Have you heard about London Vision’s Works for Me employment programme? This programme supports blind and partially sighted people in the capital to find and stay in work, and, clients who sign up for the programme have the opportunity to take part in supported Tech Sessions. These are a place where you can develop your IT skills, learn about and try out assistive technology, and search for your next role. We know that searching for jobs can be a lonely experience, one that can be compounded by having a disability, and the Tech Session is designed to counteract this by providing a supportive and collaborative environment for blind and partially sighted job seekers. Stories like Sophiana's - recounted below - are a frustratingly common experience for blind and partially sighted people in London, but they demonstrate that searching for a new role can sometimes be a bit more complicated than just heading down to the local Job Centre Plus. Read on to hear about Sophiana's experience, and then be sure to check out our employment page and take the first steps towards finding the job that you really want.

Sophiana's story

Attending a meeting in Greenwich earlier in the year, Sophiana heard about London Vision’s Working Age Forum (WAF) – a network for working age people with sight loss who’d like to meet new people, share experiences, develop skills and hear from inspiring relatable people. She came along to a WAF meeting at Bexley Central Library, also attended by Amardeep Tokhi who runs London Vision’s Works for Me employment programme and Job Centre Plus (JCP) staff from the local centre in Bexley. At the event Sophiana met other working age blind and partially sighted people and had the opportunity to speak with both Amardeep and the JCP staff. Expressing an interest in both working and volunteering, she was put in touch with a Greenwich volunteering organisation and was emboldened to visit her local Woolwich Job Centre Plus and begin her search for another paid role.

Sadly, despite having such a positive experience with the JCP staff at the Bexley WAF, the same couldn’t be said for Sophiana’s dealings with the Woolwich JCP. On two occasions she was told that there were no appointments with Disability Employment Advisers available and instructed to search for jobs on Google. Unable to use a computer without the aid of accessible technology – and lacking access to it – she was, understandably, left frustrated, angry and upset.

At the next Bexley WAF she recounted her experience to all in attendance, explaining how it had left her feeling even more dejected than before. This admission prompted London Vision to get in touch with and offer visual awareness training to staff at the Woolwich JCP – which they agreed to. Sophiana joined London Vision on the training, telling her story in her own words and recounting how it felt being dismissed by staff at the centre. Since the training, JCP staff have committed to ensuring they have computers that are accessible for people with disabilities. Sophiana found participating in the visual awareness training personally fulfilling, and with the support of London Vision’s Hassan Khan has been able to organise a meeting with a Disability Employment Adviser at the Woolwich JCP to discuss her next steps towards finding paid work. Subsequently, Bexley Job Centre Plus have asked to have their own staff trained in visual awareness.

London Vision are committed to supporting as many blind and partially sighted people in the capital into employment as possible, but to do so, it’s crucial that Job Centres are accessible, have accessible equipment, and that staff are aware of the needs of disabled job seekers. Please get in touch with London Vision if you would like your organisation to undergo visual awareness training, and visit our employment page if you would like to join the Works for Me programme.