Losing my vision but not my job

Mary was diagnosed with a cortical visual impairment (CVI) in 2017. Although she had had this since birth, her optician did not correctly identify there was an issue until later in her life, despite regular check ups. Before her diagnosis, Mary found it took her longer to carry out some tasks at work and regularly worked extra hours, thinking that she was just clumsy, stupid, slower than other people and not realising it was the result of a visual impairment.

When she was diagnosed, she had to tell her employer immediately as she could no longer drive, although she was driving for 30 years without knowing she had a visual impairment.  Mary’s manager’s attitude was immediately unhelpful and started to make changes to her work which impacted on her negatively. She wanted Mary to work in a more remote office which was difficult to get to and was away from the support of her colleagues.

There was no workplace assessment carried out to establish reasonable adjustments that she may require.  During a meeting with her manager, HR and union rep, Mary’s manager questioned her capability to do her role which upset her greatly. Mary requested adjustments around her working hours to help her work more easily but these were refused. Mary also had recommendations for adjustments from occupational health but these were also refused.

By this time, Mary had become so upset by her situation at work she was signed off sick, having to not just deal with her sight loss but also not knowing what support she could receive. She contemplated resigning, as she thought that her sight loss meant she wouldn’t be able to her job any longer. 

Unfortunately, this a common experience that people will encounter as they lose sight as they are not aware of their rights under the Equality Act 2010 and the vast range of equipment and assistive technology they are entitled to that can keep them in work. This is why a workplace assessment is so important at this point in a person’s sight loss journey.

Luckily, Mary spoke to her local RNIB Eye Clinic Liaison Officer who encouraged her not to hand in her notice and referred her to the local RNIB employment advisor. Mary recalls on speaking to her local employment advisor: “It just made me think, finally somebody understands sight loss! It was definitely the way to proceed as they had seen similar situations before and they knew the law. I had no idea what to do.”

The Employment advisor advised on Access to Work and Mary’s rights under the Equality Act 2010. Mary contacted Access to Work, but her manager was once again unsupportive of the process. Mary had to attend a panel with her employers to appeal the decision made about the adjustments requested. The RNIB Employment Advisor worked with the union representative and provided a statement for the panel hearing outlining Mary’s entitlements under the Act and how they should be supporting her. The panel reversed the manager’s decision not to provide reasonable adjustments and Mary was granted the majority of the adjustments she requested and has been able to remain in her role. “Without RNIB support I wouldn’t have known where to start. The union were great, with specialist knowledge and advice from RNIB, they helped me stay in work. Without the support, I wouldn’t have my job. I couldn’t fight, I would have given up.”

This case study demonstrates the importance of why people require a workplace assessment in a timely manner to ensure they remain in employment with the correct equipment, technology and support. Sight loss should not equal job loss.

If you are an employer, occupational health provider or individual experiencing sight loss in work, Visualise Training and Consultancy can provide workplace assessments to ensure the correct adjustments are put in place.

For more information click on the website link below, call Dan Williams on 07472305268 or email daniel@visualisetrainingandconsultancy.co.uk

About the author

Daniel Williams, the director of Visualise Training Consultancy