ABU(Junior Group) Excellent Work
Right to work; what makes the labor market inclusive, open and accessible for persons with visual impairment?
“Your education and work experience makes you a strong candidate, but we did not know you are blind. I am sorry madam, it is a managerial position and a blind can’t work in such important position”. It was the answer I got last year at the beginning of an interview in Afghanistan.I firmly believe it is everyone’s duty as human beings to assist visually impaired (Blind and Low Vision) persons infinding appropriate jobs to support themselves and their families. Having said that, four steps can change labor market in Afghanistan. The first step is government’sintervening through proper legislation. The second step is applying of those laws, rules, and regulations through applicable strategies. As this leads to changes in traditional ways and accepted norms of how labor market should work, public awareness is very important for easing this transition. The final and very important step will be equipping visually impaired with education, technology, necessary skills, and different forms of support to compete in job market.
As mentioned, proper legislation is the first step and backbone of any change. United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes and ensures work and employment rights of persons with disabilities. States are guided to promote the realization of right to work by taking appropriate steps; and providing labor market and work environment that is open, inclusive and accessible to persons with disabilities. As a member of United Nations, Afghanistan has tried to protect rights of people with disabilities trough Afghan Constitution of 2004, Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), The Law of Rights and Privilege of Persons with Disabilities, and Labor Code. However, these laws are not clear and specific when it comes to persons with visual impairment; they do not promote active participation of visually impaired persons; and they superficially touch upon labor market and work environment. Rather, they are turning persons with disabilities to be aid-dependent.
Though, there are some positive points in Afghan laws for supporting people with disability but they are not applied as it should be to make an impact. Following are the highlights of mentioned laws: appointment of two representatives of ‘disabled and impaired’ as Members of Meshrano Jirga – Upper House – by the President; disability indicators under the social protection programs; providing a 3% quota in terms of job opportunities, and eligibility to obtain driving license; and obliging organizations to provide jobs for the employees who have become disabled while performing their jobs. Nonetheless, corruption and nepotism are serious barriers in implementation of these Articles. Lack of proper monitoring and evaluation by Afghan government, and weak and uncoordinated voices and advocacy efforts of organizations of visually impaired are other obstacles. The paucity of applying complaints-probing mechanismsis the final hurdle that prevents flourishing of open, inclusive and accessible labor market in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, public awareness is a key tool for changing mentality and paving way for social and societal change.Besides accepting and planning to solve above problems, continuous large and small scale campaigns can help people understand rights of visually impaired persons and decrease discrimination. With a joint effort of different stakeholders, these campaigns should target people at all levels. It can be workshops and seminars for governmental and NGOs employees; trainings for village-elders and decision-makers at grass-root level; and inclusion of certain topics about visual impairment and right to work at school curriculums. This will definitely have a positive impact on current decision makers and future generations. The only thing needed is political will within Afghan government, financial and technical support of international community, and of course, advocacy efforts of organizations working for/with visually impaired persons in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, the current post-recession era has made it tougher and more competitive to find appropriate job for visually impaired persons. In addition to legislative guarantee and public awareness, visually impaired persons need education, technology, skills, and different forms of support in order to be able to sell himself/herself in labor market. Modern inclusive education is one of the requirements for finding good jobs. Inclusive education is a powerful source for lessening discrimination, making more friends within every group of people, and moving forward towards inclusive society. The second necessity is technology. As their needs of visually impaired persons are different, certain devices are required to assist them with education and job. They can range from white cans, shapes of different living beings and nonliving things, braillers, slates and styluses, magnifiers, talking calculators, talking computers, embossers, braille display devices, and so on. Advancement in such devices will further decrease the gap in labor market.
Based on pervious paragraph, the third issue which needs more consideration is skills development. The important one is knowing how to use needed technology for one’s job. Furthermore, mobility skills, leadership, self-motivation and discipline, effective communication, organization, creative thinking, problem-solving and many more skills can be learned for improving job results. It means visually impaired persons must regularly keep reading up-to-date books and journals (If possible), and participate in different trainings. The last and very important issue is different forms of support. Civil society organizations can provide this support. It can be assistance in the form of job search, interview techniques, finding work placement, and travelling to work. It can be offering assistance, advice, or information to visually impaired investors and entrepreneurs to get license, rent office, recruit staff etc. It can be defending rights and benefits of visually impaired persons through advocacy. It can also be counselling services and emotional support for overcoming depression.
In conclusion, visually impaired persons can perform almost all jobs, with some adjustments. They can be managers, directors, lawyers, members of parliament, president of senate, and even home secretary. They can be self-employed, businessmen, and entrepreneurs. They can be writers, braille-transcribers, teachers, university professors, interpreters, telephone operators, singers, instrument players, sportsmen, radio presenters, social workers, vocational trainers, and many more. This can be achieved only if people and governments pay attention to following four issues: (1) necessary legislation; (2) its application; (3) public awareness; and (4) assisting visually impaired persons with education, technology, skills, and different forms of support. It requires tiresome efforts and advocacy of organizations working for/with visually impaired persons, commitment of government by putting this issue on the top of their agenda, and financial and technical support of international community. The combination of these efforts will result in inclusive, open and accessible labor market for visually impaired persons in Afghanistan.