Improving access to employment for people who are deafblind

Deafblindness is a combination of sight and hearing loss that affects a person’s ability to communicate, to access information, and to get around. People who are deafblind are also likely to have a range of other health needs in addition to their sensory impairments.

deafblind1There are approximately 100,000 people of working age who are deafblind living in the UK. Many people with sight and hearing impairments are keen to enter the workforce – they want the opportunity to use and develop their skills, participate fully in the working world, make a contribution and earn a wage.

Despite this, the statistics on employment levels for this group are stark. Only 4% of 18 to 24-year-olds who are deafblind are in employment – a rate almost ten times lower than the employment rate of non-disabled young people. The employment rate of deafblind people over the age of 24 is just 20%,which is almost four times lower than the national average.

Within the broader population of disabled people, 46% are currently out of work, with the rate of employment 30% lower than that of non-disabled people. The situation is worse for people with multiple disabilities: research has shown the people with five or more impairments are 61% less likely to get a job compared to non-disabled people.

Difficulty in entering employment is not the only issue disabled people face. When in work, disabled people tend to have lower paid jobs and earn less than their non-disabled colleagues. Many find it more difficult to progress their career, and few hold senior managerial positions.

The Government pledged to take action to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people seeking employment at the last election. It made a manifesto commitment to halve the disability employment gap by helping a million more disabled people into work by 2020.

With the right support, people who are deafblind can and do take up a range of interesting and challenging roles. We are proposing a number of recommendations so that all disabled people who want to work, including those with more complex conditions such as deafblindness, can benefit from the extra resources the Government is putting in place. deafblind2a


What can Employers do to support this initiative?

 Employers should promote an inclusive culture within the organisation by raising awareness about disability and promoting the specific steps staff can take to make their disabled colleagues feel included.

  • Employers should ensure recruitment processes are accessible in order to encourage applications from disabled people.
  • Employers should ensure disabled people feel confident and comfortable to disclose their disabilities and request adjustments.
  • Employers should view spending money on adjustments for disabled people as an investment in the workforce.
  • Employers should consider contacting specialist organisations if there is a need for advice on specific medical conditions.
  • To address the multiple barriers disabled people face, employers should consider setting up specialist schemes to increase employment and promotion opportunities for disabled people. These include talent recruitment programmes or internships, mentoring schemes and additional training opportunities targeted specifically at disabled people.

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