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Clarity: employing visually impaired and disabled people – Disability Horizons

We all know that finding a job when you’re disabled can be a hard slog, made harder by unaccepting attitudes and accessibility issues. But not every company is close-minded, and there are more and more accommodating employers out there. We hear from one such company, Clarity, which provides employment for blind and disabled people.

Working as both a company and charity, Clarity was established in 1854 as The Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind (GWB) to provide employment for blind people. Our founder Elizabeth Gilbert, who lost her sight at the age of three due to scarlet fever, believed in enabling blind people to help themselves, and to earn their own living – a mission that the charity continues to this day.

We run a semi-automated production line in London with people at the centre of everything we do, employing 113 people across the UK. More than 70% of the people we employ are blind, or otherwise disabled or disadvantaged.

We believe that all disabled people should have an opportunity for employment and at Clarity, we champion this vision by designing, manufacturing and selling beautiful personal care and cleaning products under four different brands.

We create opportunities to build skills, confidence and independence through our business activities and our profits are all reinvested back into the organisation to strengthen our ability to create even more employment in the future.

To show you how diverse our workforce is, and the opportunities we can offer, here are the stories of four people who work at Clarity.

Michael O’Brien

I started working at Clarity in May 2014. I was born six weeks prematurely and placed in an incubator to keep me alive. But there was an excessive amount of oxygen and this caused me to become partially sighted (Retinopathy of Prematurity disorder). I was also diagnosed with Glaucoma and have to frequently apply eye drops and have regular check-ups at Moorfield Eye Hospital.

Although the vision in my right eye was very poor, my left eye was my “the good eye”, so I used to be able to live independently. However, at the age of 17, the retina in my left eye detached. After two unsuccessful operations, I was sent to a rehabilitation centre for 18 months to learn to adjust to my new life with limited vision and to become independent again.

I used to work for a local authority making furniture, and during that time I went to college to study to become a supervisor. After completing the course I was supervising approximately 20 staff members where I worked. From there, my career progressed and I became a warehouse supervisor.

But I felt that it was time to move on, so I went into the procurement department, where I was buying raw materials for the furniture. I had a support worker for 25 hours a week – a person who was my eyes. I was also given some helpful software equipment, such as a magnifier and a screen reader.

Unfortunately, after 35 years, I was made redundant because the local authority could no longer afford to continue furniture production. At first, I was in shock, convinced that it would be extremely difficult to find a new job at that age.

Thankfully, my worries were unfounded, as just after a few months, I joined Clarity. I started my time there at the topping line on the factory floor (putting tops on bottles) and, helping with putting products onto pallets.

Later I moved to the Pick and Pack department, where I still work. There, I am responsible for the distribution and processing of Clarity orders, and am also involved in some administrative duties. I feel very comfortable in this environment because my colleagues are people I can relate to.

In addition to working at Clarity, I volunteer at the Thomas Pocklington Trust, offering support to patients who are newly diagnosed with eye conditions. I meet with people at one of the satellite clinics in Barking that is part of the Moorfield Eye Hospital, and talk them through the available support within their borough and across the country. Many of them say they’re very lonely, so really appreciate a chat. Off the back of my work there, I was really pleased to win the Volunteer of The Year Award.

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