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Visually impaired youth face 70% unemployment — and this group wants to change that

Not many people notice that Duncan Simmons has a vision impairment. 

Simmons, 19, can see relatively well during the day. But when it’s dark, he’s virtually blind.

“At nighttime it’s like I’m walking around with sunglasses on. Everything is really dark,” Simmons said. 

He was one of two dozen young adults who gathered Sunday at Fighting Blindness Canada’s Young Leaders Summit in Vancouver. The event aims to help blind youth overcome hurdles finding work in a market dominated by screens.

Facing stigma

Canadians with vision impairments face 70 per cent unemployment rates.  

Event co-chair Patrick Losier, 27, said it can be tricky for visually impaired youth to determine the appropriate time to disclose their disability to a potential employer. 

“There’s a stigma with people with vision loss that they’re not capable of certain things,” said Losier, who has low vision and light sensitivity. 

Once job candidates have disclosed, they then have to ask for accommodation, Losier said, and figure out when they need to ask for help. 

Public perception

Blind paralympian Donovan Tildesley was the event’s keynote speaker.

Tildesley says blind and vision-impaired youth need to stay positive and advocate for themselves.

Blind paralympian Donovan Tildesley says visually impaired youth can be an asset in the workplace. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

“I think the challenge with vision impairment is public perception,” he said. “Employers don’t know what a blind or visually impaired person needs, or how to make things accessible.”

Tildesley says people who are blind or visually impaired are used to overcoming challenges and can be an asset to any workplace. 


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