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Vision for the future

Insights from people with lived experience, including the Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services

Barriers in the traditional workplace to people who are blind or vision impaired have made full inclusion challenging. While their skills and insights can be often overlooked, the pandemic has shown that it’s possible for society to work in dramatically different ways. We may have a unique time in history where we can unlock the potential of this group.

There is a poor understanding by business and government of the value that employees with vision impairment can add to the workplace, which also brings with it, widespread bias and discrimination. Alarmingly as a result, people with vision impairments suffer some of the highest unemployment rates in Australia and one in four live in poverty. 

However, the shift to remote and online working has shown just how well people with vision impairment contribute to a new COVID world.

2020 has seen a complete restructure of how society conducts its business. For many organisations, this has meant learning to adapt to rapid change. It has also seen some unexpectedly positive outcomes. Particularly for working individuals with vision impairment. 

Whilst the Australian education system has vastly improved how it integrates and supports those with vision impairment, what happens when schooling ends and a new journey in the workforce begins? How do workplaces support and develop people with vision impairment that moves beyond simply satisfying their diversity charter?

This year, having to restructure traditional “face to face” work environments has been both unsettling and disruptive. But for some, it’s proof that flexible or ‘alternative’ working is a marker of both efficiency and productivity.

We have gathered together a panel of individuals with lived experience to discuss how working with a vision impairment has equipped them with the tools to adapt, drive productivity and prove that working alternatively is both impactful and here to stay. 

Closed captioning will be available to all attendees for this event.

The speakers

Simran Goyal is a 22-year-old young professional living and working in Sydney. Graduating from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of Commerce, she currently works in the core assurance division at Ernst & Young, and is completing her Chartered Accountancy professional accreditation with Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand. In her free time, Simran pursues her passion for photography, food and travel.

Diagnosed with Cone Rod Dystrophy at age five, Simran currently navigates various obstacles and challenges in her day-to-day social, professional and educational interactions. She lives by a strong belief in seizing all opportunities, and believes no challenge is too vast to overcome. 

By sharing her experiences of living with an invisible condition, Simran has begun building a network of young “disruptors” who are making a case for change in society’s perception of ableism and ability.

Peter McCluskey is Director of the Save Sight Institute at Sydney Eye Hospital and Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at the University of Sydney.

Peter is an internationally respected inflammatory eye disease specialist. He has a large clinical practice as well as being actively involved in clinical research and clinical trials. His laboratory research focuses on mediators of inflammatory eye disease and he has ongoing clinical and laboratory collaborations in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Vietnam and the United States.

As Director of the Save Sight Institute at Sydney Eye Hospital, he is responsible for a research institute containing 11 research groups involved in both clinical and basic eye research that encompasses the common causes of blindness such as: macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract and corneal disease. Additional research groups target glaucoma, electrophysiology, genetic eye disease, uveitis and ocular cancer.

Matt O’Kane is Director of Notion Digital Forensics. This Sydney-based consulting firm provides digital forensics and cyber-security services to lawyers and business. Before starting Notion, Matt held leadership roles in dotcom and online marketing firms. He has worked in IT for over two decades.

Matt holds a B. Sc. from UNSW and an MBA from the AGSM (UNSW). He is a sessional lecturer at UNSW Canberra (ADFA) in digital forensics and cyber-security. 

Matt was born completely blind. After surgeries, Matt got a small degree of usable vision in one eye. During his lifetime, his eyesight has varied from zero to very little. Matt survived late-stage non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer) in the early 1990s.

Since 2004, Matt has given a talk for new doctors “Impact of Blindness” at Sydney University. His talk outlines work, transport and other issues faced by low-vision and blind people.

Gareth Ward was born in Gerringong into a small-business family and has lived in the Illawarra and South Coast his entire life. Born with Oculocutaneous Albinism, Gareth has been legally blind since birth.

Gareth attended the University of Wollongong and holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Arts, Commerce and Law. Following his undergraduate studies, Gareth went on to complete the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice.

Gareth is currently the Chair of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of the European Union and Secretary of the Bipartisan Action Committee for NSW Bravehearts. He is also a member of the Parliamentary Lions Club, the Parliamentary Friends of Ireland, the Parliamentary Friends of Asia-Pacific, the Parliamentary Friends of ANZAC and the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving.

How to tune in

This virtual event is hosted via Zoom and open to all. Register to get an email confirmation with details on how you can tune in on the day. 

This public conversation will be recorded and later made available on the Sydney Ideas podcast, along with a transcript. You can sign up for an email alert or check back this page later. 

Contact us

If you have any questions about the event and access requirements
Media enquiries about Sydney Ideas guests
Please contact the Media team on +61 2 8627 0246 or email media.office@sydney.edu.au

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