Saskatoon Police Service looks past the misconceptions of the working blind
It’s a disappointing reality; CNIB statistics show those who are blind or partially-sighted trend towards unemployment in Canada.
Currently employment rates among those with vision loss are at 38 per cent, compared to 73 per cent for people without a disability.
Charlene Young is trying to end this stigma. She works for the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) in the switchboard department, answering phones and directing calls.
“It’s a positive working environment,” Young said when asked about her job. “Everybody here is always so friendly with me”
Young was born without eyes and is completely blind.
“I’ve had to have prosthetic eyes since I was a baby, so I have absolutely no light perception, or any kind of vision whatsoever.”
Young is one of over half-a-million Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, 100,000 whom are working age.
“I’ve been completely blind all my life, but it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing careers and other things that I want to accomplish in my life,” she said.
Gerry Nelson of the CNIB stresses that Young is the expectation to the rule, that the stigma is very real.
“Employers would go as far to think that blind or partially-sighted people just simply do not have the ability to work,” Nelson said.
“Or that if they were at a workplace, they would have to be led around by the hand or the arm.”
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Back at the SPS switchboard, Young’s co-workers say her attitude is hard not to love.
Young’s supervisor, Staff Sgt. Nolan Berg said her lack of vision hasn’t hindered her ability to do her job.
“The fact that she works at a workstation with a couple of computer screens with a telephone, interacting with the public, and having to respond fairly quickly to general inquiries, you would think that it would be virtually impossible for somebody who has no vision to do that job, but she does it, and she does it extremely well.”
“I’ve been completely blind all my life,” Young added, “but it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing careers and other things that I want to accomplish in my life.”
Stu Gooden contributed to this story
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