other costs not
currently subsidised include the cost of glasses or
contact lenses to correct vision and the cost of
keeping a dog guide.

While these costs may be directly connected to
getting or keeping a job, people who are blind or
vision impaired also incur other costs which are
related to their disability. According to BCA’s cost of
blindness study, these people pay for help around
the house with chores such as cleaning, gardening
and home maintenance because these tasks require
sight. They use taxis more frequently because they
have no access to safe public transport, and may pay
more for recreational activities because of the need
for a sighted guide. BCA’s cost of living study found
that instead of diminishing with increased
participation through activities such as working or
having children, these costs actually go up.

The Vision Australia Employment Report (2007)
found that 59.1% of people who are blind or vision
impaired are on an income of $150 - $399 per week.
At around the time the study was undertaken (May
2006), the average weekly ordinary earning for an
individual in Australia was $1,042.


That people who are blind or vision impaired are not
adversely affected by the costs associated with their
disability, whether they are working, looking for work
or not in the labour market.

Ideas and Solutions
BCA believes that there should be an investigation by
the government into the payment of a cost of living
allowance which is not means tested and does not
preclude people who are blind or vision impaired
from receiving other means tested government
payments. Such an allowance could be paid in the
form of ‘supplements’ for participation, such as a
‘volunteering supplement’, a ‘work supplement’, and
a ‘childrearing supplement’. Alternatively, it might be
a generic payment given to people who are blind or
vision impaired regardless of life circumstances.

The HREOC Inquiry into Disability and Employment
(2005) made several recommendations regarding
cost of living. These included:

- The consideration of a cost of living allowance and
an additional cost of participation allowance;

- The consideration of an extension of health care
benefits to include people with disabilities who are in
the workforce;

- The consideration of an increase in Mobility
Allowance to cover the costs of getting to and from

We support all of these recommendations.


- The ratio of disability specific costs which are met
by people who are either jobseekers or employed,
versus those which are not met

- The real cost of living for people with disabilities
over time
     - The real cost of participation for people with
     disabilities over time

  10. People who are blind or vision impaired need
  assistance to progress their careers, including support
  to access training and development, access to
  appropriate career pathways and ongoing support to
  transition from job to job.

     Career development is often difficult for people who
are blind or vision impaired, primarily because job design
and career paths are often devised in very generic terms.
For many young people who are blind or vision impaired,
making the very beginnings of a career can be difficult
because the usual avenues for casual work experience
such as bartending, waitressing and retail sales are not
available to them (Vision Australia, 2007). The increased
focus on multi-skilling within the workforce also means that
people who cannot perform some tasks will be less likely
to be employed.

As people progress in their careers, training and
development opportunities may be offered less frequently
because of accessibility concerns, leading to fewer
chances for promotion.

For some people who are blind or vision impaired, there
may be fundamental difficulties in working ‘normal’ hours.
The energy required for someone with a disability to work
full-time can be enormous, and the task of getting to work
via public transport or taxi during peak hour can be
particularly difficult or costly. People who lose their vision
later in life may also lose confidence, meaning that a
return to the workforce is best done through part-time

To improve the accessibility of initial employment and to
ensure that people who are blind or vision impaired have
access to ongoing career prospects, as well as an equal
chance for increased income.

Ideas and Solutions

As mentioned earlier, the HREOC Inquiry into Disability
and Employment (2005) recommended both the
introduction of a taskforce to look at measures to make
workplaces more flexible in addressing the needs of all
employees, and the need for traineeships, apprenticeships
and work experience programs to specifically target
people with disabilities.

BCA believes it is also important that any educational
campaign aimed at employers discusses the need to
provide stimulating jobs and ongoing professional
development to people with disabilities. Data collection to
discern what kind of jobs, training and advancement are
experienced by people with disabilities in work should be


- An increase in entry level positions for young people who
are blind or vision impaired

- An increase in training and skill development for people
with disabilities in the workforce

- An increase in people with disabilities in higher income
positions and positions of leadership

Australian Public Service Commission, 2006, Employment
of People with a Disability in the Public Service viewed
online at

Barnett, J and Spoehr K, 2008, Complex, Not Simple: The
Vocational Education and Training Pathway from Welfare
to Work

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2005,
WorkAbility II: SOLUTIONS. Final Report of the National
Inquiry into Disability and Employment

Vision Australia, 2007, Vision Australia Employment