After 12 years working in fundraising for two well-known charities, I was delighted to secure the role of Centenary Appeal Manager at the Vision Foundation, a position which is responsible for a £1m appeal. I was even more delighted that the appeal would focus on one of the most important issues facing blind and partially sighted people today – the drive to get more people into meaningful, paid employment.
Even though I have been sight-impaired all my life and held down jobs since leaving university, I was taken aback to find out that only 1 in 4 partially sighted people are in work and that figure is only 1 in 10 for those with no sight at all like me. But what really shocked me is the stat that 94% of the public don’t think a blind person could do their job!
I myself have managed to overcome hurdles in life with support from open-minded employers, a raft of assistive technology and lots of determination and I want to use this experience, expertise and lived experience to ensure that others like me get the same opportunities in life.
The benefits of work for me have been invaluable. It has given me a sense of pride, identity and personal achievement. It has provided me with financial independence so that I have been able to bring up my children and keep a roof over their heads as a single mother. And its given me the opportunity to make good friends and have a social life outside work. During this year of lockdown, work has given me a purpose and a structure to my weeks and months and I really don’t know how I would have coped without this.
I feel strongly that blind and partially sighted people can be a real asset to any business. We are an untapped talent pool which needs to be unlocked so everyone in society can benefit from the skills and attributes that we can bring to the workplace. My hopes and dreams are that, through our Centenary Appeal, we can transform attitudes and showcase what blind and partially sighted people can do and we can support employers to feel greater confidence when recruiting, retaining and promoting sight loss talent.
I would love to tell you more about our plans for 2021, so if you want to know more please contact me – MSmith@VisionFoundation.org.uk