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Survey shows blind people significantly underemployed around the world

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TORONTONovember 15, 2018 New research from the CNIB Foundation, Vision Australia, and the Blind Foundation of New Zealand found people with sight loss are significantly less likely to be employed full time compared to their sighted counterparts.

In a survey of blind and partially sighted adults across three countries, results showed Australia had the lowest full-time employment rate at 24 per cent, followed by Canada at 28 per cent, while New Zealand had the highest with only 32 per cent. However, the full-time employment rate among the general public in these countries is, in some cases, nearly double that.

"In this day and age, it's shocking to see such a stark disparity when it comes to full-time employment rates for people who are blind," says John Rafferty, president and CEO for the CNIB Foundation. "With all the technological advancements and educational opportunities available, people with sight loss shouldn't be disadvantaged when trying to find a job."

The study did offer three promising insights on opportunities to boost employment for people who are blind or partially sighted.

The survey found a strong link between educational background and full-time employment rates for people with sight loss. In Canada, only 5.5 per cent of people with sight loss who don’t have a high school diploma are working full time, versus 35 per cent with a post-secondary degree, compared with Australia, where the statistics were 10.6 per cent versus 28 per cent. In New Zealand, 15 per cent of people with sight loss who don’t have a high school leaving qualification are working full time versus 42 per cent with a degree. 

“This research tells us something we’ve known for some time in the international sight loss community: education drives employment outcomes,” says Ron Hooton, CEO for Vision Australia. “Our kids need comprehensive supports delivered by specialists who understand blindness and its unique impacts on learning, to help them thrive in school and succeed in their future careers.”

The research also points to the need for a shift in employer attitudes and business practices to help make workplaces more accessible for people who are blind or partially sighted. The survey showed 43 per cent of Australian respondents identified their workplace's inaccessibility as a barrier compared to 58 per cent of Canadians and New Zealanders. Additionally, more than 60 per cent of respondents in all three countries believe employer attitudes are one of the main barriers to full-time employment – and half reporting feeling they had not been hired because of their sight loss.

We see a great opportunity in supporting employers to make changes that result in more inclusive workplaces for people with sight loss,” says Sandra Budd, Chief Executive for the Blind Foundation of New Zealand. “This is the same at the government level – systemic change in accessibility and inclusion will help to move us forward.”

The three organizations are calling for national accessibility legislation and related funding programs to be strengthened and enforced in their respective countries, to effectively motivate and support employers in making their workplaces truly inclusive to people with sight loss. Moreover, pan-disability employment support models should be reviewed to better meet the unique needs of the blind community.

The survey took place from April to July 2018, with a total of 1,924 Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders with sight loss participating online and via telephone interviews.

About the CNIB Foundation

Celebrating 100 years in 2018, the CNIB Foundation is a non-profit organization driven to change what it is to be blind today. We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion. Our work as a blind foundation is powered by a network of volunteers, donors and partners from coast to coast to coast. To learn more or get involved, visit

About Vision Australia

Vision Australia is a leading national provider of blindness and low vision services in Australia. We work in partnership with Australians who are blind or have low vision to help them achieve the possibilities they choose in life.

We support more than 25,500 people of all ages and life stages, and circumstances through 35 Vision Australia centres and various outreach programs. We are a not-for-profit organisation and a major participant and partner in the international blindness community. To learn more, visit

About Blind Foundation of New Zealand

The Blind Foundation works to enable people who are blind or have low vision to be self-reliant and live the life they choose. As New Zealand’s main provider of vision rehabilitation services, we help people adjust to and make the most of living beyond vision loss. To learn more, visit


For more information, please contact: 

Matisse Hamel-Nelis 
Specialist, Strategic Communications 
416-486-2500 ext. 8355 

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