=Balgownie’s Mark Kabat, 27, with some of his drawings. Picture: DAVE TEASEFinding a job in the Illawarra is hard enough, but imagine if you were legally blind as well.
Balgownie’s Mark Kabat, 27, has been searching for work for 2½ years, but says many employers won’t give him a chance because of his low vision.
He’s not alone.
Vision Australia’s Wollongong office hasn’t been able to find a work placement for any of its blind or low-vision clients in 12 months.
“Nowadays, since the economy has gone higher with prices in supermarkets and bills … it’s a bit of a struggle to actually pay it all on a pension,” Mr Kabat said.
“Certain employers say ‘well he can’t see that much, I don’t think he will be qualified for this job’. I’ve had that a lot lately so I’m used to it.”
Mr Kabat is legally blind. He is highly myopic, colour blind and has tunnel vision.
Despite his low vision, he excels at drawing, graphic design and fixing computers, and said he didn’t let the struggle to find work get him down.
“I would like to have a job because it gives me more skills and, later on down the track, then I can actually help others,” he said. The money would also help him move out of home.
“I just want [employers] to realise that we are capable of doing anyone else’s job. We have a unique way of completing the tasks.”
Mr Kabat has now been given a shot at Warrawong McDonald’s, where he will begin a three-day trial later this month with the prospect of landing a job in the kitchen.
Owners Glenn and Katia Dwarte, who have two other restaurants in the area, created the position after being approached by Shellharbour Mayor Kellie Marsh.
Mr Kabat has held a handful of jobs for up to three months, the latest one in 2010.
Ultimately, the self-confessed “tech-head” said he wanted to work in a computer-related environment.
Vision Australia’s Wollongong office manager, Helen Dooley, said people with vision impairment were often discriminated against in the job market.
“Of all the people who are blind or have low vision and are actually seeking employment, 63 per cent of them can’t find it, and that’s five times [the rate for] the general population of Australia,” she said.
“We haven’t been able to place anybody in a job for a year and it’s not for want of trying.”
The Wollongong office had a case list of about 17 clients looking for work.
Ms Dooley said many potential employers didn’t realise financial incentives were available and that Vision Australia could provide assistance equipment for vision-impaired staff.
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