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Give blind ‘a chance’

Gail-Ann Senhouse

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GOVERNMENT needs to remove the “red tape” when it comes to hiring people who are visually impaired.
So said president of the Barbados Association for the Blind and Deaf, Elviston Maloney, who added that it was easier for a visually impaired person to get a job in the private sector than in the public sector.
Maloney told the Daily Nation that Government employees who lost their vision were retired disabled rather than allowed to remain in the service.
“People see a disability rather than who’s behind the disability,” Maloney said. He said he knew of a visually impaired university graduate who tried to get a job in the Social Services Department but was rejected.
“With all the available technology Government should lead the way. In my view the public sector can assist people who have lost their vision by retraining them and redeploying them in other areas,” he said.
He suggested that companies such as LIME could hire visually impaired people as receptionists and directory assistants instead of relying so heavily on automated answering services.
Maloney reported that there was an increasing number of young people, some in their 30s, who had gone blind as a result of diseases such as diabetes, glaucoma and macular degeneration but who were still very productive. He said the workshop, which focused on the production of mops and restoration of furniture, could not employ all of those people.
“They still have day to day expenses and obligations to meet. We are trying to encourage them to set up their own businesses and become entrepreneurs because they can still continue to make a contribution to society,” he stated.
Maloney, who is legally blind, said the workshop had not been spared from the economic downturn. “We at the blind workshop assist persons but we cannot help everybody. We have approximately 25 people working here and we have been seriously affected by the economic recession,” he said.
Donations to the workshop as well as the supply of furniture to be repaired had fallen off, he said.
However, the association was still providing computer and braille courses for visually impaired people.
When contacted, Minister of Social Care Chris Sinckler said Government had a policy of non discrimination towards people with disabilities.
He said Government had recently conducted research to find out what obstacles prevented people with disabilities from getting work in both the public and private sector.
He said the recommendations had been received and were being studied by the Social Safety Net Committee.
Sinckler made reference to Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill, who is legally blind, and was recently hired by the Social Care Ministry to undertake a project.