A blind tour guide, deaf physiotherapist and visually impaired builder defy public perceptions

Leonard Cheshire Disability logoThree quarters of the public still believe that there are some jobs disabled people can’t do  

  • Leading charity challenges the public’s perceptions on what disabled people can achieve through its innovative Change100 programme 

Three quarters (75%) of the British public perceive that disabled people are unable to do many jobs, according to new research from leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire. This is despite latest government figures which show 259,000 more disabled people are in work than one year ago.

In contrast, the charity believes disabled people can do every possible kind of job. Examples include a deaf physiotherapist, a blind tour guide and a visually impaired builder.

There are nearly 11.5 million people of working age in Great Britain who are disabled or have a health condition. For the average business, one fifth of customers are likely to be disabled. Employing someone with a disability creates better connections with disabled customers which allow businesses to tap into a spending power of £80 billion.

The research also found that nearly three quarters (73%) of the public feel that disabled people should be given more opportunities to find work. These new figures coincide with the launch of the charity’s Change100 programme for the second year. The project provides three month work placements for talented disabled students from leading universities.

Entrepreneur Amar Latif gained a degree in Mathematics, Statistics and Finance at the University of Strathclyde. The 40 year-old, who is blind, now runs online company Traveleyes and works as a director for documentary films.

When he left university he qualified as a Management Accountant but was refused work and told ‘a blind person could not be an accountant.’ He did not let this discrimination hold him back and became Head of Commercial Finance for British Telecom. 

Amar’s business is thriving and he gets excellent feedback. Sighted people can book a holiday with Traveleyes at a significant discount. In return, they travel with blind or visually impaired people and are expected to describe sights and act as a guide. Amar still leads tours whenever he can, and his motivation for doing so was summed up by a sighted traveller on a Moroccan trip.

He said: “I was addressing a group in the Atlas Mountains when one of the sighted people interrupted me and said: ‘Oh my god, a blind man is showing me the world.’ That for me sums it and highlights why Traveleyes is such a success.

“Customers tell us it is different from any trip they have been on. Sighted people often say that by describing what they see to blind people, they often come back with more vivid memories.”

Gemma Bull, Managing Director of Enterprise and Innovation at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “We know there are tremendously talented disabled people searching for work and they could be our country’s future entrepreneurs if they are given the chance. We also know that our best companies value talent. That is why we launched Change100 – to provide life-changing opportunities for disabled undergraduates to work for leading employers.

“Following the Change100 launch last year every student who was seeking work secured employment. The results are excellent and hopefully will encourage other disabled students to apply.”

Sophie Stowell challenged perceptions that disabled people can’t pursue a career in banking. The 21-year-old, who has a visual impairment and achieved a double first at Cambridge University, has secured a place on Barclays graduate scheme following her work placement.

Her Change100 colleague, Tony Richards has dyslexia and dyspraxia. The 26-year-old landed a job in the Department for Education press office. He said: “Getting a job within the civil service has been a career dream of mine and has been one of the biggest successes of my life. Through the programme, Leonard Cheshire gave me an internship that hundreds of people might have wanted and the skills I needed to get my dream job.”

To find out more visit: www.leonardcheshire.org/change100

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. With over 7,500 staff, the charity supports over 7,000 disabled people in the UK. Visit: www.leonardcheshire.org

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