Binta has been partially sighted for five years. Her glaucoma led to several surgeries, and she lost her job when she lost her sight. CNIB’s Come to Work program was a great motivator because it helped her entertain different job possibilities and realize that there might still be opportunities for her in the labour market. For her, the important thing was to feel that she was contributing to society. It may not have been smooth sailing all the way, but she is now a senior advisor at the National Bank of Canada. She is sharing her story to give hope to other people with sight loss who are looking for work and to raise awareness among employers.
What was your job search experience like as a Canadian living with sight loss?
I made the usual inquiries, except that I focused only on businesses that clearly stipulated that they were open to people with sight loss in order to improve my chances. I felt more confident applying there. At the outset, I did not mention my sight loss so that I would not be stigmatized, and to stack the odds in my favour. I finally shared details of my sight loss when the situation called for it -- for instance when I had to do timed tests on the computers, when I had problems with colour inversion or when I needed a CCTV magnifier.
If you were to meet someone for the very first time, how would you sum up your work?
I assist clients over the phone by reviewing their file and their needs, and I offer them adapted solutions that can have a positive impact on their finances. I have to listen carefully and advise clients so that they adopt good financial management habits. I very much enjoy interacting with clients. I also get a lot of satisfaction out of helping them reset their financial situation, spare them from credit collection procedures or help them rebuild their credit rating.
Give us an example or an instance that made you particularly proud.
I’m proud every time I manage to convince a customer to sign a payment agreement that they feel comfortable with – it means they will stick to it and start practicing sound financial management. This happens because of the relationship of trust I established with the client by carefully listening to them and showing them consideration.
What professional goals have you set yourself?
My professional goals are to live up to performance expectations, to achieve my goals and to have the capacity and confidence to take on new challenges that are reasonable. I do not want to set restrictions on myself because of my disability.
What are some of the obstacles in terms of others’ attitudes that you’ve run up against?
I am easily blinded by daylight coming through the window or even lighting. People around me (co-workers, managers) immediately try, with all the best intentions, to help me, and do things that are not right for me, simply because they don’t know. Also, when people see my white cane, they often think I’m completely blind. In short, stereotypes and lack of knowledge complicate things for us. We often have to rely on tricks and subtleties to make ourselves understood without victimizing ourselves and inspiring pity.
If you could give employees who have a co-worker with sight loss one suggestion, what would that be?
Simply ask your co-worker two things: do you need a hand, and if yes, what can I do for you, and then listen carefully to make sure you help in the best possible way.
If you could give employers one suggestion about working with Canadians living with sight loss, what would that be?
Trust us, and give us a chance, the same as with every other applicant, to show that we can deliver the same quality of work with discipline and professionalism.
One last word?
For me, to work is to exist. It means not being relegated to the margins of society, but rather being counted in. It’s almost vital!