Speaking to The Mirror, blind mum-of-two Zoe Bates explained why people with disabilities are struggling to get the help back into work they need.
Zoe Bates, 44, is an employment coordinator at Birmingham Vision, a charity supporting people into employment. Partially sighted herself, she explained that people with disabilities still find it hard to get work or even benefits support.
In her statement she said:
“My eye-sight was quite steady for sometime, but went downhill in my late 30s. I now have a prosthetic left eye and very little vision in my right eye, so I have a guide dog. After leaving school I worked as a nursery nurse then in Marks & Spencer’s for 25 years – in various roles including recruitment. Towards the end of my time there, I started to lose more of my vision. I couldn’t keep up with some of the requirements, so I felt it was the right time to leave in 2017.
I started doing part-time volunteering for the Black Country Sight Loss Council to improve the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted in the area. I think many employers assume there is a big financial cost of employing someone with a disability – because they might have to purchase equipment. But through schemes like Access to Work, employers can get help towards any costs.
Employers also assume people with disabilities will have time off work sick, but what they don’t realise is people are so grateful to have a job and are loyal to their job.”
Bates said that even getting to job interview stage is a struggle for many with sight problems. Most of the pre-interview tests are now online or time-limited, so there is still a lack of diverse people in jobs. She has managed to get 50 per cent of her group at Birmingham Vision into work, giving these people a reason to get out of bed and a life to build.
Many people in her group receive PIP, ESA and Universal Credit. Universal Credit has proven to be a challenge because you need to apply online and of course, this is a challenge in itself.
The job centre asks for 35 hours of evidence to show you are searching for a job, and for people who are partially sighted or blind, this just won’t work.