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European Workshop
Vocational Training and Employment of Visually Impaired


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Introductory lecture
Arrie Huijgen & Holger Stoek, UMBRELLA, ESF employment Project

Job search, job mediation, mentoring.

In Holland, the organization Labour Service Labour Re-integration exists with the task to mediate disabled people without work to the free labour market. Very often a intensive and specialistic mentoring is needed to be able to help visually impaired persons to find their way to the labour market. Two national organizations, Sonneheerdt Vocational Training&Job Mediation and Het Loo Erf Rehabilitation center, cooperate with Labour Service in order to be able to gather expertise in the area of rehabilitation packets, profession directed education and mediation of visually impaired persons to the labour market. Within the ESF Employment Project, Holland cooperates with Italy, Finland and Germany concerning innovation, promotion of expertise, development of methods et cetera.

The principal purposes of this European initiative is to gather all the knowledge about education rehabilitation and education, jobmediation and technical aids on a website (knowledge institute). In addition to the countries mentioned above, also other countries can connect themselves to the webmaster of Eukin.org (E-mail: ron.vanderleck@looerf.nl).

Within Umbrella, a Group training has been developed for lower educated people as well as a route for higher educated people. Central theme in this training is that visually impaired persons don't cause the problem, they posess the solutions. Participants must be aware of the impact of the visual handicap on a valid environment and he should look for solutions consciously.

Firstly he gathers his qualities, afterwards an orientation on possible professions follows. He prepares himself to application and presentation techniques. Communication training has an important place within the trainings. Afterwards, the visually impaired person will look for a stage or a paid job, in which he will be supported by a assigned adviser. The purpose is that the gathered knowledge about stage and training will be exchanged within the group. In order to find propriate work, the client and the adviser mike use of methods developed for finding work, support of the client and several mentoring methods. In fact, the adviser tries to equip the client sufficiently so that he will be able to find himself a job independantly on the labour market.
The starting point is always the individual desirs and possibilities of the job seeker. The adviser can be called in when necessary. Beforehand, clear appointments will be made with the client. Who does what and when will he do it? The great advantage of this method is that there will not be created a sort of position of dependance. During an interim evaluation, the client will be reminded to the appointments that were made and on his responsibilities. In collaboration with the adviser, a work placement can be found by means of vacancies in files of local and national labour services, dayly magazines and newspapers, company lists of the chamber of Commerce, Internet vacancy files and the yellow pages they will look for the right function. The adviser acquaint the visual impaired person with the vacancies and will ask him to apply for the job or the adviser will contact the concerned organization himself. It happends often that a job had been found by the own organization networks.

Organizations which had a visually impaired person before can be contacted to look for a stage or a work placement. Advisers also frequently make use of visiting conferences, meetings et cetera, where contacts will be made with different kinds of branch organizations. The adviser will inform about the possibilities of the visually impaired job seeker on the labour market. At a future appointment, the adviser can organize a presentation. An example of such a information presentation is the telemarketing project presentation held in 1998 with the temporary employment agency Randstad, and media like radio and television.In Holland, the telemarketing is very popular. The starting point of the advisers is finally finding paid jobs for the clients.

When a job has been found, the adviser will study the work station on appropriateness, accessibility on technology, ergonomy, functions and tasks et cetera. When necessary, he will contact specialists. In case of appropriateness, the client, adviser and the employer will have a installation discussion will take place. Issues of discussion will be: period of employment, technical equipment, subsidies for the employer, lost of labour productivity, contact with a job coach et cetera. During this route, the adviser will support the client, as well as the employer and the financier. Within the stage, and when necessary within the contract, several evaluations will take place.

Theses for groupwork

  1. In spite of all support the visual impaired person will always be rejected on particular help, attention and guidance.
  2. There are always things that the visual impaired person can do better than people without visual handicap.
  3. A visually impaired person will always stay an outsider, in social as well as in work situations.
  4. Employability is only possible for the visual impaired person in big concerns with possibilities of development.
  5. Only thanks to a period of boom, (good economical situation) the visual impaired persons have a job now.
  6. THE VISUAL IMPAIRED PERSON has enough knowledge, THE VISUAL IMPAIRED PERSON hasn't enough abilities.
  7. THE VISUAL IMPAIRED PERSON must be able to imagine that an employer chooses for an employee without a handicap in comparable aptitude.

