The Countess of Wessex, Royal Patron of the Vision Foundation, invited friends and supporters of the charity to her home, Bagshot Park this week, for the unveiling of a sculpture by renowned sculptor Frances Segelman.
To the many blind and partially sighted people The Countess of Wessex supports through her Vision Foundation patronage, she is just a voice, but with this expertly crafted sculpture, people with visual impairment can know her likeness through touch and feel.
The sculpture was created almost exactly a year ago by Frances Segelman, who specialises in live sculpting, where she creates a clay bust of a subject in under two hours in front of a live audience.
Frances has sculpted many members of the Royal family including the Queen, the late Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales, but this was the first time a member of the royal family has invited the public to be part of it.
During the sculpture unveiling event, Her Royal Highness recalled joining Vision Foundation’s Centenary Appeal Manager on a tandem bicycle ride over the summer, she said: “It was an exchange of trust and mutual capabilities, which is what we need more in an employment context. It’s people like Monica [who is fully blind] who will help us face our fears.”
Olivia Curno, Chief Executive of the Vision Foundation also took the opportunity to announce Frances Segelman, as the charity’s latest Vice-president. Olivia said: “We look forward to working together, not only to bring more tactile and accessible art to the forefront, but in raising the awareness of the need for equality for blind and partially sighted people.”
Also in attendance was Naqi Rizvi, Chairman of the Vision Foundation’s Centenary Appeal for sight loss employment. Naqi said: “This is just one example of the Vision Foundation’s promise to create a more sight loss accessible world. I know just how meaningful that promise is – I was born with very little sight which gradually deteriorated and left me blind since I was seven.
“Despite this, I am standing here today through determination, patience, and the support of my loved ones, but like so many in this room, I have faced countless unnecessary barriers and prejudices.
“Nearly three-quarters of blind and partially sighted people of working age in the UK are unemployed, which doesn’t only mean a lack of financial independence, but also lower confidence, more isolation and inequality in our communities.”
In July of this year the Vision Foundation conducted research into sight loss unemployment and found that:
- Only 27% of working age blind or partially sighted people are in work, compared to 51% of disabled people and 75% of the general population
- Only 40% of employers are confident their recruitment processes are accessible to blind or partially sighted people
- 90% of employers state that it would be “difficult” or “impossible” to employ a visually impaired person.
The charity launched a three-point plan, #SeeMySkills, to address the employment gap – encouraging businesses to do more to support visually impaired people into work, calling on the Government to improve their support and making sure blind and partially sighted people get the right level of help to start with.
To download “See My Skills: Breaking the cycle of unemployment for blind and partially sighted people” please follow the links below: