For the International Day of persons with disabilities, I want to share my story on finding work as a severely-sight impaired lady.
In the UK there are almost two million people living with sight loss. This figure includes around 360,000 people registered as blind or partially sighted, with the number set to double by 2050. Unfortunately only one in ten of these are in work.
When I left school with good examination results, I trained at secretarial college and learned how to use a computer, and how to touch type. I then spent over a year applying for jobs, but although I wrote to lots of organisations, and followed up applications for work with phone calls it took me over 15 months to secure my first part-time position. Sadly, my experience of "equal opportunities" was not good at this time. After two and a half years, I realised that I wasn't going anywhere in the firm I first went to work, for so left my job and took myself off to college to study for a diploma in Legal Studies. Having gained my qualification, a year later, I was applying for work again! Some eight months later I joined Sightsavers.
After these spells of unemployment - you can therefore imagine, I am truly grateful for my job - and the chance it gives me to be economically independent. Whilst growing up I decided that I didn't just want a menial job in the office of a company, helping grow profits for a particular firm. Instead I wanted more - mainly more chances to give something back to society: more opportunities to make a difference for the better to the lives of other people.
So I consider myself very lucky to have been fortunate enough to work at Sightsavers for over sixteen years now in a variety of different roles. In that time thanks to the belief and support of some of my colleagues including my CEO, my career has gone from strength to strength. My current role as the inclusion co-ordinator is brilliant. I work with colleagues from all parts of the organisation (including our overseas offices) to make sure everything we do is accessible and inclusive for everyone.
I get a real buzz from talking to my colleagues and making recommendations for changes to make things better and attending conferences to learn about inclusion and accessibility and then sharing what I have learnt with my team. I also get pleasure from testing our systems to make sure they can work with my screen reading technology. I love working in our current offices and find them easy to navigate my way around. Most of all I get such satisfaction from knowing that the work that I do means that people who would otherwise be blind or visually impaired can see.
Although I love hearing about all the elements of the work that we do overseas, I particularly enjoy learning about our social inclusion projects where we help to keep children who become blind in school (because I know the value of a good education) and help to train adults with visual impairments so that they can find a job and live with dignity and independence in their communities (because this has happened for me too).
For me it is so important to work for a cause that is close to my heart. Thank you Sightsavers for the opportunities you have given me!