Summary of the Discussions

The groups generally agreed, that visually impaired people are heterogenous and that generalizations are difficult to apply. Most people need help at some point in their liferegardless of disability. Some mentioned, that asking, receiving and also giving help can promote social interaction, whereas refusing to ask for help can be socially excluding. There are also several fields/activities, where a visually impaired person is fully independent.

As with the general population, some visually impaired persons are better at some things and other at other things. Some abilities (e.g. memory) may appear to be more developed in visually impaired people, but as one group mentioned, it's is something the individual has worked hard at to achieve. In some profession there seems to be an advantage to being visually impaired, e.g. massage and counselling, where the visually impaired professional is perceived as less threatening.

It was felt that a visually impaired person might be more of an outsider due to an inability to read nonverbal signs, or because of people not knowing how to interact with disabled people. Some also said it is difficult for a visually impaired person to avoid being "a representative" of all visually impaired people, which was considered stressful. These are matters that to some extent depend on the visually impaired person's personality and social skills.

A good economy is also more often good for employment of visually impaired people, but it is not the only precondition for employment. Other factors play a role, such as attitude of the society and training based on real needs on the labour market. Greated flexibility and speed were mentioned as skills needed in employees. Several mentioned small companies as good employers.


International Initiatives on Employment
Esko H�nninen, Provincial State Office of Southern Finland

The foundations of the new European Employment Strategy (EES) were laid at the Essen European Council in 1994. It was further developed by the inclusion of a new Employment Title in the Treaty of Amsterdam which now is ratified by all Member States and, has come into force 1st of May this year.

This Employment Title mentioned above makes the promotion of employment a matter of common concern for the EU. Members States have to co-ordinate their policies in order to achieve a high level of employment in the context of balanced and sustainable economic and social progress. The strategy was further reinforced by the subsequent adoption of a series of Employment Guidelines, based on four core themes: employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities. The National Employment Action Plans (NAPs), which each Member State must now submit to the Council and Commission as part of EES, should reflect these four priority themes.

Mainstreaming Project by Stakes Consortium has successfully contributed to the Finnish NAP already in the first round last year. We formed on a basis of experiences got from previous Horizon Projects E.C.H.O and STEPS 35 proposals for social and economic integration of people with disabilities. These proposals concerning legislation, policy, service provision as well as professional traditions, were handed to the representatives of four ministries in December 1997.

In the spring 1998 three out of 35 proposals were adopted to the NAP: 1) new law coming into force in August 1999, which allows people to receive a special integration subsidy instead of disability pension for a period between six months and two years when entering open labour marked, 2) method of supported employment is now included amongst of the methods available from employment office and 3) Ministry of Trade and Industry should have started to plan, how the entrepreneurship of people with disabilities could be promoted in Finland. It was mentioned in the NAP that there will be a governmental committee consisting of people from different ministries and other experts to elaborate, make recommendations and proposals for enabling measures.

European Structural Funds 2000 - 2006

Coordinated with the European Employment Strategy the reform of European Structural Funds will offer the most important mainstream financial support for local, regional and national development projects targeted at people with disabilities. Complemented by national resources in all EU Member States these structural development support possibilities need to be fully exploited by different public, private and 3rd sector organisations, as well as voluntary organisations of people with disabilities.

Since year 2000 there will be also four Community Initiatives aimed at increase international cooperation and transfer of innovations from country to country. The initiatives will be INTERREG, LEADER, URBAN and EQUAL. The last one will support social inclusion by transantional cooperation between partnerships from different countries.

Based on the Treaty of Amsterdam European Commission is preparing an initiative to enhance Europe-wide activities against discrimination which is prohibited in the new Treaty.

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