Network A Facilitating access and return to the labour market for those who have difficulty in being integrated or reintegrated into a labour market which must be open to everyone.
Project name Partnership for Improving Access of the Blind to the Labour Market
Project number A0571

Project description

The key idea underpinning this Development Partnership is to bring about a change in the difficult situation faced in the labour market by those blind people who are unlikely to find a job due to a lack of adequate education and unfamiliarity with modern information and communication technologies.

As little as 8% of all blind people are employed, mainly with central and local government institutions, Polish Association of the Blind, cooperatives or protected labour enterprises. Only a small fraction of them are employed by privately-owned businesses and even less blind people are self-employed. As much as 95% of all blind and sight-impaired persons rely on income from sources other than employment. Several factors have contributed to this situation. One of the key reasons is inadequate education and skills of those graduating from schools for students with sight dysfunctions. Due to a lack of adequate facilities, educational establishment are not planning to introduce advanced courses in modern information and communication technology, as required on the labour market of today. Instead, they tend to focus on trades that do not require these techniques. A great many sight-impaired persons are unaware of the potential of new technologies. They follow a separate educational systems that do not encourage graduates to enter open educational systems, especially of university level. A vast majority of blind and sightimpaired students do not attempt to undertake tertiary education. Formal and procedural issues are still to be solved on various levels of education. Public schools and institutions have dedicated units for the disabled, but they fail to address actual needs of these students. Furthermore, the blind are discouraged by inefficient vocational counselling system. The Adviser 2000 software, as used by job counselling specialists for identification of vocational predispositions of the unemployed, lists just 10 (out of 1700 available) jobs recommended for blind people. Obviously, the existing vocational counselling system does not perform as expected by failing to identify actual needs of the blind and using routine procedures when dealing with this group of the unemployed. In addition, most employers perceive hiring of a blind persons as an additional burden to the company rather than an opportunity to find a valued staff member.

The objective of the Development Partnership is to reduce by 5% the rate of unemployment among the blind and sight-impaired persons (excluding beneficiaries who plan to continue their education), recruited from 60 beneficiaries (aged 16-35) of the Project and to encourage other beneficiaries to follow continued education. Primary objective of the Project is to ensure equal opportunities by providing jobs for the blind who are discriminated for disability, poor skills and low education reasons, as well as to include this group into the building of an information-based society.

The beneficiaries have been divided into three groups considering their different motivation and training needs: secondary school students, graduates from secondary schools and permanently unemployed adults. It is estimated that 80% of the beneficiaries will improve their vocational skills by learning how to use information and communication technology. Each beneficiary will follow 200 hours of training based on typhlo-IT techniques that enable the blind to use the computer. By working on a regular basis with a computer adapted to the needs and capabilities of the blind, the beneficiaries will be able to learn computer skills, as required at home and at work. The DP's training programme will provide the beneficiaries with practical skills that are required in everyday life and on the labour market: application writing, form filling, CV writing, etc. The participants will benefit from advice (provided by psychologists and other specialists) to choose a suitable educational and career path, taking into account all the factors that should be considered when selecting the best learning and employment solutions for people with impaired sight. The Development Partnership will publish a report on the status of people with sight dysfunctions, giving details of the approach to the education of blind students in the universities (based on the example of AGH University of Science and Technology in Cracow) and a review of legal aspects of their situation on the education and labour markets. Based on the report, a manual for tertiary educational establishments will be prepared. Cooperation established with international partnerships will ensure a better knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms that are used abroad in the area of occupational integration of the blind and sight-impaired people.

As a result of the Partnership's awareness/educational activities targeted at employers, the image of blind people is expected to change so that they are perceived as competent and skilled workers. The involvement of entrepreneurs in a broad social dialogue on the status of the sight impaired unemployed will be an important component of the Project. The outcomes of the motivational/training activities and the system of cooperation between companies and institutions, as established under the Project, will help to develop methods, procedures and models intended to overcome the barriers faced by sight impaired people and help them to perform on the labour market.

The Development Partnership is planning to replicate and apply as wide as possible the new models, methods and techniques. Therefore, the Project will involve an extensive promotional campaign. Throughout the Project, the outcomes will be disseminated to people, institutions and organisations that are in position to bring about a change in the disadvantageous situation of blind persons in the labour market. Changes in legislation and bringing the operations of public institutions closer to the needs of the disabled will be an important goal of dissemination activities.