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Eyes open to jobless plight

CONFIDENT AND CAPABLE: Jason Bake tends to the calves at his dairy farm in Crossmaglen.
CONFIDENT AND CAPABLE: Jason Bake tends to the calves at his dairy farm in Crossmaglen. Gemima Harvey

DESPITE having less than 7% vision, Jason Bake continues to successfully manage his family's dairy farm.

Jason is proof that disability does not mean inability and even more than that, he is proof that vision impaired people are capable of incredible feats, like walking the Kokoda Track, as Jason did in 2011.

The theme of this year's International White Cane Day, on Wednesday, was "Have cane, am able to work", calling attention to the issue of unemployment among people with vision loss.

People who are blind or vision impaired are four times more likely to be unemployed than the average Australian.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT regional manager Jeremy Hill said there are plenty of tools available to people with vision impairment, allowing them to quickly adapt and be independent.

"Don't be short-sighted about what people can do with vision impairment," he said.

"Employers should not be put off or worry about a blind or vision impaired employee tripping or bumping into things; they are extremely switched on."

Running a 400-head dairy farm isn't easy but you could watch Jason prepare the milk for the poddy calves, completely unaware his vision is diminished to a pencil-sized tunnel in one eye.

"To give people work is to give them confidence and once people have confidence we can start building better communities," Jason, who has a degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, said.

"The key for employers is to look at the positives. Look at what people can do and look for opportunities to tailor tasks and choose jobs they are great at."

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has launched an employer awareness campaign, which includes a guide to hiring vision impaired people.

Go to www.guidedogs. com.au/untapped-workforce

Topics:  dairy farm guide dogs kokoda track nsw



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