'I feel secure': Proof Reader Jodie describes the impact of the Scottish Braille Press on her career

Posted: 11/07/2018 | ,

Scottish Braille Press employee Jodie Renton has told how securing a job at the organisation has caused her to grow in confidence after she previously struggled to find work due to her vision impairment.

Jodie, aged 31, of Dunbar has been a Proof Reader for the Press for three years. She has Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, a retinal degenerative disease characterised by loss of vision at birth.

Jodie RentonDespite having secured a good degree in HR and Languages, after leaving university she was previously unable to find suitable permanent and full-time work, taking temporary jobs and doing voluntary work to build her CV, a cycle she found demoralising.

Now, as the new Scottish Braille Press building is officially opened, Jodie has spoken out about how finding secure work at the Scottish Braille Press, in Edinburgh, has impacted upon her life.

She said: “I had a temporary job and voluntary work but this is my first full-time job. I did surveying work part-time and temporary and it wasn’t very stimulating. I saw friends every few weeks but it wasn’t every day. Some days my only contact with people would be a text or through Facebook it wouldn’t be real or face to face.

“Having a permanent full-time job does a lot more good for your confidence and your outlook. It feels totally isolating not having that. I think my confidence has definitely grown. I’m much more confident meeting people both in work and outside work because of regular contact with people.”

A typical day at work for Jodie involves working with a sighted person to check Braille transcriptions of documents for discrepancies before they are mailed out to the recipient.

The Press transcribes a range of documents, from bank statements to marketing materials, as well as producing a range of Braille magazines.

Jodie said: “When I first started, the best feeling was to know that after the weekend I had somewhere to come back to. I had never had that experience my temporary job was only for a few weeks and once it was over, that was it.”

Jodie says that finding work with a disability can be extremely challenging.

“Legally it shouldn’t be challenging but I think we all know there are loopholes and if people don’t want to employ someone for whatever reason, they won’t,” she said.

Around 50% of the Scottish Braille Press’ staff have some form of disability, making them a Disability Confident employer.

As part of the supported employment scheme, staff with disabilities are given opportunities to find and progress in a job. The help provided includes advice and training, and depends on what the person requires. In-work support can last up to twelve months.

The current Work Choice programme is being replaced as responsibility for employability schemes is devolved to the Scottish Government. Access to Work provides help to disabled for people in mainstream work by providing specially adapted equipment, support workers and interpreters.

Jodie said: “I’m not involved with the scheme myself, but it’s very beneficial for some of my colleagues. You see people that start and maybe their confidence and self-esteem seem quite low and then within a few weeks you wouldn’t notice that they’d had a particular issue sometimes it can be really quite a substantial change in a few weeks.”

During her career at the Press Jodie has made new friends and is now considering returning to live in Edinburgh where she attended school and university.

She said: “That’s a benefit of full time work. The best chunk of my life is in the city. I spend most of my weekends in the city because my friends are here, I can go shopping, although I’ve lived in Dunbar all my life I don’t know my way around that much because it’s such a growing town I don’t know any of the new bits. I feel more comfortable finding my way around somewhere 10 times the size. It’s very important knowing the way around.”

The Scottish Braille Press moved from its former premises in Craigmillar Park to a new state-of-the-art building in Robertson Avenue last year. Jodie was involved in organising orientation tours for other staff members.

She added: “I think I adapted to the move quite quickly. I helped with some of the orientation guides to get them set up for other staff members. I had a few preliminary buildings before we moved and I think within a week I was fine. I do enjoy giving sighted people directions!”