What it’s Like to Work at East London Vision

As some of you may know, I’m fairly new to East London Vision having only started in April this year.  I can tell you that my job has changed my life for the better, as previously I was unemployed and job hunting for a considerable while.  I held a belief that my vision impairment was a barrier to employment, so when I was given an opportunity to work at ELVis I became optimistic again about my future.

Truth-be-told, during my first month at ELVis, getting used to working part-time was challenging, but I quickly adapted, which does happen when you get into a regular routine.  Moreover, working in a small, but amazing team I must say I feel very lucky.  When you have characters like Christine Edmead (ELVis Administrator and Information Officer) in the office, the working day is never a boring one!  She is “Mother Hen of ELVis” and always looking after the team.  On one occasion, she brought delicious cupcakes to the team meeting which everyone enjoyed eating!

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Photo of the delicious cupcakes brought by Christine.  Three cupcakes are covered in green frosting and decorated with rainbow sprinkles and a gold star in the center.  The fourth cupcake has vanilla frosting and a miniature carrot.

The best part of working for ELVis is the opportunity to go along to service user activities.  My favourite activities this year were white water rafting and the kayaking sessions as I love to take part in water-based activities, and it’s great to get out of the office and do something physical once in a while.  Furthermore, it’s fantastic to see the positive difference the activities make in the lives of those who participate in them.  I promote the success of service user participation on the ELVIs social media channels, which help to raise awareness about the really great things ELVis does for vision impaired people in east London.

Additionally, working closely with the East London Local Society groups I’ve become acquainted with the service users and have learned about the challenges they have overcome and still face as a result of their sight loss.  And I’ve been able to highlight their stories online, especially through the blog which receives very positive feedback from our blog readers.

What can I say? These past 9 months working at ELVis has been really fulfilling.  I feel blessed to be working again.  Now I wake up in the morning thinking I’ve got plenty of things to keep me busy, instead of wondering how to spend my day.  It’s been rewarding to work for a charity because I know the work I am doing is helping to improve people’s lives, and as a vision impaired individual it feels great to be supporting my peers.

Lastly, before I go, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s supported East London Vision in 2017 and I wish you all a very successful and happy New Year!

ELVis Team at TPT Conference 1
Photo of Ray (center) with the ELVis team.

Written by Ray Calamaan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Masuma’s Employment Journey in the Sight Loss Sector

“How did you end up working for the sight loss sector?”

This is one of the questions I most often get asked by people, and the one I regularly hear being discussed is whether most blind and partially sighted people end up working for the sight loss sector.

There are around 84,000 registered blind people of working age (18-65 year olds) in the UK, and only 21,000 (1 in 4 compared to 3 in 4 sighted people) of the working age population are in employment.

I feel extremely fortunate to be in the working age figure. My employment journey started with a part-time role as a Braille transcriber at a mainstream college. This job was a great starting point for me in the world of work and being part-time provided me with the opportunity to volunteer and upskill myself at the same time. I initially looked for volunteering roles away from the sight loss sector, not because I had anything against it, but simply due to not having given it any thought.

However, I learnt very quickly that it was rather difficult to find a voluntary role with organisations outside the sector. Also having received feedback from employers that I didn’t have enough experience, I resorted to looking for volunteering opportunities within the sight loss sector and landed myself a number of various roles. To be told by employers that you don’t have enough experience and struggling to even gain a voluntary role outside of the sector was soul destroying, it is a horrible catch-22 situation, which certainly didn’t do my confidence any good. However, the good news is that it seems things have moved on somewhat as I know several people who have volunteered with organisations away from the sight loss sector. Yes, I’m sure it can still be a struggle, but hopefully things are slowly changing.

Not only did the volunteering opportunities allow me to grow and increase my skills, knowledge and experience, it provided a good platform to network. My voluntary role at Waltham Forest Vision (formerly known as Low Vision Forum) resulted in a successful application and interview on a trainee contract. This set my journey into the sight loss sector and I’ve never looked back!

However, to assume every blind or partially sighted person ends up working for the VI sector is completely incorrect. I know just as many vision impaired people who work in the sector as well as don’t.

I would strongly encourage all VI people looking for work to take up volunteering opportunities, to network and build good rapport with people. Some may say I’m one of the lucky ones, and whilst there may be a very small element of truth, it certainly wasn’t all smooth sailing. The struggle of finding employment was real and can definitely be that much harder for vision impaired people. However, despite experiencing knock-backs throughout my employment journey, my proactive self-help approach, positive can-do attitude and, at times, throwing myself into the unknown certainly paid off. I am truly grateful and thankful to the people who have both personally and professionally supported me along the way.

Masuma Ali
Photo of Masuma smiling.

Listen to Masuma talk to the Thomas Pocklington Trust about her life and employment journey in the sight loss sector.

Written by Masuma Ali

 

CEO of ELVis discusses the topic of employment for Vision Impaired People

Hello to all our wonderful readers

First of all, a warm welcome to our new platform.

2 recent events have made me think that employment for blind and partially sighted people should be the topic of the Blog this week.

The first of these was that I have just been involved in the recruitment of a new member of staff for ELVis. We received 52 applications, and although about 40 of them were discarded immediately because the applicant hadn’t submitted the required information, or clearly hadn’t properly read the job description, it does show that, whatever the Government statistics, there are still plenty of people out there looking for a job. Or, does it indicate, with my more cynical hat on, that job hunters have to prove that they have applied for a certain number of jobs to maintain support or benefits and, with the ease of applying online these days, this is relatively simple to do, even if the applications aren’t appropriate.

Of more relevance though was the second event, which was the output from an employment session run by a colleague of mine at a recent RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa) fighting blindness weekend. Just a few or the work related problems raised were:

  • Where do I get information about training and re-skilling?
  • Feeling hopeless during interviews when trying to convince employers that you are just as capable as the next person.
  • Government schemes to get people into work are often not accessible to people with a disability.
  • I don’t know how my employer will react when I tell them about my deteriorating sight.
  • There is little information to support employers
  • One bad experience can put off employers from then taking on another person with a disability.
  • Access to work support is getting more and more difficult to obtain and the support is often of poor quality.

This is only a flavour of the discussion, which also included looking at solutions. But it does show that with 70% of Vision Impaired people of working age not in employment (and that’s the best estimate), that there is an undoubted need for the sight loss sector to provide collaborative advice and support. I am absolutely not promoting positive discrimination, but assistance with obtaining and maintaining a job will clearly help reduce the startling statistic of blind and partially sighted people who are currently unemployed.

I am sure we will return to this topic in a future Blog!