Employment of blind and partially sighted people – a key to inclusion

This was the title of our annual conference which we organised together with our Serbian friends from the Union of the Blind in Serbia. The conference took place in Belgrade and brought together 150 participants from all over Europe to discuss challenges and opportunities in the field of employment. As also underlined in the Belgrade Declaration which resulted from that gathering, employment means so much more than just an income generating activity, it is really about inclusion in society! But what does the employment situation of blind and partially sighted people really look like today in different countries?

Well, there is good evidence clearly demonstrating that blind and partially sighted people are still more likely to be amongst the unemployed or have precarious jobs than their sighted peers. This situation can worsen when considering other factors such as gender, ethnic origin or multiple forms of disability. These being some general trends and facts, do we know precisely what the situation is? This raises the long-standing topic of lacking comparable, reliable, and official data; data telling the full story about the employment of blind and partially sighted people in different countries, sectors, age groups etc. This remains a real challenge but would be a precondition for adopting targeted policies and supportive measures to improve the employment of blind and partially sighted people.

I am afraid that this Focus edition will not put in place data systems providing us with that much needed body of evidence. But it contains news and thought-provoking articles helping us to continue our efforts to get more blind and partially sighted people in employment: a very interesting piece of research where our Serbian member gathered relevant employment data by themselves. Still in the area of data, this Focus also features an encouraging article from EuroStat with the latest progress and plans to close the disability-data gap. At the same time, the question on how to disaggregate data to also capture blindness and partial sight remains open. You will also read with interest a personal contribution from Estonia highlighting the fast-changing nature of employment through technology, and both the challenges and opportunities coming with it. In short, this edition features just a few key aspects of employment, a theme that will remain top on our agenda for many years to come!

Lars Bosselmann

EBU Executive Director