Saturday, April 28, 2007

Job hunting is no easy task for the visually impaired!

Visually impaired social workers are unable to get employment in Jamaica, complains Doreen Reid, a graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI) who has been trying unsuccessfully for years to gain employment in guidance and counselling or social work.

Claiming she has been discriminated against, Ms. Reid, who has been employed in several
part-time jobs, the last of which was replacement telephone operator at the Auditor General's office, told The Sunday Gleaner she had been called for many interviews, but was always turned down.
"I am visually impaired and I am desperately in need of help ... I have no money ... It's rough on me ... I badly need a job - anything in counselling or social work," she pleads.

Gloria Goffe, coordinator of the Combined Disabilities Association, said employment of the disabled is always a problem, whether you are a college graduate or not.

"It's sad that she (Reid) cannot get a job and she has been trained. But, it takes a lot more out of us to succeed in the system," argued Ms. Goffe. "We have to work extra hard to make it. She has gone for interviews. I have no proof that in her case it is discrimination, but I know there are cases where persons are turned down because they are disabled. Usually it is done in such a manner that what is done does not appear to be discrimination."

Doreen Reid's academic career started with success in six GCE O' Level subjects. She subsequently enrolled at Mico Teachers' College and achieved a diploma in guidance and counselling. After graduating from Mico, Ms. Reid spent one year trying to get a job in counselling. Unable to secure this, she obtained a loan from the Students' Loan Bureau and attended the UWI as a full-time student and pursued a degree in social work, graduating in 2005.

However, in spite of her additional qualification, her job applications are still being turned down by potential employees. "Believe me, I am in the same situation, seeking jobs and only to be told by several agencies that I cannot manage the travelling - without even being given a chance to prove myself," she said. "Based on the questions, I know it is high discrimination," Miss Reid added.

Difficult to adjust

Doreen Reid's degree. The trained woman has been unable to find employment, despite her qualifications.

At interviews with the National Youth Service and the Correctional Services, she reported: "The interviewee told me that she did not know that she was shortlisting a
visually impaired person. They said it would be difficult for me to get adjusted, and asked if there were a fire, how would I escape it? They also asked how would I stop a child from escaping?"

Gloria Goffe notes that there are several other university students who are
disabled and unemployed. "I know four right now who are in a similar position. It's unfortunate. We are a small percentage and yet it is so difficult. Her case is not an isolated one."

Jacqueline Reid, sister of Doreen Reid, is also a graduate of the UWI who has been unsuccessful in finding employment in social work. Currently, a telephone operator in the government service, she says she would like to be employed in the field in which she was trained.

According to Gloria Goffe: "Quite a number of those who are employed are employed by the Government or organisations run for the disabled. Many are also underemployed. You are unable to use the additional skills gained in training."

Goffe noted that the National Disability Act is now being drafted and that there is a disability policy that says government should employ a percentage of the disabled.

"Two per cent of the labour force are disabled and the policy reflects this. But, as far as I know there is no legislation affecting the wider private sector," she disclosed. "The policy encourages them to employ, but onecannot force them. In the National Disabilities Act, employment is a subject we have not seen the draft yet."

Gloria Goffe, also a graduate of the UWI majoring in psychology, was formerly employed to Deloitte and Touche before her current job.

She states: "Employment among the disabled should be a major focus by the Government and the rest of the society. We have been trying to qualify ourselves. We need a chance to self-actualise, get our house, take care of our families and look after ourselves."


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