Welcome to my first blog the topic for which is inspired by the Winter Olympics. I don’t know how many of you have managed to watch the Winter Olympics but some of the sports really are eye-wateringly mad and dangerous to me! None more so than some of those featured in the Winter Paralympics which are currently being held in Sochi.
As someone who has a passion for equality and fairness I have been particularly bowled over by the utter courage shown by the partially sighted skiers. The faith that they must have in their guides is phenomenal as they race down incredibly steep slopes utterly dependent on their guide to give them instructions through a headset regarding the contours, gradient, route of the course, and snow conditions. This must surely be a testing sport for anyone but particularly so for those with a disability.
Winter OlympicsIt got me thinking about the treatment of those with a disability in the workplace. So often able bodied people decide the fate of those with a disability and determine whether or not they are capable of performing certain tasks, duties, responsibilities without any discussion with the individual.
Statistics from the DWP show that 9 out of 10 employers rate blind and partially sighted people as either “difficult” or “impossible” to employ and yet there are approximately 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK. It is predicted that by 2020 the number of people with sight loss will rise to over 2.2 million1 partly because the prevalence of sight loss increases with age, and the UK population is ageing, but also because there of the rise in key underlying causes of sight loss such as obesity and diabetes.
Two-thirds of registered blind and partially sighted people of working age are not in paid employment. It seems strangely frustrating that we can celebrate the amazing courage of a partially sighted skier careering down a mountain reliant on a guide but we can’t translate that in to the workplace.
Shouldn’t we challenge ourselves as employers to think again about what true diversity can bring to our workplaces and not rely on our own limited boundaries of knowledge, skills and abilities.
1 Source: Action for blind People website