My blindness doesn’t hold me back, it drives me on
26 Oct 2023
October is Blindness Awareness Month, focusing on the realities of living without sight. Ingeus’s Mary-Victoria, who was registered as being severely visually impaired in 2004, is one of our most successful caseworkers and is a finalist in the Frontline Advisor of the Year category at this year’s ERSA Awards. She says her life experience is helping others with health conditions to improve their lives.
Mary-Victoria has spent a lifetime caring for and supporting others.
She followed her parents into the medical profession by working as a nurse-midwife in Nigeria and, when a worsening sight impairment prevented her from continuing her chosen career when she returned to the UK, opted to work in the employment support sector.
That was 30 years ago and her passion to help others build better futures through worthwhile work burns as brightly as ever.
Her determination not to let her sight loss rule her life is, she believes, one of the reasons she is so effective in helping others referred to Ingeus’s Work and Health Programme team in Brixton.
Joining Ingeus in 2019, she now ranks among the top five performing Ingeus caseworkers in London, last year achieving an average 30 per cent more job starts than her peers.
The 67-year-old says: “I reached my retirement age last year but I’m still working because I love my job, I have an affinity for what I do.
“I think the fact I have a disability makes it easier for my customers to relate to me. Some of them say: ‘If you can do it, so can I.’
“I don’t put my disability first, I put my customers first. That’s what the business is all about – helping them to make better lives.
“Even if they don’t find work immediately but I help them or their families move forward in their wellbeing and health, that gives me satisfaction I’ve done something positive for someone.
“I love the support I am able to give my customers, made much easier by the support Ingeus gives me to do my job.”
As a Disability Confident Leader Ingeus is an acknowledged expert in helping other businesses increase the diversity of their workforces by advising on the recruitment and employment of people with health conditions.
So supporting its own colleagues who have disabilities is part of its DNA.
Mary-Victoria says: “I was registered as partially sighted in 1994 and in 2004 I was registered as severely visually impaired. I can’t distinguish people or places.
“Initially I was able to read large print using special software on my computer, but eventually I was no longer able to do that.
“At Ingeus I was assessed by the Government’s Access to Work service and provided with JAWS screen reader software.
“I was trained to use an iPhone by the RNIB so my manager got me one of those.
“It makes life much easier for me as it has voice recognition and can read and send texts.
“As JAWS speaks out loud, I was given headphones so that other people couldn’t hear my clients’ details.
“I have a support worker who acts as my eyes and helps with tasks I can’t do myself, such as if participants need to be shown how to use email, apply for jobs or fill in forms.
“I work from the office two days a week and need to travel by taxi, for which I get a grant from Access to Work.
My support worker meets me when I arrive and waits with me until my taxi comes to go home.
“All of my colleagues are very, very supportive. If I need any help they will respond.
“My ability is stronger than my disability. I have never let it hold me back and my advice to those with health conditions is that in almost every situation they will be able to find some sort of worthwhile work, which can make their lives better.