When it Comes to Working, Blind Workers Face Bias. That was the title of an article published recently by the Wall Street Journal. 400 or so HR and hiring Managers were surveyed by the non-profit organization, National Industries for the Blind, in an effort to find out why 70% of those who are blind or visually impaired are unemployed.
What the survey concluded was that many of these managers thought such workers not only posed a liability to a company, but are expensive to accommodate and will most likely not be as productive. I found the news a bit disheartening. What also concerned me was the first comment posted in reaction to this article. It was written by a very profound guy named Hank. Here is his brilliant response:
That right there, in my opinion, is the problem. This knee-jerk reaction based on some stereotype from the world at large that workers who are blind are automatically less productive or pose a liability.
We live in a very diverse country where people from different races, religions, sexual orientations, ages and, yes, different abilities are free to live. But why are we at such a standstill in our attitudes – attitudes that truly prevent some from attaining the American Dream?!
Yes, we are all guilty of stereotyping, which is dangerous and leads to discrimination. But more importantly, stereotyping can be overcome by an effort to challenge our own beliefs and open ourselves to new ways of thinking. As it is for anyone in the workforce, not every sector is ideal nor would be a good fit, and many workers who happen to be blind or visually impaired may not be qualified.
But in the ten years I have been helping clients with visual challenges in their quests for employment, I have run across workers succeeding in quite a few sectors of the occupational world. From lawyers, teachers, personal trainers, music therapists, store managers, massage therapists and computer programmers to customer service representatives, administrative assistants, woodworkers, financial analysts, social workers, bill collectors, accountants, convenience store managers, screen writers, chefs, business owners and radio producers – the list goes on and on.
With the right accommodations and support, all have been very capable of doing the basic functions of these jobs – managing just like anyone else.
So, to those 400 HR and Hiring Managers out there: Who of you is willing to switch the paradigm of thinking in the world of work to focus more on what folks CAN do versus making false assumptions on what they can’t? To recognize the possibility that someone who is “different” can pursue and, yes, perform well in a career?!
The time to take a new perspective is now, and so I ask, “What are you waiting for?”