Visually Impaired People in the EU

In the EU more than 7.4 million people are blind or partially sighted. Respondent to that figures a total of 433 750 blind and partially sighted people are in a working age. The figures are not that precise because of the fact, that many countries do not have any data of their disabled people or the categorization are totally different. Nonetheless the available statistics show that the proportion of disabled people in relation to the total population of the EU is around 13 %. 4% of them are severely disabled and 9% moderately. When one looks at the chances of employment of disabled people one can recognize, that there is a striking gap between normal and disabled people. A person without any disability in a working age in between 16 and 64 years has a probability of 66% to find a job, while a person with a moderate disability the chance of finding a job becomes 44% and decreases for a person with a severe disability to a level of only 25 %.

If we look at the figures concerning to individual countries statistics, the Nordic countries like Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway has an average unemployment rate for blind people of 60 %. Because of the transistion period towards market economy the situation for disabled people got even worse in Central and Eastern European countries. Poland (70%), Germany (72%) or Hungary (77%) were used to employ their visually disabled people in factories run by organisations of the blind. Many of these have had to close down because they could not withstand the mounting fierce competition on the open market, which increased their unemployment rate. The only country which has a incredibly low rate of blind people who are unemployed is Spain. Selling the ONCE lottery tickets still provides an abundant source of employment for disabled people.

But the high unemployment rate by visually disabled people is kind of reasonable. Employers have to follow strikt regulations when they want to employ a disabled person. This makes it highly unattraktive for employers to employ an already disabled person and moreover follow hundrets of regulation. To avoid such a behaviour many EU governments released an law where companies that employ a certain number of workers have to employ a certain percentage of disabled people as well. A good trend which shows up is the increase of visually impaired people who follow courses at Universities in order to obtain enty to a profession requiring higher education. Most of the countries in the EU allow visually impaired people to attend courses in classes. The most common faculties attended by blind people are law, econonmics, business administration, psychology, sociology, engineering and information sciences. In time when traditional job opportunities for the blind and visually impaired are rapidly disappearing it should be paramount that organizations which are active in the blindness area are trying to locate so called “niche opportunities” in the job market to be opened for the target group. The visually impaired can be trained and skilled in that area so that employers have a high interest in employing disabled people beside the existance of regulation which were mentioned before.

Unfortunately one has to mention, that the situation for blind people has not increased in the last 10 years. If one look at the comparable figures between the general unemployment rate and the unemployment rate for disabled people one can observe a stricing gap. Moreover there have not been striking innovations for blinded people. For sure, there has to be done something like possitive discrimination, advertisment and access to all kinds of education for disabled people. But the problem is still the money: Blindness organisations do not have the money to start campaigns nor do they have the expertise to perfom qualify investigation in this area. So one can just hope that the situation for blinded people in the EU is turning to a better path and maybe can be brought to a level Spain already reached: 4.2 % of unemployment rate for disabled people. A harsh task but as one can see achievable.

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2 thoughts on “Visually Impaired People in the EU

  1. Actually very interesting topic. After reading I searched for more information, because until now I’ve never thought about employment and unemployment rates in this category.
    In my country we have only 7000 who have this invalidity, but biggest part of them aren’t even searching for job, because it’s hard to find it and as long as government pays them invalidity allowance, they don’t need to work. But even if they would like to work there would be a lot of problems to find a job and huge problems to get to this job, due to unadjusted environment.

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  2. I must agree that the reality of labour market for visually disabled people is very sad, especially nowadays during the economic crisis. While people who have no disabilities get sacked every week, its almost impossible for disabled people to find a job.

    Still, practical experience of many workers with special abilities shows that as long as visually disabled people are capable to get a good education, they can compete on the labour market.

    Personally I think that the employment of visually disabled people in Spain is a good example and should be encouraging for labour markets in other countries, especially Eastern European countries,where the figures of unemployment for people with disabilities are extremely high.

    I also would like to mention here the hard conditions, which workers have to face in case of traumatic eyesight loss. For example after vision impairment a person would need a period up to one year to adjust to daily living needs and address employment issues. The other problem is that for these people it could be very hard to reenter the labour market after being out of the labour market for more than 2 years(data taken from NCBI website).

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