Sunderland firms praised for supporting workers with sight loss

Sunderland Council: (L-R) Deb Jamieson Employment Coordinator Action for Blind People, The Lord Mayor of Newcastle Councillor Margaret Wood, Community Resource Centre Manager Hillary Tittherington, Employee and nominator Ray Truman & Community Support Manager Pamela Marshall.
Sunderland Council: (L-R) Deb Jamieson Employment Coordinator Action for Blind People, The Lord Mayor of Newcastle Councillor Margaret Wood, Community Resource Centre Manager Hillary Tittherington, Employee and nominator Ray Truman & Community Support Manager Pamela Marshall.
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FORWARD-thinking employers have been presented with Action for Blind People’s highest award.

Two Wearside companies were presented with the honour – See the Capability, not the Disability – which recognises their commitment to people with sight loss in the workplace.

They are Sunderland City Council’s health, housing and adult services team, and BMS Home Limited, which is based at St Peter’s Campus.

The award acknowledges and publicises good practice, where employers have developed the potential of visually-impaired workers.

Action for Blind People worker Sharon Meadows said the two organisations have demonstrated positive and open attitudes.

“Gaining and retaining employment can be a real challenge for many people with sight loss,” she said. “Employers are often reluctant to give them a chance, and for those in work being told by their consultant you’re going blind, it can be devastating.

“Sight loss can undermine confidence, and without a supporting boss, many of those affected wrongly fear their jobs and careers are over. That shouldn’t be the case. Plenty of support is available, such as clever technology, Access to Work funding, and visual awareness training for sighted colleagues.”

Blind and partially-sighted employees from the companies attended the award ceremony, held in Newcastle. Ray Truman, 52, of Plains Farm, has retinitus pigmentosa, and works 
for Sunderland City Council’s health, housing and adult services team as a customer support at Grindon Mews Community Resource Centre.

He said: “Last year, I decided I would like to develop skills using the council’s training programme.

“Initially the technology I use to read the screen wasn’t compatible with their specialist training system, but the council’s IT and training teams adapted the software so I can access the full training programme.”

Stephen Mitchell, 25, of Grangetown, has nystagmus and congenital cataracts, and works for BMS Home Limited.

He said: “Right from the start of the recruitment process, my colleagues have been very understanding and helpful.

“Amongst other things, they found a large monitor for me to use while my Access to Work application was being processed, rearranged the office to allow me to use a desk that gets a lot of natural light.

“They also allowed me to take paid time off to attend Eye Infirmary appointments.

“I don’t need a lot of support day-to-day, but they’ve always made it clear that if I need any extra help they’ll do their best to provide it.”