People who are blind seen begging on the streets and on buses would tempt one to believe that it is a testimony of low levels of employment opportunities in the labour market of Zimbabwe. School to work transition often helps individuals who are blind with valuable workplace exposure. It is not known whether those individuals who are blind, who are beggars on streets and on buses have received proper school to work transition or whether they were prepared for employment through skills training.
In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 45 million people are blind in the world. Poverty and blindness are believed to be intimately linked, with poverty predisposing to blindness, and blindness exacerbating poverty by limiting employment opportunities (Kuper, et al,2011).
The blind are heavily affected economically, as 90 percent of them cannot work (WHO, 2014). It is known that as a disability, blindness often leads to unemployment, which in turn leads to loss of income, higher levels of poverty and hunger and low standards of living (Khupe, 2010).
It is recognised that inclusion in the workplace is critical to full participation in society and to financial independence but people who are blind have historically been under-represented in the labour market (Bell & Mino, 2013). People who are blind are confronted with barriers that limit their social participation, especially as regards access to the labour market (Bell, 2010).
The employment rate for individuals who are blind remains far below that of the general population, despite the fact that their education level is comparable (Shaw, Gold & Wolffe, 2007).
The employment rate of people who are bind is also lower than the population with other types of disabilities, as noticed by Shaw et al. (2007). Many people who are blind face barriers to their participation in work (Shaw et al.2007). In the La Grow & Daye New Zealand study (2005), individuals who had blindness reported that their condition limited the amount and type of work they could do (Brennan & Sleightholm, 2009).
Heber (1978) in McDonnall and Crudden (2009) demonstrated that figures obtained from a United States (1970) census indicated that 85%of the employable PWD were not working. Silape (1994) argues that most employers shun employing people who are blind because they claim that they could not perform well on the job. Some claim that it is costly to modify the work place to suit the needs of the people who are blind. She further indicated that some employers believe that people who are blind do not give a good image of the company since they are not “presentable” by virtue of their appearances.
It is clear that stereotyped attitudes of employers in engaging blind persons for work remain a major barrier. Capella-McDonnall (2005) argues that a tradition has grown concerning the limited forms of work that can be done by people who are blind. This assumption has probably been based on the erroneous belief that almost every type of employment initially appears to be wholly or largely dependent on the ability to see.
There are several factors that predict employment for individuals who are blind. Among them, educational level, age, training in blindness skills, and visual status remain consistent across the research studies. Leonard, D’Allura and Horowitz (1999) found that both achieving a higher educational level and attending an integrated school setting for most of one’s schooling was associated with being employed.
In addition, employment related skills (computer, typing, and use of public transportation), psychosocial variables (overall satisfaction with social contact and receipt of encouragement from family and friends), vision rehabilitation service, and technology training were associated with being employed. In relation to those factors that predicted employment in higher level positions, they identified higher level of education, technology training, orientation and mobility (O&M) training, and fewer hours of rehabilitation teaching.
Africa has the highest prevalence of blindness in the world, with an estimated 6 million people who are blind. The sub-Saharan region is estimated to have about 2 million people who are blind and it is estimated that 125000 people in Zimbabwe are blind (Zimbabwe Council for the blind(ZCfB),2017).
Compiled by Ishmael Danirayi Tabe