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Press Release - International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Combating Low Employment of Blind & Partially Sighted People

(December 3rd, 2016)

Toronto, Canada: December 3rd is the day that the whole world celebrates persons with disabilities and their full and equal inclusion in society. The United Nations (UN) theme for this year is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want,” in reference to the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 and they have several explicit references to persons with disabilities. These references in the SDGs ensure that persons with disabilities will be included in the main international development agenda that will last until 2030.

The Goals cover a range of topics, including health, education, peace and gender. Goal #8 is “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” This goal is also a major priority for the World Blind Union (WBU). Despite advances in education, rehabilitation, technology and social attitudes, blind and partially sighted persons are still very likely to be unemployed in all parts of the world. In developed countries, the employment of blind people is approximately only 25% and in developing countries, the number of employed blind people falls below 10%. 

“Blind and partially sighted people want to work and are able to work. The only thing that holds them back is the lack of opportunity," said Dr. Fredric Schroeder, President of the World Blind Union. He further stated that "blind and partially sighted people need access to a good education, assistive technology, and someone to give them a chance to show what they can do."

The future that the WBU wants is one where all persons with disabilities, including blind and partially sighted persons, have full access to gainful employment, equal to persons without disabilities. In order to achieve this goal, we need to address the barriers that still persist that prevent blind people from becoming employed.

Barriers still include the lack of legislation for preventing discrimination against persons with disabilities in the workplace or during the hiring process, the lack of knowledge needed to support and/or train blind and partially sighted employees and the remaining stigmas and false perceptions many people still have towards blind people, such as the belief that blind people are less capable than their sighted peers or more expensive than other employees.

A recent Ipsos study conducted in Canada for the Canadian National institute for the Blind (CNIB) found that 70% of Canadians would choose a sighted candidate over a blind candidate even if both candidates were equally qualified (click here for the full Ipsos study results). These kinds of stigmas towards hiring blind people are not unique to Canada; unfortunately, they are a truly global problem.

To combat these barriers and stigmas, the WBU has an employment website called Project Aspiro, which is dedicated to providing skills and resources for blind and partially sighted students and job seekers to help them find employment. The website also highlights the integral role that employers have and the site has resources to help employers hire and keep blind and partially sighted employees.

Additionally, CNIB recently launched an employment campaign called EmployAbility, which has useful resources and information for job seekers and employers alike. You can access the EmployAbility campaign page by clicking here.

The World Blind Union (WBU) is the global organization that represents the estimated 285 million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted. Members consist of organizations of blind people advocating on their own behalf and organizations that serve the blind, in over 190 countries, as well as international organizations working in the field of vision impairment​. Visit our website at


For further information, please contact:
Caitlin Reid
Communications Officer, World Blind Union