Focus: People Management - Blind people can mean business too

Graham Willgoss,

A two-day event will help visually impaired graduates to find employment.

Ninety-two per cent of employers believe it would be "difficult or impossible" to employ someone with a sight problem, according to RNIB research.

Blind in Business, a charity that helps blind and visually impaired graduates find employment, runs an annual recruitment event designed to give graduates the self-assurance and skills to find work, and employers the ability and confidence necessary to employ them. This year's even occurred last month.

The two days include a team-building water-skiing session, provides graduates with CV advice, help with filling in application forms and interview practice.

Most are referred to Blind in Business through university careers departments or the RNIB. "We're here to bridge the gap between university and their first job," says Clare Young, employment manager at Blind in Business.

Young approached employers in The Times Top 100 graduate employers list and companies with a large graduate recruitment intake, asking them to attend the event. At the conference they will discuss adapting their recruitment processes and working environments to make it easier for visually impaired people to apply for and remain in work.

Young says many employers lack practical experience in dealing with visually impaired people. "Increasing numbers of enquiries on our helpline are from employers wanting to know how best to deal with them," she explains.

"These two days develop skills and confidence for employers and candidates alike."

Michelle Mason is graduate recruitment manager at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna. "The more aware we are of the issues that graduates face, the more we can do to overcome them," she says.

Employers and graduates are equally nervous about the mock job interviews, as they come together afterwards to discuss how each could have made a better impression. "If we can make people feel relaxed, they will not only do their best in the interview, but they will also be able to get a good enough impression of us to let us know how we can better accommodate them," says Mason.

Huw Griffiths will graduate from Cardiff University in September with a business studies degree. He can see only as far as the end of his nose without glasses. "One of the great things about being here is the shared experience of people who are similarly visually impaired," he says. "In mainstream society, you're not thrown together like this."

Alistair Baker, a Cambridge graduate, agrees. "It's inspiring to see smart and confident people in the same situation as I am," he says.

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