'We fight the perception that blind are unemployable'

'We fight the perception that blind are unemployable'

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The mood may be downbeat about the woeful economic condition and its impact on the job scene, but the blind find mental barriers tougher to fight.

“Even during the good times, it is difficult to find employment (for the blind),” Prof Fredric Schroeder, president of the World Blind Union, told a press conference on Friday. The WBU is the global confederation of organisations that address the universal needs of the blind and mobilise support.

“It is a cultural, social problem we face (in persuading employers on the value of recruiting the blind). Everywhere in the world, the assumption is that the blind can’t work... the downturn is only making the bad situation worse,” Washington DC-based Prof Schroeder, in the city to attend a national blind convention among other engagements, added.

Despite making employment a legal obligation in India and the United States, Dr Schroeder admitted that it was not always easy to make companies see the merits of hiring a blind person.

“They always think (hiring the blind) is expensive and lack clarity in terms of the skills they possess and how to utilise them,” he added.

G K Mahantesh, founder-managing trustee of city-based Samarthanam Trust, said Indian employers are more considerate. “Though the situation in terms of employability is improving, it is still a challenge to find employment for the blind because some organisations prefer (people with) locomotor disability. We, at Samarthanam, are training and placing several blind people in all sectors and see a better level of acceptability,” he said.

The WBU is working with several member organisations like Samarthanam to ensure support systems are in place for the blind to access education and basic rights. The global body was responsible for drawing up and getting several world nations to accept the Marrakesh treaty — the biggest effort to globalise books in accessible format for the blind. “We engage in activities that can’t be pursued by single countries such as the Marrakesh treaty, which removed the need to duplicate the effort at each country to produce accessible books,” Prof Schroeder said.

Samarthanam is joining hands with ‘Say Everything’, an online forum for the blind, to host the two-day convention to be attended by nearly 100 delegates from across the country. The conference, held on Saturday and Sunday,
will discuss topics relevant to the blind such as inclusive
education and accessibility. Several experts would address the convention on various topics, said Dr Victor John Cordeiro, consultant at Samarthanam Trust.

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