Daniel Williams, Founder of Visualise Training and Consultancy, will deliver a webinar on 11 June looking at how OSH professionals and others responsible for looking after employees can ensure working environments are suitable for people struggling with sight loss. Here, Daniel shares a client’s experience of struggling with sight loss and how it effected their career. Daniel said: “This is a common situation many of my clients go through and it’s vital they receive support in a timely manner as sight loss should not equal job loss and there are many solutions available”
I was becoming anxious; I knew my eyesight was not right, but my job was 100% computer based. With a family, mortgage and other things to consider, fear began to envelop me. What was I going to do? How will I manage? Will my company lay me off? Am I destined for life on sickness benefit at the age of 50?
Text on a screen or in a book looked odd, the lines appeared wavy and sometimes I would experience moving shadows in both eyes. I put this down to tiredness, or too much screen time or because of rubbing my eyes because they were sore and red. Occasionally my vision became patchy or blurred.
I was referred to the Eye Clinic at my local hospital, where I was diagnosed with a condition called Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and was told by the Consultant Ophthalmologist that my eyesight would deteriorate – though I would not lose it completely – and there was no treatment available at the time. He said I would probably lose my central vision, not in both eyes hopefully, but my peripheral vision should remain stable. He also informed me he was certifying me as ‘Sight Impaired’.
I was reluctant to admit to myself that I was having difficulties, let alone admit to my employers. This resulted in my anxiety levels going through the roof. I noticed at home I was unable to watch TV and would bump into chairs or objects because I just did not see them. I was also unable to drive.
Eventually I took sickness absence from work. After two years of sickness absence, my salary now consisted of part wages and part Income Protection. I did not know what support was available.
I decided to contact my Occupational Health Department to discuss my situation and to be honest with somebody about my sight loss. The lady I spoke to was extremely knowledgeable and informed me that, due to my disability, I was protected under the Equality Act 2010 and that I would need a Workplace Needs Assessment for people with a visual impairment to find what adjustments could be put in place to enable me to return to work.
Little did I realise there was so much help and equipment available to me. I would be able to return to the workplace equipped with all the necessary information and adaptations to make my working and home life that little more bearable. I was astonished to discover the technology that was available.
I now know that I was not alone – at least 250 people begin to lose their sight every day in the UK – and I didn’t necessarily need to be off on long-term sickness claiming my income protection insurance.
If I had been more aware of what was available to help me in the workplace, I would like to think that I would have returned to work much sooner. This would have prevented so many sleepless nights, saved my company paying sick pay and the Income Protection Insurance payments.
To learn more about sight loss in the workplace, join visual impairment expert Daniel Williams, of Visualise Training and Consultancy, at an IOSH Financial Services Group webinar on Friday 11 June from 12:30 to 13:30. While organised by the IOSH group, this webinar is relevant across sectors.