Are you considering hiring a member of the blind low vision community? This month we caught up with Bonnie Mosen and Sarah Mitchell from Blind Low Blind Vision New Zealand (BLVNZ) who answered some common questions you may have as an employer.

How many visually impaired people are there in New Zealand?

Estimates from Eye Health Aotearoa indicate around one in 24 Kiwis have some sort of vision loss.

What could engineers do better to assist visually impaired adults and children?

When designing products, buildings or other engineering projects, always keep universal design in mind. It’s always best to talk with the people of all disabilities to get their opinions on how to make things accessible.

If an employer is working on a project and would like some feedback from visually impaired people on proposed solutions for a project, can the employer contact Blind Low Vision New Zealand for assistance?

Blind Low Vision welcomes any questions on how to make products and services more accessible to our members. This may mean getting them in touch with a subject matter expert on orientation and mobility or technology, or getting feedback from BLVNZ members.

How many visually impaired people are currently employed in New Zealand?

BLVNZ doesn’t have an exact number as there may be people with vision loss who aren’t currently interacting with BLVNZ.

What are the benefits to an employer when they have visually impaired people as part of their team?

With anyone, how they will fit into the team and their qualifications should be a priority. It shouldn’t matter if they are visually impaired or have other disabilities, as long as they are qualified to do the job.

If an employer is considering hiring a visually impaired person, what additional support would the visually impaired person require?

It would depend entirely on the individual. Some need little to none while others may need some technical modifications. The person is always the best judge of their needs.

What special equipment and services does an employer need to provide when they hire a visually impaired person? 

Under current New Zealand law, employers aren’t required to provide any assistive tech or special equipment. Instead, this is done through Support Funds. Support Funds is a Ministry of Social Development scheme that assists disabled people in work or study with costs associated with their disability that the employer may not be able to cover. Examples might be assistive technology, interpreters, or transport to and from work.

A visually impaired person will be able to use a standard computer and phone. Some may need a screenreader, or larger monitor. They will be their best advocate.

The person may know where to purchase equipment, and an employer can always contact BLVNZ. If the employer needs advice on making third-party software accessible, contact BLVNZ.

If an employer has staff who wish to volunteer for Blind Low Vision New Zealand, who should they contact?

They can contact our call centre on 0800 243 333. We offer two fundraising opportunities during the year – Red Puppy Appeal and Blind Week, and it would be great to have engineers involved. A Wellington firm did this a few years ago and did a great job.

I have a part-time or full-time role available and am wanting to make sure I can accommodate to a visually impaired person. Who should I contact at Blind Low Vision New Zealand?

You can get in touch with, Sarah Mitchell or Bonnie Mosen