The Dallas Morning News had an interesting story Sunday about the percentage of the blind who are unemployed. At 70%, that percentage is surprisingly high. Here are excerpts:
Seven in 10 working-age blind people in the United States are unemployed, according to the National Industries for the Blind.
Jim Gibbons leads that nonprofit group, which helps find jobs for the visually impaired, and says employers don’t know and recognize the capabilities of people who are blind. There are often low expectations of blind people, he said, and opportunities can be limited if the job requires driving, for example.
The jobs that have traditionally been offered to blind people have been in manufacturing or service work. Agencies have provided and trained blind people in jobs making notepads, clocks or clothing.
But despite technological advances that can enable them to perform much more complicated work, many blind people haven’t found work in the business sector in finance, marketing and management, Mr. Gibbons said.
A properly qualified blind person is perfectly capable of doing white-collar work if given the chance, Mr. Gibbons said.
“We missed the boat until recently in terms of recognizing that’s where the opportunities are, so that’s where we have to go,” he said. “Upwardly mobile careers and jobs with real responsibility and jobs where you really leverage your leadership, your communications, your analytical skills.”
The seven-in-10 statistic can drop over the next 20 years if mindsets can be changed, Mr. Gibbons said. And that’s important because unemployment, like with any person, has a negative affect on the blind.
“Work is dignity,” he said. “It’s part of our identity. It’s part of our dignity. It’s critical.”