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Blind injustice on the job hunt circuit

  • 02 April 2019


Recently for my sister's birthday I sent her an edible bouquet of chocolate flowers. The running joke in my family has always been to find creative and thoughtful ways to cope with our disabilities. Because my sister has a vision impairment she couldn't see the colour of the 'flowers', but I knew she would love the taste of the chocolates.

My mum hated that her daughters spent so much effort trying to be 'normal'. But the truth is, the things that happen to a person with a disability are nowhere near what a 'normal' person would experience. Consider the challenge of going through job rejection time and time again, knowing it is because of the perception that all people with a disability need a lot of assistance, money for assistive equipment etc. Offers of employment are diminished before an interview has even been granted.

My sister spent her birthday with a Disability Employment Services provider trying to find a full-time, meaningful job. She went directly to businesses in her area, dressed professionally and with an introduction letter and resume, so that a prospective employer would get to meet her in person and see what a keen, independent and intelligent person she is. She just wanted the opportunity to apply. In the end she created her own employment because she couldn't find an employer who would take someone with a vision impairment.

I know how she feels. When I graduated from Guide Dogs Victoria in 2014, I was faced with the cold, hard fact that my life would never be the same again. My guide dog was my shadow, an extension of me. When I attended a rare job interview, I would put a bow tie around my guide dog's neck to deflect some of the heat off me.

The interviewer would ask questions that were of a more chatty, personal nature — everything except questions about my qualifications (I have a Diploma, a Bachelor of Health Science, and 15 years of work experience behind me). The only thing that seems to be holding me back is my vision impairment and the 'elephant' in the room — my guide dog.

So what changes do we need to see in the general workforce to make it a fair playing field? First, don't assume that people who are disabled are limited to certain industries. Not all people who are blind want to work in a call centre. We