Simon Collins is the Herald’s education reporter.

Top marketing graduate still jobless - because he is blind

Top marketing graduate  and father-of-one Kyal Little is looking for a job. Photo supplied.
Top marketing graduate and father-of-one Kyal Little is looking for a job. Photo supplied.

Top marketing graduate Kyal Little is still looking for a job 18 months after graduating - because he hasn't yet found an employer who can cope with his blindness.

Little, 26, and his partner, a teacher, have a 2-year-old daughter Icazia.

"I really want to get a fulltime job so I can support my family," he said. "My partner works, but on one income it's quite difficult."

Little was born with a condition that makes him legally blind, although he has some peripheral vision.

He uses a screen reader called JAWS (Job Access With Speech) which turns everything on a screen into voice.

"I did everything electronically, I use a normal keyboard," he said.

He is one of thousands of New Zealanders with disabilities who are 50 per cent more likely than other Kiwis to be unemployed. A study published today said the average Kiwi could be $500 a year better off if we could reduce their unemployment rate to the national average.

Little graduated in the top 50 out of 500 marketing graduates at AUT University in 2015 and did an internship with a small Auckland non-profit organisation. But he was unable to take up a job there because he moved back to his home town of Wellington for family reasons.

He has got close to getting several jobs in Wellington, but they have all fallen through.

"One organisation I went to, they were really lovely people and were really interested in giving me a position, but the technology was not going to work with my screen reader JAWS," he said.

"Another place they had 40 people they were training up at the same time so they didn't think they could give me suitable training so they said we'll look at giving you an opportunity in three months. In two months they said the person who was going to train me is not available, and eventually they said they are not going to offer me a position.

"I find it quite challenging because there's quite a few jobs that I can't apply for because I'm not sighted, like I can't be a builder or a plumber.

"And then the jobs you do apply for, there are heaps of other people applying for them, and then you have the accessibility issues as well, so it makes it almost impossible."

But he is still looking. He has support from a job broker at Be.Accessible who helps with his job applications. He has approval to use Work and Income's Mainstream subsidy which can pay an employer his full wage for a year and up to 80 per cent of his wage for a second year - provided he can find an employer.

He was initially declined support from Workbridge, which also offers subsidies to cover workplace "costs of disability". Workbridge chief executive Grant Cleland said his Wellington office was disrupted by the recent earthquakes but was now available to help again.

"Historically we have not worked in that graduate end of the market, but yesterday we signed an agreement with Victoria University to work in that market," he said.

"With our partnerships with ACC, Z Energy and 2 degrees, we are now starting to get more jobs at that higher-skilled end of the market."

Little said he was willing to try anything and go anywhere. He uses a talking GPS function on his cellphone to get around on public transport.

"I'm pretty open, I just really want a fulltime job," he said.

"It would be amazing if it was to do with my degree, which was in management, but I'd be happy if it was administration, contact centre or customer service."

- NZ Herald

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